Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Evil Psychiatrist

Why is it I can start a book, compelling even, but then can't follow it through? I have like 8 here STARTED, but only one finished. What's up with that? Is that normal or another chaotic trait I seem to have marketed?

Have you figured out how these books are going to end when you start writing them? Not everyone does it that way, but you must admit that if you need to clear a path between point A and point B, it helps to know in which direction point B lies. If you start by moving away from point B, it could be frustrating when you realize you're lost.

Now that you've set the books aside, maybe you should go back and read one as if it's someone else's and decide where you would want it to go next. (If you realize the book isn't your best work, and it can't be salvaged, and it's going to be a trunk novel anyway, it doesn't need an ending, so move on to the next one.

Then again, there's that song that goes:

I'm just waiting for my world to fall apart.
That's why I'll never finish anything I start.

But that can't be it, because you finished one. What was the difference? Was it better, and thus more worthy of being finished? Did you know where it was going from the beginning? Was there less turmoil in your life when you wrote it?

Consider how happy and proud you'd feel if you did finish one of these novels. A small ray of sunshine would break through the cloud hovering over you. Choose the one with the most promise, and write the last two chapters. Then come up with a logical progression of events to connect the beginning to the end. And remember, Evil Editor and his minions believe in you.

That'll be $125.00


Anonymous said...

It must have been a while since you were on the couch. The going rate in Denver is $180.

Evil Editor said...

$180 for one blog posting? Outrageous.

Precie said...

Aw...that was so not evil.

And if people are doling out money for blog posting, let me in on that!!

Sarah Laurenson said...

8? Hell, I have well over 20 started and 4 in varying degrees of 'finish' - 2 of which are definitely trunk novels and 2 require major overhauling.

And I'm not working on the 2 that need overhauling - not right now.

Everyone's writing process is different. I think the trick is figuring out what works for you. I also think the reason I have so many starts and not so many finishes has to do with my learning process and where I was in skill level at the time of those starts.

The book I'm writing now is 'one of my best' and more likely to require less overhauling. So I look at a lot of my starts as exercises. They are based on good ideas (maybe) but I doubt the writing is worth keeping.

If you need practice in completing a project, try the NaNoWriMo in November. Writing a 50,000 word book in 30 days is quite an experience. That's one of my trunk novels, but I learned a lot about my writing process and ability to put words on paper during that exercise. Also got very burnt out on writing for a few months.

Sarah Laurenson said...

I pay $60 in Los Angeles, but have paid as much as $125.

Dave Fragments said...

I might have said this before. Be patient and read it to the end. It does have a point. But it wanders from writing a teeny bit. Be patient.

The last chemical engineering job I did for the company I worked for was helping to implement ISO 14000 - a quality management system for environmental issues.
Scary words - quality management

I had to ask researcher "what do you do routinely?"

Well no researcher's day is ever routine. When I did experiments. It goes like this:
1) read papers
2) get idea
3) get $$$
4) plan experiments
5) conduct experiments
6) analyze the experiments
7) write papers, presentations, journal articles
8) accept nobel prize (hey!)

So no day is the same as the previous day.
Let me repeat that
So no day is like the one before.

But you see that while no day is the same, the entire method is the same from year to year. To be more precise - from plan to plan - idea to idea - theory to theory...

Novel to novel.
Story to story.

To come back to writing. I have abandoned three stories since I started writing them in 1999. When I reach a point where I don't know what happens next or I can't stop the story (it's an endless venture), the I sit myself down and say
SELF! Where is this to go? What are these characters doing? What can be a fitting climax and denouement?

There is always a next step, the next chapter or even the final chapter.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Here's an idea. Write a query (or short synopsis) for each unfinished book and submit the queries here.

If all the queries get shot down because of plot or character issues, then perhaps those ideas weren't worth completing anyway. No harm, no foul. Cutting your losses sooner is always wiser than cutting them later. Even pubbed authors will discuss what their next book should be with their agent or editor. Not every idea will get written. That's the nature of the business.

If a couple of your queries get really positive feedback, use that validation as the motivation to pick those mss back up.

And you'll get all THAT advice for free. One of the best bargains in town!

Anonymous said...

Wow. That advice was actually positive and helpful with nary a trace of snarkiness. I didn't know you had it in you EE! I would add my own little words of wisdom, but you covered it all. Now get back to your evil self, will ya (except when you critique my query, of course).

Evil Editor said...

It wasn't easy, but I figured if I stayed on the author's good side I could get eight mockable queries out of this.

PJD said...

While I think we can all admit some stories are better abandoned and never completed, I agree with Sarah. I had several novels that I abandoned after the second or third chapter. But NaNoWriMo kicked me past the "is this good enough" question and got me to a finished manuscript. When I read it back a few months later, I realized it wasn't nearly as bad as I expected. Four manuscripts later, I think I've finally got one good enough to sell. But I'd never have gotten to this point without completing that first one.

Anonymous said...

Maybe you are just a serial writer? Take your weakness and make it your strength -- Do whatPhoenix said.

Brenda said...

I had no idea when I sent you this internal rant that it'd end up on the blog. Those wondering why it was nicer than normal and why the mention of "the cloud hovering over you" because he knows what all is going on over here and he loves me after I sent him new photos (grin).

Why was I able to finish that first novel? Because I had no idea what I was doing. I wrote a long, full length novel (which is still a great story, wanted to be seen by two editors and Chris Keesler from Dorchester) but I knew NOTHING. I went with novel in hand to my first RWA National, took every class I could, and realized all the problems my book was plagued with.

I tried National Writing Month. Twice. Bombed. I have found that if I'm not in a good mental place, my heroines tend to be hugely whiny, and who likes a whiny heroine? I put too much of myself in my books.

I already know where the story ends: Happily Ever After. There's no other answer for me, period. It's fiction, and in fiction (in Brenda's world), happily ever after is real and necessary and I ache for it.

But I can't wait for my life to straighten out because that's what I did for three years and got nothing done, so now I'm trying to force myself through this one, and re-entrying the writing world (which is why I showed up again after months and months of being gone). Last night I critiqued a chapter for my "I gave up on Brenda long ago" critique partner who decided she still loves me, then went on to edit two chapters of my newest book (started 18 months ago then promptly ignored) and forced another 1,800 words out in one sitting, even if the words suck.

I recently read two books and thought, "Holy shit, these suck. I'm so much better than this" and remembered that's what got me to writing novels originally.

The bottom line for me, I think, is fear. It's easier to fail myself before I fail all those who believe that I do have a real talent. I just don't understand how to move past the fear and embrace what I know I can do.

And from now on, I'm totally putting "NOT FOR THE BLOG" in my email titles, Mr. Man. Argh.

Brenda said...

Okay, I'll send in the query for the one I'm currently working on. I wrote it right after I started this book, before I got bogged down with plot twists and characters. I know it sucks, I know it needs a lot of work, but if I can find it, I'll send it in and see what you think.

HOWEVER, I HAVE sent in a new beginning for another story here, and got lots of great feedback on it, and it's still sitting in my BOOK FOLDER right where it was all those months and months ago.

Apparently praise from others isn't enough to make me push through. I'm just to the point of not knowing exactly WHAT it will take.

Wonderwood said...

Man, this is exactly what I needed to hear. Write the last two chapters.

I've been grinding through a similar scenario. I'm halfway into my current WIP and can't decide on the outcome. The set-up is all there, though some of it may have to change, and the characters have all been introduced and developed to an acceptable degree for this point in the story, but I haven't figured out who is the ultimate mastermind of the mystery (or is that "whom"?). It's friggin driving me nuts.

I haven't approached it from the angle of writing the last two chapters, but I think it's time to give it a try. Thanks EE and mignons.

Xenith said...

We have a rule: no one gets their story written until it has an end. (Not THE end but AN end.)

There's the occasional new character who thinks this doesn't apply to them, but the others soon knock them into shape.

There's apparently a point (about 1/3 of the way in?) where most novel writing attempts bog down. If you're aware of this, and know that it will be, I guess it's easier to work through it.

Some people find it helps to read through all the starts and see if a common thread appears.

Some people find it helps to outline beforehand, so they know where they're going and it's easier to get past obstacles.

Some people find if they commit the story to paper too soon, even just writing down the idea, then it aborts the story's development and it doesn't go anywhere.

Some people find it helps to write all the interesting scenes first, and by the time they get to the filler bits, the bulk of the novel is done and it's less intimidating.

Brenda said...

I don't know why my other two comments haven't shown up yet, but this really, really sums it up:

I'm just waiting for my world to fall apart.
That's why I'll never finish anything I start.

Anonymous said...

And remember, Evil Editor and his minions believe in you.

Evil Editor and his minions also believe in Weredingoes and Ruthless Vigilante Sorcerer Zombie Cows.

talpianna said...

Xenith, some people find that if they spend enough time living on absinthe and Brie in a garret in Montmartre, all these problems seem to go away....

Anyway, this gives me the opportunity to post my favorite Christopher Morley quote: "Talkers never write. They just go on talking."

Sarah Laurenson said...

Sometimes fear of success is stronger than fear of failure.

One of my favorite quotes comes from a Lois McMaster Bujold novel.
"Aim high. You may still miss the target but at least you won't shoot your foot off."

Dave Fragments said...

DId you know, if you look at a story and say "This sucks" and you recognize why it sucks, you are one step closer to writing the next story without that "sucky error"...

To ask "What am I doing wrong?" and realize what is bad -- is a GOOD thing. Don't make the same error.
To ask "Why isn't this story good?" and be able to see the answer means that you can avoid it next time.

This is not easy, it is hard work. But if you want to write better, then you have to do that work. Write something everyday. Even if you write junk every day, junk is something you can fix by editing. A blank page cannot be fixed.

Consider this my pep talk.
And let me say as a person who has seen some tragedy in life, the world does not fall apart. If the sun does not rise tomorrow, a big glowing ball of hot gas will take its place.

Anonymous said...

I've got over 50 starts written for different novels (half of those would be over 6000 words, and half again quite substantial, ranging from 15,000 to 166,000 words).

Many of these have been abandoned for reasons both good and artificial, but all of the substantial ones are worth pursuing. Yet, I can't seem to finish any of them (the 166,000 one *should* be finished judging by word-count, but let's not talk about that).

"The bottom line for me, I think, is fear. It's easier to fail myself before I fail all those who believe that I do have a real talent. I just don't understand how to move past the fear and embrace what I know I can do."

I relate to this. Took me a long time to realise I wasn't merely lazy but riddled with FEAR. Of what, I can't really articulate. I wish I knew how to get past it too.

none said...

If it's a mystery, you should write the last chapter first and work backwards from there.

Chris Eldin said...

Hell, I have well over 20 started and 4 in varying degrees of 'finish'

Sarah needs some of that therapy too.


EE's talking about feelings. As if he needs more laydies...

Sarah Laurenson said...

How to get past the fear? Lots and lots of practice.

When I am in fear, I am projecting way far ahead of where I really am. If I take a leaf from the 12 step groups and deal with writing one day at a time, then I can bring my f'd up brain back to the present day and to the novel in front of me.

My main problem isn't so much fear (though that is the underlying 'cause'), it's that I can put so many distractions in my life and squeeze out all my writing time.

*sigh* Life is very interesting and that leads to lots of ideas for writing and that leads to an even more interesting life, etc.

Anonymous said...

Woww!! Or should that be woot? All this free therapy and clip art too!!! I also have the fluttery debris, the dead and the undead portions of my literary career strewn about me; I know that if I can find a strong enough wind they will fly, (to the tune of "Freebird")into the hands someday, of the right person at the right time. I go boldly forth each day (to the tune of "Freebird") and try to write at least 500 good words a day.
Sometimes I think EE's blog is like the best English Class(in comic book form and ALL the minions wear really huge glasses) I Never Had.

I haven't watched "survivor" since the first season, but wasn't one of the tenets, "Outlast"?