Monday, March 13, 2006
Those Fickle Emotions
The weather has been absolutely insane here in California as I’ve been working to finish Coral Moon. One minute it’s sunny. Blue sky, pretty, puffy clouds. The stuff of kids’ books. Next thing I know it’s dark and raining. Then it’s sunny again. Then it’s hailing. Then sun. Then sleet. This has been going on for days. I’ve learned the hard way I’d better get out and run whenever the sky beckons. One sunny afternoon I kept putting off my running time, finally thinking I’d go at the end of the day—around 5:00. Only problem was, at 4:45 the world began to dim. By 5:00—sleet. Now, I am a dedicated runner, but sleet I will not do. Years ago I got caught in hail. Learned my lesson. That stuff hurts.
The fickleness of the weather equals the mercurialness, volatility, and overall downright frustrating capriciousness of my emotions as I write.
One minute—hey, this book is finally coming together. Next minute—this thing is horrid; I am doomed. Two hours later—well, okay, maybe it’s not so bad. Next hour—yes it is, yes it is, yes it is, yes it is!
Same book, wildly different feelings. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in writing, it’s not to trust my emotions.
However, it is not quite so simple. If it were a matter of total nontrust, that would be one thing. Problem is, which of those emotions arise from the writer sense within me, the gut knowledge that there are, indeed, problems with the structure of this book? For example, often when I write, I’m bored to death with the story. I’m terrified all my readers will be as well. Is this an emotion to ignore? Sometimes. Or is it that writer’s gut sense that some scenes are in truth lacking conflict? Maybe. Maybe not. With every book, I’ve had the “it’s boring” fear. I was afraid Dead of Night was boring. By the time it hit shelves, I was convinced—that is not a boring story. Same with Web of Lies. So maybe the boring emotion is just that untrustworthy emotion. But . . . what if it’s not?
There is one and only one thing that moves me forward. The deadline. Or, as we’re now calling it in BGdom, the deadling. I have no choice but to push through the emotions and finish the book.
But what about those of you who don’t have a deadling? Who are struggling through your manuscripts, dealing with that writer’s angst? (Perhaps you don’t deal with it quite as much as I do. Before I was published, I thought all my work was brilliant.) My suggestion to you is to push through as if a deadling awaits. Otherwise you could end up spinning your wheels for months . . . which become years. Always trying to improve what you have, never quite getting it right. Listen. You never will get it perfect. Ever. And one day when you’re published, the deadlings are gonna be a very real thing. Train for them now. This doesn’t mean stop working on your craft. It means finish the book, then let it sit as you go into study mode for a while. Read lots of novels, study books on writing fiction. Then go back to your novel with fresh eyes. You’ll know more. You’ll see errors you couldn’t have seen while wallowing in it day to day.
Whatever you do, don’t trust your emotions. Even if they’re telling you the book is the greatest thing since sliced bread.