Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Insecure writer: despair and donuts

In pursuit of short term, fun writing goals this year, I've tried two different things so far, and I'm trying to come up with something different each month.  These different exercises/motivators are to A) keep me writing, of course and also B) help me fight the insecurity, the despair, the temptation to give up because the stories still need so much work. 


The first Wednesday of the month
 is time for Insecure Writers Support Group,
hosted by Alex Cavanaugh and his
excellent team. 

About my YA science fiction, Star Tripped, a couple agents have said "wonderful premise! But not connecting with the characters." (One of them even pointed out why, which I really appreciated). So I made some changes and presented it to my writer's group. Again, similar feedback along the lines of "hmmmn, this has potential, but we're not connecting." Played some more with the first chapter, sent it to a critique partner. She pointed out some of the characterization that didn't work (note to self:  avoid a lot of negativity in first chapters. Negativity is a turn-off)  (Negativity is a way to produce conflict, but maybe not the best way). 

So I've been sitting at my computer for the past few days, scratching my head, poking my character, annoyed at her. "Give us something we can connect to you with!" I get an idea; I toss it around; it doesn't click. I chew my fingernails until another idea comes. Another dud. Really, does this girl have any personality? Do I have any personality? (Yikes! This is where insecurity will lead you).

So then I pick up a really good book and read the first chapter. How did they do it? How did they get me to connect with this character? How did I get hooked? I marvel at the author's brilliance! And then I crawl into a mental corner and sulk because the brilliance does not conduct itself into my writing fingers via those lovely papery published pages. The ideas I have come up with so far are decidedly non-brilliant. 

After a while, I come out of the corner and stop sulking (because it's cramped, in corners; not much of view) and try some different things. Last month I tried writing in a notebook right by my bed the moment I woke up, when my head was still all foggy from sleep. It's surprisingly easy to do this, even for a very decidedly NOT morning person like myself, because it doesn't require any thinking. Really, no thinking. Just spewing. (Maybe our dreams, our subconscious, does all the work?)

I plan to keep doing the morning writing, but I also wanted to try something new for March, too. March is a long way from November and NaNoWriMo, but I think this month I'm going to start my writing days reading a NaNoWriMo pep talk (there are probably at least 50 pep talks archived now) and maybe try something that day's peptalker suggests.  For instance, Chuck Wendig suggests "write donuts in an empty field" You know, as in when you go out to an empty parking lot and drive donuts? (if you don't know, here's a wikipedia entry on it. Wait, Wikipedia doesn't really do it justice; just read Wendig's pep talk and you'll get the idea: it's basically just - go hog wild). 

So anyway, that's my plan for fighting my insecurities this month, and to keep writing. 

13 comments:

  1. Good luck with your ideas for figuring out what you need to do with your writing. It's awesome that you got so much agent feedback if you can figure out how to deepen your character in the right way.

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  2. Yes! That's the spirit! Go hog wild and let the words just spew. Have you read the Artist's Way? (Julia Cameron) She talks about "morning pages" in there and I think you're brilliant for thinking that up on your own. I know what you mean about a character not reaching you. I had a critic once where the author asked me right off the bat, "Why should I care about this character?" Have you asked yourself that about yours? Just my two cents!

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  3. I know what you mean about reading other writers and then not being able to have that same magic transfer to your own writing. I love the fact that you're trying so many things. I think that in itself will help you figure this out. I have a similar issue with one of my YA manuscripts. It's hard when people don't like your characters!
    But at least your character is coming off the page, otherwise people wouldn't have such a strong reaction to her. :)

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  4. Seems like it would be tough to go in and revise your characters so that people connected better with them. But you sound like you're on the right track. I had that problem early on. I'd created a heroine that was a city girl, plopped down on a ranch. The story called for her to be a pain in the butt at first but come around...but people just didn't like her. Said she was too harsh. Without her being unhappy and bratty, though, the story was just about a city girl on a ranch and there wasn't so much conflict, so the story just died.

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  5. Sometimes I read other amazing authors and laugh at myself for even STRIVING to be in the same ballpark. But the thing to remember is this: no one is alike. Everyone writes differently. And you don't know, that author may have struggled for years before they found their niche and the lightbulb went off and they just... figured it out. You got to keep going. And as far as your character not cooperating... maybe she/he shouldn't be in the spotlight? Maybe they're not talking because they're making room for someone else who has a voice? Who really needs to step up?

    My suggestion: don't write the first chapter. Write ABOUT the first chapter, or two. Meet all the players. Interview them, like you're casting a role. Because you are. Let loose of the reigns a little and you'll figure it out. Good luck!

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  6. Although I'm a morning person...sometimes I'm not always that creative right then. When I get stuck...time in a hot tub usually does it for me. :)

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  7. You just need a way to bring the character alive. Maybe she needs a Save the Cat moment?

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  8. One of my editors gave me a very tough assignment. I had to write a bio of each character. The bio had to begin with the character's birth, all the significant things that happened to them until death. Of course, not all of the details made their into the story, but as I wrote the bio, I got ideas about their personality, what was unique about them, what made them ticked off, what was their passion. As the bio grew, so did my love for the characters, or hate (which is a good thing for your antagonist). This was a huge effort but it worked so well. When I was writing the story, I could see and feel each character as if they were real and I would know exactly how they would behave, say, feel. Give it a whirl. Good luck. Blessings

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  9. One of my editors gave me a very tough assignment. I had to write a bio of each character. The bio had to begin with the character's birth, all the significant things that happened to them until death. Of course, not all of the details made their into the story, but as I wrote the bio, I got ideas about their personality, what was unique about them, what made them ticked off, what was their passion. As the bio grew, so did my love for the characters, or hate (which is a good thing for your antagonist). This was a huge effort but it worked so well. When I was writing the story, I could see and feel each character as if they were real and I would know exactly how they would behave, say, feel. Give it a whirl. Good luck. Blessings

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  10. Margo, I had the SAME exact problem with ELEGY. You've read my early drafts; you know! Stella was so prickly and unlikable that no one could connect to her. There was a reasoning behind her behavior (her secret insecurity and fear of not giving a perfect performance) but I didn't clearly show that, so that people could understand her. I also played up her friendship with Aria, and how much she loved and cared about her, and that's when I got more interest. I think she still has unlikable qualities, but people are more willing to give it a pass because they see that she has other redeeming ones. What helped me most was taking a step back (weeks or even months) so I could see her in an unbiased light. Keep at it and let me know if you ever want an extra eyeball on something.

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  11. Sounds like all this great feedback and revisions are helping you strengthen your story! It always feels good to know you're on the right track.

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  12. Sounds like all this great feedback and revisions are helping you strengthen your story! It always feels good to know you're on the right track.

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