Showing posts with label setbacks. Show all posts
Showing posts with label setbacks. Show all posts

Thursday, May 31, 2012

before and after

okay, i'm going to tell you a secret.
or i'm going to make a confession.
or maybe it's both.

writing is harder after you sell a book.

not for everyone, i'm sure. and not forever, i hope.
but for me, it's been a difficult year for writing.

when i wrote BUTTER, i had no idea obesity and suicide were risky topics. no one had told me yet that "boy books don't sell." i didn't know my grammar wasn't perfect (truly, i thought it was. silly, silly me.) and i was still clueless about the "rules" in general.
i just wanted to tell a story. and it all worked out.

when i wrote BILLY D & THE BULLY, i knew a few more rules, but i had just sold BUTTER, and i wasn't yet fully initiated. i didn't know anyone would call what i was writing "disabilities YA," because i had never even heard of such a thing. i certainly didn't know that i had a year of revisions ahead of me, because i didn't know what i was doing wrong in that first draft. again, it all worked out anyway.

but by the time those revisions were done, i was in a different place as a writer. somewhere along the path to publishing, i had stopped thinking of writing as a hobby and started thinking of it as a job. suddenly, i couldn't just explore any old idea that delighted me. first i had to make sure the idea hadn't been done. then i had to rewrite every paragraph 40 times to make sure it was as polished as my other books are in their final drafts. then i had to outline the story to assure myself i had a direction and wasn't wasting my time, y'know... just having fun. because who has time for fun when you're writing for work?

the joy is still there. i still love love love writing. but the joy got a little buried under something else... pressure.
i was chatting with some of my fellow 2012 debut authors tonight, and i asked them if they found it harder to write now. i was comforted by a chorus of "yes!" followed by that word... pressure. i think a lot of new authors must feel that - a sense that everything you write has to have the potential to be published.
for me, it was paralyzing. i took weeks off writing. then, after a few false starts on new projects, the weeks turned into months, until finally i'd forgotten how i ever made time for this at all.

i'm getting my feet wet again - revisiting some of the ideas and pages i abandoned this past year out of fear - and i'm rediscovering the joy.
but i wanted to share the struggle here in case anyone else can relate. and i also wanted to share this much that i've figured out:
the only one putting that pressure on me was ME. and the only person i need to please when i'm writing is ME... because i'm writing for the joy of it.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

that which does not kill us...

...well, you know how the saying goes.

every year, at least one freeze (yes, freeze, in Arizona) comes along and fries my backyard bushes.

every year, after hacking away at the dead leaves, i end up with a pile of sticks.


every year, i see those dried-up bones and think THIS is the year they won't come back.

and every year, this happens:


it starts with a little green here and there, then a few flowers, and in about a month - a brand new, healthy bush.


the sticks will still be there, scarred from my hacking away with power tools, but now they are the bones of a better, stronger plant - a plant that would not have thrived without being cut down first.

this is what happens to writers on the path to publishing.

we spend a season growing something beautiful, but then a dark time comes along - negative feedback from a crit partner, an agent rejection, a book that doesn't sell... and suddenly everything we once thought pretty now looks sort of brittle and gray and unworthy of sitting next to the other beautiful things. so we hack away all those ugly parts and try to grow something new to cover up the scars.

that's perseverance. that's how we get better, how we come back stronger with every draft - we absorb the criticism and take pride in the scars that help make our skin a little thicker.

i guess all i'm trying to say is, there are setbacks on the path to publishing. sometimes those setbacks are many and painful, but that's all they are - setbacks. not stop signs.

as writers, we love to plant something and watch it grow.
but you want to feel real pride?
cut something down to nothing... and watch it grow back stronger.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

the computer ate my chapter!

...and other blessings in disguise.

the first novel i ever tried to write died a horrible death. it caught a nasty incurable virus and when it finally went into the light, even the best computer doctors could not revive it.
this was ten years ago, and the pain of that loss was so raw, i did not write again for years.

i am being completely serious now.
i allowed a manuscript-eating computer virus to put me off writing... for years. even when someone very close to me - an angel really - produced the first ten thousand words or so from his own email archives, bless him, i could not be persuaded to pick up the story again. how could i possibly remember what the NEXT ten thousand words were? and i couldn't even fathom letting those words go and starting the story again from the middle. i was so stubborn.

but i took the ten thousand words from this angel, and put them in a folder at the back of my file box with a neat little tab labeled: Sammy Vegas. for almost a decade, every time i opened that box to file a utility bill or check a bank statement, the words "Sammy Vegas" would play peek-a-boo with me from the dark rear of the box... taunting me, reminding me that once upon a time i wanted to be a writer.

when i finally started writing again, the "Sammy Vegas" file got moved to a new filing cabinet - one filled with nothing but manuscripts, story ideas and publishing information. now, when i see the "Sammy Vegas" tab, i don't see a painful loss but a story that will someday be brought back to life. SV would have been the wrong first book for me. and maybe i needed to live a little more before i started writing for real. i truly think losing that MS was meant to be, so that all the stars could align for me to write a book some 8 or 9 years later that would actually be good enough to publish.

i tried to remember the SV tale this week when technology let me down once again.
this time, it wasn't a computer virus but a malfunctioning android application that ate my words. (oh, how time has marched on!)
my trusty little cell phone voice recorder app crashed and burned - taking with it an entire chapter of my NaNo project. in the sheer panic of losing those words, i forgot every single one of them, even thought i had dictated them into the voice recorder only that morning. Handsome and i made a few feeble efforts to recover the audio files, but they were lost. i wanted to crawl into bed and forget the whole manuscript.
but NaNo waits for no drama, so i knew i had to suck it up and write something new.

and you know what? the new scene is better. once it was all written, my thoughts cleared, and i could remember the initial scene, and it wasn't half as good as its replacement. losing that first chapter was probably the best thing that's happened to me since i started NaNo.
(but, um, Karma? if you're listening? that doesn't mean i want to lose any more chapters, okay? i AM on a deadline, here.)

i just wanted to share those stories for anyone who has hit a setback in their writing, whether it's:
- a computer virus
- a lost notebook
- an accidental 'delete'
- an identical scene in someone else's book that forces you to press 'delete'
- or just about any other uncontrollable factor that erases so much of your hard work.

words get lost.
but sometimes it's a blessing in disguise.
fortunately, we know where the words come from, and we can always make more.