Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Pain of Persistence

I have a confession to make: I think too much. Prone to self-doubt, as I work my way through a manuscript, I'm constantly frustrated with plotting problems, and wondering if I'll ever finish the rough draft. And when it's time to revise, I wonder if I'll ever be able to turn my usually very rough draft into something an editor would buy, much less something a reader would actually read. I usually decide several times that the whole enterprise is hopeless.
At some point, a little inner voice always starts to say, "This is never going to work. Your characters are flat. Your plot is implausible. Your setting is dull. The description is weak. You're writing too long. You're writing too short. There is too much plot for this length of a book. There is too little plot for this length of a book. You don't have enough interesting subplots. You have too many interesting subplots, and they distract from the main story. Your book doesn't have enough sexy sizzle to sell. Your book has too much sizzle and it's going to be impossible to live down at the next family gathering, in the unlikely event that it ever does see the light of day," and on and on. You get the idea. I could go on for literally pages like this.
So eventually, I start thinking, "You know, that retelling of that old classic movie I've been thinking about sounds pretty fun. I bet that would be a lot more fun to write, and it wouldn't have any of these problems. It would be easy by comparison!" (I've learned that the project you haven't started yet is always much easier and more fun than the one you're knee-deep in.) So I've learned to simply not listen to that voice and keep plowing ahead. I can't rationalize my way into believing that my book is going to be great, and I can't stop those voices from popping up occasionally. But I can just refuse to listen, put my head down, and keep writing, so that's what I do. And it has paid off. I have two books coming out in the next few months, and I desperately wanted to quit on both of them on many, many occasions. Luckily, I didn't listen to those doomsaying voices. That makes it a little easier -- a very little easier -- to ignore them on the next go-round.

6 comments:

lizarnoldbooks said...

Journaling, while it takes time, helps me avoid these kinds of feelings. They're normal, but they can get in the way. I dump the self-doubt in my journals and writing is a breeze. Don't take too much time out of your day, but try to journal a little everyday. It helps. Look into the book WRITER WELLNESS by Joy Held for ideas.
Great post.

Becca Dale said...

I agree - a project in another folder is always a bit easier than the one on my screen. It is easy to get pulled off task. Way to stick with it. Congrats on your upcoming releases.

Susan Macatee said...

Congrats on your upcoming releases! And I know what you mean about getting discouraged with one project and thinking the next one will be fun and easy. This happened to me when my latest manuscript got rejected by the same editor for the second time. She sent me a revision request, but I put it aside to continue work on my new project. But I got bogged down in that and finally had to put it aside. Now, I'm nearly finished the revision on the first book and it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Hopefully, the editor will like this version and offer me a contract.

Linda Morris, Romance writer said...

Thanks for all the comments, folks! Susan, don't give up. I got several revision requests for my most recent sale, and was beginning to think I'd never sell it. Every time I fixed one problem, they found another. But persistence paid off, and I bet it will for you too!

Leah St. James said...

I'm with you, Linda! So many times I've subconsciously talked myself out of just digging in and tackling whatever my current project is, or from starting a new project. Aside from the issues of self-doubt (which I share, and I'm sure is very common!), I think you have to develop a mindset that your writing is a job, an obligation, and you need to find that self-discipline to be productive.

Great topic!

Rebecca J. Clark said...

Hey Linda--I tried to find an email to reach you at, but couldn't. So... I see you have a couple of releases coming up. I'm looking for blog guests for http://shywriters.blogspot.com If you're interested, drop me an email. rebeccajclark(dot)author(at)gmail(dot)com

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