Mid-Book Blues

You can’t imagine how badly I don’t want to write today.

I don’t have a good reason. I don’t have other plans. I just want to spend all day in bed, intellectually if not physically. I’ve been procrastinating for hours now.

And what could it hurt, taking a day off? I’ve only had one day off in the last 34 days, after all, and that was when I went on a family outing AND had a dentist appointment. I’ve written on days I had a broken keyboard.  I’ve written on days when I had 2 hour doctor consultations eating up my normal writing slot. Surely I deserve a break?

I can think of two reasons the answer to that is ‘No way!’

One is: I have a deadline. Deadlines, even. They’re self-imposed but they matter a lot to me. I’m pretty sure I can meet the first deadline, which is only important so I can meet the second deadline. And I’m a lot less certain about the second deadline. I’ll be asking myself to do more in four months than I’ve ever done before, and if I can squeeze even an extra week of time out of the current project, that could help immensely.

The other reason is my motivation behind wanting to stay in bed all day: I’ve reached the first set of mid-book blues. It’s happened with every book I’ve written so far: somewhere near the middle of the book, I become convinced that it’s all a mess, and one of the worst atrocities ever committed to digital ink. My scenes aren’t cool enough, my dialog isn’t interesting enough, my characters are uninspired and my plot is too convoluted to be even remotely believable. Nobody sane could ever like it. It’d be better for everybody if I just gave up now.

It happens with every book. In a couple of books, the blues have won.  With my first major project, the blues actually convinced me to try to quit writing for a couple years. It didn’t last– how could it?– but it did prompt me to spend a lot of time studying storycraft in new ways. That was good, but I’d still like to return to that project someday. I found bits of it the other day and it wasn’t nearly as awful as I thought it was at the time, at least on a scene-by-scene level.

What I really wonder is why this happens to me? It isn’t a function of how long I’ve spent on the project. It isn’t a desire to work on something else. It may be a little bit of jealousy– I think the current bout was partially triggered by reading praise of a few lines in another book and wondering if I had anything that awesome.  But usually reading other books while writing inspires and invigorates me as I observe new techniques and get stuffed full of good stuff. So… it can’t just be comparison.

And it might be a little of the echo chamber of constantly trying to improve my work– when I’m constantly looking for ways to make it better, that can easily become only seeing what’s wrong. But I have a supportive alpha reader who offers both constructive and positive feedback (‘needs more particle effects’). So it can’t just be the echo chamber.

And it might just be a bad mood, and it might be the part of the story I’m at, which is supposed to be scary and emotional and wrenching– and how can I write that without feeling some of it myself?

All I really know is that I have to keep writing. Because if I let myself stop, it will undo the habits I’m forming and make it so much harder to achieve my goals. Nobody can enjoy what isn’t finished, after all.

ETA: I finished my daily writing, and discovered neat little resonances between the beginning and the end of the scene. Awesome reward!

 

Now or Later

I’m not as good of a writer as I’d like to be.

I’m really, really not. There’s all these stories I’d like to tell. There’s techniques I’d like to incorporate. And I can’t do it. Sometimes I don’t even know where to start.

It feels a little like trying to sing well. I know how I want my voice to sound, and the notes I’d like to reach but I just don’t have the control to do it.

This is not, I’m convinced, a matter of ‘gift’ or ‘talent’. I just haven’t trained the skills. I haven’t practiced enough.

Sometimes the knowledge that I haven’t practiced enough haunts me– usually when a scene I’m writing is falling short of my goals. Then I want to give up, tuck the story away and do something else: read a book on technique, or start a new project that won’t be so difficult, or take a nap and hope I wake up feeling better.

But books on technique don’t make up for practice and repetition, and one thing I know I need to practice is finishing works, and I can take a nap later. I have to sacrifice some of my ideas on the altar of self-improvement. If I don’t write, I’m not going to get better. And if I don’t get better I won’t ever be able to tell those other stories I want to tell, the ones that dance in my head out of reach because I haven’t climbed high enough yet.

If I want to write all the stories I dream of writing, I have to write. Now or later. Better to suck it up now, yes?

As somebody wise told me about the handy small child’s first attempt at making a peanut butter sandwich: good jobs often follow terrible ones.

PS: I don’t think NIGHTLIGHTS is terrible. But it could be. It’s probably not the astonishing work of unexpected brilliance I’d like it to be, either. You’ll have to let me know in July.

Confession of an Introvert

Hello!

Spring is finally coming to the Pacific Northwest. We’ve had two sunny days in a week! Woohoo! I hope wherever you are is getting even more sun than we are. I’ve been outside mixing up dirt and planting seeds when the rain and free time allows. Eventually, there will be flowers. And zucchini.

I’ve moved to a new writing schedule, which starts much earlier in the morning than I’d rather get up. But I discovered that if I have a fixed writing goal (like ‘finish this scene’) and I start right after I wake up, I work until I finish it– even if it takes me five hours or so. I do have to deal with interruptions and resist distractions, but I’m definitely making progress. Go me!

Today, I suppose I’ll be all meta, and blog about blogging.

I have another blog, a personal one. Long ago, I used it as a catch-all but eventually I decided that it wasn’t working very well as such, because there were a lot of things I didn’t post about because my audience was a mixture of everybody I knew and I thought some people would be bored no matter what topic I chose. So, for example, I didn’t write much about writing. Then Facebook and Twitter came along, and I started just using my other blog as a repository for status updates. I occasionally post something longer there, but so much of what I want to say to a general audience of friends and family fits so well within a tweet or two!

I’m kind of an introvert. I can be vocal and opinionated if I have something to say, but I’m really not very good at finding other people to talk to. But it’s the internet! Surely there must be people out there.

So, I started this blog. And I promised myself I’d write a post at least once a week. And I beat my fears that nobody would read it by not telling anybody about it! A stellar plan!

Actually, it worked pretty well. If I was confident nobody was reading it, I couldn’t waste time worrying about whether what I was writing would be interesting to anybody but me! Sometimes the posts are pretty short but at least they’re there.

In the spirit of a true confession, I’ll say more! One reason I wanted to develop a blog rather than, say, simply frequenting other blogs (although I try to do that too) is because I wanted to Build A Platform*. (I hear ominous music everytime I read that phrase.)

Dear reader, I want you in my life. I write, ultimately, to be read. But it turns out finding readers when you spend all your time sitting quietly at home reading by yourself is kind of hard! Who knew?

But let’s be honest. Bland blog posts, once a week, aren’t going to draw in the readers like bees to nectar. In order to lure in new readers, you need to have a spectacular blogging voice, be intrinsically interesting, or provide useful content.

Oh, or have giveaways.**

I don’t feel as if I have a spectacular blogging voice. And I think the only way I’m intrinsically interesting is the stories in my head. So that leaves me with ‘provide useful content’. (Or giveaways.)

I don’t know so much about useful content. If I weren’t spending so much time on the writing, I’m sure I could find some useful service to provide. I have a few skills. I like collecting and analyzing data, which is handy in so many arenas, This could, for example, be a kickass blog about playing clerics in a variety of MMOs!

But– I don’t think I can do that AND write stories. My personal life is not that open. Possibly I spend too much time analyzing data.

So I can’t provide useful content. But I can provide entertainment, I hope. I can provide the stories in my head. That’s why, eventually, I’m going to start posting my serial novel. Hopefully, it will find readers. In a way, these weekly posts, and the Follow Friday, are the soil I’m mixing up so that I can plant some seeds. And maybe eventually those seeds will sprout. There will be flowers! Tasty nectar! Great stories, and people to read them!

See, you thought that was just a tangent above, but it all tied together. Awww. I’m surprised, too.

 

* I don’t think I’m really building a platform. I think you need more for a platform than a couple of blog posts a week. ‘Making friends’ sounds much nicer, don’t you think? Although I don’t think you do that by blogging alone… Giveaways!

** I am, in fact, planning on a giveaway later in the summer. I just, er, need to figure out what to give away and what kind of theme to attach.  Part of my introversion is a dislike of self-promotion, so I don’t think I can theme it as ‘Bribing People To Look At My Blog’ without dying of shame.