August 22, 2014

The Crap Cycle

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You know the routine.  You go to bed Sunday evening with a mind brim-full of ideas, itching to get up the next morning and write.  On Monday you roll out of bed and sit down at the computer; you've got an hour, maybe several, and you're ready to go - until you open up the document and try to start.  And then everything is awful.  You struggle through a paragraph or two and move on, frustrated, to something else.  Everything is crap!  Your writing is rubbish!  This story is nonsense!  The characters are stupid!  You will never write anything as good as your last book (or chapter)!  You should just give up now!

But on Tuesday you try again and the story flows better; you've got over that trying bit of dialogue or description and feel like you've found your rhythm.  Things are great!  You love this story!  These characters are the bomb!  You're the top!  You're the Colosseum!

And then Wednesday?  Boom!

Crap again.

In case you couldn't tell, this cycle happens to me quite a lot - especially when, as with the past several weeks, I'm given the mixed blessing of plenty of writing time.  The ratio of good writing days to bad writing days seems skewed and you become frustrated with both the story and yourself, insecure about everything from the characters to that sentence you just wrote.  I've dubbed it the crap cycle, where the scene that sounded great yesterday sounds horrible today and you can't seem to heave the story out of the rut it's inexplicably fallen into.  There are plenty of blog posts out there to encourage you through this artistic slough, to pump you up and get you running again, but I would like to point out one thing:

the crap cycle
is a good thing

The days when we feel like our writing is rubbish and we're forced to evaluate our work through somewhat jaded eyes are good and necessary parts of the process.  We need to maintain a healthy cynicism, a recurring recognition that we are always capable of doing better.  If all we're doing is gleefully throwing out words, happy with everything we write, never suffering from the frustration of not achieving all we have in our hearts to achieve - then maybe our goals are too low.  Maybe our desires aren't big enough.  Maybe we need to step back and reevaluate, and then step forward again and try harder.

a little perfectionism
is a good thing

We do need to write fearlessly.  We need to ignore the editor side of us.  But not all the time.  Execution is as important as the idea.  We should take time to make our sentences ring true, our dialogue cohesive, our descriptions interwoven and spot-on.  If we leave everything until the editing process, I do not believe our finished product will be as good - as finished  - as it could be.  Allow yourself time to concentrate on making what you write solid, and the work of polishing, the punch-list at the end of the job, will be that much easier for it.

realism
is not pessimism

All things in moderation.  Both of these principles can be taken to extremes: we can obsess too much over details, spending so much effort rewriting yesterday's work that we never get to today's, and we can become negative. Remember to forge ahead.  When you've finally gotten through a tough bit, give yourself a pat on the back and move forward; don't go back and fret over it again.  Never let your recognition that improvement is always possible become warped into an attitude of depression, envy, or defeatism.  Rather, let it spur you on to better things.  Enjoy the times when you are the top, and remember that the times on the bottom are there to keep us humble and still striving.

August 14, 2014

August Snippets

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Today I passed two mile markers in Wordcrafter, one in the plot, one in size: it is now 50,000 and some odd words.  (Perhaps more than mathematically so; I leave that to you to judge.)  At this point, with a new stage of the story beginning, it is probably time for me to step back and take stock of where I am and where I'm going.  And for snippets.


The car door slammed. For a moment the headlights blazed against the alarming bulwark of the Fairbairns’ shrubbery, undecided as to whether or not they wanted to switch off, and we lingered, Ethan and I, in their backwash and squinted up through the chilly middle darkness at the house.

- wordcrafter

“You struck me as a coffee person,” she announced, flinging coffee-freckles against the porcelain rim of her cup with a jerk of the spoon. “I suppose you take it black.”

“Ethan takes anything,” I interjected with a sideways grimace, “as long as it’s strong as murder.”

//

“...Lizzy can cover for Lady Macduff and Banquo. She’s very good at dying.”

“A great many people die in this play,” observed Ethan out of the hum of the harp-strings.

// 

There seems little point in commenting overmuch on the girls; they were your typical college students, eminently forgettable in company with their two older sisters. The one was ginger, the other, shockingly, brunette—only I cannot for the life of me remember now whether it was Mabel who was the brunette or whether it was Brianna.

//

The door beat against the frame and a figure joined me with the silent assurance of a witch’s familiar, come to top off my coffee out of a white carafe...

//

“I hope,” I went on, fitting the kettle spout around the rim of the faucet and turning on the tap, “I hope we didn’t do too much damage.”

“To Philip’s face, you mean? Oh, I don’t think so. Lizzy took care of all of that; I’m not much for the sight of blood. Anyhow, he deserved it.”

We were agreed on that, at least, but I did not comment.

//

I stared after her rudely, and it occurred to me with mingled admiration and bitterness that she had got the whip-hand of me once more.

“Devil,” Ethan commented, pouring himself his coffee.

 //

The smell of fresh wood burst free like the scent of an orange when the skin is peeled back: sharp and sudden in your nostrils. 

//

“Up the hill,” Ethan said, “and around behind the house. Steady…”

“Don’t criticize my driving,” I snapped, getting us out of the rut with a jolt and a surging of the engine.
 
meet the authoress
I am a writer of historical fiction and fantasy, scribbling from my home in the United States. More importantly, I am a Christian, which flavors everything I write. My debut novel, "The Soldier's Cross," was published by Ambassador Intl. in 2010.
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published writings






The Soldier's Cross: Set in the early 15th Century, this is the story of an English girl's journey to find her brother's cross pendant, lost at the Battle of Agincourt, and of her search for peace in the chaotic world of the Middle Ages.
finished writings






Tempus Regina:Hurled back in time and caught in the worlds of ages past, a Victorian woman finds herself called out with the title of the time queen. The death of one legend and the birth of another rest on her shoulders - but far weightier than both is her duty to the brother she left alone in her own era. Querying.
currently writing






Wordcrafter: "One man in a thousand, Solomon says / will stick more close than a brother. / And it's worthwhile seeking him half your days / if you find him before the other." Justin King unwittingly plunges into one such friendship the day he lets a stranger come in from the cold. Wordcount: 51,000 words

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