Monday, March 23, 2009

Just tell the story woman

Things are moving along on the writing front (she says defensively.) I've sold a couple more stories, and I've started writing a new novel that I'm really excited about. It's a measure of how excited I am that I've written the equivalent amount of words as Novel 1, in about a third of the time. (I'm not very good with Maths so that might not make sense. I've written it quickly, let's put it that way.)

I feel guilty about abandoning Novel 1, though I'm hoping to go back to it at some point. It had got to the stage where some major things needed changing and I couldn't quite muster the strength. Plus I'd had this other idea you see, which wouldn't lie down and shut it's face.

The thing is, I keep remembering a quote I read on Gonna be a Writer's website - "you shouldn't practise writing you should practise finishing the writing projects that you start" - or words to that effect, and they keep tugging at my conscience. If I give up and start something new every time the going gets tough, I'll never get anything finished.

'Just tell the story, woman,'
is a sentence I say to myself quite a lot. When I'm bogged down, or I've reached a saggy bit, or I've whittled away at the same paragraph over and over again until it's a completely different shape, to avoid Moving On.

But when the story won't budge and the whittling's out of hand, isn't it better to start something that feels like it might be the right shape already, with a bit of careful honing?

Okay, that's enough with the woodworking analogies.

Maybe I should have been a carpenter?


Fiona said...

Snap and apsolutely to everything.

My novel 1 got so complicated that I completely lost the plot, literally.

I'm sure many writers have apprentice novels before their 'first' novels. Which reminds me. When's it on? I love it so much. Everyone is - IMHO - horrible in it.

And well done you brilliant thing for all those sales.

KAREN said...

I'm glad you understand Fiona, but the guilt is awful and makes you feel like a bit, fat failure!

I LOVE The Apprentice by the way, and think it's back on this Wednesday. Rah! :o)

Jan Jones said...

You need to write the book that's begging you to write it. The one in your heart. Otherwise, it might wither away out there in Might-Have-Been Land and die while you are struggling to finish something else.

Nothing wrong with having several pieces of writing on the go at once anyway. If a story doesn't hold your attention long enough to finish it, it ain't going to hold an editor's attention either.

Of course, once you get to the position of having a contract and a deadline, ignore all of the above as idealistic nonsense.

[Word verification - windiums. Which is what I get when the damn book is going nowhere and I can't imagine what possessed me to start on it in the first place because it's going to be crap and no one will buy it and ...]

Anna said...

I am a notorious non-finisher with stuff; embroidery, crocheting, beading...

such a drag! fortunately with words it does find an end.

although sometimes they all get killed off. oh, sorry about that!)

but you've sold stories, got a new project going, and it sounds like a fire's burning! light that baby and get cooking!

no woodworking analogy, I do apologize... :)))

Chicklit Addict said...

You never know when inspiration may strike - perhaps you'll come up with a great idea for saving Novel 1? The imagination is a funny old random beast sometimes, so don't let guilt get to you - you never know, you might resurrect it

Lane said...

Great advice from Gonna B. And something which I must heed.

Well done for writing so much, so quickly and writing and seeling your shorts too. You're really hammering along:-)

And soon you will have nailed it.

Ok enough of the wood:-)

Debs said...

I know what you mean. I have one novel lying in the depths of a cupboard somewhere that I started eons ago. I'm sure I'll finish it at some point, but not yet.

I wouldn't mind having your sales though, you've done so well with those. Clever thing.

Helen P said...

I love the throw away comment: 'sold a couple more stories...' If I was you I'd be cheering about that so loudly it would be drowning out any guilt I might be feeling about the novel!

Dumdad said...

I know the feeling about starting something and not finishing it - we all do it and we then feel guilty.

When I set out on that long road to writing my first novel (unpublished) more than 10 years ago I was tormented with doubts and second thoughts and even third thoughts. I then embarked with huge enthusiasm on a second novel with the first one not quite completed and it helped me later to go back to the first. The second was also unpublished! I should start the third one day...

... Incidentally, I don't want to sound snide or know-it-all (I don't) but I would be wary of a blog that writes:

"writer's don't need to practice writing, they need to practice finishing the projects they've started"

It's enough to make Lynne Truss faint:

It's writers plural, not writer's singular possessive. In British English the verb is practise with an "s" not a "c"; practice is the noun.

Of course, one can be brilliant at grammar and crap at writing stories: John Steinbeck, Nobel Prize winner, didn't know what a comma was even if it had bitten him on the bum and screamed, "I'm a comma!"

But I think we, as writers, should try to care about our tools of the trade.

Anyway, you put us to shame with all your published stories. I feel you'll be a published novelist one of these days soon. (Can I have an autographed copy, please?)

Lorna F said...

Congratulations on more sales, Karen! I'm so impressed. I'm also so sympathetic about the staying-power issues as I have them myself and in fact was lectured about this by a friend last week. I find I get bored easily, which doesn't help. Plus I have too many ideas - and I know many a writer would be glad to have such a problem but it is a problem when you don't know which project to tackle or in what order, or which stands the best chance of being seen through to publication. Let's call it Doubting Butterfly Syndrome - maybe if we give it a medical-sounding label, someone will offer us counselling!

KAREN said...

jan jones - Windiums is a great word - it's certainly very windy here at the moment (and I AM talking about the weather!!)and you're right, it is better to go with the novel that's begging to be written :o)

anna - I take comfort from the fact that writing is the one thing I've stuck at over the years. I can't count the number of knitting projects I've begun and discarded along the way :oO

chicklit addict - I think I've got a way to save it, but it involves changing so many things that thinking about it gives me the heebie-jeebies!! Maybe when I've left it along for a while ...

lane - Ooh, lots of lovely woodwork talk there! I sometimes think of sticking to the short stories, but I can't help going back to the novel-writing :o)

dumdad - It's me who's the dummy here. I totally misquoted (and misspelled) so went back and double-checked and have put it right now :oO The mistakes were all my own and I feel v. silly because I'm a stickler for commas being in their rightful place, and proper spelling normally. I can almost feel the wrath of Lynne ...

KAREN said...

helen p - I suppose that does make up for things, I hadn't thought of it like that :o)

debs - You've written about 15 novels though - I'm in awe of how you do it!!

lorna f - Doubting Butterfly Syndrome is an excellent name - or DBS as I shall refer to it from now on! I have lots of ideas too, and I suppose there's nothing wrong with having more than one project on the go at a time, but then I'd worry I wasn't giving any of them my full attention. It's a complicated business.

Fionnuala said...

I'm trying to conjure up/create/carve(?) a cheesy woodwork comment but can't quite do it! But I think the fact that you're selling stories like Christmas trees in December (see now I cant help myself...) is great news. Whatever novel, 1st, 2nd - someday you will be a published writer. Fx

Pat Posner said...

Congratulations on more sales. Congrats, too, on starting a new novel which sounds as if it's writing itself. It's great when it feels the right shape from the word 'go'.

Mickmouse said...

The thing about being a creative genius Karen is that ideas will keep emerging and forming, even when you are fully committed to another project, almost like the chocolate bar that sings to me when i have fully committed to a diet!! Creativity and ideas are part of who we are, so do not feel guilty and I am sure you will return to your 'mothballed' project when the inspiration grabs you.

♥ bfs~"Mimi" ♥ said...

Congratulations on 2 more sales! Awesome, Karen!

Word verification: antst: the stuttering ants that crawl over and stop me from writing MY book!

Amanda said...

Novel 2 will be a bestseller, Novel 1 will be the next - you mark my words!!! Congrats again on your sales! x

KatW said...

Karen - I have had the same problem with moving on and leaving well alone. In fact the first children's book I edited and edited until I ruined it. The adult novel I abandoned after so much work, still haunts me. However, I am glad I moved onto the present novel because I think I learnt a lot from writing the short children's books and incomplete adult novel and this learning has helped me with the present novel.

I think yes we do need to learn to complete and finish projects. BUT maybe with each failure we are still finding our way, learning and adjusting. I certainly feel that this novel is benefitting from my turbulent experiences. We just have to be careful that 'fear' isn't holding us back from ever completing. At some point we have to trust our writing. But I think experience helps us build that confidence.

Hope this 'too-wordy' comment helps a little! Kat :-)

KatW said...

Oh and...(yes I can't shut up - big fault of mine)...this comment:

"you shouldn't practise writing you should practise finishing the writing projects that you start"

In my humble opinion is a shocking load of trite! Writing isn't just about completing a project. Writing should be a love, an expression and a constant practice! Hell, Natalie Goldberg has had a few best selling books on the subject of writing practice and its being essential to every writer.

Ok - I promise not to take any more of your comments page up. Mouth zipped. Fingers knotted(???)

Kat :-)


Clarkey, being the expert carpenter that you are, just maybe both your novels could be joined together in marriage.

Marriage: In furniture study, the joining of two or more sections/of an object which were not part of the same object originally.

Now could you and more to the point WOOD you? ;-) Tommox

Suzanne said...

Congratulations on the sales (remember to tell us when they're being published so we can buy the relevent mags).

It sounds like you're making great progress on Novel 2 - so you obviously made the right decision.


HelenMHunt said...

Ooh The Apprentice! Yes - indeedy! You're doing so well at everything! I am in awe.

Edward said...

If you'd been a carpenter, you'd be Karen Carpenter. She had a terrific voice, so that would be fine. Congrats on the sales too.

Yes, I'm going to comment on The Apprentice but I'm slightly dreading the Credit Crunch version.

Jumbly Girl said...

Wish I'd thought of Edward's karen carpenter comment first! - might have to play a bit of Carpenters now.
Anyhoo writing wise you are a star and an inspiration . Write what you love and you'll do well and maybe time and space away from novel 1 will result in an Aha! moment when you can go back and finish it (even if that's years in the future when you are a famous author and have a whole shelf in the library to yourself.)

Meanwhile good luck with novel 2, hope it continues to inspire.

And by the way your original SAF thank you arrivedd in my mail box after all - twice!

KAREN said...

fionnuala - Because of your lovely comment I'll overlook the Christmas tree part :o))

Thanks Pat, I'm certainly having a lot of fun with it!

mickmouse - I love an analogy that links to chocolate! I reckon I will go back to novel one eventually :o)

bfs - Thankyou, and tell those ants to crawl away!

Thanks Amanda - I'll hold you to that :o))

katw - Some very wise words there - you're right, it shouldn't be about labouring on when you know a project isn't working. I suppose the key is knowing when to stop :o))

tommo - Ooh, novels in holy matrimony now there's a thought! I'm not sure they WOODwork, but it might be worth squeezing some of the elements of 1 into 2 :o) As it were ...

Thanks Suzanne - they'll be in TaB FF, but I don't know which edition and neither do they, so I'll just have to have a flick through when the next one comes out!

helenmh - It got off to a promising start I thought! And thanks for your lovely comment :o)

edward - Ooh nice one! And thanks :o) I'll look forward to your Apprentice reports ...

jumbly girl - It was a good one wasn't it? Thanks for the wise and lovely words, and sorry about the email overload - AOL has a mind of its own sometimes!

February New Year's Resolution (better late than never)

Well, Christmas flew by in a flash - and lovely it was too - and January got off to a busy start as I had a deadline for the second book ...