Wednesday, November 5, 2014

IWSG: In Taking Our Time, Having the Smarts, & Not Giving Up




Founder: Alex J. Cavanaugh

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds. {This has been taken from the IWSG site, where a full list of participants can be found}

Jonathan: So… I’m a proud member of the Decade Club. Anyone know what that is? It’s an elite organization reserved for us writers who have spent 10 or more years writing a book. Members of the Decade Club include, but are not limited to, Margaret Mitchell who finishedGone with the Wind in exactly 10 years, J.R.R. Tolkien who completed The Lord of the Rings in 16 years, and Michael Crichton who just missed the decade mark with Jurassic Park, which only took him 8 years to write, but who finally got his member card with Sphere, which took him a whopping 20 years to finish!

Now, I never set out to write a book in over ten years. I mean, who ever heard of NaNoWriDe (National Novel Writing Decade)? It just sort of happened. In addition to numerous external factors, like moving five times and starting four different jobs in the same period, I recently discovered that there were some internal things going on as well. Shocker! I think the major thing holding me back from finishing my book was a totally unrealistic expectation of myself and my writing. This is the first time I’ve ever attempted to write a book and expecting it to be the next best seller, or comparing myself to authors (like Tolkien or Crichton) who have been doing this forever, is a little crazy, honestly.

Clinically speaking, I’m a perfectionist (or at least I was). Thanks to some books I’ve read on the subject (and there are a lot of them out there, my favorite being The Seven Secrets of the Prolific), I’ve learned that perfectionism leads to procrastination, and procrastination leads to feeling like crap about yourself, and feeling like crap about yourself is just not conducive to a productive writing life. It’s a vicious cycle. So, if you find yourself sitting down at the keyboard, thinking that every word, sentence, paragraph, chapter need to be perfect or you’re a complete and total failure, you might want to look into this perfectionism thing. It really helped me, and I hope it helps you. Back to writing! It’s NaNoWriDe after all…


Leandra: One of the things I worry about is not being smart enough to get published. When it comes to things like grammar and punctuation, I'm... not so great. I graduated from high school at sixteen and I'm the type of person that if I don't use it I lose it. So what can I remember from English classes that I took fourteen years ago? That if I answer the phone and someone says, "Is Leandra there?" that I say, "This is she.", and not, "This is her.". So, yeah, that's helpful with writing! =) But I continue on(battling prepositions and run-on sentences) thankful for things like SpellChecker and critique partners.


Stephen:  Ask my wife what I was like before I got published.

Go ahead. Ask her. I'll wait.

Back already? She just laughed at you? Well, I guess that's answer enough.

Before my debut novel BRAINEATER JONES got picked up by Red Adept Publishing, a small publisher out of Raleigh, NC, I was a sullen, despondent mess. I'm not a religious person, but the Bible tells a story about not burying your "talents" - in the literal sense, make sure you invest your money instead of sitting on it, but in a metaphorical sense, make sure you show the world what you're capable of.

What I could do was write. It was all I could ever do, the only thing that could make me special. I have a tin ear, no eye for color, and even at peak physical condition I'm not much to write home about. Painting, music, sports, I was always mediocre at these at best.

But writing? Oh, I could write. I could paint you a picture with words, conduct a symphony of letters, even make you jump for joy with a well-turned phrase. But for years and years all of that just sat in my trunk, or, more accurately, on my hard drive. My talents were buried. I was a mess.

How could it be that no one was interested in reading what I wrote? How was that even possible? Why would God or Providence or fate or chance or whatever give me a skill and never let me show it to the world? My story might have ended right there. But there's another Bible verse (I know, you'd think from reading this short passage that I'm super-religious, but I swear I'm not) that says "cast not your pearls before swine." In other words, make sure the right people are appreciating your talents.

So I kept trying. I kept querying agents and publishers and when one wasn't interested in my book, I just reminded myself that they were probably a "swine" from the metaphor, someone who didn't appreciate objects of great worth. And finally I found Red Adept.

You would think I'd be good now. You would think I'd be happy to finally be published, but you know what? There's always another mountain to climb, always another obstacle to overcome, always another doubt in my mind:

"Why are sales poor?"

"Why am I not getting reviews?"

"Where are the awards and accolades?"

But when things like that get me down, I'm reminded of another great thinker (I can't remember if she was in the Bible or not) but she said, "Keep on swimming...Keep on swimming."

28 comments:

  1. Love that NaNoWrDE! Although I finished my first novel during a NaNoWriMo - that was technically my third or four draft . . . the others were written over the course of three previous years, so I understand taking time on a novel. :)
    Just keep swimming!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Tyrean! I'm actually hoping to put the finishing touches on my novel this month so I'll finally feel like part of the NaNoWriMo club! Obviously, I much prefer the tortoise over the hare approach... Glad to know I'm not alone!

      Delete
  2. If you start NaNoWrDE, I think I'll join! I'm trying NaNo this year. Again. Only because one of my MS has taken 2 years already and isn't anywhere near completion. Maybe a coach screaming 'stroke! stroke! stroke!' would help.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow! Thanks for the follow-back, Tonja! Loved your IWSG post about not being able to do this writing thing alone over on Kidbits (http://tonjadrecker.blogspot.com/). It's nice to have another MGer stop by! So, I think that's three of us who want to do NaNoWriDe... Just think, if we finish in five years we're way ahead of schedule!

      Delete
  3. Hahaha! I love the NaNoWrDe, too. It made me laugh out loud. Thanks for lifting my spirits regarding my extended writing process and making me realize I'm in good company.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tee hee hee... Thanks, Jenn! The ten year thing really bugged me for a long time (like ten years or so...), but I eventually had to let it go. Glad it could lift your spirits! We are in good company.

      Delete
  4. love this IWSG series because we have alllllll been there. I'm having a super tough time focusing lately on my writing and battling with those insecurity issues as well.
    And Leandra, grammar was never my favorite thing. I had amazing English teachers but when we learned grammar I never really grasped it. you're not alone! And I do NOT speak grammatically correctly at all. When someone calls asking for me on the phone rather than say "This is she" I don't even say "This is her" I'll just be like "Uh yeah that's me. What do you want?" (this might be the fact that I'm a New Yorker though ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha! I have to admit I feel a tiny bit superior when I hear my husband say, "This is him." Probably b/c he's so much better at pronunciation than me- another thing I suck at! Hate that you're feeling a bit down lately. But you're a great writer! You got an agent b/c you're a great writer, and you're going to get a book deal b/c you're a great writer. I just know it! =)

      Delete
  5. Took me 7 years to write my first manuscript. I always tell people it's because I was raising 5 boys at the time. Writing the book was a snap in comparison. Now I have grandchildren and I'm without excuses on why the 6th book isn't finished yet. Oh, except my arthritis is acting up. Great post! I'm #65 on the list.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for sharing, Joylene! 7 years ain't bad, but I'd slow down a little if I were you;)

      Delete
  6. Looks like your blog is kind of new to this neighborhood. I'm now following and I wish you well.

    Your post reminds me of that saying, "There's always something". A track hurdler gets used to the fact that there's always another hurdle ahead that can't be bypassed. The momentum has to be maintained so he can jump that next hurdle. I think writing is kind of like that. Finishing the book is not the end of the race, there's always another something ahead for us to deal with, especially when we are on our own without publicists and marketers and all that sort of thing. To be a successful author normally requires a lot of effort.

    Ten years? I've heard of longer and I've heard of those who give up after a long struggle. No effort is too long as long as the persistence is still there.

    Lee
    Tossing It Out

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the follow, Lee! And great metaphor. I actually used to run hurdles back in high school, but never thought of it that way before. Writing a book is definitely a test of one's persistence if nothing else. Really appreciate you stopping by!

      Delete
  7. Some books need to marinate for a long time. Life can also interfere heavily with the writing process. At least you're in good company! As long as you keep writing, you're doing just fine.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, L.G.! Appreciate the words of encouragement!

      Delete
  8. Wow I had no idea how long it took those authors to write their books! There's hope for me yet!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's the spirit, Donna! If you do it in less than twenty years you beat Michael Crichton!

      Delete
  9. Leandra you are singing my song. But we will keep on writing despite our short falls I bet. Getting a book published is a process sometimes it happens quickly or it takes a long time. Either way there is a sense of accomplishment when you get it done.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You bet we will! =) And yes, the sense of accomplishment makes everything in writing worth it. Whether that's publishing a book, finally finishing one, doing outlines, queries, etc.

      Delete
  10. The mountain just keeps getting bigger...
    I'm also a perfectionist. And need deadlines and things like NaNo to write, since I'm also lazy.
    I wrote the first draft of my first book in my very early teens, and it was over thirty years from that point to publication. Does that count as a decade plus?
    Jonathan, thanks for the nice words about my cover.
    And welcome to the IWSG, guys!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Alex! It's so much fun!

      Delete
    2. Wow! Thirty years? Congratulations, sir! You're in the club for sure.Your membership card and decoder ring are in the mail. And for real, your cover is awesome... Can't wait to get a copy!

      Delete
  11. Great posts! So glad to see your blog up and running! :)

    Jonathan, I loved your post about the Decade Club and how you've renamed NaNoWriMo. I know it's hard to overcome perfectionism, but try to remember not to be so hard on yourself. :)

    Leandra, I'm right there with you about forgetting basic grammar and punctuation. There's so much I can't remember! Makes me wish I'd taken more English classes in college...

    Stephen, this was an inspiring post, and I loved all your bible verses. :) In the back of my mind, I thought once I'm published, I'm home free. But you raise a good point, once you cross that publishing hurdle, there will always be other things to worry and fret over.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know, my poor brain, it loses more every year it feels like! Ah, well. You do what you can do, right? =) Thanks for stopping by!

      Delete
    2. Thanks for the kind words, Kristin! I'm learning...

      Delete
    3. Oh yeah, Kristin. As you walk down the road hold your head up high and don't be afraid of the dark.

      Delete
  12. I like this new blog. It's cool how you guys work so well together. I'm not a member of the Decade Club, but sometimes I feel like I'm never going to finish my next book. I could work really hard at improving my grammar, but I fear my creativity would suffer. Spell check, critique partners, and editors are gold to me. Oh to write...don't think I need to say more there.

    ReplyDelete

 
Blogger Template by Designer Blogs