I’d felt pretty down on myself the last few days. It happens: every so often, I look at my various hit statistics and comment numbers, and I start to doubt my skill, especially in comparison to other writers. It always seems like everybody else is getting hundreds of comments and thousands of hits per day, while three likes or just one comment on a story will send me into a dopamine-fueled fit of happiness.
Dopamine, dear dopamine. How do I love thee?
But those low-to-non-existent numbers were dragging me down, so much that I couldn’t even pull it together to put a few words together on the page, no matter how hard I tried. The only thought going through my head was, “I suck.”
Social media is particularly damaging during these downswings, because like-minded individuals tend to cluster together on these outlets, and I’ve never really been a like-minded individual with anybody. I have interest groups and fandoms I follow, but I’ve always been on the fringe of them: the oddball, the rebel, the outcast, the geek. The closest I’ve gotten is with my writer friends, though even they know how weird I am. Of course, all writers are odd, to an extent. I think we have to be, to want to sequester ourselves away to focus on getting just the right phrase down onto a piece of paper. And, to keep doing that over and over until we’re happy with what we have (which is almost never, by the way; there simply comes a time when enough is enough, and we have to let go).
Anyway, while slogging through that quagmire of depressive doubt, a familiar link popped up on my Twitter feed:
I’d read Guy’s article on Why Blog Hits Don’t Really Matter before, but it felt serendipitous that I happened to log in to my Twitter and saw it that day. I read it again, and it resonated with me, as it usually does. I talked with a few of my writer friends about it, too, and I remembered (again, because I’m a slow learner) that my writing isn’t about being popular, or publishing books, or trying to make a living from my writing. I already have a job I enjoy, that luckily pays my bills. I self-published my From Hell (A Love Story), and I’ll probably pull together a book of some more stories, but I’m never going to be a “successful” author. And, I’m okay with that. I write because I want to share the unique, silly, sappy, sexy stories inside me. Even if somebody doesn’t look today, they might find a story of mine next week, or next month, or next year. If that story makes them smile, laugh, or think, then it’s done its job. And, I’ve done mine. Once I remembered that, and put that realization back in my heart, I could write again. I sat down and wrote another vignette for my “Finding Mister Wright” universe basically in one go! And, it felt great.
I’m sure I’ll have more down days to come. But when they happen, I’m going to try to remember to look back at this time, when I felt depressed about the ridiculous merry-go-round popularity contests conjured by my defeatist brain, and remind myself why I write what I write, and why I love what I write. You’re welcome to join me, whenever you’re ready.
If you’d like to read the latest “Finding Mister Wright” vignette, you can click the link below; the PDF will open in a new window. Don’t worry – it’s not nearly as raunchy as the last one.
“Synchronicity” – Another “Finding Mister Wright” short story
What techniques or motivations do you use when you doubt yourself?
I’ve been away from blogger land for a while, but I’m getting better. Thanks to everyone for your emails, messages, and support. It’s meant a lot just to know I’m not alone.
Just a brief update to assure those of my followers who are still with me that I’m not dead.
As friends who follow me on my Twitter and tumblr (warning: some NSFW there) have probably seen, I’ve been writing a lot in recent weeks. I challenged myself to a 30-day writing challenge, where I write a story vignette every day this month, and that has been helping me get back on track with my creative energies, which had dipped to depressing levels. I hadn’t quite realized how much I love writing until I hadn’t been doing it for a while. But, now that I’ve been writing every day again, I’m feeling a lot better about just about everything in my life.
I also “published” – and got the hardcopies for – From Hell (A Love Story), my homoerotic space opera. It felt fantastic to hold in my hands a physical representation of my work, even if it was just an experiment in the CreateSpace venue, for a book nobody’s going to read. I still got multiple copies, though I’m not sure why. One I kept, and one went to my friend Carmen McLaughlin, whom I also commissioned to paint the book’s gorgeous cover. I guess I’ll keep the rest for doorstops or something.
I hope to get back to all of you soon. We’re busy at work with Alumni Weekend and Commencement activities, and I have a video series project I’m editing. I should have more time after this month, though. I also won’t have my writing challenge hanging over my head any longer, so maybe I will get into writing something new.
As of 10:22pm ET, Thursday, March 12, 2015, I finished the content pass edit of my pseudo-novel, the homoerotic space opera western From Hell: A Love Story.
Closed chapter folders in Scrivener = Finished content edit!
I started my Borderlands story of “How the Commando Got His Turret” in July 2013. It’s grown and changed quite a bit over the course of the last year-and-a-half, I think – I know – for the better. I took chapters out, I redesigned scenes, I added and deleted and deleted some more. The original version of this story ran about 112,000 words. This edited version? A little over 83,600 words, as Scrivener will tell you:
Over the course of the latest edit, I cut or reworked a tad less than 30,000 words. I’m sure a professional editor would have helped me work the story even tighter, but, since I can’t sell this story, I wanted to keep my costs down as much as possible. Still, I think that’s pretty good, for a first-timer.
Just because I’m so far happy with this content edit does not mean even my truncated version of the self-publishing process is over, though. I still have the interior line edit, the cover (front, spine, and back), the administrative logistics like ISBN details and credits, the dedication, the compile, and the submission process. But, right now, I’m riding too pleasant a wave from finishing that tough rewrite to think about all of that yet to hurdle.
I could spend a long time talking about why I chose to publish this particular story, how all the ups and downs of my life over the last two years pushed me to try and better myself as a writer, but the honest truth is that I just wanted to see if I could do it. I love this story, no doubt, and its flawed Byronic hero is one of the most fun I’ve written yet. But it is fanfiction, and for that reason alone I can’t get too attached to the men and women on its pages, at least not to the extent I might do for a cast of my own true creating.
I’m not finished-finished, yet. But, looking back on the last six months or so of editing this story, I’m glad I did it. It is a better story than it was, even if some people might disagree. I took to heart a lot of commentary I got from that earlier version, too. So, you know, it pays to tell a writer what you think of their story, because you never know how you might change a book. I’m happy with it, though. And, I’m still as in love with these characters and this world as when I’d started, something I’d feared would fade as I picked apart their conflicts and arguments and make-up moments.
Was it a difficult process? You bet. I
can’t I don’t want to count how many times I thought about giving up and tossing the whole thing out the window. Because this is a fanfiction story for a niche fandom, and I’m on the edge of that niche. Because anyone who’d be interested in this story in the first place has probably already read the first draft and won’t want to read an edit. Because it’s a story loaded with bloody violence, graphic sex, drug use and abuse, and foul language that sometimes made me, as the writer, pause to consider if I really wanted to go there. But, the one piece of advice I’ve always believed in, and that I’ve always shared with other writers around me, is to finish whatever story they’re writing. Writing “The End” on a story – even if that end is a crap and totally seat-of-the-pants conclusion – is a real accomplishment. Anybody – ANYBODY – can start a story. A writer finishes them. I viewed completing this edit as completing the story for a second time. Because, with all of those changes I’d made, it did feel a lot like a second story. And getting to write “The End” on this one made me feel so good.
Have you ever edited one of your own stories? Did you make a lot of changes? How did those changes make you feel? What would you recommend for others editing their work?
I figured I’d better put something up here so folks haven’t think I’ve died or otherwise slipped off the planet. While it may seem – from the non-existence of posts on this blog since the end of 2014 – that I haven’t been doing any writing, I’ve actually been doing a fair share of it, over on my other blog, The Highs, the Lows, and the In-Betweens, my ongoing chronicle of my 2014 NaNoWriMo story universe. Here are the post updates to prove it:
I’m one of those fools who gets anxious when I haven’t updated a particular social media outlet or blog in a while, someone who thinks that makes me less of a
person writer. But, seventeen story updates for January isn’t too shabby. (One of them doesn’t count, as it’s just a music video link.) It’s not a popular journey in terms of audience size, but I’m having too much fun with this story and these mostly-new characters to care much about that part of it.
Over the course of the last several weeks, I’ve also been working on a massive edit/rewrite of my homo-erotic space western opera story, From Hell: A Love Story. It’s been both interesting and enlightening to see this one evolve from a mishmash of sci-fi and romance ideas designed to cater to a fan fiction audience, to a tighter story of love and acceptance that satisfies my own inner reader. Through this process, I’ve come closer to understanding what my tastes really are, and where my stronger skills lie. I’m sure it will also affect my edits for my waiting-in-the-wings stories, “Finding Mister Wright” and Fearless, both of which I’d like to put through the same wringer starting this year. But, first, I’m working with Scrivener (finally!) to put From Hell: A Love Story together as a real book (courtesy CreateSpace, which awarded two free hardcopies of a book to each NaNo 2014 winner).
Of course, no writer – even a self-proclaimed one – should go too many days without reading something for the fun of it. I continue to enjoy Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer series of classic detective novels, in the hopes of someday writing my own detective story. But, that’s a post for another day.
Twitter friend Moyabomb asked if I’d share my experiences with my publishing exercise as regards Scrivener, CreateSpace, editing, and artistry, so I’ll have to do a post about that coming up. In the meantime, I hope you are enjoying your own reading and writing journeys!
Today, I posted the final chapter of my sci-fi western romance, “From Hell: A Love Story.” It’s the third story I’ve finished this year, “Finding Mister Wright” and Fearless being the other two.
I always get a rush of mixed feelings whenever I write the last words to a story. Relief for having reached the finish line, but a sense of sadness, too, at saying goodbye to characters I’ve come to love over the drafting time. Some stories never move much past that first draft, for me, but others find their way to revisions, rewrites, and re-posts. Still others become launching pads for completely different stories…or, the same story woven in a new pattern, as is often the case for me.
My issue at this point is: What do I write next? I’ve got a continuing timeline set up for my sci-fi western characters, but I feel like giving them a rest for a bit. I’ve been doing some off and on revising of Fearless and “Finding Mister Wright” over the last few months, and I’m enjoying revisiting those worlds, but it’s not the same as new writing. It’s been years since I’ve gone without a new writing project, I’m not sure I could handle not having one! The good news, I suppose, is that I’ve got a few twelve-plus-hour plane rides to consider my options (or maybe start playing with that heretofore unknown something new). That’s right – I’m out of here for the next few weeks while I visit my family in Japan. So, I won’t be around to read/comment/blog much or at all. But, don’t worry – I will eat lots of yummy sushi and green tea soft-serve in your honor!
So. I’ve done romance. I’ve done family stories. I’ve done science fiction with a western twist. Maybe it’s time to poke at that detective murder mystery? What do you think? What helps you decide what project to tackle next? Do you rassle your Muse into cooperating, or do you let the faerie ramble?
Woo! Yeah! That’s right: Complete!
On a side note, as many of you know, I recently had a bit of a rough go. Many of you offered kind and supportive words for that, and I have to thank you. Your words really helped me move past what could have been a downturn. Some of you even said saying farewell to one friend would allow me to make room in my writerly life to make new friends…and I did! A mutual love of a shared universe put me in touch with a talented writer with whom I’ve enjoyed some of the best writing conversations about character, plot, and issues that I’ve had in a long time. And it’s felt glorious! The extra-awesome part? This writer is also a visual artist, who has offered to do art of my story, with my original character! I’ve been floating on clouds ever since I heard that. I will share if that’s allowed…but I may want to keep this one to myself.
I got a question about my writing the other day:
Do you picture your characters in your head, do you hear their voices? Do they flesh out the more you entertain them and actually write about them? … Do you even start out with distinct picture of a character/situation that grabs your attention?
Generally speaking, I do have voices for all my characters. They often don’t change, either. And, it helps for me to speak out a conversation when it’s still in the plotting stages as well as after it goes down on paper. If something doesn’t sound natural to me, I spend a lot of time reworking it. Unless it’s plot exposition, though I still prefer that to have a spontaneous rhythm to it. 🙂
My sister has an uncanny audio memory. She’ll hear something once and remember it for years. Even inflections! I’m not that good, but I do think that reworking fiction conversations in my head over and over until they become second nature has helped my character voices a lot. One thing a few recent readers have commented on is that my dialogue flows really well, so I’m proud of that.
Characters become more real for me the more I work with them. I think that probably happens with all writers, though. And, it makes sense. We spend so much time in the heads and hearts of these people, we come to know them better than we know the physical people around us. Likely because we are privy to all the inside thoughts and turmoils. Personally, I project a lot into my characters, though I try to keep some of them to specific boundaries, because they all have different conflicts. (It’s hard to articulate.)
My inspiration often can be traced back to a single face/moment/voice, and, as time goes on, characters develop into their own people. For instance, Daniel (“Finding Mister Wright”) evolved from Hal (“From Hell”) by way of Aral (“Anywhere but Here”), who was a different side of Ross (“Fearless”). But, they share similarities in look, manners, and voice, which unites them in my head, and allows me to jump into their shoes with much more ease than I might be able to do otherwise. Fresh characters, as it were, take much more time for me to grasp. One thing that my husband mentioned to me when he read “Finding Mister Wright” was that the first two acts work really well, but the third needed more time with one of the late-intro’d characters. As it stands, she feels like a plot device, not a person, as the other characters do. I see his point, and I think it’s because when she was originally written, she was still one of those “new” characters. Of course, since then, I’ve written more with her, so, now, it’s a matter of going back and growing her into a person as fully-fleshed as the others.
Do you hear your characters’ voices in your head?