Wednesday, May 7, 2014

A story about Insecurity and Inspiration

The first Wednesday of the month
 is time for Insecure Writershos Support Group,
hosted by Alex Cavanaugh and his
excellent team. 
Back in March I posted "how an old dream is rekindled" - just for kicks and giggles, I read the first two chapters of my long-shelved unicorn story, Refuge, to my four girls, and they loved it and clamored for more. So, their love inspired me to start working on the story again.

At first, I thought, "this writing isn't half bad... I can clean this up pretty easily". After all, I had 5 years and 3 more manuscripts' worth of writing experience since I shelved this first attempt at a manuscript.

The first four chapters were in good shape and didn't need much work, but after that, what a mess!! I finally realized that mere "revising" wasn't going to work. I was going to have rewrite it, or at least major parts of it.

Insecurity started biting at my ankles (you know those little dogs that are called ankle biters? sometimes insecurity shows up like an ankle biter.)

Sometimes, Insecurity shows up more like the Hound of the Baskervilles: dark and really, really scary.

This has happened before (the insecurity part, and the massive rewrite part). I mean, we all know that good writing is essentially rewriting, right?  So the first thing I do when facing a rewrite is I find all the good stuff that is worth keeping, because that makes me feel better.

I read through the first third and copied all the parts that were worth saving. Little bits of characterization, setting, and dialogue. The document with all my bits and pieces was a jumbled mess, so (because I don't yet have awesome software like Scrivener), I had to figure out someway to organize it so that while rewriting, I could easily find the good stuff and fit it back in.

I organized the bits and pieces by character. So I ended up with five documents for five different characters, (kind of like a character worksheet, but in reverse). Then I made a sixth document to keep all the setting details that were worth saving.

At some point, skimming through this sixth document of setting details, my brain did the cool thing it sometimes does (not nearly often enough) and made a CONNECTION. My imagination looked at all those setting details and suddenly, eureka! - it realized that the setting was, in fact, a SIXTH character.


The ankle biter, Insecurity, was momentarily pushed aside by Inspiration, which in contrast is a lithe, shimmery little dragon, kind of like Mushu, the miniature dragon from Mulan,

but a prettier, more clever version that impresses the cricket more often.

Inspiration twined around my torn-apart story like a purring dragon-cat, sparking imaginative fire for a few days.
(this is not the purring dragon cat of Inspiration my mind had envisioned, but this was too funny not use anyway)

Then, the fire went out, and the ankle-biter was back. Because all the pretty little bits and pieces still had to be stitched back together with new words, and the new words were coming slowly and painfully and weren't nearly as pretty as Inspiration had promised.

So, I'd like to say this little story has a happy ending, where the ankle-biter got put on a leash and the purring dragon cat was enticed to stay around and continuing breathing Inspiring Sparks into my story, but the reality is I'm still limping along at rewriting. My new words, more often than not, lack voice. Lack original details. They lack tension and sensory richness and they feel like "filler."

But I write them down anyway, because my favorite quote is Jack London's: "you cannot wait for inspiration; you must go after it with a club" and if I club that fickle dragon cat with bad words then eventually he spits a few good words my direction.

It all takes time and work and that, THAT's how you keep the hounds at bay, until you discover (SPOILER! highlight to see) that the Hound of the Baskervilles of Insecurity is just an ordinary hound tricked out with phosphorous to make him look scary. End spoiler.

What animals do you imagine Insecurity and Inspiration to look like?


  1. It's good that you had that reminder of your capabilities. If you can make connections and leaps of imagination once you can do it again, so I have no doubt it will all come together. Eventually.

    Moody Writing

  2. I have a couple of manuscripts like that--I love the first few chapters and/or the characters--but don't know how to fix the rest.
    I like how you found inspiration in your characters! Sometimes the writing I do when I'm plodding along is better than I think it is at the time. I'm sure more connections will come!

    1. My problem is I'm kind of a "connection" junkie. If I don't make connections or get inspiration on a regular basis, I tend to give up for a while.

  3. I have a manuscript on the chopping block for this. I love how you attacked the chapters you were planning to rewrite. I'll have to keep that in mind.

  4. I think it is SO cool that you're rewriting an early story! And how awesome it is that you've come so far in your craft that you recognize where it needs work. For me, that's half the battle! Good luck with those pesky dragons :)

    1. I had way too much fun imagining Inspiration as a dragon. :)

  5. Perseverence is usually the trick to keep the ankle-biters away. Or, if not away, then under control.

    1. Yes, it would be nice if they could be leashed!

  6. It is hard to take something you wrote and really liked and rip it apart. All those pieces get overwhelming. I have one now. I'm looking at it knowing it has good bones, good characters, but needs some work on weaving in the plot more definitively.

    Another well known author shared that what she does is write the first few chapters. The purpose being to really get to know the characters--how they think and react--so they're distinct and real. A greet and meet sorta thing. Once she knows her characters well she stops and plots out the story. Then she writes it. I thought it made sense. It works for her since she's hit the bestsellers list consistently the last 4 or 5 years.

    To be honest? I think most good stories are a series of rewrites and shadings. Still hard to do. Keep us posted on how you do. And I agree about the club, lol!

    Sia McKye Over Coffee

    1. That does make a lot of sense - getting to know the characters is crucial for building the plot!

  7. Insecurity makes me think of an opposum or a kuala bear, shy and recluse. Inspiration is my own Maltese and Bichon Frese ankle biters. I wish I were as fearless! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Yes! Another person who likes to picture intangibles as animals! ;)

  8. First off there is a free writing program called yWrite5 that I use. It takes a bit of work to get used to it, but I like it. And did I mention that it's free?

    I'm glad you shared your process here. When I get into my old work I break it down into scenes and go from there. It's always good to hear/read how others do it. Sometimes it makes life so much easier. :-)

    Anna from Shout with Emaginette

    1. I tried yWrite5 once and liked how it was structured, but I couldn't actually write in it - felt like a text editor rather than a word processor. (or maybe it was a different program?) I'll check it again.

  9. Wow, what a journey your book is going through! I'm so excited for you to see what emerges on the other side of your rewriting. :)

  10. I think this sums up the writing experience in general pretty well. It's never a 100% insecure/100% confident thing. It generally comes in waves. We just have to ride those waves and hope it all works out!

  11. I'm going through this same experience right now. It's comforting to know other writers share the same battle.



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