Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sunday PicNic ~ I Loathe my Novel...Now What?

If you’re an author, I’m sure you’ve experienced the startling fearful place you reach in your novel writing, where you suddenly and fiercely loathe your story. Why does that happen? How does a magnificent idea blossom into the creation of amazing, much loved characters that bring so much fulfillment to our lives as writers, unexpectedly become a full-fledged load of crap?

I experienced this loathing while participating in the 2010 Nanowrimo. I began writing about a young girl who tries to silently cope with many hardships at home while her father spends a tour in Vietnam. In my writing style, the setting of a story oftentimes becomes a vital character; so having grown up during the Vietnam War era, I delved into my memories of that nostalgic time and infused some of my own experiences and emotions into Maddie, my main character. Reminiscing of the early 70’s was enjoyable, and my affection for this little girl turned into love. I became so invested in what happened to her, what she was feeling, and how she dealt with her hardships, that I wrote at a frenzied pace, quickly discovering new highs and lows in her life. Maddie disclosed secrets and longings that surprised even me—her creator! But half way through, the whirling love affair with my story came to a screeching halt.

“I hate my story,” I told my sister, who was also participating in Nanowrimo. “I’m thinking about scrapping the whole thing and writing a romance instead. Something light and fun. Maybe even humorous. This story is dark and sad and… I hate it.”

My sister insisted my story was good, and loved my characters, but was ineffective at changing my frame of mind. Neither the praise nor encouragement altered my aversion. What finally succeeded were her five words of guidance… “Just shut up and write!”

With loads of resistance, I wrote. I came to a fork-in-the-road in my novel and decided to take the path I’d previously decided was a dead end. This brought a new life and love to the story and characters I’d nearly abandoned. The loathing dissipated. 

So, where does our loathing come from? Why does it appear like a sudden summer storm, and cloud our thoughts? I suppose it is fear. Fear that our readers won’t love our characters like we do. Or that they won’t become as invested in our story as we have. “What if the readers of my book think my story is stupid. What if they just can’t get into it? What if they don’t understand my characters? What if….”

We can what if ourselves until we’re blue in the face, but it won’t solve anything. Indeed, when we write, those annoying shadows of doubt and clouds of loathing will creep into our heads. They’ll seep into the smallest crevices of our imagination and try to convince us our labor is in vain. But if we keep our backs against the winds of doubt and allow them to propel us forward, our novels and our sanity will persevere.

To put it simply, we just need to shut up and write!



JM Powers (pen name: Summer Falls) said...

Sometimes we simply need a sister--or wench to give a shove. I loved your post.

Wench Writers said...

So true! Thank you, JM. :)
~Wench Nic

Joanie said...

I personally loved the picture that accompanies this post! But also, what a great topic. I also participated in NaNoWriMo, and while the entire idea of that contest was simply to write without editing, I found myself what-if-ing constantly. Being a relatively new writer, I definitely found times when I absolutely hated what I was writing. I showed my story to a woman at work and her positive response really helped to boost my confidence. To anyone finding themselves thinking along these lines, I definitely suggest showing your work to someone who will be honest with you.

Wench Writers said...

Hi Joanie!

Trust me... I looked just like the woman in the photo (minus the big ta-tas) when I met up with the what-if monster. hee hee

I'm glad you enjoyed the post and could relate. We were both very lucky to have great supporters of our writing while deliving into the mad world of NaNoWriMo. I only have a tad of sanity, and I almost lost it during that month.

Happy writing! Thanks for commenting.

~Wench Nic

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