Friday, February 18, 2011

Looking backwards for inspiration

Writing a novel isn't a short sprint. Sometimes it's absolutely exhausting. Sometimes the finish line is so far away it's not even visible.

Lately I've been overwhelmed by how much is wrong with Project Demo. I don't have an ending written yet. I hate my beginning. My main character's voice isn't fully fleshed out. And I'm not sure how to tackle any of these problems, let alone fix them. I don't even know which problem to start with.

But I have been in this position before.

My tutor, Julia Green, once said it's for this reason that she saves all of her old journals. Not only can she look at her published books sitting on the shelf, but also at the journals she used when writing them. She can see all of her fears, her agony. But she can also see how she solved her problems, finished the books.

Well, I don't have any published books, but I can look back too, perhaps even more efficiently. Blogger archives all my old posts.

So this week I've been reading Revision the hard way about how tricky true revision can be, and Revision woes where I tried to figure out how to end Project Sparkle. My favorite find has been Facing down fear, where I wrote about how sometimes even starting work is overwhelming because I'm so afraid of how bad my writing is. Today's post begins with the same image, a photograph I took of a St George and the dragon statue in Stockholm.

It's good to remember. And good to read my other posts, where I celebrated finishing Project Sparkle and how much I loved it.

So back to work. Bird by bird.


  1. Good luck, you can do it! (Wine helps :) I empathise, since despite just finishing my first draft but I still have SO MUCH to do. A whole plot thread I haven't tied up, motivation I need to shore up, foreshadowing, characters that need fleshing out. Ok now I need wine O.O

  2. Thanks so much, GF. If you lived just a bit closer, I'd be at your doorstep with a bottle to share. =)

    I think one of the hardest parts is getting close enough to the end to have a sense of the book as a whole and how good it can be, but far enough that the work still seems endless. Good luck to you!

  3. It's telling that really good writers have these qualms, but crappy ones don't. Back when I couldn't spot a plot hole a mile away, didn't know what POV was, and was prone to switch voices every other paragraph, I thought my writing was hot stuff. Given your angst, I'd say you were well on your way!

    Two well-used, but incredibly useful thoughts to leave you with: 'Writers are people who find writing more difficult than others' (though I'm always tempted to change 'writers' there to 'good writers'), and 'Writing has to be tough because it's the coolest job in the world'.

    Too bad you don't live closer! I could show you a couple of drafts that would cheer you right up.

  4. (That's well on your way to being a great writer, you know. Not well on your way to being as clueless as I was.)

  5. Mary, that is SO true. Thinking back to my first novel, I hardly rewrote it at all! Now I know that's the most important (and time-consuming) part!
    Thanks so much for the encouragement--it really means a lot. And for even mentioning showing me drafts--very brave of you! Thanks.

  6. Anne, I hope you have had a successful writing (or rewriting) session since you posted this. Even though you didn't schedule your walk down memory blog lane, your examples are encouraging and reassuring. Thanks for being transparent.

  7. Remember: the first million words are just practice (paraphrase of Stephen King). I count rewriting and the endless editing as part of the total.

  8. Bridgette: I have had a good writing session since, actually! Thanks! I think the reminder that every day is a new day, and we need to push back our fear and push ahead, is a good one for me. Glad to hear my thoughts were encouraging to you, too.

    Anne: I like that idea of counting all the words towards the total. For me, the revision process is where I learn and struggle the most. But it is exciting to see a story emerging, too.

  9. A book that I thought was great and helped get over a few hurdles was Self Editing for Fiction Writers. It is one of the books on writing that I would recommend.

    Great blog you have! Good luck with your fiction.

  10. Thanks, Ron! "Self Editing" has actually been on my to-read list for a while. Good to get another recommendation. Now I'll have to see if I can track down a copy. And good luck with your writing, too!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.