Friday, October 5, 2007

Musings: Writer's Meltdown...It Happens

I thought I'd share a little about my writing, for a change. Unfortunately, this is all about writing woes. My first novel, which is actually my fourth novel, but the first I'll attempt to publish (did you get all that?) is finished. Again. I finished it once before, but that was just the 1st-6th draft version. Since that time it's been critiqued and re-critiqued, and I've added scenes, changed scenes, added characters, slapped on a few more coats of polish...

It is now my Pre-Market Draft version. I hope to begin marketing it before the end of this year. But that's today. Let me tell you what's been going on with me that led up to this point.

I've been cashing in massive amounts of my leave time to finish this little puppy before the end of October. I have a few close critters working with me again this round, and I got as far as revising and posting Chapter 22....and at that point something triggered a total meltdown. Meltdowns are a scary thing. It's when you question everything about yourself and your writing. Suddenly you doubt you have the basic talent or the ability to write anything that will ever be good enough to publish (or publish again, if you're already there). Ironically, meltdowns often occur because you've gotten too close to the story. You're judgment is shot. You're looking through black lenses.

Meltdowns are serious attitude-adjusters and "wake up and smell the coffee" sessions. You either survive a meltdown as an artist or you don't. I've seen a few of my peers suffer a meltdown, say "To hell with it." and never get back. Writing is not easy. It takes enormous amounts of your time, attention and energy. It sometimes causes problems within your family because you have to spend so much time pounding away at the keyboard. Housework suffers, errands get pushed back or put on indefinite hold. If you hold down a full-time job, and most of us do, it can even affect your career. When things go bad--or you think they have--it's easy to resent all the time you've spent writing that you could have been spent pursuing other things in life. Like sleep, for instance.

Thank goodness for Flick and Dawn, my IPs (Indispensable Peers), who verbally picked me up, brushed off the dirt, and told me it wasn't as bad as I thought. Dawn told me a parallel story about an artist she once knew, and Flick blazed through all my chapters in about a day(!) and gave me some excellent insights. Then they both gave me a good swift boot in the butt and told me to get back to work. I did. I heart my IPs.

The ending of my story was, and has always been a major problem in my WIP. Yea! I think I got it fixed today. I'm proud of it. It's a good wrap of the story, ties up the plot lines of all the major characters and most of the minors. It's a good resolution. It's a happy ending, but not a saccharine one. It's light years ahead of any ending I've written to date. My critters haven't had at it yet, so future tweaks may be in order, but I think it works, and works well.

I'm going to attempt to write an article on Writer's Meltdown for Toasted Scimitar to go along with the Writer's Block theme. Writer's Meltdown is similar to Writer's Block in the way that a cute, bored little chimp has similarities to a 500-pound rampaging gorilla. Writer's Block causes frustration and doubt. Writer's Meltdown causes you to question why you ever thought you could be a writer in the first place. Both can be a learning experience, if you let them.

I think I learned a lot this round.

4 comments:

  1. one day at a time! Take a deep breath. You made it through! Looking forward to reading that last chapter!

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  2. Those last five chapters are always a bear for me. It's like running into a brick wall. I usually end up doing a complete re-write of those chapters (and it ends up being for the better). We've all had meltdowns, the doubts, the "I can't do this anymore." But then you can. Because you want to, you have to, because you're a writer. We go from thinking we're brilliant to thinking we're the biggest hack on the planet. I'm so proud of you for sticking with it. I read a definition once of a "published writer" -- it was a writer who didn't give up. ; )

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  3. Well, Flick, now you've read it. :) Thanks again for your support, and of course, your fabulous crits.

    Lisa, thanks for your comments. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who struggles with those endings. I think I want them too perfect.

    One of the biggest things I learned from this episode is that meltdowns are just part of the writing process. It forced me to re-examine my work and think about what wasn't working and why (and on a larger scale, to answer questions I asked myself about if I am really cut out to be a writer and why I pursue this particular brand of self-torture). The answers to those questions helped me improve. A little positive reinforcement from my respected peers went a long way toward helping me get through this, too.

    I don't know how anyone can write in a vacuum. How did people write before the internet!

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  4. Great job Laurie, can't wait to see the update.

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