Monday, October 3, 2011

Side effect of writing: neurosis

After several chaotic weeks, I "lost my groove" with writing and ended up floundering. Not really writer's block, more of "writer's drift": no motivation, not sure what to work on, every project I had in the works looked like crap . . . . So I started doing some freewriting from prompts to stretch the creative muscles and get back into the grove. Thankfully, it worked and I'm back on my projects again. And I chalked the whole "off" thing to typical writer's neurosis.

But it made me wonder: does the rest of the world realize how neurotic we writers are?

I go through roller-coaster neurotic phases when I'm working on a project.

Stage 1: Creative Lightning.
I get a great idea for a story. I'm walking on air, and everything else falls by the wayside while I explore the idea. I get up in the middle of the night (poor hubby) and rush off to my writing room. I'll be having a conversation and suddenly my face will light up and I'll run off to my writing room mid-sentence. I'm full of energy and enthusiasm about writing, and life is good!

Stage 2: Magic.
Engaging, likable characters spring to life, plot points fall out of the sky, the scenes practically write themselves! I'm a writing machine and this is going to be the best story EVER! My magnum opus!

Stage 3: But how does it end?
I get the story mostly drafted, with a great premise, engaging characters, witty dialogue, an exciting roller-coaster plot with monsters so scary you'll have to leave the lights on . . . but how the hell is this thing going to end? Usually I come up with 942 cliche endings (blow the monster up, anyone?), but a decent and satisfying ending takes days. Here's where I decide that writing sucks. This is also where stories get put on the back burner or abandoned permanently.

Stage 4: So what's this little piece of genius going to be called?
The most dreaded of stages. I'm TERRIBLE at titles. I actually have a novel-in-progress (okay; perhaps "mostly abandoned novel" is a more apt description") called "Space Spiders." I know, I'm not proud of it. I power through this stage because if I've gotten this far, I'm not going to let a stupid title hold me back.

Stage 5: Oh my God! Did I do that?
This is actually the stage I hate the most. It's also the one that leads to the most bruises because I end up slapping my palm against my forehead so much. I'm not too bad at spelling, but my grammar and sentence structure often needs a lot of work. And I'm famous for plot holes during the fevered writing stage, and they don't get caught until this stage. Like the time I was writing a story that involved people knowing how they were going to die. Early in the story, a secondary character revealed his cause of death was designated as "old age." But at the end of the story (5000 words later), I had him get killed by a zombie. I couldn't even fudge it and say "old age" meant "old dead zombie" because the zombie was a young soldier that had died three days earlier. Sigh.

Stage 6: Just go away!
By the time the story is all polished and the best it can be, I'm usually sick of it. So I send it off, glad to be rid of it and hoping that somebody publishes it so I never have to look at it again. This stage is full of relief and excitement.

Stage 7: Tick, tock, tick, tock.
I start on a new project, but the old project is never far from my mind. I Check my email 492 times a day for any word. I start having conversations with myself:
"Maybe it's taking so long because they like it so much. They're reading it over and over, delighted with my clever story skills."
"It's just taking so long because they have nine million other submissions to read."
"Maybe. But I'm sure they'll like it, once they get around to reading it."
"Or maybe they're passing it around the whole editorial office, laughing at it. Holding it up as an example of what NOT to do."
"No. I worked hard on it. I spent weeks polishing it. It's good."
"Yeah, but you've read a lot of dreck. The people who wrote the dreck probably thought it was good, too. Maybe yours is dreck."
(by this point, I'm hyperventilating)"Oh god, I hope they like it. Please, please like it."

Stage 8: The Tribe has spoken.
This stage can play out in two ways. Sometimes it's a "We would love to publish your story." Yay! I'm king of the world! I spend the next few days tweeting, blogging, and Facebooking, telling everyone where the story will be. I also tell everyone in real life that I meet, including the crossing guard at the elementary school that my kids don't even go to. The crossing guard smiles. "That's nice." She scowls and waves her arm. "Now move along. You're holding up traffic."

But the statistical reality of the situation is, more likely than not, it will be a rejection. Boo, hiss. They suck. I suck. My writing sucks. The world sucks. I should go out and get a real job.

Stage 9: Put on your big girl panties.
Okay, back in the saddle. So it wasn't for them. It might be exactly what the next magazine is looking for. I send it out to the next one and keep on moving other projects through my writing stages.
Yes, I'm a glutton for punishment.

1 comment:

  1. Nice post. This sounds exactly like my process as well. I'm terrible at titles, too. Takes me forever to come up with a good one! And I get into writing "drifts" as well (what a great name for them).


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