As an author, sometimes you have a really good week. You have a new book come out, you get great reviews, and you actually have both the time to write and the inspiration to do so.
Sometimes, things just suck, and you wallow.
This last week was supposed to be a banner week for me. I have a new release, part of an anthology, and it’s getting really good reviews.
And yet, I find myself in the middle of an existential writer crisis.
It’s not any one big thing, and not even a couple medium-sized things. Instead it’s a bunch of little things that have conspired to make me question my writing ability.
The reviews for the anthology are good, and most people like my story. A few of them even love it. But some say they just couldn’t connect with my characters. I know – this happens. Not every reader will love your work. But this is a particularly emotional, significant story for me, and so the reviewer who was left cold by it just shredded my confidence.
I also just completed a novella for another anthology, and thought it was pretty solid – good characters, great plot. Then my first beta came back, from a writer whom I trust implicitly, and again, the characters didn’t connect with her.
Couple this with the fact that I have no time for anything at the moment, let alone writing. Then throw in a few other zingers, and I am left sitting here in my writer cave, questioning both my writing skills and the ability find an audience that will stick with me.
A part of me knows this bunk. It’s all tied into my writer ego – it’s been bruised by this confluence of events, and it will heal. But a long conversation with a writer friend suggested something else to me as well. Several somethings, actually.
The first is that I need to do some work on my craft, especially my characterization. My characters aren’t drawn clearly enough, in my own head or on the page, and readers sense this. This has come up too many times to be a fluke.
The second thing is that I might not be a romance writer.
I write a lot of stories that include romance, but I’ve never been a romance reader. My friend pointed out that me trying to write romance was like her trying to play rugby. It’s gonna be a car crash. Or at the very least, an inartistic mess.
I could sit down and read lots of romances to teach myself how the genre is done, but my heart’s just not in it. Or I could stop trying to shoehorn my writing style into the romance box and let it be what it is.
I love science fiction. I love fantasy. I even love contemporary magical realism. I can keep writing these things (with a little improvement, and put them where readers who love those things too can find them.
For today, I wallow. I’m eating ice cream and sleeping in late and bawling my eyes out.
Tomorrow, I’ll get up and try it all again.
My question today: What do you do when writing gets you down in the dumps?
7 thoughts on “Point of View: I Am Wallowing”
I know how you feel. I’ve been there so many times myself that I don’t even keep track of it now. Each writer, I believe, goes through that point in time when they realize they might be writing in the wrong genre for them. That their talents blossom and grow once they find their perfect fit.
My suggestion to you, is to go with your strengths. Find where your voice is strongest and build on that foundation. Readers can tell when your heart isn’t into something. If romance isn’t your bag, then don’t force it.
Over the years, I’ve learned my voice is much stronger in speculative fiction and fantasy than it ever has been in contemporary romance – stronger still if I add a mystery element.
Also, for building better characterizations, try interviewing your characters on the minutia of their lives. You might not use all of it in the book, but it will give you a better understand of who your characters are and what they have to say. I love reading books, and writing ones where there are little stories or anecdotes about a character’s past. It might not move a story forward, but it does round out and flesh out a character more to know what road they’ve traveled to get to the point in time of the story.
I know you can do it. But don’t worry….wallowing is ok too.
LOL… yeah, a good wallow never hurt. 🙂
It may be that you’re trying to force your stories into a genre they don’t belong to.
You must keep going, and pour yourself into writing stories that excite you. That’s the only way forward. And if you’re led away from writing romance, as a number of us have been, know that there’s a world beyond it, and you won’t be alone in it.
I tell people my stories are romantic, but not genre romance. I just finished reading Steven Pressfield’s book, “Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t” and it’s tremendous. Highly concentrated, funny, actually useful. I recommend it highly.
One of the first things he insists an author needs to know is genre — along with theme and concept. So useful.
Yes, you may be right. 🙂
Whoo-boy. I can sympathize. While readers seem to connect with my characters, I get the strong impression I don’t write enough sex for the genre. I like stories with lots of plot and action–be it between the sheets or not. But I don’t really need a sex scene per chapter to make me happy–in fact, that’s *not* going to make me happy. So while I read romances, prefer sci-fi, fantasy, and mysteries that have a strong romantic subplot over a straightforward ‘they met, they had conflict, they fell in love’ stories.
Which may well mean romance isn’t my genre. Believe me, I’m giving this a lot of thought right now.
Yeah, I really do think we need to do something for those of us who want to write LGBT fiction that’s not part of the romance genre. I don’t want to neglect the romance folks either, but it has always been my goal to grow opportunities for non romance spec fic.
Heh, you know my thoughts on this … but yeah, here’s the dealio for me and why I do what I do – because it’s what speaks to me. Can we always work on perfecting our craft of writing, sure. But passion in what you do, whether on the page or the stage, is something you cannot replicate. If you shoehorn something it will broadcast to the high heavens. Those who let it slip by and shrug will do so and you’ll come away thinking some people connected when they might not have but don’t want to say. We’ve all had reviewers that are so into what we do that we get a pass when our feet should be held to the fire. That’s a known thorn in the industry too. Our betas need to be a bit brutal with us because in many respects we count on them to be our gatekeepers, to be the early warning system when something is going awry and pull us back on track.
Now, having said all that, I think we need FAR more writers who embrace GLBT fiction (not romance) that can have very powerful romantic threads in them but are closer to how things really work. They can be just as powerful, if not more so. The Velvet Mafia still gets slammed for writing works so dark during the HIV/AIDs days. Yet, their work was undeniably powerful – it sticks in the consciousness of queerdom. It resonates, even if we don’t like looking at it. For myself, I’d rather be in that group, adding my voice to the mix. My husband says, romance isn’t your thing – it never was. Your audience is out there. Might be a slow burn, but if you keep writing, keep ringing that bell for others to know you’re there, then they’ll come. Might not be tomorrow, but they’ll come. Without causing too much of an eye roll – “if you build it …” yeah, that’s what I cling to. Write … keep writing and if you passionate and connected to what you write, they will find you. I think we obsess too much on getting instant gratification for our works when we release. We immediately go check reviews, we want our egos stroked. But is that why you’re in the game to begin with? For me, it’s not. I write because I must. Let the cards fall where they may, I’ll still keep writing and publishing. It’s what I do. (((Hugs)))
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