Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A Concession Speech...

So, I lost the writing challenge. I put in a good showing though, so I’m not ashamed of losing. I should finish up my pages today (I would have finished yesterday, but I had to chaperone AC’s field trip.). I’ll still have some pages left before I can type The End, but I’m very glad I participated in this challenge— even if it did cost me a mani-pedi and a bit of my dignity on the blog.

(Honestly, I built SP’s prize in to my budget the day after I agreed to this challenge. SP is very competitive— the challenge itself got her moving. I, on the other hand, am deadline-driven. I dragged myself along in the early stages of the contest— mainly so I didn’t look like a slacker to the world-at-large— but once SP crossed that 90% threshold, I suddenly realized there was a deadline, and that, more than anything, kicked my butt into gear.)

I doubt I’m the only unpublished writer who struggles when it comes to producing pages. It’s tough to pour your heart and soul into something, knowing the odds are it will be returned to you with a “No Thanks.” Yes, we all understand on a rational level that we can’t sell a book we haven’t written, but investing that much of ourselves into something where there’s only the slimmest of chances it will amount to anything... Well, if that doesn’t teeter on the edge of soul-destroying, I don’t know what does.

In fact, I know I’m not alone. If I were, no one would be Sweating With Sven right now or gearing up for National Novel Writing Month. These challenges (much like our Playground one) have some accountability built in. It’s not a contract with a paycheck attached, but at least there’s a deadline and people expecting on you to get there.

Having that meter on the page and knowing folks (or at least the Playfriends) were eyeballing my progress forced me to slog through those sections where getting the words out made pulling teeth sound like great fun. There are about 40 pages in the middle of the book where I’d write a paragraph, delete the paragraph, stare at the page for a while, write a sentence, delete the sentence... The only way out, sadly, was through. (Especially for someone like me who can’t write scenes out of order.) Once I got through that section though, the words came easier. Without SP shaming me into action, though, I’d still be avoiding that section of the book.

I was reminded of something very important during this challenge, though, that I’d like to share with y’all: Never confuse feeling productive with actually being productive. Oh, I wrote a lot during this writing challenge-- blog entries, chapter bylaws, newsletter articles, resumes, letters to the parents in AC’s class... I’d feel so productive on those days, and I’d reward myself with an evening in front of the TV or with a good book. At the end of the day, though, I’d have little or nothing to post on the meter. I felt productive, but it didn’t take long to realize how false that feeling was. Maybe you play this game with yourself in other ways like cleaning house, planting pansies, or organizing your sock drawer. At the end of the day, you feel like you’ve been very productive, but wait— there’s no pages to post on the meter.

I’d recommend to anyone practicing WIP avoidance techniques to take on a challenge. Sweat with Sven. NaNoWriMo your heart out. Join one of those Survivor-style writing loops. Or just find a friend and up the stakes. Create a goal, a deadline, and some kind of accountability plan, and maybe you’ll find your way out of that rut.

Thanks to SP, I’m on pace to get this WIP finished, polished and off to the Golden Heart contest (which I already paid for— see, I created a deadline for myself). Kicking me out of my rut is well worth the cost of a mani-pedi.

I’m not Sven, and I certainly don’t sweat if I can possibly help it, but let’s talk about goals today. What would you like to accomplish between now and December 1?



Rhonda Nelson said...

I've got a book to finish before then. Revisions completed, the whole shebang.

Very insightful post today, PC.

Maven LJ said...

My house is torn apart, in the good cause of remodeling. I'd like to have it put together by Dec. 1. Please.

Y'all put so much pressure on yourselves, it worries me. (like a mother hen.) Others will disagree with me, and that's fine, but I hate the idea of writing a book and being held back by the thought that it might not sell. Revising, yes, that would be tedious if you weren't certain, but the initial writing of the story should be joyful, and when you're writing your mind should be on what's happening on the page, not on whether or not it will sell. I'm worried that could be a distraction. (yeah, yeah, I know, none of my business.) When I wrote my first book, I loved it but I did not expect it to sell. I actually sent it off expecting it to come back with a rejection slip, but I also knew the next book would be better and that maybe it would sell. That first book sold, and I was thrilled. Low expectations are a good thing.

Selling is IMPORTANT, but still, I worry. I have a wrinkle between my brows that I don't need, thank you very much. :-) And yes, if I was told that no one ever wanted a book from me again, that I had no possibility of selling, I would still write. Not so much, of course, but I would still be here, doing what I do when I could. Don't worry! Tell the story and when it's done you can worry about that. Craft and business DON'T mix all that well, even though in this profession we're forced to deal with both.

LJ -- apparently on her soapbox today. :-)

Problem Child said...

Oh, Lord, I'm giving Maven LJ a worry wrinkle.

I tell you what...I sell this book, and I'll pay for the botox, oaky?

Smarty Pants said...

Oops, we got LJ fired up. :) I guess we're just at a funny place where you've gotten the personal rejections, you've gotten the full requests and the revision letters... you feel like you're this close...THIS book is the one that will sell. THIS book has to be literary perfection! If I thought in my heart that I wasn't good enough to ever sell, I might enjoy writing more for myself. No pressure. Now, its a drive...a career aspiration.

On that note, between now and December 1st, I will have fully revised GOAC. Once done, I will send a reminder to my queried agent and hope she asks to see the rest that I've worked so hard on.

Then, I will fully plot my next book because I've already written a chapter and a half and I have no idea where its actually going. :)

Maven LJ said...

I do get fired up on occasion, I'll admit. :-)

Basically, if you're going to obsess, you might as well obsess over something you can control.

PC, if I decide to go for botox (unlikely)you'd have to share the costs with my kids, grandkids, husband, and a number of editors who shall remain nameless. :-)


Lynn Raye Harris said...

Great post, PC! Yep, goals and accountability are what it takes to get me moving. I've written more on my WIP since I started sweating with Sven last week than I had in the 3 months prior. If I couldn't post progress at the Sven site, I'd be too embarrassed to show my face again. I signed up, I said I'd do it, so I have to do it.

In a move of supreme wishy washyness, I have to agree with both you and Maven LJ. It's soul crushing to work hard on a project knowing it might never see the light of day. That can stop even the most determined person dead in the water if she lets it.

But, on the other hand, that initial rush of storytelling on the paper, when it's just you and your story, can be fun. When it's going well. When you aren't thinking this is the crappiest piece of crap ever written and how come you have the most unoriginal ideas in the history of writing, etc. (LOL, can you tell I'm approaching the end of my book and hating it?)

My goal is to finish and polish this sucker by Dec 1. And, since I told Sven I'd write the first draft of the next book, I guess I have to get pretty busy on that one too. I only have about 3K of that one, so I think I'd like to hit 25K by Dec 1.

Jen said...

Rhonda and I are sharing a boat. ;)

Kathy said...

Good discusion! But, given my experience, if I wrote with the thought that it MUST pass muster or else, I'd be catatonic. I have enough trouble trying to manage my family life, personal pressure AND my desire to write. One thing I've learned while writing these many years, tomorrow is another day. Having said that, that doesn't mean I shouldn't force myself to some accountability, especially when idleness does not bring forth fruit.

Things to accomplish. Ideally, I'd like to be at least half way through my new book by then. But with the holidays, family visiting, and the normal goings on, I'll have to Sven myself into oblivion.

Sadly, there will be no planting pansies for me this year. But joyfully, that means I can kick my butt into gear and get started writing while I can.

verif. bogit
no cvwnk

Playground Monitor said...

The whole "writing a book knowing the odds are against it selling" is most likely why I haven't completed a novel. I'm just not driven enough to spend the time and emotion on it. I am driven, however, to write the short stories because I've sold all but one that I've submitted.

Right now I have a new agenda -- getting rid of the gallstone in my bile duct. I have no gallbladder; it was removed 4-5 years ago. But I've learned I'm one of a minority of folks who get stones in the bile duct that remains after the surgery. I'm waiting as I write this for the doctor's office to call to schedule the procedure to remove the stone.

Lucky me.


Maven Linda said...

My verification word is so -- something, I'm not sure what, that I'm going to post it first:


That's so much like a real word it has to mean something. Maybe it's so close to kahuna matata in sound that I want it to mean "no worries."

What I worry about with you Children is that you're so focused on the so-called rules, and on selling, that you aren't able to focus on what is actually the most important part of selling -- the heart and soul and joy of the story. If I lost that, I'd stop writing. On one level you have to have that internal, analytical editor, but ONLY after you've told the story. She's there for polishing. You're there for creating.

I write like a sewing machine, back and forth, back and forth. I may do only one finished draft, but there is a lot of back-and-forth mileage contained in that one draft. That means the internal, analytical, left-brained editor has to come and go on a regular basis. It's like a revolving door. Whenever I begin writing after a break, an interruption, a night's sleep -- whatever -- I always go back several pages and begin reading, to get myself back in the flow of things. That's when the editor comes out. I see details I missed, typos I made, I see where I need to layer in more details, where I have things out of sequence, where I fell flat on my face. By the time I get all of those things fixed, the editor has done her duty and she goes back into her room, and the right-brained creative maniac takes over again and I get lost in the joy.

That's what I want for you guys: the joy. Selling should be secondary to the story.


Barbara Vey said...

I love to come here just for the passion you all share. I, myself, will never write a book and I'm fine with that. I'm the reader who buys your books.

I wish I could wave my magic wand and make all the worries go away, but what I've gathered from the authors I've talked to is that this whole thing is a "process" and you just have to take the good with the bad.

With that said, I have a kazillion books here that I want to read and write about. So, when you're ready, send yours and I'll be thrilled to write about them too.

And thank you all for the books you've written and those that still are to come.

Instigator said...

Feeling productive and actually BEING productive. I knew I had something mixed up :-) You and SP on the other hand have been very productive lately and should be very proud of yourselves. I know we're proud of you guys.

What would I like to accomplish by Dec 1st? There's a long list but topping it is getting through Nov when I have every single weekend scheduled solid (and the weekdays taken up with work).


Lis said...

I need to get this requested YA fully edited by Halloween. But I signed up for NaNo & Sven to kick me in the rear to get motivated for tackling the next ms.