Writing is not easy and it might drive me mad



Writing is not getting any easier.

I hoped, of course, that it would. But as another writer once said (I can’t remember who, or the exact quote), every time I sit down to write a story, it’s like learning how to write a story all over again. The lessons from the past don’t carry over--not completely--and it’s a different learning curve each time.

I’ve spent the last few months struggling with an awful, jaw-grinding mess of a story. It’s way longer than I ever meant it to be. The narration swoops in and out of present and past tense. I can’t judge its success. There are part of it that I love. But I don’t know if all hangs together in a coherent whole. There’s a character that hasn’t quite come into focus for me. There is a passage that is still niggling away at my mind, that doesn’t seem quite right.

Be careful what you wish for, they say. I wanted to see what it would be like to spend a solid month or two on nothing but fiction writing. I turned down potential freelance (paid) gigs to do this, and I have found that two months of solid devotion to craft has nearly driven me bonkers.

Perhaps it’s just this one story. But I suspect that I’m not cut out for fulltime fiction writing. I suspect that my brain needs other interests and pursuits to function.  Fiction writing was once my escape from science; I suspect that a return to science reading and writing (starting this month!) might also serve as a necessary escape when the fiction machine stalls out on me.

Anyway, the too-long story, “Between Sea and Shore,” has been put to rest for the week while I work on other things. Tomorrow it goes up for critique on the online writing workshop I’ve joined, Critters! And yes, I am nervous about it. I’ve done a few critiques in this workshop now (which is another post; I find that I actually love critiquing and I feel it’s really helping me as a writer) but this is the first time I’ll have my own work up for critique. And somehow this prospect is far more nerve-wracking than hitting the “Send” button and sending my work out directly for acceptance/rejection to a faceless editor at a literary/genre journal.

Comments

  1. I love this post, because it's so true and so many writers experience it. I go through similar frustrations with my own writing, and have realized that for me, reading is a good alternative if I'm feeling too blocked. Sometimes I'll do nothing but read for a good month or so, and then something happens and the writing flow comes back. Sometimes I simply slog it out and keep writing, even though it's uncomfortable and forced, and then suddenly the words are there again. It appears that, in general, the more I write, the easier it is to write. Maybe it's the same for you. And the online critique group looks interesting. Keep going with it! :) :)

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  2. Mary,

    So good to hear from you again! I hope that your writing is going well. It's funny--sometimes I force myself to slog it out and the words eventually loosen and flow and it works. . . and sometimes I force myself through and all it gets me is crap that has to be thrown out, and I realize I would have been better off taking a break. And at this stage, I still can't tell which way it will go.

    By the way, yes, the online critique group is awesome! I got back some great critiques (11 in all!) which told me things I never knew about my own story, pointed out areas of plot confusion, and also confirmed my best instincts. I'm also "meeting" a new community of serious writers, which is something I lack in the real world. I wonder if you're involved in something like this, or would like to be? The website is critters.org, and they have a special program by which entire novels can be critiqued, which you might be interested in.

    And yes, reading is always a good source of inspiration =) And a good thing on its own, as well!

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