When Writing Isn’t Fun

Sitka, Alaska

Sitka, Alaska Photo Credit: Doree Weller

I mostly love to write.  Putting words on paper to communicate an idea is exciting for me.

Last week, I came back to blogging after taking an unexpected month off.  It’s just that writing wasn’t fun for a little while.  I’m fighting with my novel.

I wrote a novel, and I thought it was pretty good.  I thought it was mostly finished.  Then I had my critique partner read it, and his feedback was unexpected.  He didn’t feel that the main character had growth or change, and made suggestions for changes.  A lot of changes.

At first I was upset.  I wanted to disagree.  I learned early on in getting critiques that not every criticism is valid.  A lot of it boils down to differences in taste.  I like mint chocolate chip ice cream, and you prefer vanilla nonfat yogurt.

(That’s not even ice cream.)

But in doing some critical thinking about the book, I had to agree with him.  So I went back and tried to make changes.

And I ran into stumbling block after stumbling block.  The story is no longer fun, and I don’t feel like the characters are talking to me anymore.  I’ve tried all the usual things I do to start a conversation with them, but they’re remaining stubbornly silent.  The story just isn’t going anywhere.

In the past month, while I haven’t been blogging, I’ve been trying to write that story.  Trying is very different than succeeding.  Or, in the immortal words of Yoda,

“Do or do not.  There is no try.”

Yeah, he was so right about that.

I have other novels that would like my attention, but putting aside the one I’m working on feels like giving up.  I’m not a quitter, so I don’t want to stop working on it.  When do I admit that taking a break from it might be a good thing?

I think that time is now.  Putting it aside and quitting aren’t the same thing.  I’ll come back to it.  After all, I’ve been trying (on and off) to write that particular novel for about 20 years.  It will keep.

In the meantime, I’ve learned some things about plot and conflict that I hadn’t thought through in the past.  I’ve always taken the lazy approach to writing, figuring that because writing comes easily, I never had to learn the mechanics.  I honestly think that’s why I’ve never completed a novel I’m happy with.

I’ve written three novels (if you don’t count the three I wrote as a teenager).  All three of those novels have critical plot issues.  Yes, they can be revised.  But as with everything else in life, it seems harder to revise a novel than it would be to write the damn thing correctly the first time.

So here I go, off to a new and different project.  Maybe after putting this one in a drawer for six months, I’ll come back to it with a fresh eye and new energy for editing.

Evolution of a Story

Fremont St, NV; Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Fremont St, NV; Photo Credit: Doree Weller

It always fascinates me how stories evolve over time.  I got the idea for what would eventually be Lost Vegas around 2005, at the last writer’s conference I went to.  It was long before I started this blog, but I had an idea to start a blog and put up a “serial” story.  I’ve revisited the idea several times, but the fact is that I’m just too lazy to do it.  That requires discipline, and time… two things I lack.

In any case, some elements of the story stayed the same over time.  Rebecca hunts monsters, and Kevin is the computer geek who helps her.  Rebecca is small, with brown eyes and brown hair.  But that’s pretty much where the resemblance to the original story ends.

I had actually written around 20,000 words of a different version when I realized it wasn’t quite working for me and mostly scrapped it, starting over.  In total, I have about 10 different versions of this story.  When I finally started getting to know Rebecca and Kevin better, the story followed them.  Scrapping the story wasn’t actually as hard as I would have thought, since I was really focused on making it the best version I possibly could.  I never could have imagined when I started what this story would turn into.

Lost Vegas is the story that I’ve entered in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest.  I’ll know on March 18th if I’ve progressed to the next round of judging or not.  Keep your fingers crossed for me or send positive vibes into the universe.

The Word “Genre” Gives Me a Headache

I can't figure out her genre either.

I can’t figure out her genre either.

Actually, not only does the word give me a headache, but it also kind of makes me want to cry.  Normally, I just call my book “Young Adult” and move on, but it’s not quite YA.  The main characters are 18 and 20, a little older than the typical YA characters.  I supposed I could just chop two years off their ages, but it seems a little contrived.

My next pick for genre would be science fiction.  Only, it’s not heavy into the science.  The science is there.  And it’s set in 2073.  But science isn’t the main thing, and I wouldn’t want to mislead people who are looking for Battlefield Earth by L. Ron Hubbard or Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton.

There’s also some fantasy.  Just a little, but it’s there.  Oh yeah, and there’s romance.

So where does it fall?  I’ve looked everywhere, and Google has tried hard to help, but it’s fallen short, and I’m not finding any real answers.  Maybe because there aren’t any?

I get why books should be classified by genre.  Readers need to know what they’re getting into so that they can assess if they’re going to like the thing or not.  And since I read YA and like YA, I can honestly say it’s most similar to YA.

But… what if the people I’m submitting it to don’t agree.  (I am in no way comparing myself to Dean Koontz with this next comment.)  Dean Koontz said that when he was just starting off as an author, he drove editors crazy with his mixed genre books, because they were a little of everything.  I get it.  Life is a mixed genre, which is why I write that way.

During my search of 4,981 blogs and articles, I think what it boils down to is that genre should be the closest match to what readers of similar books will enjoy.  People who read the The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare and Divergent by Veronica Roth would probably be the ones who’d like my book, so Young Adult it is.  Did you see how I went in a giant circle just to get back where I started?

Why all the hubbub, you ask?  Well, I’m entering Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award.  Stay tuned and I’ll keep you posted.  Cross your fingers that I make it past the first round.  Now that I’ve gotten my genre picked out, I need to write a pitch.  How do I feel about pitches?

This isn't anyone I know... Thank you, Internet, for the picture of the random man.

This isn’t anyone I know… Thank you, Internet, for the picture of the random cranky man.

The Ghost of Christmas Present- A Novel

imagesI’m going to start this review with an observation: very few novels about Christmas hold any surprises.  That doesn’t make them bad.  Sometimes I like predictable.

The Ghost of Christmas Present: A Novel, by Scott Abbott and Amy Maude Swinton, has no surprises.  Patrick lost his wife a year ago, and Braden suffers from the same heart anomaly that took his mother.  He needs heart surgery.  Enter Ted, aka Grandpa, who blames Patrick for his daughter’s death, and decides to get Child Protective Services to investigate.  In the meantime, Patrick loses his job and needs enough money to keep the heat on.  When he realizes that a day job won’t do it, he uses his acting skills to panhandle as the Ghost of Christmas Present, bringing cheer and Shakespeare to the 9 to fivers.

Again, this was a nice book.  The characters aren’t particularly well-developed, but the story moves at a good pace, and it’s a feel good book.  If you’re looking for something to spend a relaxing afternoon with, this book isn’t bad.  If you want a book to make you think, pass on this one.


Today is Day 1 of Nanowrimo, AKA National Novel Writing Month.  The goal of Nanowrimo is to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.  It doesn’t have to be good.  It doesn’t have to be edited, or in any kind of salable shape.  It just has to be complete.

I tried a couple of years ago, and I think I got about 30,000 words before I gave up.  It was just too hard for me to keep going every day.  However, I think it was a good experience, and I’m thinking about trying it again.  I know I should have decided before now if I wanted to start, but I didn’t.  I figure that I still have a few more days before I’m so horribly behind that I can’t catch up.

It’s 1667 words a day.  I have a few ideas…

I Love You iCloud

Look! Clouds!

Up until Sunday morning, I didn’t really know what the iCloud was.  I just thought it was some weird new feature on my Apple devices, and that I’d never need to know.  Apple is all the time putting new features and updates that I’ll never use.  When I first got my laptop and it asked me if I wanted to activate it, I thought, sure, why not…

On Saturday, I had quite a bit of downtime at work.  Saturdays tend to be slow, so I was prepared with my iPad, and thought I’d get some writing done.  The novel is (finally) going spectacularly well, so I managed to get quite a bit done.  For some reason, I decided to sync my iPad on Sunday morning.  When the warning message came up on the screen, something about things on my iPad that weren’t on my laptop, I just sort of clicked the “whatever” button and let it go.

When I realized that ALL MY DOCUMENTS HAD BEEN DELETED FROM MY IPAD, I cried.  I literally sat down and cried, and tried to convince myself that it wasn’t tragic, but that was pretty hard to do when I further realized that I hadn’t synced my iPad since August.  Of 2011.  I lost a year’s worth of stuff, which was important, but nowhere near as important as losing the updates to my novel.

Now, I didn’t lose that much of the novel, maybe a couple thousand words, but it really felt like someone had deliberately harmed me.  I was ready to throw my iPad in the trash, even though I knew it was all my own fault.

My husband asked a few questions that made me want to smack him, and then the one that saved the day… “Do you have iCloud?”

It turns out that my iPad automatically updates to the cloud whenever it’s on a Wifi network, and ALL MY DOCUMENTS were there.  Every last one of them.  I swear, the angels sang.

I’d like to say I learned something from this.  Like maybe not to be so careless, or not to ignore warning messages.

But I hate to lie.

So I’ll just say I’m happy to have my documents back where they belong.  Now, back to my novel.  🙂