Monday, April 18, 2011

In Which I Talk About Writing

Although this is a blog about reading books, like 3/4 of the world's population I also have dreams of writing and publishing books as well. As cliché as it sounds, I've been writing since I could hold a pencil. I've never been able to stick with just one genre, although most of my books tend to have a (sort of) supernatural undertone to them. I just restarted a writing project so I've decided to talk about it here.

My freshman year of college I began working on a particular novel. I had a general idea in my head, took down a few notes, and started at it. Six years later, it remains unfinished. I have about nine different versions of it on my computer currently, each of which has been abandoned. My real issue is that I haven't quite managed to "get" the main character. I know the plot, I know the other characters, but I just can't seem to figure out who my main character is.

There are some basics that I know: the fact that she's a woman, her name, what she looks like, and what happens to her during the book. The problem is that everything else has yet to mesh. She's gone from being a 20-something woman fresh out of college to being a young girl (maybe around 12 or 13) to being a junior in college. She's undergone relationship changes, personality changes, career changes. She's been a loner and, in a later incarnation, someone with way too many friends for me to keep up with.

When I restarted the novel a few days ago, I decided to make her on the cusp of thirty working a dead end job after a devastating death in the family caused a nervous breakdown that led to her leaving her career as a journalist. She's single, living in a new city, and has only one true friend there. She's getting a fresh start, which I think is important for the progression of the story.

It's going to be a long process piecing together the best parts of the other versions of this novel but I'm looking forward to it. There was so much of two of the other attempts that I liked that it would be wasteful for me to throw it all away. I like the idea of putting a new skin and muscles on the skeleton that I've already constructed. Who knows? I may get halfway through this version and realize that it's still all wrong, but that's writing for you. It's about knowing what works and what doesn't work and not giving up on something that you believe in just because there's something that doesn't fit. I truly believe in this novel and know that someday it will be finished. It's just going to take some time.

Before anyone asks, no I'm not going to discuss what the novel is about. I've found that, like many writers, I get discouraged after talking to people about my books. Even if they have nothing but good things to say about it, there's still something that I find inherently wrong about letting people into a story too soon. It's just one of my (many) weird quirks, I guess.

I'm one chapter into Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book. Anything that could go wrong did go wrong at work today so I didn't have a lot of time to read. I should have it finished by Tuesday or Wednesday--I have a massive project due on Wednesday that I, oops, haven't started yet--so keep an eye out for my review later this week.



  1. Good luck with it. I don't really have enough motivatio to write anything of length but I used to love writing fiction when I was younger (and didn't have to work!).

  2. I've always felt that my real calling was as a writer, especially of novels. There are times when I feel like it's going to be really hard to get published and then there are times when I think "Hell, if Stephanie Meyer can crap on a sheet of paper and get a book deal, why can't I?"

    If I may sound mildly elitist for a moment, I don't want to self-publish or to go the e-book only route. I want to publish real, physical books with pages and covers and a fancy publisher's name on the spine. I think that's why it's so hard for me to finish a book because I'm too worried about whether or not people are going to like it. I feel like rule one of writing novels is to not worry about other people, but I can't help it.

    Balancing two jobs, school, a blog, and a writing addiction is difficult but I'm hoping that once school is out of the picture I'll be able to dedicate more time to it.

  3. Mildly elitist? Mildly?? Haha. I'm kidding. I actually think she's a really good writer, meaning her writing "skills" are way, way good. But what she writes about is what makes me want to burn the book. Not to mention the fact that she just keeps on writing about the same thing over and over again. In every book. I hate that.

    Self publishing is not advised in my eyes. Way too many mistakes are made. Plus, I found that all the really good books...were actually books first.

  4. LOL. I am pretty elitist. I'm okay with that though. :)

    I don't like the way that she writes, but I do feel that the real issue is that she *is* writing the same book over and over. I love (sarcasm) the fact that she was planning on telling the same story from Edward's point of view. How much different could those books be?

    I love this quote: "I found that all the really good books...were actually books first." No truer words have ever been spoken.

  5. Haha. Yay I've been quoted today! :] It's very true though. Oh you'l like this one. I heard it from a speaking at a banquet I went to last weekend: "If you want someone to know something, tell them. If you want someone to understand something, tell them very clearly. If you want someone to do something, tell them a story". *Sigh* I love that. Anyway, a bit random, but I thought you of all people would like it.

    And technically...I wrote them :] Haven't actually spoken them yet :/ So I haven't really been to your blog in a while. Sum up your last two weeks in one sentence so I can catch up. Okay? Go.

  6. I like that quote a lot. I think it captures the very essence of communication and the nature of human action. We care more about something when a human face is put to it and human faces are only given to things when stories are related to us. To give a somewhat bad example, it's the whole idea behind those Sponsor-a-Child programs. We as human beings cannot think about people in large numbers, especially where suffering is concerned. In order for us to comprehend the poverty and disease that runs rampant in some countries, they give it to us in small doses--one child here, another child there. If they were to show us pictures of thousands of starving people we wouldn't be able to handle it. So to spur action they give us only what we can take and tell it to us as a story. (Sorry if that was a bit ramble-y. I've been up since 7 AM and I only got two hours of sleep.)

    Hmm...the last two weeks in one sentence:

    I read nothing but Skulduggery Pleasant books.

    It was actually sort of sad. Except not for me because I love them. But I'm sure some of my followers got a bit annoyed. :)

  7. Mmm, yes. Is your project the reason for the lack of sleep?

  8. Actually, no. I was stricken with an inexplicable case of insomnia last night. I worked until midnight at the library and got home by one but literally laid awake in bed for four hours. It was the strangest thing.

  9. Wow. I'm really sorry. I hope you feel better.

  10. Thanks, I just really need a vacation, I think. Thankfully, I'm driving my sister down to a wedding in Tennessee the first week of May so I'll be able to get out of New York for a few days and just exist.

    Have no fear, however, I will be prescheduling posts for that entire week so you'll still get your daily dose of crazy. :)

  11. Tennessee...hmn...I've seen good Tennessee and then I've seen bad Tennessee. Which are you going to?

  12. I'm actually not sure. LOL. I just know that it's Tennessee. I've never been South before so it should be interesting.