Emotional Roller-coaster

As you and the story you’re writing go through time together, do you find yourself on the same type of emotional roller-coaster as with a personal relationship? Do you feel elated by positive events and dejected by negative ones? I’ve been through the process enough to detect a repeatable pattern. Maybe it will be the same for you.

Let’s follow through as I experience the highs and lows of writing a story and getting it published. This is my relationship with a single story, so the line will overlap with other stories in various stages.

Emotional RollercoasterGetting a story idea is enjoyable, having it mature in my mind while I imagine the possibilities, the characters, the plotline, the settings, and some of the dramatic scenes. It’s a good feeling to go through that, because that imaginary, unwritten story is as good as it’s ever going to be. Once the reality starts and I put words down, the story never reaches the exalted heights of perfection that it achieved when just a dream.

Still, putting words down has a gratification all its own. I feel I’m making progress, producing product, assembling widgets on my keyboard / word / sentence / paragraph assembly line.

Until I get stuck with writer’s block. Here I mean the minor writer’s block I’ve described before, where I can’t get out of a plot hole, or I need a character to act contrary to his or her motivations, etc. Although temporary, this is a real downer. I don’t always experience this, (as shown by the reddish line) but there’s usually some drop-off in enthusiasm as the glow of the original idea fades a bit.

Reaching THE END of the first draft is a definite up-tic in satisfaction for me. The mad rush of getting words down is over. It’s good to know I can start the reviewing-editing-improving phase.

For simplicity, my graph only shows two drafts, but there may be more, with minor wave crests for completing each one. I get to the highest emotional state so far when I consider the story done and submit it for publication. “Here, Dear Editor, this is my newborn! Don’t you love it as much as I do?”

That emotional high fades, as they all do, while waiting for a response. Usually I’ve begun another story by then, so I get an overlap with a similar-looking graph displaced in time.

My graph depicts two paths here, one showing a rejection. Despite my earlier advice to look at rejections positively, I still find that hard to do. Rejections stink. Maybe not as much now as my first one, but still…

An acceptance of a story is a very high emotional state, especially the first time. It’s time to celebrate, indulge, and surrender to the grandeur and magnificence of me.

No one can maintain a very high or very low state forever, so I do descend from the grand summit as I get through the rewrites and signing of the contract, though these are not unpleasant.

The launch of a story is another sublime pinnacle of emotional ecstasy, and that’s no hyperbole. “For all human history, readers have awaited a story like this, and today, I, yes I, grant your wish and launch this masterpiece, this seminal work of ultimate prose, so you may purchase and read it. You’re quite welcome.”

After the story is launched, you’ll get occasional uplifting moments, such as favorable reviews, or book signings, etc. These are never quite as exciting as acceptance or launching, but they’re gratifying anyway.

I’ve not gotten through all these stages with a novel yet, but I suppose a novel’s graph is longer in time, and has many more ups and downs than that of a short story.

Also, your mileage may vary such that your graph looks quite different from mine. Leave me a comment and let me know about the emotional stages of your writing experience.

Remember, when on a roller-coaster (emotional or state fair-type), it sometimes helps to raise your hands in the air and scream. Whee! Here goes—

Poseidon’s Scribe

October 26, 2014Permalink

10 Reasons You Really Are Good Enough to Write Fiction

Perhaps you have a story inside you, but you feel too scared or intimidated or inadequate to believe you could ever write fiction.  Here are some ways to banish those feelings.

First, there are at least three levels of fiction-writing.  (1) These days you can write and publish something yourself without an editor, at near zero cost.  (2) You can get your writing accepted by a publisher, but not make enough money to live on.  (3) You can write fiction as your sole means of support.  I’ll limit myself to discussing level (2) today.

Never be a writerTrue, some people aren’t cut out to be writers at all.  My purpose today is to keep you from cutting yourself out of the running at the start.  Let’s look at ways you might think you’re not fit to be a writer:

  1. I just know I could never be a writer.  Where is your resistance to writing coming from?  Do you immediately think “I could never do that” when presented with other opportunities in life?  Maybe this isn’t about writing at all, but your general negativity toward trying new activities.  How many amazing human initiatives haven’t happened because somebody said, “I could never do that,” hmm?
  2. I don’t know anything about writing.  Don’t let this stop you.  That’s the part you can get help with, through critique groups, writing courses, books about writing, writing conferences, etc.
  3. I’d never write as well as [insert your favorite famous author’s name here].  Stop comparing yourself to the great authors.  You can’t know today how you’ll stack up against them one day.  So what if you’re not quite as good?  You can still get published and win over some readers.
  4. I’m unknown, and people only read books by known authors.  Think about it; all published authors started off unknown.  What if your favorite author had talked herself or himself out of writing?
  5. No editor will read my stories because I’m unpublished.  Not true.  Consider that latching on to a new, undiscovered top talent is every publisher’s dream.  All they need is one (you?) to make their career.
  6. Novels seem so hard to write.  No need to begin with a novel.  Try a novella, a short story, flash fiction.  Do blog posts for a while.
  7. My teacher told me I’d never be a writer.  Is one long-ago English or Language Arts teacher still in your head criticizing you?  Keep that teacher in your mind, but dedicate yourself to showing how wrong he or she was; sweet revenge will be yours one day.
  8. My story idea seems trite, or already used, etc.  At this point your idea is just a story concept; it might match hundreds of already-published stories.  Once you flesh it out and write it down, it becomes uniquely yours, different from all others, and possibly publishable.
  9. It takes too long to write a story.  True, writing takes time.  But, of all the skills and abilities you’ve developed in life, how many did you master in a day?  Let the strength of your story idea sustain you.  If it’s truly grabbed you, you’ll persevere until you write it all down.
  10. I couldn’t stand being rejected or getting a bad review.  That does stink, no denying it.  Any creative endeavor requires a thick skin.  Look at editor’s rejections as permissions to send your story elsewhere.  As for bad reviews, remember it’s far easier to be the critic.  At the worst, the reviewer may actually have a valid point you can use to improve your writing for the next story.

See?  You are good enough to at least try being a writer.  Shake off those negative emotions.  Let your imagination soar.  Allow yourself to try it out.  Someday, when you’re a famous author, be sure and give partial credit to—

                                                Poseidon’s Scribe

November 17, 2013Permalink

The Software Shakespeare Used

Wow!  There are a lot of writing software packages available!

By writing software, I’m not talking about word processors like Corel Write, Microsoft Word, TextMaker, WordPerfect, etc.  I mean software designed to help you write fiction stories, software packages like Liquid Story Binder, Marshall Plan for Novel Writing, Master Storyteller, MyNovel, Power Structure, Power Writer, Scrivener, StoryBlue, Storybook, StoryCraft, StoryWeaver, WriteItNow, Writer’s Café, Writer’s DreamKit, WriteMonkey, and yWriter5.  I’m sure I’ve left out some…sorry.

writing softwareWould you like a nice analytical comparison of all those writing software packages to help you choose the best one for you?  Again, sorry, wrong blog post.  I don’t have the money or time to buy, test, and rate software packages, (though that would be interesting).

When I thought of the idea for this blog post topic many months ago, I had intentions of test-driving at least two or three and giving you a comparison of those, at least.  Alas, that didn’t happen.

However, I did try out yWriter5, so I can comment on that one.  I also was given a disk with Writer’s DreamKit, but it reacted badly with my computer for some reason, and after restoring things I haven’t been brave enough to try it again.  I don’t blame the Writer’s DreamKit software; I was able to explore around in it and get a feel for it, but I had problems when I restarted my computer the next time.

yWriter5 is free!  It allows you to organize your novel by scenes, then chapters.  It keeps readily available all the information about your characters, scene locations, and significant ‘items’ (objects) in your story.   It has a storyboard feature; it includes a word usage feature to see if you’re over-using certain words; and it keeps track of your daily word count in a log.  There are many more features, too.

I used yWriter5 for one of my short stories.  For a short story, yWriter has far more features than I needed.  It was a good way to organize notes, characters, etc.  Since I do much of my writing while away from a computer using an ancient method involving a ‘pen’ and a ‘pad of paper,’ I was pleased with yWriter’s ability to print reports that could include my characters, scenes, items, and notes.  I think yWriter would be quite useful for a complex novel.

In my brief exposure to Writer’s DreamKit, I found that the software asks you an enormous number of questions before you can get going.  If you have good ideas for your story in your head and the patience to answer the questions, I’m sure the software would prove useful.

My overall point here is to set expectations.  Do not purchase or use writing software with the idea that it will make you a published author.  By itself, the software won’t improve your writing.  It won’t think for you; it won’t come up with engaging characters, clever plot twists, or vivid settings.  It will not write the story for you.  Those are the hardest parts of writing fiction, and no software will do those things…yet.

What these software packages will (or can) do is help organize thoughts, keep information readily available to minimize searching for it, measure your progress (word count), and do the sort of low level, background stuff that you wish some assistant would take care of.

No, Shakespeare didn’t use writing software, just the ‘wetware’ within his skull.  I’m not even sure he would have recommended any of the packages currently available if he’d had a chance to try them.  But neither you nor I are Shakespeare.  If you need help with organizing or desire an easy way to sort out scenes, characters, and chapters, then feel free to use software for that.  I’d love to read and respond to your comments about this post.  Now available in version 3.55, I’m—

                                                       Poseidon’s Scribe

A Path Not Taken

Want to be a published author?  Curious about the best path to take?  In this post, I’m going to suggest you not do what I did, and instead I’ll offer a short cut.

which-way-29941281444641fqVCFirst let me retrace my steps for you.  In the mid-1980s, I had a great idea for a story.  Way too big for a short story, this had to be a novel.  I’d never thought of being a writer, and the notion scared me a bit, but the idea wouldn’t let go.  I studied writing—read books about writing, joined a writer’s group, went to writer’s conferences, joined a critique group.  And began writing.

I stayed enthusiastic about my novel, but only about the writing of it, the first, second and third drafts.  The more I wrote and rewrote, the more scared I got of the next phase, finding an agent and sending my novel out.

In 1999, I took a brief break and wrote a short story called “Target Practice” which I submitted, and it got accepted in the anthology Lower than the Angels by Lite Circle Books.  That should have been a clue I was on the wrong path, but I went back to working on the novel.

Around 2004 or 2005, I abandoned that first great idea novel (yes, after 20 years of work!), and started a different novel.

In 2006, with the second novel about one quarter finished, I resumed writing short stories.  This time I got serious about actually submitting them.  After many rejections, I started getting published.

In retrospect, it’s easy to see where I went wrong.  I should have started with short stories and worked my way up to novels.  It’s distressing to think of the time I wasted, and how much earlier I might have gotten stories in print.

On the other hand, it’s possible that the two decades of work on a now-abandoned novel was time well spent.  One could claim those years contained my 10,000 hours, the time required to develop genius-level capability.  It’s also true that my first novel might have actually gotten published had I bothered to submit it, and might have done well.

Certainly there are cases of authors getting their first novel published and seeing it become a best-seller.  But these are rare enough that I believe a better strategy for most writers is to start with short stories.  Crawling should precede walking for most people.  That method allows you to become familiar, more quickly, with the whole writing-submitting-publishing-marketing process end to end.

There you have it.  Advice, as I say at the top of my web page, straight from Mount Olympus.  Please don’t do what I did; don’t waste twenty years on a low-percentage strategy.  Don’t follow that first path trod by—

                                                     Poseidon’s Scribe