An Illuminating Discovery

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I had a light-bulb moment last week about why I’m struggling so much as a writer. It happened while I was reading The Girl You Lost by Kathryn Croft. I got sucked into this story from the very first page and could not put this book down. It was a well-told mystery that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. When I finished the book, I’d had an epiphany.

I’ve been focusing all of my writing energy on the wrong genre.

FOR ALL THE WRONG REASONS!

For at least six years, the stories that I’ve been working on have ranged from romantic women’s fiction to straight up romance. I’ve been reading romance novels for decades, so it seemed like the route to go with my writing. I know what’s expected from the genre as far as reader expectation and basic romance story structure.  An even bigger incentive to write romance is the fact that it’s the best selling genre out there, and, as much as I hate to admit it, the sole reason driving my decision to write romance.

A couple of weeks ago, I set my current work in progress aside because I was getting nowhere. Instead, I started working on a short romance story with the intention of submitting it to Woman’s World Magazine, one of the few magazines (or quite possibly the only one) that still publishes short romance. I’ve submitted short stories to them in the past and received rejections for each one, but I’m determined to sell them a story. I plotted out an idea that I’d been toying with and then sat down to write. After about three paragraphs the story stalled out, so I closed my computer. I went back to it a couple more times, but couldn’t make any headway and finally decided to go read a book instead.

It’d been a long time since I’d read any mysteries, a genre I’ve always loved but pushed aside in order to focus on romance and women’s fiction. That Kathryn Croft book made me realize how much I miss reading (and writing) mystery and reminded me that many moons ago I fancied myself a mystery writer.

When I went back to work on that short romance, I knew I wouldn’t be finishing that story. My heart just wasn’t in it. I’ve thought long and hard about the romance/romantic women’s fiction novel that I’ve been working on for the last number of years. The story is nowhere near complete and it will never be completed. I’d flip flopped between making it a romance novel to women’s fiction with a little bit of romance and then back to full-on romance, letting what I thought might appeal to agents/publishers guide my decisions. The concept and story line have changed so many times that at this point I have no clue what my original story idea was when I started. 

The end goal of getting published has been the driving factor in what I write and so far I’ve yet to get published, or finish anything substantial for that matter.

It’s time I go in another direction entirely and take the idea of getting published out of the equation with respect to writing a novel. When I gave up on the short romance story, I opened up the file of an outlined mystery novel that I’d abandoned long ago and made the decision to work on this story.

My goal for as long as I can remember is to write a novel, but I’ve been consumed by what I think the publishing world wants and that has stymied my progress.  What’s important is that I reach my goal and write that book, not for an agent, not for a publisher, but for me and no one else–whether it gets published or not. 

Losing Confidence

 

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During the month of November, I didn’t get very far with my WIP. I’ve been slowly making my way through Story Genius and I’ve accomplished two things:

  1. I’m more confused about my story now.
  2. I’m losing confidence in my writing ability.

I think I’d save myself a lot of heartache if I’d just stop giving into the temptation of reading how-to books on writing. The more I read, the more I over think the process, and the end result is I write less and pile on a mountain of self-doubt in the process.

Writing is hard and I’m making it even harder in my never-ending quest for the perfect “formula” for writing a novel. I need to build my confidence back up, so I’m stepping away from the novel and Story Genius for a couple of weeks.

We each have our own way of doing things. In the years that I’ve been writing, I have figured out that if I don’t write every single day, it’s really hard for me to get back into it. I am a person who needs to write every day. It’s important that I get back into that habit. I’m setting the novel aside so I can work on some short stories instead. The idea of being able to start something that I know will not take me very long to complete will give me the confidence boost I need, take the overwhelm out of the writing process, and help me get back to writing every day.

WIP: First Draft Update

 

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I decided to go with the flow like I talked about in my last post and I’ve gotten nowhere with my WIP.  Something isn’t working with this story. I find myself constantly starting over and I’m sick of it.

My work in progress is a rambling mess, and, yes, I know what you’re thinking: But Jen, your first draft is supposed to be a mess. You’ll fix it in the rewrite. Yeah, maybe. Or I just might be wasting my time. Who the hell knows. The one thing I’m certain of is that my current WIP is page upon page of events happening but no real story.

I thought about signing up for NaNoWriMo and starting again, banging out another 50K words this month, but it would be just another 50K words of random shit happening with no real reason as to why, so I decided to go a different route.

Recently, I bought a copy of Story Genius by Lisa Cron. I promised myself that I wouldn’t buy another writing how-to book until I finished my first draft. I love books on writing, but most of the time they end up becoming just another form of procrastination rather than a useful craft tool.

According to the back cover copy of Story Genius, this book “takes you step-by-step from the first glimmer of an idea to an expansive, multilayered cause-and-effect blueprint–including fully realized scenes.” So instead of participating in NaNo this month, I’ll be working my way through this book.

Hopefully, by the end of the month I will know more about the story behind all the events happening in my current WIP and maybe finally complete this first draft.

Go With The Flow

Go With The Flow @acreativeyarn.com

The other day I posted a meme on social media that said the following:

Expect nothing and appreciate everything

A short conversation ensued and at some point I said that “go with the flow” needed to be my daily manta.

I am an over-thinker, which inevitably creates problems that were never there in the first place. I also second guess myself…a lot. All of this leads to self-induced stress that throws my inner world into a state of chaos.

That’s kinda where I am with my writing at the current moment. It’s no secret I have major issues with getting a handle on my inner critic. I’m doing battle with her right now as I slog through writing the first draft of a novel. I haven’t gotten very far because I keep questioning what the hell I’m doing. Starting and stopping. Starting again, then stopping to outline because I’m not sure where the story’s going.

My over-thinking went into overdrive and I needed a break from the chaos, so I set the project aside. It’s been a week and a half since I last opened up the computer file. But I think I’m ready to go back to it now. I’m going to stop outlining and go back to the writing. Ultimately, the story will show itself in the writing. Outlining can be saved for those times when I’ve hit a brick wall and need to figure out how to get unstuck.

I think the best thing I can do as a writer is lower my expectations, appreciate that I have the ability to pursue something that I enjoy doing, and try going with the flow for once to see where it might take me.