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?

A Friday Visit

It’s Friday and that’s always a cause for celebration for me when the work week winds down to a close. Not that I don’t love my career in the working world, just that the weekend means I have more time to devote to my other enterprise—building my brand as an author. With that in mind, I’m excited to be the featured guest at Teri Polen’s blog, Books and Such, for Indie Author Friday.

Teri invited me over to answer a handful of questions about my writing habits. Granted, I’m not sharing the secrets of rocket science, but it’s all good fun. Hop over and say hello if you get a spare moment while you’re roaming the blogosphere. And while you’re there, poke around Teri’s blog and consider giving her a follow. Not only is she an author, but she reads a ton of books, too. There’s no better combo in my mind! 🙂

Guest Blogger C. S. Boyack and a Special Guest

I’ve got a treat for your today. Actually a double one. Craig Boyack of Entertaining Stories and I are doing a blog swap. Craig and a “special guest” I asked him to bring along are taking over my blog, while I’m hanging out at his. I’m talking about my experience offering a book for free on Amazon. Was it worth it? You’ll have to check my post on Entertaining Stories to find out. 🙂

Meanwhile, I’ll leave Craig and his companion to keep you entertained. The special guest he brought along is only one of the many colorful characters from Craig’s imagination that haunt his blog. I just happen to be partial to this particular character. Maybe because I can relate to how it feels when he drops in for a visit. You’ll see what I mean in a minute, so sit back and enjoy Craig’s post. . .

~ooOOoo~

I walked up to the shop and checked the map on my iPhone. A huge raven whooshed over my head and landed in a tree. This looked like the right coffee shop, and I took a seat outside. Mae asked me to come here and write about my editing process and the blessing/curse that follows me around.

The truth is, I don’t know what I’m doing when it comes to editing. I’ve learned a trick or two and made notes in my living document. I looked around the parking lot, but there was no sign of Mae. I took a table outside so I could watch for her.

I started writing this blog post; any available minutes can be precious. The raven swooped down and landed on my table. See, he’s a gift from my Muse, and tries to keep me looking professional. The bird’s name is Doubt.

I’ve learned to search out my personal sin words, like “that, very, was, and the various forms of its and there.”

These days I’m trying to eliminate what I call stage directions. These are usually things like “said, heard, saw, smelled, felt.” If we’re in a character’s point of view, it’s better to describe someone walking across the parking lot, than to write, “she saw someone walking across the parking lot.” This is a new one for me, but I believe my writing is better for it. I learned that from Doubt.

Doubt pecked at my hand. Krik krik blork.

Ravens make hundreds of noises, more than common crows. I really don’t know what they all mean. This one even manages to mimic a few human words. I’m guessing he doesn’t like me using contractions in a blog post. It’s a blog post, it’s supposed to be a bit more familiar to readers. Now I have doubts. That’s how he works.

Raven sitting on a thin stump of wood, head bent to claws

I have to put him away when I draft my novels. If I listen to him during the draft phase, I never get anything done. My Muse says he helps me, but I have my doubts.

I love my stories, all of them. I even love the trunk novels that no one will ever see. Doubt gets into my head, and keeps me from the most egregious mistakes. The run of the mill mistakes are mine, and sometimes they get in. I’ve learned not to listen to him in every case.

I thought he was going to peck my hands bloody, when I edited Will O’ the Wisp. This is the first thing I ever wrote in first person point of view. He didn’t like the over use of “I and my.” I changed what I thought I could, but some of that has to happen in first person point of view.

The trick is to listen to Doubt, but to also override him when needed. I’m still not sure who’s right in some cases, but I’m learning. Doubt would have all my fiction looking like a lawyer wrote it, and he would take all the character out of it. Fiction needs character, and sometimes it’s the best part of the story.

Too much input from Doubt leads to perfectionism. Perfectionism is the bane of many writers. It prevents us from putting out acceptable work for fear it might have a mistake. I personally believe we learn more from drafting new material. Not everyone feels this way.

Kaw! Doubt pecked at my iPhone.

“We’re at the right address.” I checked again anyway. “I wonder if I wrote it down right in the first place.” See how he works. A little Doubt goes a long ways. “Why don’t you fly around and see if you can spot Mae Clair. Maybe she’s at a different coffee shop.”

Doubt slit off the table and took to the sky. I kind of hoped to give him to Mae for a month or so. I get a lot accomplished when I don’t have Doubt getting in my way.

~ooOOoo~

Craig’s newest book is WILL O’ THE WHISP, a highly entertaining  novel which combines elements of magical realism, mystery, and fantasy, as well as an appealing coming of age theme.

Book cover for Will O' the Wisp by C. S. Boyack depicting a ghostly floating light over a stream with treesBLURB:
There is something evil up Bergamot Holler, and it’s been targeting the Hall family for generations.

Patty Hall is fifteen years old. She loves stargazing, science fiction, and all things related to space exploration. This leaves her perfectly prepared for the wrong problem.

Patty is afraid her mother will send her to a care facility if she tells her what she’s seen. If she doesn’t figure things out soon, she’s going to join her father in the Hall family cemetery plot.

Patty has to come to grips with her own physical handicap, face the wilderness, and an ancient evil all alone if she’s going to survive.

Will O’ the Wisp is suitable for young adults. It involves elements of suspense, and is set in the mid 1970s.

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Author C. S. BoyackYou Can Follow Craig at the Following Haunts:
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Find all of Craig’s novels here