Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Snap Out of It

We all get into writing funks – those days where that pesky voice in your head starts saying things like “What do you think you’re doing?” or “You’re never going to make it” or “Why don’t you just give up now and save us all the hassle.”

Usually I just power through these moments by drafting a new story, reading a book, or working on some revisions I’ve been looking forward to tackling.

But sometimes that negative inner voice is bolstered by undisputed fact: the latest form rejection or, less frequently, the personalized but brief “thanks but no thanks.” That’s when the inner voices goes from being annoying to down right debilitating.
 
At that point, it’s way too easy to give into feelings of unworthiness, of self-loathing, of the unavoidable rejectionitus. If you are like me, you can’t bear the thought of working on your stories or even thinking about them – it’s too painful. But if you don’t write, you don’t get better. If you don’t get better, how can you expect to be published? It’s a downward spiral of negativity.

And I was dangerously close to falling into that cycle. Over the holidays, I finally heard back from Editor X about my historical romance novel. Instead of the glowing praise I dreamed about, I got a dead-on critique. I had another partial request from an agent, which netted me another personal rejection. I started to question whether I knew what I was doing, whether I was truly ready. Every section of my story I sent off to my critique partner resulted in more issues I needed to address. Soon enough I didn’t even want to look at my story anymore. I focused on all the negative feedback and became paralyzed by it.

But then I realized something. Sure, there were problems, but at least I now had a roadmap of what needed to be done to make my story shine. I had finally amassed enough feedback that I could see my way out of my funk.

The good:
  • I have a strong logline and query (hence the requests).
  • My story has an exciting beginning.
  • My story has a strong second half.
  • I have strong worldbuilding and interesting characters.
The bad:
  • I have a saggy middle.
  • Some characters behave inconsistently.
  • I still need to work on incorporating historical detail and backstory effectively.
  • My writing is not yet “there,” especially with regards to showing, not telling, and narrative distance.
I used to think because my story had an exciting beginning and ending, the middle didn’t matter so much. I used to think my writing was awesome, regardless of whether I had adverbs, saidisms, and lots of telling that suggested otherwise. I used to think my story was good enough. I used to think I was special, that I was the exception to the rule, that I didn't have to put in my time.

That’s obviously not the case anymore. But instead of wallowing in the rejection blues, I've forced myself to analyze my feedback and plan out a way to make my story stronger.

It took effort to snap myself out of my funk and it will take even more effort to make the changes to my story that are needed, but it will be worth it.

How do you snap yourself out of writing funks? What keeps you motivated when the going gets tough?

5 comments:

Laura Marcella said...

You're a lot farther than many writers though! You know your strengths and you know where you need to work on. That's going to be very beneficial for you and your novel.

I'm sure your novel will be the best it can be soon. Keep it up!

Rachael Harrie said...

I love that you've turned a potential negative into a real positive. I'm bogged down in revisions myself at the moment, and you're right, you do need to turn potentially harsh critiques and rejections into roadmaps for improvement.

Rach

Bluestocking said...

Thanks Laura and Rachael for the encouraging comments! Just gotta keep going!

Elizabeth Twist said...

You're doing very well! I know you're writing about being bogged down here, but I find it exciting to read about the ways that your hard work has paid off.

So...I guess my answer to your question is, in part, that I read about how other writers made it through the next part of the journey that I have yet to face. And I remind myself that that's were I want to be. Since there's no way to get there except sheer hard work, it's usually not too hard to move forward from there.

What I'm admiring about this post is that you've got your road map, you know what to do and you know how to do it, which is half the battle.

Keep going!

Bluestocking said...

Thanks Elizabeth! When I look back to where I was last month, six months ago, and so on, I can see how far I've come. It's hard to take a step back sometimes when you're knee deep in revisions and rejection though! I really appreciate the kind words.

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