Post Writers’ Conference Hitch

Oh my goodness.  How am I supposed to get back to normal?  Attending my first writers’ conference in early May was a dream come true.  Really.  I learned so much more than I ever thought I would.  There is one little hitch though.  Now, I over-analyze everything I write.  Every sentence, practically every word.  It’s starting to get in the way of the plot because I am focussing too much on the words and structure.

So, exactly how am I supposed to get back to normal?  I mean, every time I write a few sentences, I start to think that they aren;t punchy enough or I have used the same word too many times or the structure isn’t right.  I am even finding myself fixing previously written text to accommodate what I learned at the conference.

Am I just over-editing?  Will I return to normal soon?  What am I supposed to do if all I think about is how mundane my writing must be?  Oh the conundrum!

As usual, writing things out, especially issues I have, seems to help me come up with solutions.  My first thought is to get back to writing and worry about the editing later.  Somehow I have to trust that my story is more important right now than which words I choose and how many times I use a word.  This has always been difficult for me, but now, trying to add in the nuances I learned about at the conference, is making me crazy!  Not to mention, the “Doubt Monster” is really tearing at what little confidence I have in my own writing abilities.  I almost feel as though I cannot write at all.

OK, ok, stop whining and practice not editing. See how that works out.  Hopefully I can return to some normalcy in my writing soon.

(also posted on She Writes)

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Perfectly Placed Eye Lashes

I have a distinct appreciation for make-up, eye make-up to be exact.  I can get drawn in by the flawless application of color and lashes.  I look closely at the details. I focus on the closeups to see how the color was applied, where the shadows are, and how the lashes blend into the eyeliner.

smokeyeye1What has all this talk about eye make-up got to do with writing?  Nothing, on the surface; but if you think about it, it’s the same as writing a great story.  You draw your readers in with the flawless application of plot and characters.  Your readers will fall into the perfection of the scenes.  As a writer, I read other authors closely.  I scour the details, focus on the events, how the action is applied, and how the subplots blend into the main theme.  The meat of the story is in the details. It’s how I learn to write better.  It’s how I understand the structure.  The finishing touches, the satisfaction of the ending, reminds me of perfectly placed eyelashes.

Fear Factor

I read a lot of tweets and posts about the fears we writers have — blank pages, writer’s block, inner critics (aka monsters), lack of ideas, rejection, etc.  I think about these things and I think I fall more into the fear of finishing group.  I fear finishing my novel because I not only have the usual fears noted above, but I’m really not sure what to do after I finish it.  Editing and all being obvious, what do I do afterwards? Do I get an agent? Do I submit to publishers?  Do I self-publish (and that option opens up a whole new set of questions)?  What do I do?

Then there’s that question that looms in my mind…what if I am such a bad writer that I will never publish and the book will be a total embarrassment?  You know, like those poor young people on American Idol who can’t carry a tune, but get up there and mortify themselves because their family has always told them they sounded terrific.   Oh heavens, yet another fear to handle.

Fear is a great paralyzer, the root of much procrastination, especially as a writer.  It’s a wonder any one gets the words on a page, much less published.  The big FEAR is always standing in our way.  We all have general fears in life, it’s human nature.  But as writers, there are so many fears directly related to our craft that breaking free of them can be an insurmountable task.

How do we trudge on?  For me, it takes a lot of pushing, a lot of will power.  I push myself to get up early, to open the computer, to actually write.  I will myself to forget all the “what ifs” for the time I’m on the computer writing.  I will myself to just write and not think about the monster in my head screaming at me that I am not good enough.

In the end, I hope to be published and, more importantly, read by many.  I don’t need a bestseller, but it would be nice. Then there’s the other “what if” that I fear. What if I can’t get published and/or no one reads my book, will I continue to write? I suppose I’ll find out soon enough; but the longer it takes to finish, the longer I can live in my dream world of being published someday.  And there’s the catch.

Happy writing!!

-AH

Writing a First Novel is Painful!

I wrote a quick Facebook post this morning saying that I was not in the writing mode today and it’s torturous writing a novel. In fact, I am feeling pretty tortured the last couple of days. Trying to write a novel can sometimes be like like trying to pull out my hair one strand at a time. So very painful. Other times, when things are seemingly flowing smoothly, it’s very exhilarating.

Lately, I have been trying to get the MC, Branwen, to her destination, but I know I need some action and some strife intermixed with the plot line. I work on this and come up with some nice subplots that start to take good shape. All is well, right? Wrong!!

I wake up in the wee hours of the morning and start thinking about why Branwen would believe that a spirit would come to her and expect her, a single young woman, to change the world. Then I start worrying whether my scenery is well-defined enough to help readers understand where the characters are and what they are seeing. I used to think that writing dialogue was difficult. Not so. Having come from a technical background, I don’t often think about the finer details like lighting, or the color of the walls, or the shapes of windows. I think about the meat of the story rather than the potatoes.

So, I suppose I’m wondering if I can go back, after finishing the meat, and add the potatoes. Then, I realize, this is my novel and I can write it however I want, in whatever order I want.  I don’t think there’s a specific order in which to write a novel, is there? It’s pretty much up to the writer how s/he gets the work from beginning to end.

I think I’m just so frustrated with the amount time it is taking to work on this project and I feel like I should be so much further along — like done already!! I beat myself up for getting stuck and it’s difficult to stay motivated. And maybe, just maybe, now that I’ve gotten all that off my chest, I can go back and write more of this novel?

-AH

Subplot Frustrations

I’ve been working on my novel this week. Yay!!  It feels really great to be writing and getting so much done.  However, it can be very frustrating writing 2 or 3 plot lines that must somehow coincide and be resolved at the end of the story.  This frustration likely stems from me fighting with myself.  But it is still very real.

I start writing about the main characters and forget that I have a couple of subplots going that are important to the story. Then I feel like I am back-tracking when I focus on writing the subplots. I know they are necessary to further the story and create a more rich novel. But I feel like I will never move forward. This feeling is ridiculous, of course, because each word written furthers the storyline. Nevertheless, I feel that way.

So, I thought about writing each plot line separately, then weaving them together. Not wanting to spend too much time on it if it is a crazy idea, I still thought it might be worth a try. Well, let me tell you, as soon as I started that tack, I knew I shouldn’t. There’s way too much to remember and trying to weave them together after the fact would be even more frustrating. These plot lines happen concurrently, so writing them separately is foolish.

I will just have to realize that, as frustrating as it might be, I am not losing ground when I return to a chapter or scene and add in subplot storyline. Either that, or I will have to learn to write the plotlines concurrently. Truth is, this experience of writing my first novel is a major learning experience. And, overall, I am having so much fun doing it.

-AH

Initially published on my concurrent blog site at andreahunter313.wordpress.com

Return to Real Life

After a nice long trip to visit with friends and family and celebrate our nephew’s wedding to a wonderful young woman, it is GREAT to be home. We are blessed to have such accommodating friends and family to stay with when we visit the mainland and we love them dearly, but living out of a suitcase for two weeks is taxing.

Since we’ve returned and readjusted to Kauai time and daily tasks, we have had a (somewhat expected) sadness. Our beloved cat, Hanaleila, passed away yesterday afternoon. She was 17-1/2 years old and she went fairly quickly. Thankfully, she waited until we got home to depart — we got to say good-bye. She will be sorely missed. I like to imagine her flying free and on to a new adventure.

With all this reality happening, my writing has been spotty at best. However, I think some of these experiences can be utilized, so I am writing them down to remember how they feel and what reactions I have had. Of course, I will always remember what it feels like to lose a loved one. There is no other feeling like it. The experiences of getting off the plane in California, driving to Monterey, watching the wedding, watching the people dancing, saying so long, getting off the plane back on Kauai, can be clouded over after time. It’s best to write them down while they are fresh.

I’ve read a lot about memoirs lately and, while I don’t think my life would ever be interesting enough to write a book about, I have learned that some of those moments bring on feelings and memories that can be used to move the characters along in their stories. So it makes sense to record those feelings for use later. After all, no matter where our characters roam, they are created by humans and likely to have human feelings. Now that I think about it, I suppose if I went through some of my earlier diaries, I could find plenty to fill up a character of almost any age.

So, while I am not working on my WIP at the moment, I am preparing for future character development by writing about experiences and how one can react to them. Life feeds art, this time.

-AH

Beat Yourself Bloody Writing, Plot Resolutions Will Come

I have been struggling with the “middle” part of my book for some time.  Spending a lot of time reworking the outline time and again.  Differing plot lines, subplots, new characters.  Nothing seemed to work.   Then, yesterday morning, I woke up and there it was: a new subplot that weaves in nicely, adds tension and suspense, resolves the forward movement of the main plot, and is perfectly legitimate to the story line.  Wow.  I emitted a sigh of relief and felt the surge of refreshed excitement.

As writers, we can be battered by our stories.  It’s no wonder that first novel is often never finished. You hit a wall and bang your head against it over and over till the blood is streaming down your face and you writhe in pain.  Then, without notice or ceremony, the wall just suddenly crumbles and the view beyond opens up new possibilities and resolutions! Graphic, yes; true, for me it’s a resounding YES! Fortunately, I have some great support and I am not one to give up.

Of course, you have to go through all this pain to allow the resolution to formulate. For me, some of this new subplot contains small elements of some ideas I came up with while outlining, repeatedly. So all that battering is not futile.  Just painful. You think you’re never going to come up with another decent idea, then wham! The idea hits you over the head and you feel better!  At least I do.  I know that all the work is worthwhile and not every idea will be great.  But it does keep your juices flowing so you can get to the good ideas.

So, be battered, be in pain, but don’t give up.  The writing is important and necessary.  The book is important and necessary.  So, stick with it and reap the benefits.  No matter what, continuing the writing keeps the idea mill working and the rewards will pay out!

-AH

(Also posted on my other blog: https://andreahunter313.wordpress.com)