Wednesday, November 28, 2012

On Giving Up

The novel that I'm working on now, I wrote the rough draft during NaNoWriMo 2010. I had a lot of fun on that original draft, but, of course, when I went back and read it, I realized that most of it was horrendous. No big deal. My NaNoWriMos were always horrendous after that first draft.

I really liked this story though, so I dug into edits. When I showed it to some fellow writers, I got helpful comments. I edited some more. I showed my first chapter to an online critique group. Of course, the first person to leave a review completely ripped it to shreds, telling me that it was more or less the crappiest crap that he had ever set eyes on. Of course I handled it like a mature adult.

(Something like this)

Then a few days passed and I got several more reviews. Reviews that were much more helpful. I was appeased. (Plus in looking at the profile of the negative reviewer, I saw that he pretty much prided himself on being a gigantic ass, so I was able to take his review with a grain of salt.) I started editing again.

Later I showed some of my revamped chapters to my local writing friends. Got some great feedback, but also some more advice for changes. I saw they were right and grit my teeth and got down to more edits. By 2012, I got to where I had only three more chapters to edit. I showed some bits to my writer friends. They suggested I switch the point of view of the novel into first person. I tried this with the first chapter and realized I liked the sound of it a lot better. Of course, this meant I now had to go through and completely switch a 70,000+ word novel into first person.

(This made me feel something like this.)

Fast forward to this month. After something like a three-month novel vacation in which I dealt with 24/7 morning sickness instead, I'd finally gotten the chance to dig into switching my manuscript into first person.

And even though at this point, I had read my novel a bajillion times, as I edited, I still found myself thinking, "Oh yay! I really like this part!" in every chapter. In short, I was thrilled with what my manuscript had shaped into. I just had those last three chapters to rework and then I'd be done. All of the continuous editing, all the blood, sweat and tears would have been worth it and I would finally be able to start querying for a literary agent.

And then I had the bright idea of entering a contest. I should have known better. This pregnancy thing has got my hormones all out of whack, and I'm definitely prone to overly-dramatic thoughts and weeping and self-hating at random times. It was a query contest. I wrote up one that I thought was awesome. I knew I'd be sure to get a few bites. Well, it sat there and sat there and sat there. It's still sitting there today without a single reply, while it seems like posts around me are all marked up with requests for pages.

I was a little hurt. Then I convinced myself I didn't care. Then — again, I really should have known better — I found a place where I could post up my brand sparkling new first 10 pages for comments. It sat there for over a week without a single comment while all the other boards seemed to be soaking them up. Then a few days ago I checked and saw there was a comment. I knew I was already in a weepy mood that night. I told myself I should not look at it now. I knew it was a bad idea. I clicked anyway. To sum up, the response from the person was basically, "Meh."

(Again, I handled it like an adult.)
I basically ran to the bedroom, shut the door and sobbed into my pillow. I told myself I was done. I quit. This novel is never going to be good enough. I was stupid to think I ever had enough talent to pull it off. I was done wasting my time. I was never going to write again. I'd spend all my time watching TV or playing Sims. ANYTHING else would be better. I was just going to delete my whole novel right now.

.... or maybe in the morning. I didn't even want to get out of bed. I'd do it in the morning.

That morning I walked by my computer, ignoring it. I went to work. I did my job. I came home. I tried to read, but every book I picked up made me angry. I'd pick up one book and hate the author because I knew I wrote better than this and yet THIS person had a book in print. I'd pick up another book and hate myself because this author wrote so much better than I did and I'd never be this good. I threw the books down and spent the rest of the evening watching TV. This continued for two or three days.

(I imagine I looked like this.)
But last night I was on my computer, goofing off on the internet. I don't know why, but I opened my novel file. I stared at where I had left off. I read over what I'd written. I liked it. A lot. I still loved the characters. I still loved the story. I sat down and finished rewriting that scene. Before I knew it, I'd partially re-written the next scene too before I noticed how late it was and decided to get in bed.

I don't think there's any real "moral" to this story. I just wanted to share my struggles in case it helps other writers who are going through the same thing. You're not alone. I am continually feeling beaten down and defeated as I work on this novel. But no matter how many setbacks I've had, I just can't give it up. I can't quit working on it. I love this story and I think, if I can figure out how to tell it in the right way, others will too.

So I'm not stopping.

I'm doing this until I get it right, no matter how long it takes.

* All moving images from this post were borrowed from Title to Come on Tumblr, which is the most hilarious site for writers ever. You should go see it. *

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Ignoring the Classics

I hate to admit it, but aside from my required reading in high school and college, I rarely pick up "classic" books. I'm not sure why that is. Maybe because I'm usually too busy trying to keep up with my TBR pile of new books that I've forgotten that the classics are usually classics for a reason. Maybe it's because with how fast-paced the plots of modern books are, I've lost the ability to have patience with classic books that sometimes take a lot of time and effort to get through.

A few weeks back I picked up "Gone with the Wind." I'd never read it before and have never seen the movie - though I did know all the famous lines, just not necessarily their meanings within the context of the story. So I decided to give it a try.

I wasn't disappointed.

General thoughts: Before I started, I really had no clear idea what the book was really about, other than it was written over the backdrop of the Civil War and that a woman named Scarlett was the heroine. I figured it was some kind of romance story since the covers of the books always seem to have Scarlett being swept off her feet by a man. I had no idea that the story was actually the fascinating tale of our main character going from a silly little girl to someone who is not afraid to get her hands dirty to make things turn out exactly how she wants. I'm a sucker for good character growth and change so, as a writer, this was a valuable lesson to me on how things like this should be done.

Characters: I loved Scarlett and yet wanted to slap her at the same time. On the one hand I admired her for what she faced and how she survived through horrifying times, but then I kept marveling at what an awful person she was in her heart. I know more than once I was thinking, "Oh, you're such a horrible person ... but you go, girl!" ... I think if she'd just known when to stop, things would have gone a whole lot differently in the end.

I thought Rhet was amazing. The best "bad boy" character I've read in ages. It was amazing how well his character complimented Scarlett's. I always looked forward to their scenes together and their verbal sparing matches were my favorite parts of the book. It broke my heart that she couldn't see what an amazing match they were until it was too late.

I also loved Melly. Kind of like Scarlett did, I didn't realize just how much Melly has brought to these other characters' lives until she is gone. It made me so happy to see that even though she was quiet and kind, even though she seemed timid, she was really one of the strongest people in the whole cast, and undoubtedly the one who lived the most happy life in the end.

As a side note, I've got to mention it - I know this book was written in a much different time period, but the depiction of all the African-American characters was really painful to me most of the time. Not just the fact that the author used phonetic English that gave me a headache to read, but also that they were all - except for perhaps Mammie - depicted as complete idiots who had no idea what to do with themselves when their masters/mistresses weren't around. I don't doubt that SOME people were that way, but to have them ALL depicted like that made me flinch and put a damper on an otherwise amazing book for me.

Writing: Even though I felt like the story dragged in places (there were some long passages about the war that I only skimmed over), I thought the writing itself was excellent. I especially liked how at times I felt like I understood what was going on better than Scarlett did - it made me both frustrated with her and antsy to see what would happen because she was making such poor decisions.

Recommend?: If you're big on character development, like me, yes, I think you'll love it. But if it's more action and adventure you're after - you might get bored. The book is very long, and although there are some great action scenes, I'd say most of the "action" is the inward growth and development of the main character. It's something I love, but I could see where it might bore others.

~

Now I've got the movie on the way from Netflix and am eager to see how the film version holds up to the book.
I think from now on, I'll make a deal with myself that for every five "new" books I read, the sixth needs to be a classic. I'm definitely missing out if there's gems like this out there that I've been ignoring!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Update!

This place has been more or less abandoned as I've been dealing with a lot of life changes - like moving into my first house and dealing with 24/7 morning sickness that made me want to drown myself in my toilet.

Thankfully the dreaded morning sickness has passed, I'm an only slightly uncomfortable 19 weeks pregnant, and am more or less moved into my house. So! I thought I'd kick off my re-dedication to blogging by posting a little update on my novel-in-progress.

Where I am in the writing process: A novel that's about 90% complete. I'm trying to use NaNoWriMo to finish up the last 10%.

My current problem(s): I've decided, on the advice of friends, to switch over to first person point-of-view for my main characters. This is slightly confusing at times and is getting rather tedious.

The good news: I've only got about 10% more to go until I think I can call this thing finally done. I've been rewriting this thing more times than I can count and I am ready to put it out there and see if I can get any literary agent interest. And cry if I cannot.

What now? I just need to finish converting my story into first person and then finish rewrites on my last couple of chapters. Then I'm done! At least until I (hopefully) get an agent and they send along a list of revisions for me to do. Which might also make me cry.

 
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