Writing Status : In The Shop For Repairs

I’ve Got The Funk

So, ever since NaNoWriMo, I’ve had The Funk.

Some of that has been work-related funk (it’s just VERY busy and stressy). Some of that has been funk-related funk (I’ve been sick since January). And some of that has been genuine writing-related funk.

NaNoShatteredDreamsMo

It’s not NaNoWriMo’s fault. Far from it. I have long held that if you learn anything about yourself from NaNoWriMo, then it was a complete and utter success.

I learned a LOT about myself from NaNoWriMo, but not all of it was pretty and nice.

Doing the NaNoWriMo prep, I learned a lot about writing structure and outlining. I learned how much I love outlining, and I developed a great tool that I plan to hone and use on future projects.

During November, I learned that I cannot expect to have a full-time job, pay attention to my family and health, and still write to THAT extent.

Some folks can. I could if I re-arranged my priorities, but I’m not going to.

The Bad

I also learned that I am not quite prepared for full-on novel writing just yet. Even in just the first 50k words, I found so many things that need extensive changes that I feel a greater-than-average temptation to toss it and start anew.

I know that’s a normal reaction, and one that leads to doom if it’s indulged too often, but the sensation that I missed the mark on this story is strong within me.

The Good

The other side of that is CHOOSE. I wrote the extra content for CHOOSE just before November, and I used my new outlining technique on it.

And you know what? I love it. It’s rough around the edges and needs some revising/editing love, but I really feel like I nailed it. I wrote a story that was actually BETTER than the story I’d set out to write, and that’s a great feeling.

The Difference

The difference between CHOOSE and STAINED was that I felt like I lost control of STAINED while I was writing it but I never felt that way when writing CHOOSE.

The two most obvious reasons for that are length and familiarity.

I KNOW the characters for CHOOSE and the shorter length made it easier to control.

I was learning the characters for STAINED, which means I made some rookie mistakes. Additionally, the longer length made each mistake feel like it was piling up in mountains behind me that rivaled the mountains ahead of me not yet written.

Being a Writer

There are times I wonder whether I’m really not cut out for this writing thing.

Sometimes I read writer blogs and I wonder whether I really even WANT to be cut out for this writing thing.

“Don’t quit your day job,” they say. “You’ll work for a year on a project, scramble to meet a due date, wait another year for it to be available in stores, and then you just watch the bad reviews start pouring in. Oh, and you didn’t make enough money off it to cover the rent, so I hope you’re working on three more … while still holding down your other job and maybe even a family, if you have time.”

Sometimes it seems like all but the rockstar authors out there are scrabbling for crumbs. I have to pause on the brink of that and ask if it’s really what I want.

Because the answer is obvious. It’s not what I want.

I don’t want all that. I don’t want book tours and contractual obligations and bad agents and slow publishers and wondering whether I’ll be able to pay the bills this month and not being able to relax because I haven’t gotten my word count in this week.

That, combined with my worries about my writing, snowballs into a great big nasty ball of FUNK.

What DO I Want?

I just want to write, and to write well enough that others read what I write and enjoy it.

If the publishing fairy is in a wand-waving mood, I’d like to be able to make enough money from that to feel like my occupation is my choice.

I want to remain passionate about writing and about sharing my writing with others.

That desire hasn’t changed, even if the vehicle that I think will get me there keeps shifting.

Publishing

As if that wasn’t enough to mull over, that for every blog entry I find declaring the Death Of Publishing, I read one that says No, Publishing Isn’t Dead yet, and I find myself wondering if I’m caught in the middle of a Monty Python skit.

The Facts : Publishing is in a state of flux and nobody can really 100% guarantee anything really.

EBooks are a big deal, folks. Add to that the changes in the publishing industry that began way back when slush piles became the domain of agents rather than publishers — the truth is that things have to change.

Change doesn’t mean things are going to be horrible on the other side, but it’s a rough time to be in publishing, whether you’re an author, agent, editor, publisher, printer, or anywhere in between.

It’s difficult for me to pitch my hopes on that particular boat right now, but it’s equally difficult for me to throw my lot in with the self-publishing crowd – the ones who make millions of dollars without the help of the publishing industry at all.

The rockstars of any industry are doing pretty well, it seems.

And Then There Was Me

I’m not a rockstar. Sure, I fantasize about becoming a rockstar, but so does everyone else.

So what’s a non-rockstar writer to do?

Honestly? I don’t know and I’ve been sick long enough that I kind of doubt the logic of any decision I might make right now.

My current writer vehicle is in the shop for repairs and the mechanic doesn’t really know when it’ll be done or how much it’ll cost if I want to get it back on the roads.

Am I willing to pay the price?

Right now? I don’t think so. That particular vehicle’s been in and out of the shop since I got it.

I’ve got a couple other options I haven’t fully explored yet. Sports cars aren’t the only way to get to a destination.

Other Options?

Clearly, I still have a long ways to go to become comfortable enough writing a novel-length book.

I can do that by writing novel-length books that suck and editing them into submission until I finally get one that I am comfortable trying to submit …

… OR I can practice on shorter-length stories. Things ranging between 10k and 50k in length, for example. They’ll be faster to write and easier to edit.

I can put those shorter-length stories up for sale on Amazon and B&N for super cheap prices. Even pennies a month from those would be better than nothing at all while I struggle with a longer manuscript.

I’m still writing CHOOSE and (schedule permitting) SONG OF BINDING.

What have I got to lose?

At this point, nothing except a bit of pride. To mis-quote one of my favorite scenes from Krull, “And pride? Nah. It’s an empty purse. Count it, go broke. Eat it, go hungry. Seek it, go mad!”

Back to You

Anyone else ever feel that way? Like you’re cruising along down a road and suddenly you realize that you have no idea whether you actually want to reach your destination?

(It’s possible it’s just the theraflu and robitusson talking here.)

41 thoughts on “Writing Status : In The Shop For Repairs

  1. For me, it’s the “I need to FIND my day job first before even THINKING of writing as a secondary.” The job market sucks, I’m in limbo thinking about whether or not I should have gone ahead with a Masters (though I’ve heard both bad and good from both; I’ve settled on a ‘damned if you do and damned if you don’t’ stance about it), and getting back into shape is troublesome due to constant sickness.

    My only motivation is the fact that I recently got back into talks with the guy from the manga publishing company who was interested in my steampanku stuff. It’s a nice motivator, but the task of re-writing feels rather monumental. I’ve never actually done a second draft in my life; I’ve coasted through high school and university doing random edits to my first draft and handing them in for an efficient B+. Considering that these were for courses that were not in my major, the time investment felt justified, but now they’re coming back to bite me in the ass. Feels bad, man!

    • Tami

      Good job on finding a job and getting Steampanku edited! What field are you looking in for the job?

      • Forensic Science. It means I can either work in the lab or on the field. The former is difficult to get into because my program didn’t offer enough lab experience, and the latter is difficult to get into because it requires being in the police force, which has particular minimum fitness requirements that I’m barely at the cusp of meeting.

        • Tami

          Oh, my, that sounds very interesting and exotic. (I’m sure it’s not, typically, but it SOUNDS that way).

          How cool, that you’re on the cusp of the fitness requirements! I mean, you could be ages and ages away (and believe me, I feel your pain about wanting to work out but being sick).

          *thumbs up* Good luck, sir!

  2. I totally know how you feel. I’ve been wanting to go back to school and finish my Batchelors degree for a loooong time now but the finances and time just never seem to materialize. I had a little epiphany a few weeks ago, if I had enough money to quit my job and go to school full time (my ideal scenario) just dumped in my lap, I have no idea what I would major in. In the past I’ve thought about teaching high school science, being a nurse or a PA, research schentist, and a long list of other things but at this point none of those things sould like things I want to do with my life. I don’t want to stay in this job forever but I don’t even know what my dream job is so I can’t do anything to work towards it.

    • Tami

      I’m not even sure how to go about finding a dream job when you’ve no clue what you’re looking for. I’ve always been CERTAIN of what I wanted (even when I was dead wrong) and I ended up with a career that I really enjoy AND that makes good money.

      I wonder if it’s permissable to interview people in various jobs – just ask for an hour of their time to talk to them about what they do, to try and get a better idea.

  3. Daria

    “cruising along down a road and suddenly you realize that you have no idea whether you actually want to reach your destination”

    That could pretty much sum up my life. I was always changing my mind on what I wanted to “be” when I “grew up” and I still haven’t figured it out! Sometimes I look at the question itself and think maybe the fault is in the question. Maybe we just are who we are and it is really about being comfortable with that. I’ve always felt that I don’t have as much control over my life as I would like to think.

    I don’t really know what I can say to you other than it is obvious you are a creative person and you get enjoyment out of that. For whatever it is worth, I enjoy what you write. Only you can decide if you are comfortable with the anxiety and the uncertainty that being a full time author would bring. And if you didn’t make one cent from it would you still be fulfilled?

    • Tami

      The problem comes in from the new definitions of “full time author”.

      I mean, back in the day, it was a question of “work full time and author on the side” or “author full time”?

      But now there’s SHADES of “author full time” that I didn’t even realize existed. Like they were all lined up behind the larger and more imposing “traditional publishing route” and I didn’t see them at first but now they sort of POPPED out at me and I’ll admit to being a little creeped out by their insistence that I pay attention to them now.

      It’s not that I want life to make my decisions for me, it’s just that I want to have all the information I need to make the decision on my own. =]

      *hugs* My favorite people are the ones who never really figure out what they want to be when they grow up.

  4. Steve – Kestrel's Aerie

    Ahem. That virtual kick in the ass you just got was from me.

    You may think that Stained was tragically flawed, but I don’t think your alpha readers agree. The most egregious problem I saw with it was that it stopped halfway through! So don’t you dare chuck it out and start all over. (Have you sent Bre a copy?) Yes, it could stand a bit of character development, but I wish my characters had as much depth as yours!

    Believe me, I know the feeling of “I want it all, and I want it nao!” So obviously, work stress and health really screw with that mindset. The world isn’t going to end anytime soon, and neither are you. So take your time, establish priorities (on the remote chance you haven’t already done so). Set aside an hour each day (or two hours!) to write, and only write. And if the muse isn’t with you, and you want to do something else, then fine. But be sure you give yourself that time, every day, to write if you’re so inclined. Even if it’s just a short-short, and has nothing to do with other projects.

    And don’t make me have to get all preachy again! <3

    • Tami

      *big hugs* <3 I know I can always count on you, Mr. Hall.

      One of the odd things about my particular brand of motivation is that I need to have a goal in mind. Once I have that, I can powerhouse through even the darkest funk in my journey to attain the goal … but without it, I just sort of wander around like a drunken armadillo with a parasol. (Sshh, don’t ask where the crazy imagery comes from, just ENJOY it)

      Thank you for the kick in the ass. *grin* I’m lucky to have a friend like you in my corner.

  5. Hi Tami,

    I understand completely where you are coming from. Right now, I’ve been so swamped with work that I haven’t been able to put in a lot of time in on my novel. But you know what? That’s okay. My novel is a side project, and work, family, etc. come first.

    The important thing for me is that I’m still working at it (just about to do a bit right now, as a matter of fact). I’m still excited about the novel, and I’m still having fun writing it. That’s the main thing. Publishing? That would be nice. Sell a million copies? Great!

    I’m not going to worry about that right now though.

    So if you’re up for some unsolicited advice: write when you can, and don’t put any pressure on yourself for making a weekly quota, or some such thing. Write to have fun. Let everything else take care of itself.

    That’s what I’m doing, and it’s working well so far.

    ~Graham

    • I’m always up for unsolicited advice. “Write to have fun.” is definitely what I’m aiming at now. I’d convinced myself that the goal of being published was worth the hiccups in the road, and maybe it will be later, but right now it’s sapping a lot of the fun for me.

      Thus the shift in gears. =]

  6. I know exactly how you feel. I’ve come to the conclusion over the last three or four years that I have absolutely no interest in being published as it stands now. The problem is, I really, really want to be read, by people who don’t know me personally.

    I’m about this close to just doing the Smashwords thing, after I find some sort of Real Editor [tm], just to get my stuff out there, do what I can to publicize it, and be satisfied with that.

    I’m one of the lucky ones WRT the day job, which doesn’t even feel like a “day” job anymore. I’m a freelance museum curator, and I love all three words of that job title with a purple passion. I love being in charge of my own career — I say what I will do, and when, and I don’t just do what I’m told anymore. The variety of my work is astounding, and if I can’t stand someone, guess what? I just don’t sign another contract there. I love working in museums, because I learn so much every day. And I love working with artifacts and exhibits. It’s the first time in my life (and I’m almost 52) that I’ve felt this way about how I make a living.

    So If I can get my writing read by strangers, nowadays that’s icing on the cake. I’m going to manage it somehow, but I don’t feel as much pressure to query my brains out anymore. I’m tired of asking to be rejected (that whole “don’t take it personally” thing? is bovine excrement).

    • Your job sounds AWESOME.

      I’m lucky as well – I enjoy my job far more often than I don’t and it pays well. I get to play with puzzles most days and help people get the information they need to make decisions.

      *hugs*

      Is your writing available online anywhere? Amazon, or pdfs or something?

  7. Brad-o

    I feel like this all of the time. I’m constantly torn between priorities and projects and I have dedication and self-doubt issues that create existential crises at the drop of a hat (e.g. I must not really be an X because I’m not doing Y, I must not really care about X because I’m not doing Y, etc.). And, in spite of my massive intellect and analytical ability (and overtly humble nature), I’m a total sucker. I’ve convinced myself of all kinds of things that frankly weren’t all that true (certain aspects were, sure, but the ultimate conclusion was wrong). I believe in the devil and I think he’s usually pretty bored with me because I do all his work for him.

    And here’s where my dangerous knowledge of philosophy and preachy nature kicks in (it doesn’t help that I’m listening to Byzantine chant while I’m responding — sorry in advance). Cats don’t have to have 4 legs and a tail, gender isn’t defined by DNA, a wrench isn’t a wrench when it’s a hammer, a toilet can be art, and a ship that slowly replaces all of its parts is still the same ship. In short, you’re being too strict with your definitions and beleaguering yourself with them. I’m pretty sure that if you tried to come up with a formal definition of an “author”, you wouldn’t be able to point to anything that was an “author”. Maybe it’s even become a fetish. Most activities are about the process itself, not about how you define whether or not you’re actually doing it or the sort of person that performs the action.

    Something is sticking in my mind a bit and I feel unrestrained (blame it on tired, chant, Lent, preachy, dangerous amount of knoweldge, or excuse #52). In the gospels, Jesus meets a rich tax collector and tells him that all he has to do to be saved is give up his riches and follow him. It reads that the man walked away saddened because he knew it was something he couldn’t do. What strikes me about this now is not just that it was something he wanted to do and couldn’t seem to bring himself to do. What strikes me is that the story ends there. Fine, the gospel doesn’t really follow the tax collector aruond and tax collectors typically stole and took bribes and Jesus could just as easily be asking him to make restitution as he is asking him to become a pauper. But it’s a vignette of the man’s life at that time. There’s really no telling whether or not he could be considered a Christian or “saved”. Salvation, from the Orthodox perspective at least, isn’t about crossing some well-defined line or meeting the bare-minimum requirements for “being saved”. Salvation is about a constant process, a constant struggle. We have a fairly common proverb, “We have been saved, we are being saved, and we will be saved.”

    Your priorities are real and serious (and horribly bothersome), but that doesn’t mean that you can’t write a novel. It just means that you can’t write a 50k word novel in a month (at least not currently). It means that if you want to be traditionally published and turn that into a full-time job, you’ll need to reorganize a bit (e.g. write several novels so you have a few in the hopper before you pursue some kind of contract, quit your current full-time job and deal with all of the concessions that entails, win the lottery, discover you’re an hieress of some huge fortune, etc.). Maybe better goal definition is all you really need. In which case, it depends on why you write and when you expect to realize the goal. I want to write merely because I have stories I feel need to be told and written down. Some of them are silly and goofy and some of them are serious. And I also want to be traditionally published, but for me, that’s a very long-term goal. I might be publishing at 65 at this rate and that’s alright with me.

    Ok. I’ve ranted enough. Please resume your normal level of annoyance. ;)

    • Pfft. I don’t think I’ve ever been irritated at you, except for being more clever than I was in a given situation.

      I do love your replies. I miss getting these conversations in person.

      “I believe in the devil and I think he’s usually pretty bored with me because I do all his work for him.” <3

      You're too right on the closing advice there – that's why I'm shifting my priorities for writing (not work and family, because I'm not insane) and finding new goals.

      You know how some people can just sit on a beach for hours?

      You and me, we ain't that guy. Sure, we can enjoy the beach, but bereft of any other entertainment, we'd be puzzling over some project or story (or in your case, obscure bit of math or philosophy) while we sip on our fruity umbrella-bedecked drink.

      • Brad-o

        My replies are nothing like our “in-person” conversations. They’re too linear and more preachy. ;)

        The only thing I enjoy more than doing projects is coming up with them. I’m pretty sure I could sit on a beach and come up with projects other people could accomplish (to my satisfaction) with my infinite monies. Oh damn, no infinite monies. Oh damn, I burn like a mutha. Guess I’m just doomed.

        • Tami

          Eh, but this way you’re allowed to build up a really impressive monologue. ^_^

          Some day, Brad-o, we’ll win the lottery and hire people to build ideas for us.

  8. Mother of Three, Anne

    My Aunt Chris says, “You can have it all. You just can’t have it all at once.”

    Bob says, “I don’t want to be an “Artist.” I hate those people, becuase they take themselves seriously. I want to enjoy my art and do it just for that reason…because it is fun and relaxing.”

    Nick offers, “The whole day has to be perfect, everything in it, for it to be a good day.”

    Somewhere in there is good advise.

    You have bound yourself with Titles and Plans because you think you need these for success. Just take a machete to those binds.

    I offer this…What is wrong with you!? No, wait.

    You are a success. You are doing the things you want with your life and are happy. And your writing is joyful.

    My personal experience is that I am driving down the road with a clear destination in mind when an earthquake hits and the road is suddenly gone or all askew. My destination is still the same, but the road is different. Sometimes that is fun and exhilarating, but usually it is stressful and upsetting. The more stressful I find it, the more likely I am to find myself in a rock avalanche or a mudslide as I get back on the road.

    I prefer the Gregorian chants, Mr. Brad-O-Bob.

    • It’s only when I stop thinking of my writing as joyful and start, as you say, putting bonds on it that it starts to get funky. (“Yes, you’re very funky, Greg” – and you have no idea how good it feels to FINALLY say that quote to someone I know will catch it)

      Sometimes I need to evaluate my destination and make sure it’s actually where I want to go. I should stop aiming at “Austin, Texas” and start saying “South”. If that makes sense. Heck, even if it doesn’t … it makes sense to me. *nod*

    • brad-o

      Fie on yor gregorian chants! Romanes eunt domus! ;)

      • Mother of Three, Anne

        HA! Monty Python and the Mighty Boosh in one fell sweep! What a great day!

        Brad-O-Bob:

        “Easy now, you fuzzy little man-peach!”

        TamiJean:
        “There’s nothing an agnostic can’t do if he doesn’t know whether he believes in anything or not”

        Go South! Yee Haw!!

        • *whoop*

        • Brad-o

          “this is my LIFE here we’re talking about! We’re not just talkin’ about, you know, somethin’ else, were talking about MY life, you know? And it’s forcing me to do somethin’ I don’t wanna do. To leave. To, to go out and just leave and go home and say, make a clean cut here and say “no way, Corky, you’re not puttin’ up with these people!” And I’ll tell you why I can’t put up with you people: because you’re BASTARD people! That’s what you are! You’re just bastard people! And I’m goin’ home and I’m gonna… I’m gonna BITE MY PILLOW, is what I’m gonna do!”

          • Tami

            I have zero idea what this is a quote from, but I love it.

          • brad-o

            It’s from an early Christopher Guest movie called “Waiting for Guffman.” You might have seen “Spinal Tap” or “Best in Show”.

          • Tami

            OOOOH. UGH.

            YOU. YOU were the one who inflicted both Spinal Tap and Best in Show on us. I remember you trying to convince me to watch Waiting for Guffman.

            You, sir, are an evil, evil man.

          • brad-o

            You either love mockumentaries or you hate them. Or, you think they’re OK.

            Did I ever inflict Drop Dead Gorgeous, Muskrat Lovely, or Josie and the Pussycats on you? If not, we need to figure out a way I can remote inflict those gems on you.

          • Tami

            Josie and the Pussycats : yes
            Drop Dead Gorgeous : Yes, and my mom thought it was HILARIOUS.
            Muskrat who now?

          • brad-o

            Muskrat Lovely is a real documentary about a beauty contest and the world muskrat skinning competition. One of the beauty contestants actually skins a muskrat as her talent.

          • Tami

            You know, somehow I am not surprised …

      • I am going to find some way to trick the two of you into meeting. Just so you’re prepared.

        I might be hitting Austin in January for a Steampunk convention. Expect emails, the both of you, when we decide for sure.

        • Brad-o

          Okay, but it’d better be clever. I have an ego to protect, here.

          • Tami

            Is “hey, we’re going to be in Austin in January. Be there or be square, sucker!” clever enough?

          • brad-o

            “You’re a fraud, Helen. You’re a walking lie and I can see right through you.” <3

            Still, it might work…

        • Mother of Three, Anne

          I may have responses to the threat of trickery, the name calling and pillow biting, AND the Steampunk Convention, but I have been sitting here for thirty minutes looking at the signed certificate for the Brotherhood of Male Chauvinist Pigs that is hanging on the wall this morning. Which makes me believe that I have bigger and more immediate issues to deal with at home than with the two of you.

          I am pondering getting close to it. It looks old.

          Bob once taught Jessica this joke about why the woman crossed the street. When she retold it to people, it came out thus:

          Why did the woman cross the road?
          To make my dad a sandwich!

          I think I may have to burn that certificate.

          • Tami

            You could always declare that you neither cook nor clean for pigs … but then your house would become a nightmare.

  9. Daria

    I just saw an article on Professor Beej’s blog that I thought you would be interested in. He is another author who has a goal of making a living with writing and is exploring these different avenues.. it seems like you would have a lot in common. Maybe you are already reading him, but if not http://www.professorbeej.com

    • Oh, wow, AWESOME blog. Somehow, one I’ve not come across. Thank you!

  10. This is an awesome post and touches on so many things I myself (and I’m sure many other writers) are thinking.

    As always, I am struggling to find the time to finish my novel, but I haven’t given up the fight because I do want to finish it and give it a chance via traditional methods of agents and publishers…

    However, I have also begun to ponder knocking out a few novellas that are like candy to write and read (and cost just about as much). Lots of e-pubs seek submissions for this kind of thing, and if I don’t have success that way (which, pardon my high opinion of myself, I think I could easily score… pun only slightly intended), well, as the recent Nathan Bradsford website post discussed – there is certainly a market opening up on Amazon (like you said, a handful of rockstars vs. the rest of us poor souls – but we all start somewhere). I think of it this way – those 99cent e-books are like stuff you buy at the dollar store…it’s worth taking a risk on. If I don’t like the book, no harm no foul, I’m only out a buck. Doesn’t seem like much, but how many people own a Kindle now? How many do you think will be asking for one for their birthday/Christmas/etc present this year? Lots (maybe even me, though I still love my Sony). So who knows? At the same time, I don’t want to pull my writing time away from the book I need to finish to pump out a novella. So when a novella plot line hits me I jot it down and put it aside, it’s my “rainy day” writing fund of sorts.

    One of my biggest issues is creating a niche of time to write – in a niche that allows me to concentrate. To help me achieve that, I am re-doing my writing space. Currently I am set up in our family room where chaos rules. I have a crappy old school monitor that gives me headaches when I look at it too long and the constant distraction of laundry and dishes and kids and messes on the floor. So I am moving my writing space into another room and treated myself to a beautiful fancy new monitor (just arrived at my door less than an hour ago, I’m not kidding!). My plan is to let the fresh space and view inspire me to crank the words out, because really – all else is speculation until I finish this thing and give it the chance it deserves!

    Ok, I just wrote a novel as a reply, thanks for letting me air out some thoughts! ;)

    • Tami

      I encourage verbosity in all aspects of my blog. Turnabout is fair play, right? *grin*

      Oh oh oh! I do hope you’ll post before and after pictures! I just LOVE re-decoration stories!

      I absolutely concur with your discussion on the books and the novellas, as well as the Amazon thing. I totally think you should do it! *high five*

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>