Fiction is too beautiful to be about just one thing. It should be about everything.
~ Arundhati Roy
I absolutely agree with Ms. Roy. Fiction should include the smooth, the rough, the soft, the sharp, the bright, the dull, the everything. Right now, however, I’m struggling with a bit of overwhelm in regards to the EVERYTHING I’m contemplating for this current project.
The good news is that I’ve (temporarily, at least) eluded my panic, and am whittling away at one piece of EVERYTHING that I hope belongs in the story. If it turns out this piece doesn’t belong, I will still have learned something.
Disclosure: That mature sentiment will fade if this project turns into one long-ass process of elimination.
I’m ready to skip town.
Still not finished with this draft of the YA-from-hell.
Intended to finish by November 30 in my version of NaNo, but life intervened in a couple big ways and derailed those efforts.
This young hitchhiker could have walked out of the pages of my manuscript. (Photo by Atlas Green)
I have written several drafts of this book, but never the final scenes. While I’ve mapped out those scenes, they’ve never been fully realized. I’m starting to wonder if it’s a case of “talking myself out of a book;” in other words, precisely because I have visualized and plotted out those scenes, I’ve lost all interest in writing them. Maybe they already feel done? Maybe I’ve lost faith in my abilities and so want to give up? Maybe I feel my efforts would be better spent on a more high concept story?
I can’t help thinking that my uncharacteristic antipathy toward this project somehow holds the key to my stuckness. I also can’t help thinking that if I just wrote the effing scenes, I’d escape these circles of hell.
There’s a real feeling when you know you’re getting it right. It’s a physical feeling.
~ Robert Caro
Yeah, but what about when you’re not getting it right? Huh? What’s that physical feeling called, Mister I’ve-won-multiple-Pulitzer-Prizes-and-National-Book-Awards??
Around these parts it’s starting to feel an awful lot like baldness.
If you presume to love something,
you must love the process of it much more than you love the finished product.
~ John Irving
Right now I’m not entirely sure I love the fiction-writing process. As I revise this young adult novel, I’m starting to question whether I have any business trying to get published. I received some feedback on another manuscript that has me questioning my talent, and today I’m more wobbly than I’ve been in some time.
So. The bad news is I’m scared and exhausted and wishing someone could cut out this obsessive writer part of me so I’d never have to feel this way again.
The good news? My experience tells me that this ugly fog will eventually lift and then fade to a very faint memory. Lather, rinse, repeat.
I might not always love the process, but I trust it.
I’ve spent the past couple days researching nonfiction project ideas and it’s been a joy because the planet’s animal inhabitants are incredibly diverse and mind-blowingly freaky in their behaviors. I could read forever.
But I can’t read forever because I need to make a decision. I need to choose a topic and start writing. The problem is I want to write about all the things that fascinate and entertain and expand my world view. All. The. Things.
I’ve started three different Scrivener files, adding research sources and roughing out drafts. And then my brain says “But there’s also that other cool thing. Maybe it would be best to write about that right now.”
I’ve never had this problem with fiction. I decide what story to work on and away I go. Over the years I have revisited fiction projects, which to the casual observer might look like indecisive bouncing around, but I’ve never experienced anything like this. Which is kind of strange considering that the planet’s human inhabitants are also incredibly diverse and mind-blowingly freaky in their behaviors. I mean, there’s a lot to choose from there, too.
I’d love to be assigned a topic, but that’s not happening right now. So I’m going to make a decision because, like this guy says:
You heard it here first.
Angst and uncertainty are part of the creative process. You know that. You also know those feelings are best handled by writing and pushing through to the other side. But sometimes those feelings become so huge and unwieldy and the voices are shrieking so loudly in your head that you convince yourself you hate the project and want to quit it forever.
Please don’t give in to those feelings.
Instead, remember this: sometimes you feel stuck and unable to move forward NOT because you’re no-talent and the project is worthless, but because your approach is wrong. Sometimes you can’t make progress because something deep inside your creative self digs in its heels and refuses to budge. Sometimes you just need a little time to find the way.
Your project doesn’t suck. You don’t hate it. And it would be a sad, sad thing if you quit it forever.
“This is not a book that should be tossed lightly aside.
It should be hurled with great force.”
~ Dorothy Parker
Dorothy Parker was 50 years old when George Platt Lynes took this portrait in 1943.
Okay, so Ms. Parker was not referring to my work-in-progress, but the quote strikes a nerve. Wandering the wilderness of my creative mind is always a scary endeavor, and one which I’m currently going to great lengths to avoid. I would very much appreciate a sign . . .
Last Friday I sent BIRD BRAIN to the four generous souls who
offered to read and critique my manuscript.
It’s much, much too soon to expect responses, but that hasn’t stopped
my mind from turning into a writhing nest of worries and fears.
AGNES by Tony Cochran
Maybe I’ll just get it over with and go put underpants on my feet.
I’m ready to wade back in there
and begin reshaping BIRD BRAIN’s opening chapters.
And then complete another (final?) round of revisions.
I’m equal parts anticipation and dread.
Image from morguefile.com
Cue whatever music it is I need to hear right now . . .
I’m trying not to panic about all this,
but as I work on BIRD BRAIN,
I keep going back and adding bits and pieces of characterization.
Stuff I just recently discovered about the characters.
I’ve been working on this project off and on
(with lots of OFF), since April of 2008.
You’d think by now I’d know the characters inside and out.
What’s it like for the rest of you?
Do you continue to get glimmers of understanding as you write?
Or do you figure out all the basic, most important stuff beforehand?
Or, like me, have you ever thought you knew all the basic, most important stuff
only to discover you did not really know those characters?
As I said, trying not to panic . . .