Friday, May 6, 2011

Donna’s Journal

Special Edition

Some days you wonder if it’s worth it to get up out of bed and stagger to the keyboard.

I write for two hours early in the morning four days a week, in addition to whatever hours I can get in during the rest of the day. And I’m a nightowl. So it isn’t easy to resist the urge to throw the alarm across the room, turn over and go back to sleep.

Especially when the latest feedback from contest judges comes back, and it’s negative or unthinking or, worse, mystifying. It seems especially cruel since I’d just spent two weeks making sure I was very clear about my reasons for scoring the entries I’d reviewed as a judge—as per my instructions from the contest coordinators. But I have to take a deep breath and look at my contest scores again. Two of the four judges loved my work. One offered useful feedback (comments, it turns out I’ve already begun incorporating in later drafts), and only one can be dismissed as “not relevant” (or other much less polite terms).

Okay. I can do this.

The alarm goes off. I get up and keep writing.

The email comes from the editor who’s been reviewing my manuscript. She thinks it’s very good, but in the end, feels it’s not right for her. You, my faithful blog readers (all five of you), will laugh to hear she thought the science fiction in my book overwhelmed the romance. As one of my friends said, evidently she didn’t make it to Chapter Eight. **sigh** Hoist, as they say, by my own petard. Whatever a petard may be.

I really want to sleep in the next morning. But I get up, sit myself in front of the computer and stare at the offending manuscript. For two hours. With no result. My baby is perfect, thank you very much. I don’t care if everyone else thinks she has two heads and a tail. Now, of course, if you’re offering to pay me to whack off one head and the tail, I’ll consider it.

The biggest problem, though, is when that damn alarm rings and you know you have nothing waiting for you at the computer but a blinking cursor. Somehow that ever-flowing fountain of ideas and dialogue and scenarios and character details has just slowed to a trickle. These are the days when it seems you are fighting your story for every word, bleeding each phrase onto the page, slogging through one page at a time. Maybe it’s the wrong story, you think. Or the wrong approach. Maybe I should start with this scene, or that one. In desperation you skip to something five chapters ahead that does seem clear to you and write that out. And you wait. Because, if your Muse works like mine, eventually the tap will start to flow again. Your subconscious will solve that little plot problem or character glitch and give you a solution.

That happened to me this week. I’d been struggling with my latest project, a space opera set in my Interstellar Rescue universe. The war had gone on so long, I thought maybe I was fighting a lost cause. Still, I kept at it, writing a page at a time, a bad scene at a time, until, finally, my writer’s intuition kicked in and gave me what I needed. I don’t think it would have happened if I’d given up and stayed in bed. And now I have something to get up for.

When the alarm rings tomorrow, I’ll be wide awake.

Cheers, Donna


  1. Glad you're still plugging away. And too much SF? What? Is there such a thing? LOL. You'll find a home for that story. Some of us like them with a lot of SF.

  2. Hey Donna,

    Keep going. It's the only way we win. As an author you know (and I see it in this post) that writing is hard. It is also very subjective. You have to hit the right editor at the right time with the right story. Have you tried Carina Press? They've been happily purchasing sci-fi romance.


  3. Woohoo, Donna, you're off and running again. :)

    Try not to get discouraged by meltdowns, I've learned they're part of the writing process. And from experience the pattern seems to be that something good always seems to follow a mindnumbing meltdown, like a sudden brilliant flash of inspiration, or...yes, even a final in a big contest.

    Maybe it's just our muse's way of making sure our ego stays in check, but as painful as they are, these brickwalls-on-progress do seem to serve a purpose for the creative mind.

    And as for changing your plot or elements based on judges comments, if your gut tells you "no," then don't do it. Your writer's instinct is the best and most intuitive critique partner you have.

  4. I think that old adage - you can please some people some of the time, but you can't please all of the people all of the time. I've given up trying to understand why things work for one and not for another. You sound like you put a lot of effort in to do what was specified and then are still left mystified. Looking back on some of the things said about my stories - the remarks are so contradictory I wonder how I managed to sell the thing. But I did and you will too!!!


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