Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Do all authors go through this?

I was at a meeting with some aspiring writers; I was one of 3 published authors, talking to the group.

One of the other authors said something like, "I started working on a book but it was beyond my talents, so I stopped writing it. I worked on {this one} instead and I hope to return to the other one someday."

Her words really stuck a chord with me because I've been picking away at a book for a few years that I would love to have see the light of day. The problem is: I don't know if I'll ever be good enough to write the damn book. It's a multi-generational story, set in a post-apocalyptic America (sort of "Book of Eli meets the Stand with a bit of Gone with the Wind thrown in"). It's a BIG book: in fact, it will probably be six or seven books if I let it take shape the way I think it should.

I return to it every autumn, without fail. For some reason, winter's approach makes me want to work on that series.I read what I wrote and I wonder if it's good enough, but I keep writing on it, keep it moving forward.

I'll probably self-publish it some day on the Kindle or somewhere (that's the way publishing is going, isn't it? Will there be any publishing houses left?)

Does every writer have "the one that got away" from them? Do we all have that "Big Book" we want to finish? It's not necessarily The Book of My Heart, but it's a story that I just can't put down...


Amy said...

ARGH! This happens to me all the time. I'm attracted to difficult characters and trying to get them--and the story--to work is so hard that I'm often left wondering if I'm just not good enough to write some types of stories.

But I keep trying.

Sometimes I think it may be that we are suited to one type of writing (for me, it may be the lighter, fluffier side) and when we try to stretch our wings to other more difficult subjects, we may be expanding past the area where our talents lie.

Should we resist the urge? Of course not. If you don't try new things or attempt to push the boundaries of your skills, you will never grow as a writer.

It is frustrating, but necessary. At least, I believe it to be. :-)

Vonnie Davis said...

The more we write, the better we become. Delving into another style of writing helps our craft, I think. Normally I write with a lot of humor, but have a WIP with little humor and lots of sizzle (I hope). While I'm enjoying it, I know I'm growing as a writer, which is my main goal.

Yes, I have a more serious story taking shape in the recesses of my mind. I hope I have the guts and fortitude to write it--someday.

I liken this urge to write something different from one's normal comfort zone to a woman's desire to change her wardrobe style. I am a comfort dresser, schlepping around in elastic waist pants and house slippers. But I yearn to wear broad-rimmed hats, even though I look like a doofus every time I put one on. Oh, and stilleto hells, red stilleto heels! My toes are lauging in my Dearfoam slippers as I write this, "Fool woman! We don't do heels."

Don't we all desire to change something about ourselves? It makes sense to me that this desire for something different would spill over into our writings, as well. After all, we are creative creatures with active minds that want to explore ALL the possibilities of life. Aren't we?

Michele Hauf said...

Great post, J.L.! I have a book that I keep in my head and think about every so often. It's sort of hen-lit women's fiction erotica. Yeah. Not exactly what I write now, but I do want to attempt it one of these days.

J L said...

Thanks to all for commenting on this -- I think this book is stretching my limits on what I can write, but it also has characters that I really find frustrating to deal with. I don't think I've quite figured out who they are yet!

And Vonnie, I know what you mean about the clothing: every now & then it's fun to play dress up!

Lee Lopez said...

I have that book of my heart, that is so big, so complicated it even scares me to write it. Actually, it's done and has been rejected by every house in New York and beyond. It needs major editing, something the frightens the begonias out of me. Maybe someday. Glad to hear there is another kinderd spirit out there, with the same type of book.

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

I will sound pathetic, but that is how I feel about all my stories. Not being published it is easy to fall into the "are my stories good enough and if so why aren't they in print" syndrome. I love my stories and characters so 'why don't they sell' attitude can slow a person down, but I won't ever give up.

I wish you al success with your 'grat' stories and hope you do get to see them in print. It is amazing, though, to see how we improve as we write. At least now I can find the errors and fix them before my CP does.

Happy writing!

amy kennedy said...

Yikers! I know what you mean...not only do I have a book that's (I'm sure) well beyond my capabilities, but, even the location feels outside my abilities.

I do love that you go back to yours every fall, it gives it an almost ritualistic feel.

Jill James said...

I have a historical deep inside me that will have to wait until I feel ready to do deep, deep research.

J L said...

Lee: I'm on about the third draft of my Big Book. I know what you mean about 'scaring the begonias' out of a person -- I finally knuckled down last year to tackle it. I'm about 1/2 way through the first of 6 books. :sigh:

Paisley: keep trying, keep getting feedback via contests or critiques -- eventually it all clicks into place and when it does, it feels like Magic!

Amy: this is sort of a ritual for me, to revisit this book every year. I work on it throughout the winter then in the spring, I find I want to return to my mysteries. I just hope I live long enough to finish it!

Jill: I'm crafting an alternate America with this book series, so I know what you mean about research! I've got notebooks full of what that world will look like. Now to just get it down on paper!

Brenda Whiteside said...

I had/have one of those books and I hate to admit it, but I copped out. I wrote it anyway but shortened and simplified. I've considered the idea if it were to get published to do a follow up with what I left out.

Anny Cook said...

Yes. Actually, I have two. One is what I call my "plane crash" book. It's a time travel LOST in the remote past.

The other? Turned into the Mystic Valley series...with at least six more books. Will I finish it? Every book is a struggle.

And yet. I keep returning to the valley.

J L said...

Brenda: I tried doing that, but somehow I just couldn't do it. I rewrote the initial draft to make it just a 'simple' book, but it really was bad. So I'm back to the Big Book.

Anny: we're glad you do keep returning to the Valley 8)

Joanne said...

I agree. Every book is a struggle. And every book I wonder if I can write the story as well as it should be told. In other words--am I doing the story justice?