A Writer’s Life: Euphoria and Frustration

Happy Last Day of November. Whew! In a little over a month, we’ll be looking at the start of a brand-new year.

Fresh starts are always great. We set out to achieve new goals and break old habits. When it comes to writing, a fresh start—i.e, a new manuscript—falls somewhere between euphoria and frustration for me.

I love beginning a new book.
There are character names to decide, backgrounds to construct, settings to create, and plot bunnies to round up.

I hate beginning a new book.
There are character names to decide, backgrounds to construct, settings to create, and plot bunnies to round up.

Getting the picture? Euphoria and frustration.

I’m currently constructing book two of my Hode’s Hill series. The original plan for this novel was to tie in the life of a carnival sideshow performer of the late 1800s (think freakshow). What can I say—I like odd. I even spent a good deal of time on research.

It was only after I finished book one of the series, Cusp of Night, that I saw too much similarity in theme. Since I didn’t want End of Day to appear repetitious, I scratched the idea and came up with a new one that utilizes old legends of Church Grims and Folk Memories.

Great, right? I was jazzed about the change until I wrote the opening. I read it through once and thought it was crap. Not the power passage I was looking for to start a new book. It left me feeling like this…

woman with glasses has head down, hands clasped in hair, looking exhausted. Open laptop and blank notebook on desk in front of her

Sulking, I avoided the file for three days before I opened it again. Guess what? Everyone says wait and read with fresh eyes. My beginning needed a few tweaks to spruce it up, but they were minor when I put everything in perspective. Frustration gave way to euphoria.

Close up of woman screaming in excitment

It’s made me realize that as much as I love dreaming up a new project, sitting down and writing the first few scenes is the hardest part of the novel. At least, for me. I second guess everything—and I do mean everything. From the strength of the opening scene to the way my characters behave—to the segues between scenes and chapters, I drive myself batty. I don’t think I truly get comfortable until I’m at least halfway through the manuscript.

As an example, I wrote half of Cusp of Night feeling disconnected from my main character, Hannah Norfolk. It took me that long to realize she needed a stronger background, and the name “Hannah” didn’t fit her. Once she became Maya Sinclair and I beefed up her history, she started to write herself. Of course, those changes—especially her personal background—meant altering earlier chapters and a major plot thread. It’s a good thing I have an understanding and adaptable critique partner (thank you, Staci!).

For now, I’m in euphoria-mode again. I like my beginning, I have direction, and things are going well. I know it’s only a matter of time until frustration rears its ugly head, but I’ll ride this wave for as long as I can.

How about you? What aspects of working on a new project do you find the most maddening? What inspires moments of sheer bliss? Am I the only one who waffles between euphoria and frustration, or is it simply the norm for a writer’s life?

75 thoughts on “A Writer’s Life: Euphoria and Frustration

  1. Mae, I think it’s totally normal to oscillate between the two! 😀 Like you I need to have the start just right and after that it seems to flow. Blimey, that must have been hard to change the name but I can see how the dynamics change as a result and wow! Great name…inspired! Here’s to euphoria … and frustration! ❤️

    Liked by 2 people

    • The beginnings are always rough for me, Annika. Despite being jazzed about a new project (euphoria) I have to struggle to get it “just right” (frustration).

      Changing my MC’s name was definitely rough, but we weren’t connecting when she was Hannah. That change made a world of difference.

      I remember writing an entire novel (A Thousand Yesteryears) and being ready send the ms to my editor when I decided to change the female MC’s name–after an entire novel! The villain’s name got changed too. *palmforehead*

      I liked the new character names better, but talk about an adjustment, LOL!

      Liked by 2 people

    • Oy! I did change two characters’ names after writing an entire novel not that long ago, but the casting still worked. That must have been very rough for you. Writing definitely is not for the faint of heart, LOL!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You aren’t the only one who waffles. I’m getting ready to starting planning book three of my Driscoll Lake series. (No rest for the weary.) I’m excited to get book two behind me (minus the final edits) and look forward to the third book. However, I dread that opening scene. Once I get past that, words usually begin to flow until I get to what I call the messy middle. Excitement picks up again when I near the end.

    I’m so looking forward to your new series, Mae!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joan, your writing habits are mirror-images to mine. Hard to get started, then a nice flow until the middle–egads, the dreaded middle!–with a fresh burst of creative energy at the end. I do usually experience a moment of sheer panic during the last quarter when I’m trying to tie everything up. Never fails.

      Congrats on finishing book 2. I’ll be looking forward to the release. And I hope your characters and plot bunnies cooperate as you kick off book 3! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Mae, I feel your pain with the highs and lows of beginning stories. But you’re so talented, I know you’ll get in your groove soon.

    And believe me, critiquing for you is my pleasure. I get a sneak peek of your work before anyone else! How could I complain about that?

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I think most authors can relate to this! I veer between excitement and exhaustion when i’m in the zone and writing a new novel. I really enjoy reading your work, so I can’t wait for the new book. Reblogged on lizziechantree.com

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    • I agree the middle part is dreadful. And I always have a moment of panic near the end, but the beginning—you are so fortunate to love that that part, Lauralynn. I always look at it like trying to walk into a cold swimming pool. It takes me a while to venture in and take the plunge. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • I hate it when the MCs don’t talk or only share brief glimpses of themselves as if they’re shy creatures (and any writer knows they’re nothing of the sort).

      “Brewing” is a good word, Teri. My ms partially still in that stage too. Hopefully, we can both wrangle a solid start soon!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Great post, Mae. The start of a book is the hardest for me too. An author and editor once told me to avoid “flash backs,” to tell a story chronologically as much as possible. But sometimes that earlier experience isn’t the right place to start. Ugh. My head starts hurting just talking about it. Thank goodness there are plenty of drafts. Happy Writing!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yep. Sometimes you just have to jump ahead for the launch, then go back and leave a trail of breadcrumbs (flashbacks). I’m alternating with two story lines again (present day and late 1700s) so I get twice the joy of deciding where to start 😉

      My head is hurting too, LOL. Like you said—plenty of drafts…and lots of Excedrin!

      Liked by 2 people

  6. This is me with some minor adjustments. Names frustrate me, and they never sound right to me. Eventually, I like most of them. There are a few that still frustrate me years later. I start hard, and finish hard. The middle is like slogging through a muddy swamp full of mosquitoes. I love my stories, love them to the point of absurdity, then hate them, and finally reach a point where they’re okay.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I’m finding it interesting that so many commenters are mentioning how atrocious the middle can be. I agree with that completely. I also like your last sentence–how you love your work, hate it, then decide its okay. I’m pretty much the same depending on my frame of mine when I’m reading. Some days I love my stuff and other days I’m ready to toss it in the garbage. It must be the curse of every writer.

      I like to play with names, but clearly I don’t always get them right, since lately I seem to be changing a lot of them.

      Liked by 3 people

      • I also have a theory that when it’s time to boot it out the door it needs to go. Nothing is ever perfect, and never will be. Eventually we wind up fussing over such minor things it keeps us from our next project. My current work is better than things from five years ago. If I had obsessed back then, I wouldn’t be where I am now.

        Liked by 3 people

  7. Cheering you on, Mae! I think we all go through this. So thrilled that it’s all coming together for you.
    I shifted my focus to my digital design work for the time being. The words just aren’t flowing, but this way I still feel productive. 🙂
    Happy Thursday…aka pork chop day! lol

    Liked by 1 person

    • Natalie, your digital design work is awesome! It’s great that you can be so creative in multiple outlets. I know the poetry will call when it’s ready to “speak” to you.

      And thanks for the cyber cheers. It’s always a delight to have you drop by!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you, Mae! I’m pretty much excited all the time. My sister arrived in Ottawa last night and I’m heading in shortly. We have five days together, and we’re setting up Peace by Piece Puzzles in a Christmas Fair on Sunday here in Petawawa. How freakin awesome is that?! We’re together again! Wishing you a fabulous weekend, too! 🙂

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  8. This made me smile. Stories are such a love/hate relationship for me. When the words flow–anywhere–I love my story. When they tangle or drag, I fuss. And every book’s different for me. Some start and just keep going. Some fight me most of the way, but I love the writing. Like fishing, a bad day writing is better than a good day doing most anything else.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Great closing thought, Judi, and so true! I love those days when I can hide in writing cave and ruminate with my characters. Even if the words don’t flow, at least I’m writing. Of course, I’m happiest when I don’t have to fight them 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Very familar! I always outline my chapters, but the characters take me another direction…which, like you said, requires rewrites. It is fun creating a new tale…I agree with some frustration thrown in, too. My hardest part is always the middle, connecting the two clear parts in my mind the begining and end. Great blog:)

    Liked by 2 people

    • Judging by the comments here, we must all hate the middle. I guess its like struggling upward to the crest of the hill. You’ve done a lot of work, but still can’t see the ending and how the journey fits together.

      I don’t outline, but I have a few friends who do. Like you, they say their characters still go off in another direction. I wonder how much writing is actually rew-riting, LOL.

      BTW, I’m reading The Second Chance. I hope to have a review up by early next week!

      Liked by 2 people

  10. I love outlining a new novel and revising subsequent drafts, but the first draft part is what leaves me frazzled. I feel frenzied, like I have to get everything down at once. Once I type The End, I feel enormous relief. Then I can go back and pretty it up. Like you, beginnings are the hardest for me. I’m always wondering if I’m putting too much or too little backstory in.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Carrie, great to have you drop by with your thoughts!

      I struggle with the backstory aspect too–too little vs. too much. It’s like a seesaw that eludes perfect balance. And I do love the complete and utter relief I feel when I reach the end. Wish I could bottle that feeling, LOL.

      One of these days I must learn to outline. That might save me an ulcer or two 😉

      Liked by 3 people

      • This was such an interesting post I came back for more. Sorry to interject, but I learned a trick about backstory. Try writing a character with none and you’ll learn how little you really need. Lisa Burton has none, and Yak Guy almost doesn’t either.

        Liked by 1 person

      • So glad you came back to share more thoughts! I wonder if genre plays into things, Craig. Having read both Lisa’s story and the Yak guy’s story, I couldn’t imagine them otherwise. And yet, when writing Cusp of Night, it was the first time I didn’t connect with a character until I fleshed out Hannah/Maya’s backstory.I’d never experienced that feeling before.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Wow, I loved reading this blog. And, the comments added even more richness! What writer can’t connect to the excitement and the frustration of beginning a story, and then bringing the story to its conclusion? The love/hate, the haunting questions, the great unknown middle – you’ve covered the bases and offered each of us something to think about. Thank you, thank you, Mae! You’ve made my day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • And you’ve made my day with that excellent comment, Gwen! This post was great for learning how other writers experience the same elation and frustration, There are days when I waffle consistently between the two and don’t know which is going to win the tug-of-war. Apparently, we can all relate, LOL. I’m so glad you enjoyed the post! 🙂

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  12. I’m with you, Mae. The first few chapters give me fits. I started my latest with a bang-up scene that would qualify as a thrilling opening. Unfortunately, the scene left me with a small void on where to pick up the story next. (did I say small?) I went back and wrote a new opener and the original became chapter two and a nice fit.

    Liked by 1 person

    • John, you make me feel better in knowing I’m not alone in struggling with the opening—loving it one moment and dissing it the next. Im glad you were able to salvage you beginning and use it in a later chapter. Once we apply ourselves everything does normally fall into place, but getting there can be a traumatic experience, LOL.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. You are not the only one who struggles with this challenge, Mae. In fact, I’m quite thrilled to see I’m not the only one either. Wishing the best of luck on the new story. I’m looking to close out my current WIP and start a new in the new year, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • As I am glad to know I’m not the only one straddling the fence between euphoria and frustration as well, Stanalei :). Wishing you all ht best wth the new WIP. Beginning a new project is so exciting,,,,and, well, a bit frustrating too, LOL!

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  14. This is an accurate description of a writer’s trials and tribulations. We are our own worse critics. I’m glad you pointed out the character name having such an impact on getting to know her and bringing her to life. I have found that, too, but never followed through on the thought of just how important the “real” name is. Thanks for a wonderful post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I understand completely, Robbie. My writing takes place on weekends too, usually just Sunday afternoon (like today). Trying to get back into the swing of things after a week away from a writing project can really be hard!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I think it’s a quandary that all writers can relate to. That’s what makes the online network so wonderful. Talking about these things to non-writers just isn’t the same. When another author tells me they can relate, it’s like—YES! You know exactly what I mean! 🙂

      Thanks, Jan.

      Like

    • Thanks, Gatekeeper. Sadly, no—nothing in the option for movies or TV 😦 but oh, how I would love to see my Point Pleasant series made into a show. That setting and those characters have a lot of potential for continued (weird) growth! 🙂

      Thanks for visiting and asking!

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  15. Another vote for the muddle in the middle, which is where I am. You’ve hit the nail, Mae! I think we all go from being really super excited about the story, to loathing it, and back to being excited about it. I’m at the loathing stage right now. So, now to just write the damn thing until I get back to the excited stage. When you start writing, then look up at the clock and realize you’ve been writing for OMG hours, it’s awesome. I wish it could be like that more often. I think it is with different stories–some stories are just more fun to write 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Julie, I love those spans when you go for hours. I just spent the afternoon on the next scene in my current WIP and I think I’m back in the super excited stage. I wish I could bottle it and make it last.

      I hate the loathing stage, but it’s like a necessary evil. That’s why I know you’ll get through it. I like your reaction to just writing “the damn thing” and moving ahead. That’s what I do too, even when I feel like I’m trudging through molasses. Eventually we hit the other side of wine and roses. 🙂

      Hoping you’re back to that stage soon and the evil, nasty loathing stage avoids us both!

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Shared your troubles. I’m sure others will love that they’re not alone. I know I do. 😀 Halfway through Nanowrimo with 25,705 words written, my main character was murdered. Not the main main characters, but still . . . Now what? Then, I was lost and couldn’t finish Nanowrimo. I’d planned what would go in each chapter and she was in the rest of the chapters I’d planned. But it’s still exciting not to know what’s coming next.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kim, talk about a dilemma! No wonder you couldn’t finish NaNo. I’m sure you’ll find a way to write yourself out of that corner eventually, but having a plot thread and character veer so unexpectedly off course would set me back too. Big time!

      It’s amazing what we can happen when we start writing a draft, LOL. Here’s wishing you lots of inspiration 🙂

      And many thanks for sharing the post.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Hi Mae. I love this post. And I feel every bit of it! LOL.
    I like world building best of all. I enjoy creating and naming my characters. However, I admit to researching the names a little bit excessively. o_O And researching everything else more than I probably should too. Ha. I’m just a research geek — what can I say?
    Hugs!

    Liked by 1 person

    • LOL! I enjoy researching too, Teagan, but I think you have me beat in the enthusiasm department. It sounds like you have a lot of fun behind-the-scenes before you start writing. Research geeks are a great thing to be! {{hugs}}

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