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.


Cara Putman said...

This is an ironic post. I just pushed through in a self-imposed deadline in my suspense WIP last night. Put the final paragraph in -- well, other than a couple more to round out the epilogue. I have to have deadlines -- even self-imposed ones. Now my self-imposed one slipped by two months, but that's becuase I wrote another book that is at a publisher during that two months.

Saturday I brainstormed a new community and goofy, eccentric characters for a mystery/suspense series. We even came up with 2 of the plots for the series. My friends think I am certifiable now, but we had fun and I'm ready to tackle a new project. After I finesse the proposal on Double Image and get it out to the editor who was interested.

But without self-imposed deadlines and the knowledge I have to get it written so I can tweak and improve it, I'd still be tinkering with chapter three. And while chapter three might be a thing of beauty, it wouldn't do me any good without the other 40 chapters :-)

Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

But what if my novel IS the next best thing since sliced bread? hahah--couldn't resist.

The time-distancing is a must--I'd think for pubbed authors as well as us pre-pubbed. That and crit groups. Nothing better to bring you down to earth than a group of readers. And nothing better to encourage you than a group of readers. Ironic, isn't it?

I agree with Cara about a self imposed deadline. Mine has been the Mt. Hermon conference--I don't want to go back there and be at the same place I was last year. Unfortunately, I don't see how I can meet this year's goal (finish rough draft of book 3). But I'm a lot farther than if I'd never set the goal.


Anonymous said...

The thought of a deadline scares me. I'm a bit pokey these days obsessing about every element. I think that's a good thing while I'm still in the uncontracted learning mode. On your always sage advice, I'll try to pretend I'm on a deadline for book 3. You havent' steered me wrong yet. Thanks.

Lynetta said...

I have to agree with the other posters who have a self-imposed deadling and a critique group. Writer's conferences are great goals to shoot for.

Every time I hear you talk about writer's angst, I'm encouraged. Not that I want you to have angst, mind you, but it helps me to recognize it's a natural writer thing to have. I often think my book is boring, badly written, and not marketable. However, I've committed to finishing it by a certain date, no matter what. JSB says I'll learn more that way, so I'm taking his advice on that one.

I can't remember who said this quote, but I recite it often:
"A writer is someone who finds writing difficult."

All the best with Coral Moon!

Unknown said...

Woman, you always have a way of nailing things on the head! I often go through this roller coaster of emotions. Especially when I receive another rejection, but God keeps telling me to push on. I've published print-on-demand and not paid a cent and I know, despite my up and down emotions, it's only a matter of time before that "big" publisher says yes!

Bonnie S. Calhoun said...

Brandilyn, I'll say a prayer for you to make it through without making yourself bald, by pulling your hair out!

I don't have deadlines or even self-imposed ones yet. But I pray that when I get there, that I handle it as well as you do!

Lynette Sowell said...

Deadlings. Love 'em, hate 'em.
Without them, I'd get nowhere. Fast. And slow.

Right now? I'm inching along word by word (19 more days). I love the story. I hate the way it sounds sometimes. I am almost convinced I ought to come up with a pen name at the last minute, when I see the names of the other writers in this project with me. Will my words past muster? Gulp. No wonder someone came up with the phrase "kicking cabinets." Those emotions must go somewhere since directing them at my work is often futile. :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you Brandilyn for all your blogging. I have thus decided I want to join the deadlings group; I'm meeting with my 1st critique group this saturday, sent out my 1st chapter to four critiqers, joining the BIAW @ ACFW (as soon as I can figure it out) and lastly going through Karen Wiesners book "First Draft in 30". I need structure and reading your blog this last week and a 1/2 has inspired me to "deadling" myself. I hope that's leagal.

I would also like to try kicking cabinets..however they're located above my head and I twisted my foot as my slipper went flying across the room attempting such a feat. "Ouch"

Your frustrations, doubts, cabinet kicking, and very long, but spindifilous words have also influenced my writing brainwaves this last year. So I wanted to say "thank you" Brandilyn. I've also enjoyed reading these nifty Bgs comments.

Well, I can never think of anything to say so these 4 paragraphs will have to last until 2007. ;-)

God bless ya lady! You know me as "the axe lady!" :) sincerely; Kj or Kjerst or Kjersten

Pammer said...

I really needed this 2x4 upside the head a couple weeks ago. Sigh. I had a deadling and I was writing furiously to complete it. Then I found out, she wasn't getting my emails, and then she told me not to rush, just to send her my best writing.
Uh.....I've only completed three chapters since then!!! Like I got ALL the time there is.
So, thanks to you, I will have this wip done in two weeks. Now I'll have to get someone to hold me accountable. :D