jennygordon: (Tortoiseshell Butterfly (purple))
... or maybe not so funny, depending, is that when you pause for a moment to revisit the 20K words you have down so far, all your delusions about how wonderful it is look at you with a jaded eye.

Yeah, despite what I told some of you last week, found myself oddly lacking in enthusiasm for writing fresh stuff over the weekend, so decided that I could at least make a start on typing up the existing 20K of MoulderingBook. (I did also write a couple of thousand fresh words onwards from the 20K). I made good progress, and typed up about 7K of the existing stuff, without getting too bogged down with fiddling. But somewhere along the way, the dratted Rampaging Doubts decided to pay a visit.

"This is tedious twaddle," they grumbled. "Jeez, would you stop repeating those three particular words; don't you have a vocabulary?!"

Is the beginning too slow? I wondered. Is this all really dull after all? Who on earth would want to read this crap anyway? Why am I wasting my time here? Who am I kidding?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not seeking comfort or reasurance. I know these feelings are par for the course; every Writer High is liberally interspersed with generous dollops of Writer Lows. But isn't it just so frustrating that those Rampaging Doubts insist on coming round uninvited like this?

Come lunchtime Sunday, I decided, to hell with it. I'm going to use the rest of my weekend for something less depressing instead. So I stripped the bark form a hawthorn bough (you'll find out why when that particular project is finished), watched some episodes of 'Sex and the City' on DVD, and drank hot chocolate.

And that's fine. See, one of the many lessons I've learned in recent years is that it's important for me to give myself permission NOT to write sometimes. It's easy to allow writing to swallow my free time and energy, and is has done so for long periods in the past, and that wasn't good for me.

I need balance and variety in my life. I need to read, write, walk in green spaces, spend time with other creative projects, and spend time doing nothing creative whatsoever. All work and no play makes Jenny a dull girl ...

.... hang on, isn't that a variation on a quote about a writer who becomes possessed by malign spirits ...?

Hmmm ....
jennygordon: (Froud)
So, for various reasons (some of them out of my control, some of them not-so-much) I've been in a bit of a grump with Writer Jenny recently. The necessary hiatus from writing over the past year has roused all those Doubting Demons and the Pesky Piskies of Procrastination have me pinned in a corner.

So this weekend, with gritted teeth and grim determination, I'm going to stand up and faced the lot of them. I will write, dammit. And if I end up producing a steaming pile, then so be it!

It's been a year since you've written properly, for goodness sake, I tell myself. You're bound to be out of practice. Give yourself a break!

I spent some constructive time at work this morning (when I should have been doing other things — shhh!) re-reading posts and pieces by other writers who have inspired and encouraged me in the past, including this line by Laini Taylor:

"You write to discover the story."

And that led me on a train of thought which ended up at this old blog post of mine, and it's subsequent discussion among us. I read with particular interest something [livejournal.com profile] bogwitch64 (who I miss seeing around these parts) said:

"My "outline," when I do one, is what a lot of people would consider the first draft. I end up with about 30K words of a story told in a stream of consciousness sort of thing. I imagine it's much like someone's NaNo. But I don't say that's draft one. It's the outline I work from--but my first draft is actually much cleaner for it."

I replied at the time that it was an approach I may try at some point, and I wonder if that time has come.

See, in the dozen-odd handwritten pages of AutumnBook I have managed to produce, I've increasingly found myself writing the scenes which shine the brightest, rather than writing sequentially, necessarily. Maybe [livejournal.com profile] bogwitch64's approach would lend me a hand: chunks of freewriting, interspersed with notes and comments to myself. It'll be like writing with a friend nearby to chat with as I tentatively find my way and regain some of my writerly confidence.

And maybe some time spent freewriting would lend me a hand, since one of the problems I've been having with the story is that, while I have a shiny idea, and a rough outline, I can't hear the voice of my MC yet. It's going to be written in first person, so finding that voice is crucial. Perhaps some nice, unstructured freewriting ambling would help me discover her.

*SIgh*. More than anything else, I just need to sit down for some decent chunks of time and get the hell on with it!
jennygordon: (Gargoyle)
Yep, that's right; last Wednesday, I was loitering at the rim of the Great Big Pit of Writerly Despair.

I confess, by the end of the day I was feeling low enough about SeaNovel to be considering chucking in the towel. See, at the half-way point of this revision pass, I had written myself into a tangle and couldn't see a way out of it. To cap it all, I came home from work with a horrible headache, which only made everything look a hundred times bleaker.

Once I got home, however, bloodymindedness kicked in. I took painkillers and meditated and in an attempt to ignore the pain, thought about SeaNovel and what the hell I was going to do with it.

Turns out that between us in a conversation on my last post, [livejournal.com profile] readthisandweep and I had already discovered with the answer.

"The main problem is my malfunctioning brain!" I wrote. "I was foolish enough to check my older notes yesterday, and realised I've forgotten about certain things I wanted to include in this pass. It's feeling like one step forward, twenty back at the moment! Honestly, the further I come along this writing path, the more there seems to be to tackle!"

To which Carol ([livejournal.com profile] readthisandweep) replied: "Don't assume everything extra you planned on including needs to go in. Make a list - reduce 'items' to one-liners."

Reassess, essentially, which was precisely the conclusion I had come to the myself previous day, right when I had to stop writing and get ready to go to work at my paid job (phoey!)

See, what I realised was, my beta readers had all come up with such varied and wonderful ideas that I was trying to embrace too many of them, and in doing so, lost sight of the fact that it's MY story. What I needed to do was reassess all those wonderful suggestions in the light of what I feel is the core of my story, then sideline the ones that don't contribute to that core, and focus on the ones that do.

So, over the Easter break, I've re-read almost all 56K words of this draft to date, marked up a paper copy of the ms accordingly (in pink pen, which is vitally important to the process). I have a few pages remaining, which I'm hoping to tackle today. Then all I need to do is get to work on an amended version, incorporating all of those changes (and there are lots - mostly minor, but some biggies too). See, easy!!!! Ha ha!

Frustrating?

Hell yeah!

But it's also the right thing to do. Plus, it's given me the will to drag myself back from the rim of The Pit!

What I really must do is say, *kiss kiss* and thank you, Carol! Your timely nudge set me on the path to embracing the solution.

Right, back to it!

Fretting

Aug. 24th, 2012 08:20 am
jennygordon: (Gargoyle)
Dear LJ friends,

*SIGH*

I've been doing a lot of sighing over SeaNovel recently, and also a lot of fretting. I'm wracked with doubts and uncertainties, and it's getting me down.

See, I'm mostly happy-ish that I'm taking the rewriting of SeaNovel in the right direction; it's certainly closer to the novel that it's meant to be now, but I still have such a long way to go, and I can't be certain that the work I've been doing is worth a damn until I reach the end and read the whole thing through.

I've been approaching the re-writing in chunks - brainstorming and planning a section at a time, while all the time also brainstorming and planning the overall arc of the thing to make the story tighter and more cohesive. I'm fretting that I've made the plot too complicated, but then I like dense, chewy plots with lots of layers for the reader to gradually unpeel. While the story is definitely more me, more the story that only I could write, I still kind of have the feeling that I'm missing something.

I so love SeaNovel - the world of the novel is blowing through my mind all the time, all salt-tangy and wild and magical, but I worry that I'm not conveying that mood and setting well enough in the writing. Though, how much focus on setting and mood is too much?

I know that what I need to do is get my head down and rewrite the damn thing; once I have, it'll be easier to see whether this version is heading in the right direction.

Something I'm finding myself doing quite a lot is writing and rewriting a synopsis of the story - just a brief one in 200-300 words, telling myself the story over and over again to help me get my brain around it, and to sharpen my focus on what it's really about. It helps - I think.

And to cap it all, one of my wisdom teeth is giving me gip! My dentist wants to take out the tooth next to it to give the wisdom tooth room to maneouvre, but although the adjacent tooth has a nasty root canal filling, I'm reluctant to lose it, so am resisting for now. That said, if this flippin' tooth doesn't settle down soon, I may have to rethink. Hurrumph!

Anyway, thanks for listening. Sorry about the moaning!

Best wishes,

Grumpy Jenny
jennygordon: (Angel)

It’s almost time for me to return to SeaNovel, and my subconscious knows it. While I’ve very successfully set SeaNovel aside for the last 6 weeks, and focussed on DancingNovel instead, at the end of last week, SeaNovel was suddenly in my head again, along with a mildly catastrophic realisation ...

Yep, that’s the one – I wrote the wrong story.

The more I thought about it, the more I realised that this wasn’t just a case of Writerly Drama Queen-itis; I really have written the wrong story. Right setting, right characters; wrong motivations and wrong plot.

My confidence, mood and inclination to write anything ever again promptly plummeted amidst wails of, “I’m a stupid one-trick pony and my writing is pointless.”


It took a few hours, along with a sympathetic and wise husband and a stiff dose of sheer bloody-mindedness for me to locate my bootstraps and use them to haul myself back up.

The way I’m trying to look at it is that the present draft of SeaNovel is like the scaffolding you erect while the castle is being built; it’s there to support, but will ultimately be dismantled, leaving behind the shining white stones and proud flying buttresses of the actual castle.

Which is all very easy to say, but honestly, I’m feeling rather miserable about the whole thing. I keep reminding myself that it’s surely a good thing to have realised I’ve mis-stepped; surely it’s better to realise it and do something about it then keep battering away at the wrong story. If I want to improve as a writer, surely it’s important that I recognise when things aren’t as they should be. Even if it means the major, MAJOR reworking this does. Hell, I’ve read stories of published authors throwing out entire drafts and starting afresh with the barest bones, so I’m in good company.

*Sigh*

Right now, I have absolutely no idea what I’m going to do to fix it. Well, at best the most fragile of spiderweb threads of an idea. My main inclination is to chuck the whole thing in the bin and focus on DancingNovel instead, but I’ve done that too many times – abandoning a novel because it wasn’t right, and figuring out what to do to make it right was too hard – and this time, I refuse to be defeated.

In my heart, I still love so much about SeaNovel. I owe it to the book to put in the time and effort and brain-squeezing required to turn it into the novel it should be – the right novel. I want to make it the best it can possibly be.

It’s my story, dammit, it can’t defeat me so long as I keep working at it.

Now all I need to do is repeat that as many times as it takes for me to believe it!

jennygordon: (Hermit)




Okay, I confess: I’m afraid of my own book!

I simply have SO MUCH material for it. There’s let me see:

  • The original, adult version of DancingNovel
  • The adult novel that preceded it
  • Two lever arch files of notes, images and inspiration
  • Multiple notebooks

Don’t get me wrong, I’m loving being back in the world of DancingNovel, and I’m having immense fun, not to mention the fact that it’s great – obviously – to have such a mass of material. But at the moment, I keep wondering how the hell I’m going to get to grips with it all and find a new framework within it for the new YA version of DancingNovel.

My approach to date has been methodical and organised (coloured pens and index tags), but the more I do, the more intimidated I am by the scale of the world I created. Oh, sure, there are those, “I am a genius,” moments along the way, but right now, I think that genius version of me is living in a parallel universe, because all this current version of me can do is clutch at her hair and wail!

Maybe I need to toss the methodical approach out the window and simply immerse myself in the world, start writing and see what happens.

But see, right now, even that thought scares the bejesus out of me. Where do I start? What do I toss? What about that lovely bit of backstory, that gorgeous detail of mythology?

What about other writers of fantasy out there – hell, what about all you lovely writers out there, because surely whether we’re creating secondary worlds or not, all writers are working with a created world to some degree. And all writers have to control their material. So ... how do you?

Any and all thoughts welcome! Thanks!

jennygordon: (Clock)

I blogged last time about how I’ve been using Lulu.com to print up copies of my oldold novels. My main reason for doing so was because it’s been so long since I’ve read any of them that I’m sure I’ve forgotten loads about them, so fancied refreshing my memory using a user-friendly copy. I’m also thinking it might be useful for idea-poaching purposes, and as an exercise in seeing how my writing has changed and developed over the ten-plus years I’ve been writing at novel length, as opposed to short story length. 

Trouble is ... I’m scared! 

What if I discover that I haven’t developed at all as a writer over that time? What if I’m still slipping into the same old habits, the same cringe-making writing? 

Okay, so a flick through some of those stories leads me to suspect that I’ve reined in my tendency for purple prose, but what if that’s about all I’ve learned? 

See, I try soso hard to learn as a writer, to develop my work and take each project to the next level, and the next, but what if I’ve been kidding myself all this time? You know, what if it’s all JUST CRAP?! 

AAAAARRRRHHHHHHH!!!! 

*Takes a few deep breaths.*  

Better now, thanks. Sorry about that. 

I suppose what I need to do is plunge in and get reading, then I’ll know for sure. I might even post some thoughts on what I find. 

*Gulp.* Here goes .......

 

jennygordon: (Star Gazer Lily)
What do you do when your WIP loses its sparkle, those characters and ideas that were so veryvery exciting when you first thunk them up start lolling around on a metaphorical sofa, complaining that they can’t be bothered any more? Having been in a grey, dog-end-of-autumn kind of Writerly Slump myself recently, I’ve been hunting around for treats to dangle in front of my brain to inspire it again. And, more specifically, to re-infuse the WIP with its sparkle, because my naughty magpie brain is too inclined to go off looking for new shiny things instead. These are some of the tricks I’ve been using:
 
Shiny Things List
Write a list of all the things that shone for you when you first came up with the idea for the book you’re working on. The things that made you fizz with excitement right down to your fingertips, making them itch to get started; the things that made you grin to yourself when you thought about them, even if you were standing in line for the bus and it made everyone else look at you strangely and move a few steps away. With any luck, they’ll still have enough shine to re-enthuse you.
 
Explore the Attic
If you’re anything like me, the germ of the idea for any book is likely to have come along waaaaay before you actually started writing it. It may even have been a tiny, baby idea that popped into your head years and years ago and got captured in an old notebook. I often find that reading through those really early notes can help to rekindle the thrill of discovery I was feeling when I first wrote them down. You might even discover little gems of plot and character you’d forgotten about. And you might eveneven find that one of those little gems is exactly what you need to get you going again.
 
Blue Sky Flying
Otherwise known as brainstorming. Grab your notebook and forbid yourself to stare at the blank page. It doesn’t matter what you write, as long as you’re writing something related to your book. Have a big moan about how you’re feeling about it; jot a list of things that aren’t working. Anything. Just get thinking about it. Avoiding it never achieved anything. Now take a look at those things that are getting you down about the book and start asking questions. Why isn’t it working (specifically)? What might happen next, or differently? Don’t consult your plot notes; don’t restrict yourself in any way. Anything is possible, everything is allowed. Just step off that cliff edge and let yourself fly. See where the wind takes you. You never know, you might spot something along the way that sets you back on track.
 
It’s easy to give in when The Gloom comes a-creeping, and you could, it’s true. I’ve certainly had many books die on me at this stage. But just think, at some point, you were so excited about this idea you were making an idiot of yourself in public because of it. Surely that’s something worth trying to recapture before you let it fade and die.

How about you - what tricks (or treats) do you use to rouse your despondent enthusiasm?
jennygordon: (Clock)
As a writer, I’m very guilty of being easily distracted, of finding myself reading a book and thinking, oh, I want to write this kind of book, then reading another one and thinking, no, I want to write this kind of book.  Which, I’m sure, is all part of the game most writers play with themselves.  Of course we admire other authors’ work and aspects of their style, and of course we should try out different writing styles as a fundamental part of our journey as a developing writer.  The tricky part lies in learning to recognise our own ‘voice’ and style when it emerges, in embracing it and developing it as best as we are able.
 
What makes our writer’s ‘voice’ uniquely ours is about more than just the words we use and how we use them, it also has to do with what we write about; with the underlying themes and subjects we tackle.  It’s only when we peel back the layers of ourselves and write about what truly obsesses us, what we feel passionately about, that the emotional truth of our writing emerges: the thing that has our writing lasting in a reader’s mind long after they close the final page.  And that emotional truth is something that can’t be faked.
 
We’re a notoriously insecure breed, us writers, and it’s so easy to lose ourselves in the ‘shoulds’ that our inner critic, those “How to Write” manuals, or even just our flighty selves throw at us.  It’s easy to compare our writing to that of others we admire, or those who are more successful than us, and to listen to the devil on our shoulder who whispers that maybe our writing should be more like theirs.  But that’s just playing the magpie, being attracted to the shiny things that belong to other people instead of polishing up our own.
 
On a good day, I believe I have a ‘voice’ as a writer that is distinctly mine: it’s the one I find myself returning to when I stop angsting over my writing and simply go with the flow.  There are aspects of my voice that I need to develop, just as there are bad habits I need to iron out, overwriting I need to tone down, but the core of it is definitely there.  It’s also true that I often lose sight of that voice amidst the morass of ‘shoulds’ that constantly plague me, and when I do, more often than not, along comes a Writerly Crisis.  Because I’m not being true to myself.  I’m trying to be the writer I think I should be. 
 
It’s a lesson I seem to have to learn over and over again, that the most important thing is to silence those ‘shoulds’, be true to myself and to be the writer I am.  For better or worse. 
jennygordon: (Tortoiseshell Butterfly (pink))
Dear Rampaging Doubt,

Yes, yes, I can hear you, now I'm at that tricky, almost-half-way stage of my WIP, clamouring at every window, doing your damnedest to persuade me it's all a steaming pile.  Believe me, the temptation to simply chuck it all in and start again with something new is rather large.  It always is.  It's the elephant in the corner that, actually, I talk about quite a lot.  But, you know what?  Well, a few things actually.  Here's a list:

  • You've tried this same game a few too many times before.  Sometimes, I've listened and other times I've blown big raspberries at you and fumbled on regardless.  I know which option makes me feel the best about myself.
  • Yes, it is a steaming pile.  Of course it is.  It's a first draft.  That's what first drafts are for.  Like [livejournal.com profile] janni says, "Embrace the rambling."
  • I'm stil excited about the story, and the really good stuff hasn't even happened yet, and if I abandon it now, it never will.
  • I might not have it all worked out at this point, and the order of things might be wonky, but I really want to discover this story, and that's the only thing that matters at the moment, not being a Super, Splendid, Marvellous Writer, so you can stop hanging that one over me.
  • See, I'm not a quitter, I'm a try-er, and okay, sometimes that's to my detriment, but there's not a lot I can do about it; it's just the way I'm wired.
This weekend, I want to open up my WIP document, disappear into its world and discover what happens next, and keep on finding out until I reach "The End" bit.  Then, I'll go back and set about turning the steaming pile into something a bit more shiny.  Hey, isn't there a fairytale that goes soemthing like that?  It turns out all right in the end, doesn't it?

So, frankly, Rampaging Doubt, you might as well go and bother someone else, because, *La la la, I'm not listening*.

Beligerently yours,

Me

Big Ideas

Sep. 22nd, 2011 08:59 am
jennygordon: (Star Gazer Lily)
Have you ever had a story idea so big that it scared the hell out of you?  I don’t mean big as in epic, doorstop novel big, or sweeping family saga big, rather a concept that’s just ... well ... head-bendingly big. 
 
Well, I’m wrestling with one of those at the moment. 
 
Various elements that have long been close to my heart have quite rapidly come together into the premise for the novel I’m currently working on.  And then they spun on beyond that, weaving together disparate elements of other novel ideas and fragments of ideas and presenting a whole new direction for my writing. 
 
It’s vastly exciting. 
 
The trouble is, it’s just so ... BIG ... and I’m swinging wildly between fizzing excitement and trembling terror every time I wonder how the hell I’m going to pull it off.
 
Maybe it’s precisely because these are issues and themes that are so close to my heart that it has me trembling.  I want to do them justice, you know?  I want to do it well.  And I’m scared absolutely rigid that I’m just going to end up with a big muddle.
 
I know, I know.  Feel the fear and get the hell on with it!  I am, honest, and I’m definitely feeling the thrill as well as the fear, but the dread that I’ve taken on more than my abilities as a writer can deal with is ever-present.  I think, maybe it needs to be: I need that inner quake to keep me wrestling and untangling and thinking hard (really, really hard) about how to make this work.  Without the fear, maybe it wouldn’t feel urgent and important enough that I do.
 
I’m kind of hoping that the more I work on this book, the more I throw down those ugly first-drafty words, the more cohesive it will become, on the page and in my head.  
 
I should, perhaps, caveat this and say that I don’t mean this as a whinge!  Think of it more as a pressure-value release.  In the same way that I sometimes need to run around the house yelling, “I’m rubbish, I can’t, I can’t,” and then I usually feel better and sit back down to get on with it again.
 
I’m hoping this will have the same result.
 
Thanks for listening.
jennygordon: (Bluebells)

You know how it goes: you read a book, a really, really good book that makes you laugh and cry and wish for it never to end.  A book with characters who feel more real to you than your own left foot.  A book with such clever plotting and glorious use of language you can only stand back and gawp.  A book, in short, that you love so much you have to hate it because it makes you feel so damned insecure about your own writing.  I’m never going to be able to dialogue as well as that, you wind up thinking.  I’m never going to create a layered plot as clever and fulfilling; never even going to have an idea anywhere near as shiny.  Why am I even bothering?  Who am I kidding?  I’m destined for amateurville not matter how hard I try.

 

Yep, I thought you might recognise that scenario.  It's pretty much where I am at the moment.

 

There’s one author, and in fact one particular book which makes me feel that way (okay, there are many, but this is the one that's got me down at the moment).  This book is inspired, beautifully written and with such a skilfully handled, complex plot that it makes my head ache wondering how the author managed to weave all of the strands together.  I’ve just re-re-re (x 100) read it, and even this time, I’ve spotted something in it that I haven’t on the countless other occasions.

 

I’d be lying if I said I’m not deeply, deeply envious of the author.  I am.  And yes, it does make me feel insecure about my writing.  I'm trying to tell myself that I've been here before, feeling this way – many, many times before – and the bottom line is, if I suck that much, why don’t I just quit now?  But I know I won’t, because this writing thing is hardwired.  So why expend the energy on feeling crappy about myself? 

Instead of paying attention to all the negative feelings, I’m trying to learn from those glorious books that fill me with envy and inspire me in equal measure.  I’m asking questions like, how has the author made their characters so sympathetic/loathsome/funny, etc?  What have they done to layer that plot so cleverly?  What is it (specifically) about the book that makes me love it so powerfully? 
It’s about picking it apart and trying to understand what this author has that I haven’t learned yet.  And I say yet because, if I’m determined and open enough, I can always learn and develop until it’s my books that are making someone else feel this way.  Or that's the hope I'm clinging to in any case.

 

And as far as that shiny original idea goes, I can only hope I’m lucky enough to have one come along that shines as brightly.


jennygordon: (Sophie Ryder)

“She could not think what to write next.  And at that precise moment – a relief and a terror to writers, she heard the wheels of the station-fly on the gravel.”

 

A.S. Byatt, The Children’s Book

 

For four days last week, I cleared my To Do list (all but the essentials like baking Blondies!) and set myself to a solid block of writing.  What I wanted to do was begin throwing down some words and make a start on actually writing what I think will be my next book.

 

Hmm ... well, that was the intention.  Honest, it was.

 

Instead, a few small domestic crises interfered, I spent some time blogging, I dug out a box of cuttings and got distracted reading articles (which, admittedly, were relevant to the prospective book).  Then I went and leafed through some text books (also relevant to the book), wrote a few notes, had some lunch ...  And before I knew it, I only had an afternoon left before I had to think about going back to (salary-paying) work for 3 days.  Three days during which I don’t have the time or energy left for writing.

 

The thing is, the entire time, I knew perfectly well what I was doing.

 

Avoidance tactics, anyone?  Procrastination games?

 

Hell yeah.

 

And I know too what they were born of: dwindling self-confidence, insecurity and doubt.  In short, Fear of the First Page. 

 

In the end, in those remaining couple of hours before the sands of writing time ran out for the week, I gave myself a good talking to, opened a new notebook and threw down a couple of thousand words.  By that time, it wasn’t even with a view to beginning the book; it was more to simply blow raspberries at The Fear and prove to myself that I could.

 

Ridiculous, huh?


jennygordon: (Gargoyle)
I was planning to write something half-way coherent about viewpoints today, but instead, I find myself in a bit of a writing funk, and all I can seem to do is heave heavy sighs.  I'm sure I've been here with other books, and managed to find my way out again, but each time I find myself back in The Grey Place, it's easy to forget rational thought and simply wallow in the bleakness.

You see, I've been fiddling with my new book for a few months now, allowing it to grow slowly, getting excited over the characters and the world building, feeling my way with plot ideas.  I've even chucked down a chapter or several - purely winging it to see how things wanted to turn out.  This weekend, inspired by
[info]jmeadows's advice on starting a synopsis, I sat down with all my notes and typed them up, getting it all into some sort of order.  That was certainly helpful, only it seems to have thrown up more problems than it has progress - nasty drafty holes in the plot, half-developed notions of my world, and characters who are more cardboard cut-out than real.

Now, the rational part of me knows that's all par for the course at this stage, despite the other voices wailing at deafening volume,

"Give it up now - you know it's a pile of crap.  Who're you kidding?  You know you just don't have it in you."

But the biggest problem I have, and really the main thing that's plunged me into The Grey Realm of Rampaging Doubt is that my MC doesn't really know who she is.  I know what I need her to do, but she's still looking at me in that doubtful way I mentioned in my last post.  Some of my lovely LJ friends shared great tips in their replies to this post (thank you so much), and I'm feeling a bit more motivated to push ahead with it now, but that doesn't entirely silence my Rampaging Doubts.  And a sure sign that those doubts are dragging on my coat-tails is the fact that an idea for another novel popped into my head yesterday, and my muse is nudging at me, urging,

"Go on, do this one instead.  It's much better, you know."

Hmm.  My muse, or the Daemon of Self Doubt?  Sometimes it's hard to be sure.  What I'm pretty certain of, however, is that for now I need to ignore the whole lot of them - muse, doubt and lingering bleakness - and sit down for a really good chat with my MC.  That, and stop distracting myself with blogging ...

jennygordon: (Peacock Butterfly)
Eleven years ago, I was sitting on the bus on the way home from work when an idea for a story landed in my head apropros of nothing.  I knew straight away that this one was a doozy.  Elements and themes that had been rattling around in my head for a while suddenly came together, and the story flowed from my pen, the characters fully formed, the setting so real to me it might have existed just down the road.  I submitted that story to a competition, and won.  The prize giving ceremony was on 1 April, and the letter telling me that I had won first prize was caveated with: “This is not an April Fool!”  It was at the prize giving that I met [livejournal.com profile] freda_writes , who was one of the judges, and we’ve been friends ever since.


Anyway, I knew pretty much from the beginning that the short story was only the start – beneath and behind it lay a novel.  I’ve tried countless times over the years since then to write that book.  From early on, I knew the majority of the plot – it was all there in the short story, which told of a girl trying to find out the truth about her mother’s past.  The characters were there too, although some of them endured a few name-changes across the versions.  I knew, all those years ago, that I didn’t have the writerly tools I needed to tell the story I wanted to, so I picked it up, and put it down again over and over. 

One of the challenges I faced was how to tell a tale that happened a couple of decades before, and which continued to have an impact on the present.  Did I focus on just the events in the past?  Did I attempt to relate the past and the present, and if I did, which characters should I use, which voices?  Well, the characters were obvious, because again, mother and daughter were there in the short story, but the voices were a different matter, and I experimented with various approaches over the years.

In the meantime ... )
jennygordon: (Sophie Ryder)
Well, I hit 37K words of the first draft of my Fledgling Novel at the weekend - which means I'm pretty much a third of the way there.  *Gulp*.  I know.  How did that happen?

The trouble is, at the same time, the Terrible Rampaging Doubts set in (the 'Every word I write, every idea I have, every character I create is utter crap - Who am I kidding here anyway?' stage).  It sucks.  Hence me procrastinating by emailing and blogging instead of writing now.  Bad Jenny!  No Jelly Babies!  Seriously.  No Jelly Babies until I've at least finished the chapter I started yesterday.

Symptoms of Rampaging Doubt include:

  • fanatical urge to abandon the Fledgling Novel and write The Other One that's been brewing in my head instead
  • web browsing; blog reading
  • buying books on Amazon
  • general miasma of bleakness
Anyway, the Rampaging Doubts are pretty much par for the course, so I'm doing my best to ignore them.  Hmm.  Kind of.  I did buy some books on Amazon yesterday.  I found myself in freefall on Saturday night, so floundered around seeking a rope to cling to, and found it in the shape of blog posts by authors taking about their own fears, doubts and insecurities as well as their success stories in finding agents and publication.  It's heartening to read that I'm not alone in feeling these things, and some of the posts I found were extremely encouraging and full of no-nonsense advice.  Reading other people's success stories is also heartening (once you learn to get beyond the jealous greenies.  Which makes it sound like something that happens when you have a cold, but you know what I mean).  Anyway, other people's stories reassure me that these people whose work I admire were once in exactly the same position as me, and it happened for them, and can happen for me too.

Yes it can!  Sorry, Rampaging Doubt is keeping me from believing that at the moment.  Bugger off Rampaging Doubt, I've got a book to write here.

Besides, I REALLY want some Jelly Babies.

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January 2016

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