Writing Wednesday: Destroying Doubt & Soldiering On with Your Manuscript

The official doubt crow, courtesy of @doubt_crow

The official doubt crow, courtesy of @doubt_crow

With a little more than a month and half a manuscript left to go before my Book to Blurb final is turned in, I’ve found myself in a strange place. I’m getting to my word count goal (though now I think I need to up it a bit to give myself a better cushion) and finding that I have great revision plans for the manuscript that will make it even stronger (I’m not revising much while getting the first draft to take shape). I’ve been really consistent with my writing, getting up when I don’t feel like it and always getting something on the page. Yet, something has been dogging my every step: doubt.

Writers tend to be very familiar with doubt, particularly those who seek publication. There’s always something you can second guess. Second guessing and trying things a different way isn’t bad; it’s when our questioning of our choices renders us unable to move forward, meet deadlines, or even submit our work that it becomes troublesome.

At the moment, I have a myriad of doubts that are difficult to combat:

  • deadline doubt. Sometimes it seems as if the deadline is coming faster and my word count is climbing slower. It seems like I’ll never have the first draft done in time, let alone have time to revise and send in my best quality work. Many other participants have told me about family vacations, births, conferences, and other events standing between them and the deadline that causes them to feel as if they aren’t getting enough done now to compensate for losing that time. No one wants to miss the deadline or feel like they didn’t turn in their best book.
  • balance doubt. Is there enough conflict? Have I shown enough of their budding romance? Is the faith element present enough? Is there enough plot to this story? Did I show enough emotion? Will readers like/relate to/fall in love with my hero & heroine? I always feel as if I haven’t done enough somewhere.
  • word choice doubt. How many times did I say gaze in two paragraphs? Five. Seriously. And I had both my characters think “No, this isn’t happening” ON THE SAME PAGE.If my characters don’t stop looking, staring, gazing, flicking glances, or locking eyes, someone may be arrested for stalking. Finding fresh ways to say things can get stale if you let it, and it will drive you crazy trying to find just the right word all the time.
  • revision doubt. Did I change this enough to address the editor’s concerns? Will changing the hero’s motivation from this to that strengthen or hurt the story? I know I said I was cutting this scene, but maybe I should keep it? Is this scene really advancing the romance like I want it to? Is this subplot adding to things or detracting from them? Should I dial back the faith element here? How do I tie this subplot into the main plot to make it all make sense?
  • doubt scrapping. Maybe I should chuck the whole darn thing and start over.

So what do you do to combat doubt? I keep writing. I skip scenes that aren’t working to work on a scene where the words are coming fast and furious. I type things I know I’m not saying write but also know I can change later if I get the general gist down. I keep myself accountable by posting my word counts each day. I reach out to my critique buddies and writer friends when only a kick in the pants or a good brainstorming session will do. I make revision notes while they are fresh in my mind and plan out how I will address them. And I pray. A LOT.

Your two cents: How do you deal with doubt, in writing or any area of life?

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Cheating in the Next Room…

BLACK SOUL SINGER JOHNNY TAYLOR PERFORMS AT TH...

I'm hoping my WIPs don't listen to this guy (Johnny Taylor) Image via Wikipedia

…is a blues song by Johnny Taylor. “Cheating in the Next Room” is about a woman talking on the phone to a man she is cheating with, making plans to meet up with him. Johnny is letting her know that he knows she has been faking lovemaking with him and has been meeting this other man. He tells her “that’s alright; I’ll soon be gone.” He is fed up and won’t take it anymore.

My writing can say the same thing about me. I’ve been “cheating” on some projects with other projects. I am supposed to be working on the short story project that I had the breakthrough on. Before I had that breakthrough, I was working on my memoir about college. Now I put the college memoir on the back burner, because I think the program I’m preparing for the high school students at church on Saturday would be the perfect place to begin the memoir (as it involves my college journey). Since the event hasn’t happened, I don’t have the opening. That’s understandable. I’m at a natural stopping point.

However, after talking to a real-life and blogging friend, I began to get really excited about another project that’s been on the backburner: possibly turning the marriage kits into a book. The thing is, making the marriage kits into a book will involve more than just compiling the interviews (and conducting more): I’ve noticed the book on weddings I’m reading has things to say about marriage. I have several other books, podcasts, and TV shows that speak to marriage that I frequently mine for information. I want to expand my interview pool. I want to research. I want to put away the short story project and work on this one, even though I know I’m supposed to return to the memoir after Saturday. I also know I will be doing more researching than writing working on the marriage kit project.

Does anyone else suffer from the lure of research over actual writing? I get so excited about some of the research I put into projects that I never get around to writing it until much later. How do you balance research with writing?

The greater question is how do you decide which project gets your time when your time is limited? I work full time, have an occasional second job, a boyfriend, a church I’m active in, my Dad’s book to format for Smashwords publication, and I want to have a little me time, so my writing time isn’t as extensive as I would like. When you don’t have time to do it all, what do you do? How do you keep a project on the backburner from burning up? This is my dilemma of the past few weeks. I’ve just went with it and done writing wherever my fancy has taken me, but I’ve not made much progress on ANYTHING. Help!

Planning Ahead vs. Letting It Flow: NaNoWriMo Edition

Pisces

Image via Wikipedia

Just like the Pisces symbol I was born under (if astrology means anything to you; it doesn’t to me), I’m in two minds when it comes to life: usually, I like to plan ahead for things and know what to expect (what I call my Against the Current Fish–ACF), but at other times I like to go with the flow (my Downstream Fish (DSF), alternately known as OK Player (OKP) when I’ve lost the will to care :D). Most of the time, the areas of my life are clearly ruled by one or the other facet of my complex personality:

Work: ACF     Bill Paying: OKP (bad, I know)     What I wear to work: DSF

Chores: ACF    Cooking: DSF

But there are some areas in life where the fish  battle for supremacy:

romantic relationship            packing

Nowhere is this more true than in the case of my writing, particularly my NaNoWriMo novel.

I planned very little in advance with this novel. Even though I lifted the idea from a little piece I wrote my senior year of high school for a writing workshop class. I planned out what the catalyst would be, the major dramatic question (MDQ), when it would all come to a head and who the major players were. I decided on a time line and how to split up the story: the call that is the catalyst for recent events, for example, occurs one year before everything comes to a head, but there are some important things that happened nine and ten years before the crisis point as well. I thought that I could plan out when to introduce characters before I wrote each day. Other than that, I would let the writing flow.

This seems to have been a bad idea. It works some days, but other days, I am almost in tears for lack of inspiration. I curse myself that I didn’t plan ahead better. My characters surprise me (the best friend being pregnant was not what I originally had in mind), real people creep in (my boyfriend as my MC’s boyfriend), and many of the things I planned go to crap (or are DOA).

But then, when everything clicks, it really clicks. Like my description of where she meets Nathan for their blind date, or how well the prologue came out. I had a one line description of one of my MC’s aunt’s that captured her character so perfectly, I could not write another word about her personality and you’d get it.

I worry that planning ahead too much can kill the anticipation I feel sitting down to write. It’s like a soap opera or Dexter: what’s going to happen when I sit down today? Is my MC going to go from frying pan to fire? Is she going to have a spot of good luck? What craziness will her pregnant best friend pull? Will the men inadvertently ruin everything?

So what I need to figure out is how to strike a balance between letting the work flow and planning ahead enough so that I at least have SOMEWHERE to begin each day.

How do you write? Are you someone who plans ahead, lets it flow, or both? How do you balance it out and keep writing?

Note: Balance is one of my favorite words these days.