Friday, July 2, 2010

Friday Fricassee

Feels strange, this non-blogging. But sometimes life works this way, yes? I wouldn't want to be accused of being, yanno, unbalanced.

At any rate, I do have something jiggling around in my brain this morning. I call it the "Stopping Point Syndrome."

Well, okay. Actually I just thought of that.

Bear with me, though, because I think this may resonate with you. Writing novels has a particular cycle. Basically, you plot, you write, you rest, you revise, you edit, you send out to readers, you rest (maybe), you begin a new project. This doesn't even include the querying part; just the writing.

At most places of the cycle, you've got something else right around the bend: You've finished the first draft and you're getting ready to dig in and analyze the plot before starting draft two. Or you've finished a revision and you're editing and cleaning things up before sending the manuscript to your readers. Or you're ALL DONE and have begun to query. That's when you set your eyes on a shiny, new project.

And the cycle repeats.

But. Set naturally into that cycle are some stopping points. As in, points that, if you're not careful, can trip you up. Sputter your engine.

Or tempt you to quit altogether.

Let's be honest. Sometimes it's hard to keep going. Especially when the rejections are pouring in. Especially when you've gotten SO CLOSE more than once, only to come up empty.

Oh, yeah. Especially then.

And it's infinitely easier to keep going when you haven't hit one of those natural stopping points in the cycle. When you're in the middle of something you can see the end of. When you're on a schedule and you're goal-oriented enough to push through to the finish.

Then you reach the finish of whatever bit you're working on. And if you're in a "hard place" (as in, a huge rejection slammed you in the face within the past 24 hours), it takes an extra ounce of gumption to push through to the next part.

"Okay, I've finished the second draft. Do I really want to go back and revise the other novel now?"

"Plotting done. Do I really want to dig in and write this novel?"

Or, in my case:

"Revisions done. Edits complete. Novel has been sent out to my readers. Should I quit now?"

Quit, as in, stop writing.

Quit, as in, let everything I've got out there come to its natural conclusion (i.e. rejection) and stop trying.

Quit, as in, quit.

Yesterday, I almost planned it. The quitting. It would be incredibly easy to do right now. The YA's query cycle is coming to its end. Sure, I've still got requested material out there. But let's face it. Despite glowing praise, the novel hasn't gotten me an agent. The MG's query cycle is getting ready to start. I can easily go through the motions of querying without really investing myself.

In short, I can stop writing. Right now. Forever.

It's tempting.

I lay on my back and stared at the ceiling late yesterday, and tried to plan it. Seriously considered the perfect timing of walking away from this Thing that has taken over my life. Thought about how easy it would be to quit when I had absolutely nothing unfinished hanging over me. A clean break.

Then something unexpected happened. I started thinking about a new story. It's a seed that sprouted a couple weeks ago that I haven't acknowledged yet. It's been the "next thing" on my list that I finally, at this cycle break, have time to pursue.

And in the midst of planning to quit, I pursued it. Even mentally wrote a First Sentence.

It hit me when I caught myself plotting. I can't quit. I can think about quitting and plan quitting and even DECIDE to quit, but I'm not sure the actual quitting is possible. On any level.

I could be wrong. But yesterday's experience whispers otherwise. I didn't set out to lie there plotting. I set out to lie there and talk myself into quitting. For real.

Instead, I started my next novel.

So. There you have it. I guess I'm not quitting. Not today, at any rate.

What about you?

31 comments:

  1. It's almost like the opposite of an addiction. Sometimes I think I should stop obsessing about my existing book sales, stop worrying about queries, stop yapping about the next book, and get back to my normal life (whatever that is - I can't remember anymore) and stop writing.

    But... another day dawns and the stories are still in my head, screaming to get out.

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  2. I don't think quitting is an option for artists. We might give up the dream, as writers, of publication, but . . . to stop writing, to not put that brilliant story down on paper? Never!

    A few years ago I stopped following trends and began to write soley for me - what I wanted to write and what I wanted to read. Let me tell you, that was probably one of the most intense writing periods of my life. It was absolutely - at least to me - awe inspiring.

    Yeah, the whole query thing is daunting. The rejections can be heart-rending. But quit writing? Nope, not me. It's in my soul. It's in my blood. Writing is a part of me . . . whether I ever get published or not.

    S

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  3. I think this is going around. I've been infected, too, lately. I'm going to take Scott's lead. 'I don't think quitting is an option for artists.' He's correct, although I'm not sure he knows just how correct he is.

    I'm a former dancer. At seventeen, I was on my way to going pro: ecstatic instructor in NY, leads, and very interested influential peeps. Then my life crashed. My mom got MS. I chose to stay home to care for her instead of fulfilling my dream--my artists nitch inside. It took me fifteen years--yup, 15--to figure out I'd been grieving that loss. I'd been miserable; something was always missing.

    That's when my second love--writing--came back to me. The creativity had to come out somehow.
    I guess I'd never really 'quit'.

    Smiles, grins, and writer hugs. *taps the keyboard*

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  4. :HUGS: I'd be lying if I said I've never been there. I actually did kinda quit once between my first and second books. I let the rejection letters for my first book stall out the writing on the second. I watched a lot of TV, read a few books written by other people, until one day - 9 months later - I couldn't take it any more. Long story short - that was five years and at least as many books ago.

    I'm glad your next book derailed your quitting train of thought, and that it didn't take months of wallowing in self pity (like me) for you to see you can't stop writing. Hang in there, Authoress. It'll happen for you. =o)

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  5. I'm probably about to step on some toes here, so apologies upfront if I'm going to upset you. But wouldn't it be more fulfilling to have the dream to write and not let publishing be the measure of your happiness ?

    Unless, of course, we see it differently and you are not happy with The Day Job, as so many writers call it, and really want to make a career being an author. But that is becoming an author, not being a writer, right ?

    Once I've sent out a short story to one person and it got rejected and I was overjoyed. And still am. I might try again. I'm a writer and I write.

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  6. I am right there with you, Authoress! I just put aside a book I've been revising for a while because I knew it was never going to be good enough. And then I wondered what to do with myself. Should I even attempt the next one? But after planning to give up, I found myself writing. It's easy to get discouraged, and I'm still not sure if I have what it takes to get published, but I need to keep writing, no matter what.

    It makes me feel better that I'm not alone. And you - you can't quit! You're such an inspiration :)

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  7. I wish I knew how to quit you. If I could have quit, I would have done it a long time ago and saved myself a lot of grief. But I would have missed out on lots of good stuff as well.

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  8. Yep, been there--still kinda doing that. My first novel is done, a query cycle completed & then I stalled out. Yes, I love writing for writing's sake but I DO want to be published. Rejection's hard and sapped my strength to go on. For a while, at least.

    But I can't stay away. There are too many stories I want to write, too many characters and plots buzzing through my brain.

    I won't lie, I want to get published, want to be a well-known author. But, if that doesn't happen, I'll still write. I don't think I can quit. Pause, yes. Quit, no.

    I'm glad you didn't quit, either. Come on, Authoress, back to writing we go!

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  9. Ugh. I so needed to read this and ALL your comments today. I'm stalled. The last book did a query cycle and isn't working, but I can't figure out why. The new one that I started got to a point where I realized I didn't like my own narrator and I got rid of over half of what I'd started. Tired of poking at them both, I haven't been writing at all.

    Then yesterday, I poked at a little ember of an idea with some research. It's so hard to keep going sometimes when you're discouraged, and wondering if it all MEANS anything. I feel better knowing I'm not alone in sometimes thinking that I suck and should just walk away from it all.

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  10. I started typing out this big, long personal essay on who the heck knows what, but then I deleted the whole thing and decided I'm just going to stick with thanks. Thanks for sharing this with us, Authoress. And for what it's worth, I'm glad you're not quitting, because you've been an inspiration to me (and a lot of other people, too, I'm sure).

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  11. In my crit group the other day we had a couple of very new, bright-eyed excited writers. They were like newly expectant moms--practically glowing.

    After welcoming them, I did what parents of teens used to do to me when my kids were young; I said, "Enjoy it while you can, it gets PAINFUL." I actually envied them their joy of writing, free from all rejection and agent hunting. I decided then and there I needed to get back to the joy of "raising" my novels, and when they were ready to go out into the world, I'd just have to let them go.

    My 18-yo is at that point, and you just have to trust you've done the best you can and focus on your other "works-in-progress." I just thought yesterday that I had no business writing. I'm a busy mom, for goodness sakes. It takes such an emotional toll. But I can't quit entirely; I just need to get my joy back!

    Thanks for being transparent, Authoress. You're a friend in need, indeed!

    And salarsen, you have my deepest respect.

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  12. Wonderful post. I'm glad you shared this with us. This was the very topic of my last writers group. A couple of them are considering quitting. I told them it probably won't happen since another idea will form and they'll be off writing again. We'll see.

    I't's good to hear another idea grabbed you out of the the jaws of Quit. Happy writing everyone!

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  13. Confessing here that I did quit a writing career once and don't have that "must write no matter what" feeling anymore. I quit while working with a major publisher--we were editing a book and I heard myself think, "I cannot do this anymore." This being the whole slit your wrist and bleed onto the page, then have some nitwit "tweak" it to her tastes while you fight to keep some semblance of what you wrote because your name is going to be on the cover, not hers. I stopped submitting to them and have one half-finished "novel for me" ms. lolling around for the occasional visit.

    But serious write to get published? Not so much. Did it, didn't do for me what I wanted it to. Moved on.

    See, I think creative people are going to be creative and goal-oriented people will pursue a goal until they reach it. Then some will reevaluate and change their mind. It's okay--there are lots of ways to be creative and success is most often a box you get stuck in. To sell you must write what sells. Over and over. The biz doesn't let you cast your net wide.

    After one big rejection early on, I "gave up" writing. I found myself baking bread, crocheting a baby blanket and working in the garden. IOW, I was still being creative. The rejection was neutralized. I decided to keep after the prize...until the sparkly diamond turned out to be glass for me.

    May it always remain a diamond to you all! May it sparkle in your palm soon! But don't be afraid to stop doing what doesn't work anymore. You'll find a way to be creative, no worries. Do what you like until you don't like it anymore, then do something else. That's not failing, that's just doing something else.

    Like writing freelance nonfiction articles and painting ;-)

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  14. If you've run out of agents to try, why not submit directly to publishers? I know this opinion isn't popular, but I've been doing it and getting favorable response so far (even from publishers who say "no un-agented queries").

    Good for you for starting the next project. The only real way to fail in this business is to quit it, so don't quit! You'll get there :)

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  15. "You're not finshed when you're defeated, you're finished when you quit."

    Not the best grammar but one of my all-time favorite quotes.

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  16. I'm glad you're not quitting, and I hope you have a lot of fun figuring out your next story.

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  17. Thanks for sharing, Authoress. As you can see from all these great comments, many of us have been there, on the brink of quitting, only to be pulled away from the edge by that thing (whether it be a great idea or the need to express or just that itch that won't go away) that makes us writers.

    I'm glad you pulled yourself off the edge. Here's to all of us who keep on keeping even when things get tough!

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  18. Wonderful post! And just in time for me. I was pondering the same question today. One novel is finished and out in queryland and, writing the next has been slow for various reasons. I love them both, but the rejections are eating away at me.

    Thank you so much for the inspiring post, and the kick in the pants to keep at it.

    *rolls up sleeves* My WIP is waiting.

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  19. When someone is caught with their hand in the cookie jar (this is entirely hypothetical) there are two courses of action. Own up to the cookie thievery (I admire this kind of person) or swear you didn't steal the cookie and act like everyone is treating you unjustly (Sometimes I like this kind of person but this bs makes me just want to slap some sense into them and "say grow up already!")

    This is actually a good post, minus the childish pensive I don't want to be unjustly accused of something statement.

    Somebody will eventually accuse you of something at some point in your life. The key is to behave in such away that they don't have a leg to stand on. When you lie or make a truth that they don't have a leg to stand on.

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  20. The only way you can quit is feet first.
    I am having two such days despite one of them being my birthday.
    But nobody can find the off button.
    However, I have a lovely crisp Regency waiting for an anthology which looks like it's falling through.(The anthology - mine's finished.) It was the follow up to a first published one (anthology) and kind of has been wallowing in inertia by the group.
    So if nothing happens to it, it sits around frustrating me in it's commmon group inertia beyond anything I can do to kick start it.
    When it boils down to it, you have your up days and down days, and inbetween days, but all up, you have the days when you have to admit to self, okay, I have about as much chance to stop writing as I would in winning a life time subscription to a Chanel wardrobe including shoes and bags.

    ZaraP

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  21. Sweetie if you quit the characters in your brain will eat little bitty holes to get out. I hope you have more than one big hat.
    *hugs*

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  22. Doug, I was being facetious. ;)

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  23. This query stuff is brutal, hard work.

    You know, that writing cycle you described leaves something out. Breaks. You're allowed to take a break. That's not the same as quitting.

    You're allowed to stop for a month or two or three, take walks, read, bike with your husband, garden, paint, make music, or whatever else you enjoy.

    Take some local or online writing classes just for the fun of it. Write some short fiction. These things will energize you.

    Little breaks are important. They recharge your spirit.

    Here's a thanks for all the encouragement you give to the rest of us.

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  25. I'm glad you didn't quit. I don't comment all that often (except on SA contests) but I do love this blog.

    Maybe your idea sprouted because you had given yourself permission to quit? Maybe the weight of knowing you didn't have to do this anymore made you realise you did want to keep on doing it, and your mind obliged with the germinating of this idea.

    I think it's important that writers give themselves permission to stop. As H. Grant said, your writing cycle doesn't leave any time for breaks. And if someone is feeling utterly fed up with the process, maybe it is time to quit, or at least take a break until they're feeling inspired again. That might take a day, it might take a year. This is a hard road and it's even harder when you're feeling depressed and having to force yourself to do it.

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  26. I stopped for a while. I had my first child and just didn't have the time or the headspace to write. Then we moved to a new country and I started a new and challenging job (with a 9 month-old), and I still didn't have the time or headspace to write.

    Then one day I picked up something I'd been working on before life got in my way, an realized there was something in it. And that was enough to kickstart me back into it.

    Haven't stopped again yet. Even when it gets discouraging and awful, there's always something new to work on.

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  27. Ah, yes. The quitting cycle. Been there. Many times. The siren call always brings you back--especially when there's even a breadcrumb of success luring you on.

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  28. I agree with Salarsen when she said that when she spoke about being artistic. I too found that I wasn't going to be a professional singer, though I was very good, but ultimately I want to become a lawyer, which I'm abut to embark on that journey in Sept. But to say a little more on the artistic blood, I would say that we are artistic and when one thing is hindered or cut off then I think we do move to something else. I became an artist, which I still do, then four years ago I began writing. To this day I think that writing has been the best way for me to say what I want. It's a great outlet for feelings and ideas.
    But to quit...nope. My story ideas come to me in my dreams, literally, I dream about something and wake up, the dream was so vivid I can't think of anything else to do with it but write. Whether it turns into a novel or just an idea to work on later it gets written down.

    My first novel is done, and still I have issues trying to find what I'm missing and what it is that people aren't seeing that I know is there. It's frustrating and depressing at times, but I tend to step away and work on other stories then return and see waht I can change. I don't think I'll ever quit, take a break of course but not quit, I don't quit anything so...

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  29. I agree with Salarsen when she said that when she spoke about being artistic. I too found that I wasn't going to be a professional singer, though I was very good, but ultimately I want to become a lawyer, which I'm abut to embark on that journey in Sept. But to say a little more on the artistic blood, I would say that we are artistic and when one thing is hindered or cut off then I think we do move to something else. I became an artist, which I still do, then four years ago I began writing. To this day I think that writing has been the best way for me to say what I want. It's a great outlet for feelings and ideas.
    But to quit...nope. My story ideas come to me in my dreams, literally, I dream about something and wake up, the dream was so vivid I can't think of anything else to do with it but write. Whether it turns into a novel or just an idea to work on later it gets written down.

    My first novel is done, and still I have issues trying to find what I'm missing and what it is that people aren't seeing that I know is there. It's frustrating and depressing at times, but I tend to step away and work on other stories then return and see waht I can change. I don't think I'll ever quit, take a break of course but not quit, I don't quit anything so...

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  30. I really needed to read this! Sometimes I think am I the only one who thinks these thoughts. I'm so glad that you've found another plot and story singing in your ears! Yeah!

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  31. Whoa... You just described MY July 2... (insert Twilight Zone music here)

    except I would add "actually catch up with my *live* friends again..." ;p

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