Writing–Do You Ever Feel Like…?

Rainbow paperDo you ever feel like something you wrote three years ago is better than what you’re writing now?

I don’t mean because it’s been revised within an inch of its life within the those three years and this is still fresh and new and hasn’t felt the repeated sting of the red pen. I mean that overall it seems like the story you wrote three years ago is better than the one you’re writing right now.

Okay, maybe it’s just me, but hear me out anyway just in case it happens to you.

I’m doing the final revisions before the final polish of A Tale of Two Lady Killers. In the course of my work, I’m finding moments of brilliance that I don’t seem to remember reading in anything I’ve written in the past year or two. Certain turns of phrase and word choices and descriptions that are more creative and just plain better than anything I’ve put out lately, characters that seem more well-rounded and real.

Now in theory, a writer should get better the more they write, so it sort of disturbs me that I seem to have regressed, at least in my opinion. It bugs me that I’m not seeing those tiny brilliant flashes in anything I’ve written recently. Shouldn’t I be seeing MORE of those flashes?

This could be completely subjective. I admit that. There could be brilliant flashes that I’m blind to. And I know that some of those brilliant flashes I’m seeing now in this almost-final version of the novel weren’t there in the first or second drafts of this manuscript. It took plenty of work to come up with and insert those brilliant flashes.

So why am I not seeing those brilliant flashes now? Am I being lazy? Am I just calling things “good enough” so I can be done with them? Have I run out of brilliant flashes? Are they a finite thing and I already used up all of mine? Is it all in my head and I’m just being my own worst critic once again?

I don’t know.

Part of me thinks that I’m being overly-critical and probably more than a little paranoid because that is my nature. Part of me thinks, though, that it is possible that I’ve been a little lax in my work lately and it might do me some good to put a little more effort into my stories.

A little more effort certainly won’t hurt anything.


Writing–Polishing the Ivy Novella

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No, this damn novella still doesn’t have a title, but I can at least call it almost done (my beta reader found a HUGE problem that I have to figure out how to fix, but that’s another post).

When we last left this novella, I was in the process of revising it, specifically focusing on cutting down the word count. And I hated it as a story. That happens sometimes for me when I revise projects. I get to the point where I think it’s shit and I no longer want to even look at it. Some projects I learn to love again; some I never do.

I honestly thought that Ivy was going to fall into the the latter category. I didn’t think it was that great and was really considering not to self-publish it like I had planned (setting up another dilemma of me not keeping my word, which is an issue that’s another post all together). But I was determined to at least see it through to the end. I wanted it to be completely done even if I did decide to shelve it.

And then I started polishing the piece.

For me, polishing means I start at the very last sentence of the work and read the whole thing backwards, one sentence at a time. It’s a trick my honors English teacher taught us. It takes the sentence out of the context of the story so you can find errors more easily (your brain isn’t lulled and reading things the way they’re supposed to be, not the way they are).

It was during this polishing business that I found that I did like the Ivy novella, a lot more than I thought I did. Sure, it still has some issues that need to be cleaned up, but on the whole, it’s a lot more enjoyable for me now than it was before.

I guess reading it backwards helped me shake it loose from the context of my dislike, too.

If only it could have given me a title for it.

Writing–Boys and Girls

sex symbols

I’ve heard people say that they can’t write women. Or they can’t write men. And I can’t understand that.

Okay, I can understand it but I can’t because I’ve never had any trouble with it, and I guess I’ve never had any trouble with it because I really don’t put much thought into it. I have this annoying tendency to write people and not think much about their genitals, I suppose.

Typically, when I start working on a story, I know pretty quickly whether or not the POV character or main character is a man or a woman (though, “Spillway” was in first person and I never identified the gender of the character). I’m not sure how I come to that decision or what the science is behind it. If Stephen King is right and stories are found things, then it’s really a choice made for me.

However it’s decided, once it’s decided, I don’t think much about it. Gender is part of the character, sure, but I tend not make a huge thing about it. I don’t feel compelled to swathe my characters in pink or blue; I just write about certain people in certain situations and call it good.

This isn’t to say that sex and gender isn’t a serious  contributing factor to people’s lives and experiences. Hello, I’m a woman. I’m quite familiar how that impacts my behaviors and personality and life in the overall. I also know that sex and gender is much more complex than what I’m talking about here, which is only the very simplest and most basic concepts.

I suppose what I mean to say is that I don’t stress over writing POV from a particular gender. While there are differences, I don’t consider them to be great hang-ups to throw my hands up over and say I can’t write them.

The more I try to explain myself, the worse I make it sound.

Basically, what it boils down to is that I can write people and very little prevents me from doing it with some competence.


Writing–Adjusting Expectations

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When I start the first draft of a project, I establish a certain daily minimum goal for it. Short stories I’m writing longhand, I go for at least one page in my notebook. For novels during NaNoWriMo, my unshakable goal is always 2,000 words.  Sometimes, depending on the story and the deadline, it’s just a matter of getting down on particular scene, no matter how long or short.

With the current novella I’m working, I set the word count low due to working three jobs and this being a non-priority story. I didn’t want to stress myself out with a too-high count and depress myself on the days I couldn’t make it. I decided on at least 500 word as the minimum I had to make on the days I worked two or more jobs. It was low enough to be stress-free on those sometimes stressful days, but enough words that it would still count as progress. On the other days, I set 1,000 words as my minimum, which I find reasonable enough for a novella I’m writing while working on other projects.

However, I’ve noticed that on the 500 word days I feel like I’m slacking. I hit my goal, usually going at least a few words over goal, either in the morning before I teach after I’m done with revisions on the Ivy novella, or after I make and eat dinner in the evening. Either way, it gets done, but it doesn’t feel like I’m doing enough. I should be doing MORE.

I know better, in  way. If I give into this feeling that I’m slacking and try to do more, then it’s all I do. The word count will never be enough because I’ll still have time to do more. It’ll take over the time I have to do other things, like read or relax or sleep. In other words, I’ll give this novella top priority when it doesn’t need it. There’s no timetable for this novella, no deadline. Writing at least 500 words a day, no matter how many jobs I’m working or what other projects I’m doing is fine.

I’m just going to have to make myself accept that.

Writing–From Doubt to New Idea

Line art representation of a Quill

After the Short Story Disappointment of August, I found myself re-evaluating my worth, dedication, and ability as a writer. Periods of writer’s doubt are common for me. I think a lot of writers go through it once in a while. But this one had me really questioning myself as a writer.

In the end, I realized a few things about myself.

One, I’m always going to be a writer. Even if I can never make a living off of it, I’m always going to do it. It’s just what I do. Because when I sat down and asked myself, “Okay, self, what is it that you really want to do with your life?” the answer that came immediately was “Write”. Yes, I like to do other things. Yes, I make money other ways and I’m always exploring new ways to make money that I think would be fun and engaging. I’m really selfish in the fact that I want to do what I want to do as often as possible and I do what I can to make that happen. But the number one thing I want to do is write, so that’s what I’m going to do.

The second thing I realized is that I don’t think I’m good enough to make a living as a writer. Oh sure, plenty of crap writers get published and make bajillions of dollars (I don’t think I need to be naming names here). However, they also at least have an idea that is marketable, that the public drools for, that can be sold to the masses. I don’t have that. My brain doesn’t work that way. I don’t have the inherent ability to be popular and by extension, the stuff I write isn’t popular. Because of this I realize that I will probably never be able to sell a book to a traditional publisher. I just don’t have what they want because what they want is to make money (and I don’t blame them because that’s what we all want, baby). There is no need to waste an agent’s time because I don’t have the goods for the market. No fair asking them to sell bruised peaches to folks looking for shiny apples. They’ll never earn a living that way and neither will I.

The final thing I realized is that, you know, self-publishing might just be it for me. I AM good enough for that. And we’re rapidly moving away from the stigma of self-publishing being for losers. I do like self-publishing for the most part. I hate the formatting, but I like the control I have over what I publish, what the cover looks like, where I publish it, and so forth. I’m not a control-freak (some people might disagree), but I do like the autonomy of doing it myself. Yeah, it doesn’t translate into great sales, but it does provide that rush of accomplishment I get when something of mine does get published, but in this case, it’s just coming on my terms instead of someone else’s.

This latest batch of writer’s doubt has put a new perspective on who I am as a writer. It’s often too easy for me to put myself down because I’m not like other writers. Now I’m operating from the position that it’s okay if I’m not because I’m doing my own thing anyway. I shouldn’t be doing their thing. My own is just fine.

So pardon me while I groove.

Writing–Full Stop

Stop Sign

This hiccup with my planned anthology, along with one of my stories getting cancelled, has brought me to a full stop.

It’s a simple case of writer’s doubt I know, but I’ve taken a good hit to the ego and I need some recovery time.

It’s not like the time I didn’t write for two weeks, though. It’s not that I’m not writing at all. I’m still writing blog posts and writing in my journal and sketching out some story ideas and the like, but all work on my short stories has completely stopped, even the ones that had nothing to do with the anthology. I just don’t want to look at them. I don’t know what to do with them. I don’t want to start a new one. Bleh bleh bleh.

So I shot myself in the foot this month. What I want to get accomplished isn’t going to be accomplished because I ran smack dab into this brick wall and I’m doing a fair bit of whining and moping instead of problem-solving to get by it.

The thing is, though, I’m letting myself do it. I have a right to wallow a bit. The wallowing isn’t stopping me from working on OTHER things. In fact, I’m directing a bit of that wallowing towards other projects because it let’s me feel like I’m not a complete failure and I’m not being totally useless.

But I don’t see any reason why I should deny myself the opportunity to experience this disappointment. How else will I learn? How else will I get stronger? How else will I figure out how to cope and how to recover and how to overcome?

So maybe full stop isn’t the best way to describe this since only one thing has really stopped (temporarily).

Everything else is still plugging away.

Writing–So About That Anthology

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I’ve discussed that I planned to do another short story anthology this year and I brashly said that I could have it pretty much done by the end of this month.

Well, I did a great job of jinxing myself.

In doing revisions on my short stories for the anthology, a few things ended up occurring.

1. Two of the stories aren’t working out. “Devil Temper” and “The Backroom” just aren’t coming together the way I want them to and I’m not sure yet how to fix them. This means there’s a very good chance that they will not be done by the end of the month. It also means that they might not work out at all or, if they do work out, might no longer work for the anthology. See my next number.

2. “The Nights Get Shorter” has turned out to be a good little ditty, which I’m pleased with, but isn’t going to fit the tone of the anthology, which is a bummer.

3. “Mind the Deer” did work and will be used. Thank goodness I didn’t jinx EVERYTHING.

So this means I went from having my anthology idea worked out and all of the spaces filled to needing three stories if I can’t get “Devil Temper” and “The Backroom” to do my bidding and/or they no longer work for the anthology.

This is what I get for being too cocky and thinking that this month was going to be a breeze. Instead, I’m looking at a big ol’ setback and the goals I had for the month might not get accomplished.

Let this be a lesson, kids. Don’t be arrogant with your work. It’ll kick you in the ass.