Monday, May 4, 2009

Writer Neurosis

Today in my writing forum one of the ladies posted about how she was preparing a query for one of her books and how frustrated and discouraged she was. She said her book felt like trash compared to other things she read in the market and she wasn't sure whose books hers was most like (to give the agent an idea of where it would be shelved).

Several of us responded that her writing was really good, that we all hated submitting, and that by the time our books were ready to submit we were all sure they were sludge and the publisher would hate them. Unfortunately that uncertainty is part of the neurosis that makes us strive to be publishable writers. More than one of us (from my group) stated that we wished we could take our manuscripts/queries back almost as soon as they left our hands.

So why do we put ourselves through all of this?

Writing is what makes us who we are--or at least it is a big part of me. When I'm agitated reading or writing can calm me, redirect my focus so I can go back to being a semi-normal person that my husband wants to be around.

It gives me a sense of accomplishment. Even if I never published (and I do intend to publish many books) just finishing the story, making it so much better than it start out, so much better than the things I had polished to death years ago (they may not be totally dead, but the plot and structure are only holding on by a few sinews). It's something I'm good at where I'm not in competition with anyone but myself.

And, inveterate introvert that I am, I don't have to put myself in front of mean or judgemental people when I'm still working on a draft. If I show my work to my writing friends they are nice even as they tell me exactly what's wrong and give me suggestions to fix it (granted, I did ask for their help or they wouldn't have read it to begin with).

I'm NOT saying that receiving critiques on my work isn't hard. The first thing I ever let a real writer read came back dripping with red pen (You know who you are, Josi), but after I got over being upset that my 'perfect' manuscript was deeply flawed, I was able to dig in and get the changes made. And when I submitted my next book for her to edit, she commented on how much my writing had improved since the first story. And since then I've learned something more about plotting, chracterization, etc, and through critiques in my writing group and among my critique group (and AT LEAST a million written words) I've finally gotten to the point that my work is publishable.

Does that mean my publisher is going to want the manuscript I gave them two weeks ago? Nope, it sure doesn't. I hope they want it. I think I did a good job on it--and I love my characters. But there are no guarantees, so I'll edit for some friends and try to figure out what's just *wrong* about the story I'm getting ready to send out for full critiques (you know, the one I had planned to send out mid April--yeah, that one) so I can fix it, because it may be all in my head, but I swear the thing is trash, even though my critique group really liked it.

In a few weeks I'll hear back from my publisher and will see what they think. In the meantime I'll try to stay away from the cookie jar, and keep from biting my fingernails.

2 comments:

Nichole Giles said...

Okay, so, my book is the one that's trash, and yours is actually really good. I'm telling you, they're crazy if they don't publish it.

On the other hand, how dare I call my baby trash? That's terrible of me. But I totally get it. Believe me.

We definitely are a neurotic bunch!

Terresa said...

these are great thoughts. Thanks for sharing them. I don't have a complete manuscript yet and I'm still running to my cookie jar far too often between writing and running my household. Thanks for the words of advice!