Monday, June 25, 2012

Command Performance

When I was asked if I wanted to write one of the Gatekeeper novels (Lyrical Press), I jumped at it.
"I can do this!" I beamed. "No problem!"
I had the contract and the cover before I ever wrote a single word.
I sat down, an idea in my head, and wrote--and then I scrapped ALL of it. 8,000 words.
No biggie. It happens.
I started over. Tweaked the idea and rewrote the beginning--only it still didn't work.
More scrapping.
24,000 words this time.
I was tearing my hair out.
Here I was, 32,000 words written, and I had...nothing. Zip, nada, zilch, squat.
The monsters weren't playing ball. At least not with me.
It began to get scary.
I'd signed a contract. I had a cover. I had a release date (Feb 2013). We had a webpage already.
What I didn't have...was a story.
What if... I couldn't do it?
That's not the kind of "What if..." I want to be asking myself.
Worse, the edits for Watch Me had to be done as well.

Deadlines create pressure, we all know that. It gets so much worse when you sit there and draw a total blank. It's a scary situation. I hate letting people down, and the last ones I want to let down are my fellow Gatekeeper authors, and the publisher. We all cope differently with the stress, and some deal with it better than others. I can do deadlines and I don't really mind the stress, but I panic when I stare at a blank page and know I have to come up with something worth reading.
And that's the kicker.
It has to be worth reading. 
I can write day in day out, but that doesn't mean it's publishable, or I'd want anyone to read it. I don't like half-assed attempts at a good story. I want only my best out there, so I had to come up with something I could stand behind 100%.
That's why those 32k were thrown out. They simply weren't "It".
I can rescue most of it, but it'll take a major rewrite and--see above--I don't rewrite very well. It never works for me. So the original story may never see the light of day.
I beat myself up when I can't come up with something good, and that makes things worse. My muse goes into a major sulk and takes a vacation. Nothing helps. It's not writers block, it's a lack of enthusiasm for the story I'm writing. When that hits me, I ditch the project and start over.
Which is exactly what I did with Caedir. I threw out not just the writing I'd already done, but the entire storyline as well. Plot, characters, locations -- everything. Not even his looks stayed the same, and I killed off the human heroine while I was at it. She didn't retain her name, either.
I completely divorced myself from the previous attempt.

Don't ever be afraid to admit to yourself that what you've written isn't what you want anyone to see. We grow with the decisions we make, but we grow a lot more from the really hard ones, than from tiptoeing around the truth.
If it sucks, it sucks.
It really is that simple. If you think it sucks--why would you struggle to finish it? Your heart isn't in it, and it'll only get worse. Get some distance first, and if--when you come back--it still sucks...ditch it, take a deep breath, and start over.

I have the story now. I'm about 5-10k from the end, but I won't be releasing that breath I've been holding since March until I put the last word on paper.

Yep, it's Smurf Central 'round here.

You can find out for yourself if I came up trumps when Caedir is released in February 2013.


Annie Nicholas said...

Woot! You're almost done. And I feel your pain. I felt that pressure with Koishi and don't care to repeat the experience any time soon. LOL

Silke said...

Hehehe. Yes, it's fun, isn't it?