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Sometimes--very often of late, if I'm honest--I go through one of those why-in-the-world-do-I-think-have-what-it-takes-to-be-a-writer slumps. In fact, I've gone through multiple ones just today. Slump, slump. Slump. Thump!

I honestly wonder why I keep writing, why I keep playing with stories, when I obviously have some serious lacuna in my storytelling know-how. No matter how I try, how much I think I know about all the little bits that go into great stories, I still weave yarns that are lacking. I have to ask if it is sheer stupidity that keeps me butting my head against the storytelling wall. If I *know* things, why can't I *do* them? I can't even see how it will be possible to do them in another draft. It's as if something is hardwired into me that keeps me from telling a story that will move readers or hold their interest.

Part of me says I'm putting too much pressure on myself for a first draft. A bigger part of me refers the pansy part to the above statement about it not being possible to improve one of my second drafts.

Everyone has a story to tell, people are fond of saying. OK, fine, but should everyone tell a story?

That is the question.

*sigh*  All right. Back the story, stupid.


( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 1st, 2013 08:34 pm (UTC)
We all have these doubts. Well, I do. I feel amateurish and babyish and like I can't write anything serious. (Even though I have kind and generous friends who tell me otherwise!) So I would just say, we're not always the best judge of our work maybe?

... And, too, speaking pragmatically, I know for me at least, there are things I think I can do better and things that I know I'm not as good at, and I want to work at those latter things, but it's like practicing doing sketches from life, you know? Takes time... and I think in my case (being older and more aware of MORTALITY), I realize that I may never get good at some stuff and should maybe play to my strengths. So that's something to think about too.

I'm not saying this with any sense of your strengths or weaknesses, though. Everything I've seen of yours suggests to me that you're an excellent storyteller, and I can't imagine, really, why you're so down on your writing... except that we all are, sometimes.

ETA: I hope I'm not talking to your entry in exactly the way you were trying to forestall people from talking about it with the subject line. I'm not trying to fob you off with reassurances; I know the doubts live inside us and that's, in the end, a battle for us and our psyches--I just mean to tell you you're not alone in the battle. We're simultaneously fighting the same fight and also fighting for YOU. We want you to win in your battle because we want to read your stories. And because we like you. And I'll stop using the royal "we" now....

Edited at 2013-02-01 09:40 pm (UTC)
Feb. 2nd, 2013 06:53 pm (UTC)
First the ETA: Not at all! I don't feel one bit reassured. Kidding! Kidding! :P I, indeed, want to thank you for talking to me the way you do. :D

I like the idea of playing to one's strengths. My strength seems to be that I can write grammatically correct, varied sentences. My weakness is getting those sentences to tell a compelling tale about compelling characters. I believe I have an uncanny knack for coming up with stories with great potential for tension and conflict and then squashing the bejesus out of anything that looks like it might raise a reader's pulse. And, boy howdy, isn't this coming across as more writer-angsty drivel! :P

I have gotten to where I don't really like talking about writing because I always seem to be saying the same thing. strike out insulting comparison I have identified a problem and therefore should be on my way to fixing it, right, knowing it exists and all? And yet, still beating my head against it, not quite able to get it. Frustrating does not begin to sum it up.

Thankfully, I have a hard head. So, I'll keep battling. And I'll get the story to you. If you promise not to tell me things just to make me feel better after you read it. Not that I think you would do that.
Feb. 2nd, 2013 07:08 pm (UTC)
I promise to talk to you about your story in exactly the way you want. ♥ (This is *not* the same as telling you only things designed to spare your feelings, I promise. I do think that there are ways of asking questions that can make you suddenly understand what it is you need to do--at least, I've had readers ask me questions that have done that for me.)

There's overall structuring and tension and plot-development and characterization problems--balancing how much we get of this character or that one, or how much time you spend on this conflict or that one, or how much build-up to give, and how much time spent on dramatic stuff--that's one level of storytelling problem, the layout of the actual story, the balance and flow of it overall. And then there's what goes on scene by scene, with description, dialogue, internal thought, etc. Same types of problem (maintaining drama, balance, how much to give of this or that), but on a more fine-grained level.

I'm always paying attention, these days, to what it is that I'm liking when I read something I like a lot. How did the author do it? Why do I like it? Is it unusual language? Is it how the characters talk to each other? Is it the viewpoint, or the narrator's voice? Is it that the stuff that's happening is really cool? (if so, how is this coolness shown?)

Then I set about thinking how I can do like they do :-P

... I also pay attention to what I *don't* like, and try to avoid doing similar.

You probably do these things already.... but I thought I'd share anyhow.

Feb. 4th, 2013 07:44 pm (UTC)
I do think that there are ways of asking questions that can make you suddenly understand what it is you need to do--at least, I've had readers ask me questions that have done that for me

Absolutely! It is astonishing the clarity you can get from a simple reader question.

Your comments about paying attention when you read speaks to me because I've recently realized that the type of story I thought I liked reading is not necessarily the type of story I actually really like reading.

I need to be a bit more analytical and concentrate on the whys and hows and how-can-I's as I read. I do think of it as I'm reading, some times, but often, I forget what I've noticed/realized when I sit down and try to write myself.

It is kind of like all the legwork I did with the plotting cards, etc. I can get some of it down as a plan but almost without fail, that plan never makes it on the page.

I'm tired and my eyes are glazing over. I don't even know if I'm making any sense. :P

Feb. 7th, 2013 10:42 pm (UTC)
You were making perfect sense--only wish I could have replied sooner ♥
Feb. 1st, 2013 09:11 pm (UTC)
You are definitely too hard on yourself.

Use the angst to get better (and everyone has room for improvement even if they are pretty damn good), but don't let it hold you back.

And you had better finish those stories because *I* want to read them!

Feb. 1st, 2013 09:37 pm (UTC)
Ditto, ditto, ditto about the wanting to read.

We *want your stories*
Feb. 2nd, 2013 06:06 pm (UTC)
The problem is that I don't know how to use the angst to get better. I think I do, and then I don't improve. Very disheartening.

I'll soldier on, though. One of these days, I reckon I'll get off this plateau.
Feb. 2nd, 2013 10:25 pm (UTC)
You are improving.

I think most of us don't see that we are improving. Like when you told me that my first drafts had improved, you could have knocked me over with a feather. I still think they are the same bunch of mess as they always are and always have been. :p
Feb. 3rd, 2013 08:40 pm (UTC)
I would love it if it were a case of me just "not seeing it." Alas, don't think that is true. But perhaps I'm set on being "pessimistic pea" about this.
Feb. 1st, 2013 11:48 pm (UTC)
I often have days when I can't believe how horrible my writing is. Sometimes it's a sign that there's something else wrong with what I'm trying (typically viewpoint). Sometimes it just means I've gotten too deep into the nuts and bolts that I've lost track of what the reader is feeling.

OTOH, there are days when I'll be reading something else and suddenly writing will seem so easy. "I can do this!" I think. "This is what we need more of!" (And also times when I might read a book and think "This is rubbish! I could do much better than this...")
Feb. 2nd, 2013 12:43 pm (UTC)
*nods* I have definite problems with POV. I often think I'm doing a fair job of writing a tight POV and my readers let me know otherwise. :P

With what I'm writing right now, yes, I think I'm having a hard time keeping it on-track "feeling-wise" for readers. I keep looking at it, knowing there is tension there, but not knowing how to make the reader feel it. :-<

Feb. 2nd, 2013 03:18 am (UTC)
I think everyone goes through that. I sure do. It can be really hard dealing with the differences between the internal vision you have for a creative work and what comes out on paper. Rarely do the images match perfectly and they definitely don't when it's a WIP.

Don't forget the mantra: It can all be fixed later.

I have also heard it said that when you hit that wall and bump up against it for a while you are about to break through and grow as a writer.

"Everyone has a story to tell, people are fond of saying. OK, fine, but should everyone tell a story?"

Why not? Tell the story and tell your internal self-saboteur (most of us have one) to sit down and zip it. :-)
Feb. 2nd, 2013 12:14 pm (UTC)
Self-saboteur...oh yes, I have one of those. Heck, i don't know what part of me isn't the self-saboteur...
(Deleted comment)
Feb. 5th, 2013 06:57 pm (UTC)
Will come back to this when I'm more here
I woke up to this lovely message from you, but I'm unable to appreciate it fully and respond to it correctly because I have been visited by a monstrous head cold. Head cold means brains of mush.

So, I'll get back to you as soon as my brains have a firmer consistency.

I hope you are doing well. Where are you now? What are you up to?
(Deleted comment)
Feb. 11th, 2013 08:26 pm (UTC)
Re: Will come back to this when I'm more here
You know, I don't particularly *want* to live in Mayotte again (because the climate and invisible fungi-thingies were out to get me) but I've often thought that I really DON'T want to return because it will not be all the things that made it so special for me. Ah, progress! Ah, turning wheel of time!

As for your health issue, sympathies. I hope things really, truly are cleared up and worthy of a write-off now.

If you want to visit Egypt, know that you have a place to stay. :D
Feb. 11th, 2013 08:21 pm (UTC)
the brain is on the mend
Ok, aside from a slight headache and very ouchy sinuses this morning, I'm feeling better, well enough to answer your comment, I think.

1) Thank you for the link to that Lemony Snicket pep talk. It does help to put things in perspective. :P I also read a post on resolutions on terribleminds (http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2012/12/31/25-writer-resolutions-for-2013/ -- not opening for me for some reason, but maybe it will for you) that helped me come at the problem from another angle, despite the over-the-top vulgarity and a tasteless mention of a gangbang. Anything to get me out of my head and moving forward.

2) This is a lovely, scary offer. Lovely because I really enjoy reading your blog (hint, hint) and getting insights into the world through you. Scary, because, girl, you have an awesome brain that I much admire. I would hate to come off as a hack in your eyes, but I would wholly expect you to tell me if I did. I would hate it, but I could take it. Also, I'd feel like a total waste of your time if I showed you my crap first drafts. But, it would be a joyful, time-saving thing to have your help getting unstuck and getting things right (or righter) closer to the get-go.

As for having other readers, once upon a time, I had quite a few, not all of them exactly on the same page but close enough. Alas, Life has happened for almost all of them and I find myself with few readers and people to read for these days. I'm loath to rejoin the OWW because of slog it is to collect good critters.

So to sum up, I'd be honored to be writing buddies with you.

3) The book I'm working on now has a big personal element in it. But I don't think I'm doing it justice. That is unfair, actually, since I haven't finished it yet. What I mean is, I'm having a hard time with a character whose arc comes closest to that Personal Stuff.

I'm still stumbling over that not-easy-but-correctible-in-revision stuff you mention, too. I think I fall too much into the good writing (but not even because I end up trying too hard, perhaps) and not enough into telling a good story.

And nothing pretentious here. See above comment about me liking your brain. :P
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )


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