Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Writer's Wednesday: It's Okay to Suck

…the writer's original perception of a character may be as erroneous as the reader's. Running a close second is the realization that stopping a piece of work just because it's hard, either emotionally or imaginatively, is a bad idea. Sometimes you have to go on when you don't feel like it, and sometimes you're doing good work when it feels like all you're managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position.
- Stephen King, On Writing

The number one question I get when people hear that I have written a book is, "How did you find the motivation to write a whole book?" To that, I always shrugged my shoulders and said, "I just wrote."

I know that sounds like absolutely no help to people who are genuinely trying to write their own novel, but that's really the only advice I have: I sat down and wrote. Even when I find like it was crap.

Now, I must admit, I haven't been taking my own advice. Working with my husband in the editing process has really put me into perfection mode. While it's wonderful for my first novel -- adding to scenes that need that extra *umf* and deleting sentences that were too flowery -- it is killing me when it comes to my second novel.

I hadn't really put pen to page with my second book for about 6 months. In order to get back into the swing of things, I had reread the 30-40 someodd pages that I had already written, hoping it would inspire me to get back into writing.

Long story short: Nope.

I was still in editor mode while reading the first few pages, and before I had even hit Chapter 2, I had driven myself insane. What was supposed to be my kickstart back into writing ended up working in reverse for me. I didn't want to write at all -- because I couldn't replicate the same polished feel as my first book, even though that "feel" took something around 5 rewrites to accomplish.

But, seriously, don't be afraid to write, even if you don't know how to word it, or even how the scene is supposed to play out. I emphasize the second one, especially since sometimes scenes and characters go in the opposite way you were planning. I'm a huge fan of the outline -- if only because it's a safety net -- but even the most meticulous plans are discarded when the story veers right instead of left.

And to go back to the first bit of advice: there is nothing wrong with writing something that sounds like ass. You're eventually going to rewrite that sentence anyway. On the flipside, sometimes you think you're writing absolute crap, only to find out that what you had been writing was perfect (or at least really, really good) all along.

For example, just recently I wrote this masterpiece:

"She slumped against the wall. She was overwhelmed."

Is that bad writing? In my eyes, hell yes. Unless I'm grading a high school creative writing project, I'd give myself a solid D on that gem. Some could argue that such simplistic sentences are not necessarily bad, but I believe that if the narrator is lucid enough to use terms like "slumped against" and "overwhelmed", they can think up better ways of saying what they need to say.

But who cares? It got me past a major road bump in my writing. I'll eventually go back and find better wording, find a better way to show how overwhelmed she is instead of just stating it (isn't that the first lesson taught in all creative writing courses?) But it helped me move forward.

And, last but not least, it's okay to Trey Parker it out. This is when you finish a story, a poem, a long segment or major change to your book, and you are left feeling like you are a colossal failure. I call it the "Trey Parker Effect" because in 6 Days to South Park, Trey Parker slumps at his desk after the episode they have been working on (for 6 days) is near completion and states that it is the worst episode he has ever created. No one really pays it any attention, and it is assumed that this is common post-episode-creating behavior.

This is actually quite normal. The comedown from a major creative project can go from pure euphoria to extreme hangover really fast. Ride the wave, do something else, come back to writing when you feel better.

It's hard to transition from the angsty-teenage "writing because you're 100% motivated to, without having to prompt yourself" to the more frustrating "writing because you love it, but fighting like hell to get yourself off the ground." This is where thousands of would-be writers end up as secretaries and marketing directors, remarking casually to their significant other that someday they'll write the next great American novel. Writing can really be a pain in the ass sometimes. You have to go with its ebb and flow and you have to trick yourself into moving forward. But, like anything in life, it's worth the hard work.

So, if you actually follow my writer's wednesdays, my latest string of advice goes as so: Listen when people suck, let go of the things that suck, and remember that it's okay to suck at points. And if my husband ends up reading this post, I'll never hear the end of it.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

09 10 11 12
Blogging tips