Contact Me

Email me
"Hard is not hopeless." - General David Petraeus

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Do you despair getting that novel finished?

Do you ever despair whether you'll ever get that novel finished and out the door? Are you your own worst enemy, pushing yourself to crank it out but ending up frustrated and taking what feels like five times as long to make any progress? Do you ever wonder how on earth you'll ever create a larger body of work so you can be perceived as a career writer and not a one-shot author?

Welcome to the angsty world of novel writing.

I struggle with these things constantly. Take my current WIP. Now granted, I do believe I will get that novel submitted this summer finally, but what a L-O-N-G haul it has been. I started working on that novel concept in 2005/06. THREE YEARS ago. Researching, trying to learn craft, writing, re-writing, etc.

Now to some, working on a novel for three years doesn't seem like much time. In fact, Jerry Jenkins said about his recent epic release Riven, that he'd been rolling that story around in his head for 20 years!

So by itself, there's not a thing wrong with a novel taking several years to brew and come forth. There was an old commercial about "we will sell no wine before its time". Same can be said for a novel.

Until you add self-pressure. Riven was Jerry Jenkins 175th book! This is my first. And when I'm working on a book, I have to focus solely on that book. Now perhaps that would be different if I wasn't trying to cram in working on the novel in between the long hours of the day job, I don't know.

Add to that we are told - get out there, write articles, get writers credits with other stuff to build up your resume. And then what? It takes me SIX years to finish the novel instead of three? UGH! No wonder I'm angsty. Writers have a lot of rules, do's and don'ts thrown at them all the time. If I did everything I was told I *had* to do to be a successful writer, I'd never get any sleep and probably would be suffering from some chemical addiction.

What I do know is that this slow agony leads to sheer and utter frustration - in part because it takes so doggone long to achieve anything, and subsequently because I ask myself "why can't I just be patient and wait on God's timing?"

That last sounds simple enough to fix. Just give it all to God. I KNOW that in principle but DOING it is another matter. I seem to like worry and anxiety. I certainly spend enough time doing it. I am truly amazed that I don't have an ulcer. Only by God's grace.

Add nowadays we add to the writer's angst because now authors have to do most of the work themselves ie. the marketing and all that jazz. No pressure...

I worry about failure. I also worry about success. Let's say I submit my manuscript. The editor or agent is interested. Then they say "What else have you got?"


Which brings me back to my original point. I've spent all my time focusing on churning out the one novel. I have another one that is about a third of the way completed but it's not done. And what if it takes me 3-4 years to finish that one? Then what? Would I be dropped like a lead balloon?

Now I imagine that the more experience you gain as a writer, to some degree the writing process becomes a bit faster. But I also think some books naturally take longer then others, depending on what you're writing. A novel with one straight plotline is going to take less time then something that is more complex and involves more characters and subplots.

That's why I'm thankful I learned early on that whatever area I spent time researching, to stick with that one area and use it as a backdrop for all my books. I really admire people who write novels that each use widely disparate areas of research for each plot. I honestly don't know how they find time to be an expert in many different fields of history. There are many research areas I'd LOVE to dig into if I had time, but I doubt I'll live to be as old as Methuselah.

So I don't really have a cure for all this writer's angst. I simply have to keep reminding myself that:

1. As important as it is to me, novel writing is a far distant also ran compared to God. I have to put God first in my life.
2. I listen carefully to the many bits of sage advice on writing I receive from experts, then I adapt it based on my life and my goals and my available time.
3. I keep my research topics focused on one area and use that body of knowledge for all my WIPs.
4. I need to work steadily toward my goal. I have found that if I have great periods of downtime, it only makes the return to the task that much more awkward and lengthy to execute. Plus you lose the rhythm of your project.
5. I must build FUN into my life. This last was a hard one to learn. Novel writing can enslave you if you're not careful. Yes, it's fun. But it can also become oppressive without a balanced life.

So my goal this week is a little less angst and a little more joy. And actually, I do have a new area of discovery to share about my writing journey that is giving me great joy, but I have to hold on to that post for another week or so, then I can share it.

Go forth and write! But don't let the angst overwhelm you.

And though we selfishly like to hold onto our worries (sometimes clutching them like a lifeline), let's work to turn it over to God because time doesn't bother Him at all. It's all under His control anyway!


Pat Iacuzzi said...

Hi Brenda--

Glad I'm following this...very interesting! Your strengths are mine, as I'm an introvert too. Have to add something to that... I like conversations that are about ideas & where I learn. Don't like "idle" conversation. Wouldn't be surprised if a lot of writers shared these traits.
Now, about live in an area where you have an endless panorama filled with beautiful mesas, sunsets, & rock formations. Even an early season for roses. But we have something higher, deeper and more vast.. snow drifts! heheheh! Blessings, Pat I.

Patti Shene said...

Thanks for your post, Brenda. It puts things in perspective for me as far as completing my own novel. It's taking me a long, long time, and every time I think I've got it "right", someone comes along with a suggestion to make it better. Sometimes i feel like I have the outward appearance of a writer, the business cards, the web site, but the words on paper that count for anything, as yet, are minimal. However, as you said, I'm turing it all over to God and praying that whatever I write will be used to serve Him. That's what it's really all about!