Road Trip Wednesday: Jinx–that was MY idea!

 

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway’s contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on our own blogs.

This Week’s Topic:

What SNI were you psyched to work on, but discovered it was too close to something already done?

Wouldn’t you know it, but I felt like this just last week!

Since I’m relatively new to novel writing, and in fact, have only recently gotten used to the label, “Novelist,” I’m still so very easily discouraged when I hear novels being sold, or debuted, that are even remotely like my works in progress. Like, even if other works are in the same genre! I convince myself that I’m a hack and I should just stop writing because clearly all the good ideas are taken!

Of course I know, mentally, that this is a stupid thing to think. I swear I know. I know that there are tons of books with the same concept but are executed uniquely. I KNOW THIS. But, like I’ve stated here before, my rational brain-voice is sometimes overpowered by my omgI’matalentlesshack-voice.

Case in point:

On Friday, I happened upon a review of Cinder (which dude, sounds like an intriguing story!). I was beyond discouraged, especially because my WIP2 is a YA scifi that explores issues of humanity in a human/android, post-apocalyptic world. Talk about getting a case of the wonk-wonks. I was completely unmotivated to work on WIP2 that day, and I’d been SO HAPPY about my progress just the day before. Of course, my dear crit partners and friends talked me out of my pit of despair, convincing me that my WIP2 was a completely different story.

Anyway…

I’ve learned that ideas are just that: ideas. They’re not The Story. So, even if a story has a very similar idea to mine (or yours!), I know that The Story is all about the execution of that idea. While writing, my main ideas for both my WIPs changed and morphed so often, they’re now a few bits removed from the original spark of idea that gave birth to them.

So please, continue on with the idea, maybe claw your way out of whatever pit of despair you decided to wallow in momentarily, and just keep writing, my friend. Just. Keep. Writing. You never know where that original idea will take you!

Oh, and what I do to avoid the wonk-wonks, I’ve simply decided that when I’m working on something, I need to completely work with the door closed (thanks, Stephen King), and avoid reading book reviews or “just sold” announcements until I’m done with whatever WIP I’m working on. There’s something to be said about researching the market, etc, but for me, that can’t happen while I’m in my rough draft stages. I also wait to read other books that may be similarly themed as mine, which is why I’ve been waiting until I finished WIP2 to read the books I list HERE.

Is my method crazy? Yes. But, does it help me become a finisher of novels? Yes. And, in the end, that’s all that matters!

So, what idea were you psyched to work on, but discovered it was too close to something already done?

Just a Friendly Reminder

I’ve had a pretty productive novel writing week, thanks to a combination of dedicated twitter #accountibilibuddies (hi Laura and DB!), a change of venue, and above all, a mindset of finishing what I start, no matter what the result may be.

The actual work I’m producing is really kind of boring and the dialogue is way stilted, but what I’m learning about my writing process far outweighs the embarrassment of reading my cringetastic writing. And, as a bonus, I’m so proud of reaching my daily page goals, that the feeling of success just motivates me to continue working on my novel some more.

Anyway, here are some lovely inspirational quotes so you can understand what mindset I was in.

 

I’ll eventually get the hang of balancing novel writing time and blogging time, but at least you understand why my posts have been pretty random lately!

Happy goal setting and achieving!

The Art of Letting Go

 

“Some of us think holding on makes us strong; but sometimes it is letting go.”

Hermann Hesse

So. I have an opportunity to be promoted to another store manager position with my pay the bills company. I’ve decided to let it go.

It’s hard for me to do that. Even writing that I won’t pursue the position was hard. I’m an Achiever, after all, and I need to continue challenging myself, to feel that sense of accomplishment from conquering goals, to feel any sort of satisfaction.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs claims that the summit of motivation theory is self-actualization. It’s the idea of reaching one’s full potential as an individual. This need is never fully satisfied, because there’s always more opportunities to grow. I know I should feel lucky that my only issue in life (at this moment) is my need to grow into my full potential as a human being, answering questions about Life, The Universe, and Everything. Which made me realize: what would have been my reason for going after this other position?

I had to really stop myself and reflect on my true goals. My life goals. And I realized that to pursue this more challenging endeavor would give me the “excuse” of not pouring myself wholeheartedly into novel writing. I had to shift my sense of Achievement from my pay the bills job to my novel.

I know that I can succeed in any position in my company. I know that now. And, to go after a more challenging role would engage and entertain me for a while. But, soon, I’ll be feeling the same way as I feel now: bored, with a side of unfulfilled.

Honestly, I can say that, because I’m bored in my current one. I’m consistently a top performing store manager, and I’m trending to be the #1 store manager in my district again. This is my third full year as a store manager, and my third year as #1. And, up until this year, I had a second part time job and as of last year, a novel to write on top of that. Believe me when I say, I seek out challenging assignments.

This next few months, my challenging assignment is steeling myself against the temptation of “new and different” and allow myself to be bored in a field that fulfills my physiological, safety, social, and esteem needs; because my true area of growth, where I can feel like I’m growing into my full potential, is writing and story-telling. That’s where I need to spend the bulk of my time. That’s the challenge that I need to pursue as doggedly as I would for my pay the bills job. The satisfaction would last longer, I’m sure.

Don’t think too hard
If you think it hurts that bad
Don’t talk about it,
Don’t let it get you down
It’s only one part
Of the story
Just let it go,
Don’t let it bring you down
Now

Sing, the last thing on your mind
The last word on your breath
I’ll be the one to keep you
I’ll keep you at your best
The last thing on your mind
‘Cause I don’t need your mess
I’ll be the one to keep you
One disaster less

Straighten up your tie,
Take the microphone
Forget about it,
Don’t let it get you down
Now is not the time
And you are not alone,
Shut up about it
No one can bring you down,
Now

Sing, the last thing on your mind
The last word on your breath
I’ll be the one to keep you
I’ll keep you at your best
The last thing on your mind
‘Cause I don’t need your mess
I’ll be the one to keep you
One disaster less

I’ll be okay
I’ll be okay
If you…

Sing, the last thing on your mind
The last word on your breath
I’ll be the one to keep you
I’ll keep you at your best
The last thing on your mind
‘Cause I don’t need your mess
I’ll be the one to keep you
One disaster less
The last thing on your mind
The last word on your breath
I’ll be the one to keep you
I’ll keep you at your best
The last thing on your mind
‘Cause I don’t need your mess
I’ll be the one to keep you
One disaster less

All Thinking and No Typing Makes Me Not A Writer

I had a blog post written for this week. Several actually. They’re still waiting to be re-read and polished into something coherent in Microsoft Word. But, somehow, I couldn’t muster up the will to actually re-read anything that I’ve written, let alone, clean up a draft. Lately, I’ve just been in the mood to type type type all the random (and not so random) little things that flit through my mind, and though I know this is my blog, and I can post whatever I want on it, I respect the general blogosphere enough not to throw out word vomit just for the heck of it. Believe me, no one needs to see what my unfiltered, newly awake, pre-coffee mind is capable of. (No, it’s not anything negative or controversial. I just don’t want anyone to question that English is my native language.)

Unfortunately, my type type type disease hasn’t translated to my WIP2 very well. In fact, it’s almost the exact opposite. I will re-read and tinker with the bits that I’ve already written, and yet d.r.a.g. my metaphorical feet to get to the next step in the action. It’s not procrastination. Not really. Nor is it a “what happens next?” thing. I think honestly, I over analyzed the story, and now I’m too bored (for lack of a better word) to continue.

I like my story. I know I do. But, I think that I’ve spent a little too much time thinking about The Story and writing about it via plotting methods of all sorts that I’ve lost touch with my MC, who, I admit, is the main reason why I like my story in the first place. After all this time, MC started to feel like, well, a character and not a real person. Well, I know MC isn’t real, but I started to think of the story as scenes that would lead to other scenes, and things that MC would need to do to get to those scenes, etc, that I lost sight of my recently learned lesson: story comes from the choices that the MC makes.

Random Interjection By My Brain Elves

Thinking about cardboard characters kind of reminds me of the flannelgraph stories I used to sit through during Sunday school.

The teacher would change the main elements of the story on a flannel board as she told the story. So, I would sit there, listening to her words, and yet, mostly stare at a static scene. Sure, sometimes she’d wiggle the characters if they were supposedly walking across the room, or a desert, but ultimately, the characters were lifeless, and no amount of moving by the teacher convinced me of the actions they were supposed to convey from the story. (Story time is definitely best served with an animated voice fueling a listener’s imagination, no visuals necessary. My two cents.)

Anyway, that’s how I’ve started to feel with WIP2. That I’m just pushing this cutout of MC around varying backdrops, which all amounts to a big, fat “So what?”

/End interjection.

Looking back, I can see where I’ve tripped myself up. I probably should have kept working on it privately first, before letting alpha readers give me initial feedback. After all, the Almighty Stephen King proclaimed that writers should write first with the door closed. That first drafts were a time for exploring and uncovering the story; a time to wallow in back story, adverbs, and tense shifts (oh my!). First drafts are supposed to be a free-for-all creative time, without that nagging feeling of “I hope they like this” poking at me.

And, for me, the “door closed” would also apply to reading anything to do with the publishing industry at all. It’s too discouraging to see books being sold and/or released that are too similar in concept to anything I’m working on. I know, I know, I’m supposed to read a lot and research widely, etc, and I do, believe me. But, I shouldn’t during the “door closed” phase. I know this about myself now, and I won’t waste time trying to convince myself that many books with similar concepts are published all the time, blahblahblah. It’s easier just to avoid news of that sort all together. Besides, there are plenty of non-adventure, non-science-fiction books out there to satisfy my reading addiction. (Sidenote: currently reading Kirsten Hubbard’s Wanderlove. LOVE IT. It releases March 2012. Mark your calendars!)

Another thing that I must must must remember: even though I enjoy planning and organizing my day, week, month, year, and have been encouraged to do so in my pay the bills job with extremely positive results (no surprise, running a business requires thoughtful planning and preparing for the unexpected), when it comes to writing a novel, pre-planning just doesn’t work for me. It’s hard for an uberplanner like me to admit that, but it’s scarily true. I hit my stride with my story when I just wrote it all out, no outlines or anything. I was always able to push through a “writer’s block” by thoughtfully considering next steps, and then writing them out. But, thoughtful consideration should not equate to plotting out my novel scene by scene. My muses, aka the above-mentioned brain elves, simply don’t work that way, and I have to accept that. I need to stop trying so hard to conform to a random ideal of how I should work, and instead, embrace the process that works for me. Because, this trend of barely writing a (ridiculous, word vomit-y) page during each writing session is getting really tiresome, and it’s not moving me toward my goal.

One highlight in all this self-reflection is that I re-discovered my original author role model, Dean Koontz, whose writing process and mindset resonates with me greatly. He shared this on his website:

On good days, I might wind up with five or six pages of finished work; on bad days, a third of a page. Even five or six is not a high rate of production for a 10- or 11-hour day, but there are more good days than bad. And the secret is doing it day after day, committing to it and avoiding distractions.

Because I don’t do a quick first draft and then revise it, I have plenty of time to let the subconscious work; therefore, I am led to surprise after surprise that enriches story and deepens character. I have a low boredom threshold, and in part I suspect I fell into this method of working in order to keep myself mystified about the direction of the piece–and therefore entertained.

The part I truly loved reading (apart from his tireless work ethic) is the idea of a low-boredom threshold, and keeping himself entertained by being mystified about the direction his story is going. Knowing that, was an A-HA! moment for me. I realized that I stopped looking forward to working on my story because I took away the fun factor, that motivation to keep working on it.

To that end, I have reverted to earlier versions of WIP2, and have reacquainted myself with that MC and storyline to recapture that sense of mystery again.

GChatting With Friends. Where the Magic Happens.

If you don’t have trusted writing friends to be a sounding board to your novel-in-progress, get some. Your muse(s) will thank you. Plus, you get to have random conversations like this:

 me: YES do it!

kill MC and make BFF go on a quest!

Melissa: lololol

“and she found a note – “In the event of my death, go on a mighty quest!””

“and lo, she quested. and it was good.”

These bits of brainstorming made possible by NaNoWriMo, Google chat, and crit partner of Awesome, Melissa Veres. (I look forward to my dedication page when your book is finished and published!) 😉