Wednesday, April 25, 2012

inspire my muse

Readers, writers, friends...I post today to ask your help. The roller coaster of emotions that is rewriting has me struggling. I think it's natural to believe I'll make it as an author, that I'll be published one day. I also think it's natural in the next breath to question my ability. Rewrites have me bouncing back and forth on these lines quite frequently. So, I'm looking to boost myself more firmly into the I-can-do-this camp.

I have referred to the works of authors who I respect and admire, who have become my heroes and mentors. I have looked back at my own work to encourage myself. I have visited author and editor blogs. I have looked for inspirational quotes on writing.

Some of the advice I go back and read?

I love this reminder. Sometimes I am too independent and I have to remind myself that it's okay to ask for help, to allow others to help me work through things. I have the same problem in life. On any given day you can find me carrying a diaper bag and my purse (think Mary Poppins size) with the 2 year old on my hip, attempting to hold the door open for the 6 year old and whoever is directly behind her. Why? Why not let them get the door for me? I have no answer other than I have had no one to rely on in so long that I have gotten used to doing it all alone. Unfortunately, this is not good for writing. I see the story unfold in movie scenes in my head, but that's not good enough. I need my reader to be able to form those scenes from my words. This is where it helps to have others read and help. 

Okay, so worrying is good. I should worry. I'm okay with worrying, I just want to worry productively.

Rachel...nail on the head. Someone help pull me out of stage 4? I think I skipped a couple stages and went straight for this one.

All of my attempts at motivating myself have helped in some way, but I wonder if you all can help as well. Any advice? Words of encouragement? Muses for sale?

Writers: What helps you when you get stuck or start questioning your ability? (That is, assuming I'm not an anomaly and that many of you also question).

Readers: What is it that you love about fiction? What determines a good book in your eye from a DNF (did not finish)? What's your favorite opening line?


  1. What I love in good fiction is the world building/character development. And that takes time to create, so they tell me. :). Ilona Andrews had a really good post on this very subject which I thought was enlightening. You have a writing style that I love to read and I'm a very picky reader. Keep telling yourself to write it down and the editing can come later. When I write, I organize what it is I want to say, kinda like a road map. That way I can focus on "how" I want to say something and the story seems to flow from there. Doesn't mean I don't edit the hell out of it later, but this way I get all of my thoughts down and then play with the order they appear. Good Luck!

    1. Thanks, Laura! I just went out and bought some index cards to help me. Problem is...I've already written the story! It's done. Finished. Just not...y'know, finished. Now it's time to tear it apart. I'm just struggling with how. Writing has always been easy for me. Ten years in college for English = never really rewriting papers. I edited papers, sure. I just have no skill in taking scenes out, rearranging, starting in a better/more appropriate place. That kind of thing. Does that make sense?

      Also, thanks for the intel on Ilona. I'll be looking that up!

  2. We've had this discussion before... I'm not sure what makes a good writer. I just know that I've always wanted to put my words on a page and have it be worthy of someone else to read it. I haven't had that feeling since high school.... trust me... I'm a long way from that day. It hasn't stopped me from dreaming though. I understand the independence thing. I have a spouse and I still felt like I was doing it alone. It was just easier that way. I'm not one to ask for help or advice. I just do it. All I can tell you is be true to yourself, which I know that you already are. Don't settle, which I know that you already don't. You're doing it all right. Have faith in yourself and take the leap. Weren't you the one to tell me not to re-write? I believe I can find those tweets between me, you and Jodi if I go back far enough. I realize I have no room to talk because I haven't finished a thing that I've written because I'm too busy second guessing every word I write. Take the leap kiddo. I'm sure that you have something special to offer. We all struggle, just don't let that struggle hold you back. ;)

    1. Thank you, Shirley! I know we've chatted about this. That's why I blogged about it today. I've had little snippet-tweet convos here and there, but still haven't found my mojo. And, point of clarification, I'm done writing the novel. There is no choice but to rewrite now. ;) It's rewriting while you're in the middle of writing that holds us back. It took a lot for me to stop that, but I did it. I'm done with it. It just has a lot of work to be done to it, and I'm not sure I can fix it. I keep thinking I'll just scrap it and start fresh, but that's not productive. Plus I really like the story line and characters. I can't wait til I get to read some of your work, lady love!!

      Thanks for the encouragement! Xx

  3. Kyla you can do this. Your a lot like me especially since I adopted my two yar old Isabella Im more independent than ever, but every now and then we all need a little help. Stop beating yourself up, sit down and write, just write what's in your heart and the rest will take care of itself. There is process of rewrites but you can't take this personally, look at it as honing your craft not tearing it apart. Let others help you and your on your way. I know you can do this. Do it for all the single mums out there who have a dream and need someone to look up to.

  4. The best advice I can offer you is to relax.

    Believe it or not, you've accomplished the hardest part of writing. You have the whole story down. You have the characters down. Of course it won't be perfect, the first draft is never perfect. It's not meant to be. It's meant to be a skeleton, an outline- something you can flesh out that will eventually become your masterpiece. Think of that first draft as a getting to know your characters and story draft.

    Don't worry about whether you are starting in the right place. Often, the perfect opening won't occur to you until much later, after you have a really good handle on the characters/story. But it doesn't matter at this point. You can't ruin the work. Everything can be fixed in subsequent drafts. If you make a mistake you can always fix it. Keep reminding yourself that everything can be fixed.

    Honestly, I think the biggest mistake writers make- new and established- is they concentrate too much on the whole picture. On everything that has to be done, and the sheer magnitude of it freezes them. They feel overwhelmed. They don't know where to start, they don't know how to do it, so they freeze. They let doubt and worry get a hold of them.

    So here is my advice, for what it's worth. Let a couple of people you trust, and who you share tastes with read the full manuscript. Not chapters at a time. But the full manuscript preferably within a couple of days, as though they were reading a book. Ask them what they like about it, and what they didn't like. Assess everything they say. If they all say the same thing, then you have a pretty fair consensus that that particular element works, or doesn't. Once you have their feedback, read the work yourself, making notes as you go of what you want to change. What you want to keep. After you finish reading, give yourself a couple of days to mull elements over. Don't concentrate on the whole work. Break it down into smaller elements. I.E pace. Or character development. Or action scenes. By breaking the work into smaller easier to handle elements- it won't seem so overwhelming.

    Once you know what you want to concentrate on in the next round, start reworking each scene from the beginning. Before you start each scene, take a few moment to visualize that scene clearly in your mind. Focus on just that one scene. Before you write it, consult your notes from what your CPs have said, and what you noted for that specific scene. Make a list of things you want to accomplish in that scene. For example write down what needs to be shown in that scene.

    As an example- In the rewrite of the first scene of YC I had this>>> basic scene- Jamie and Wes in the woods. Jamie playing on a rock slide, Wes comes around the corner on ATV. Wes starts a rock slide that buries Jamie. Foreshadow the spirits of the woods immediately, as soon as Wes sees Jamie on the slide. Need to make spirit woods an eerie entity of it's own.(description)Make Wes creepy and threatening through the dead dog and his POV. Make sure Jamie's Jacket is on the landslide. Make sure Wes comes off as cunning and manipulative, but make sure the reader knows the landslide was an accident, he doesn't start it intentionally. But show his lack of compassion and empathy once it happens. Show by his actions that Wes is a sociopath. POV is Wes, emotion is coldness. Pace is moderate with description to paint setting and develop both the woods and the lights.

    Then I write the scene, working these elements in. I only focus on one scene at a time as I rework the book. Does this make sense?

  5. I think the one thing that helps me get get out of a re-writing/editing funk is to remember how much I friggin loved writing it up the first time. That's what keeps me going.

    Also, sometimes if I'm getting too angry at tweaking and editing all the little things, I just get out a clean page and start the chapter fresh. And it feels so good and exciting again ... as if anything could happen. Because it could. And 9 times out of 10, all those little niggly things that I couldn't get into place just start to work themselves in naturally.

    Love your blog BTW - new follower!

  6. I heard an NPR book review a while ago, and loved it. It is an anthology of quotes from authors about writing - some of the quotes are marvelous.

    "Advice to Writers, edited by Jon Winokur, is a collection of quotations on the writer's craft. The book offers nothing less than the collective trench wisdom of generations of great authors: Mark Twain — "when you catch an adjective, kill it"; Hemingway on persistence — he claimed to scrawl 91 clunky pages for every sparkler; and Flaubert on the necessity of revision — "prose is like hair," he wrote, "it shines with combing". After reading Winokur's book of quotations, the writing process no longer seems mysterious. There's no great secret to writing well: Accomplished authors just install themselves at desks, where they doggedly muddle their way toward something good. As the great sportswriter Red Smith once said, "Writing is easy. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.""



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