Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Why Being Unpublished Is (sometimes) A Good Thing

Well, crap.

It’s happened. That thing that writers dread, that makes you cross yourself three times fast and throw salt over your shoulder and not step on pavement cracks in order to ward it off.

Road block. Big, fat, mental, writing road block.

I have not written, seriously written, since NaNo ended. Hardly any words at all this year - and we’re rapidly approaching the middle of February. It’s the longest break I’ve had from writing in ages. And still, I can’t write. I don’t even think about my WIP. Scarier still, I don’t feel like writing at all.

Yeah, cry me a river. I know this happens to nearly every writer. And I think I know what’s caused it. Life throwing many and varied forms of fertilizer at me the last couple of months hasn’t helped. But that’s not really it. Truth be told, I suspect my WIP has problems. Far too many plot balls in the air being one of them. Heck, I reckon anyone reading my story would get serious neck and eye strain trying to follow them all. Problem is, I haven’t had time to do what I need to begin to fix this – just think. Long and hard. Difficult to do when the air is full of bull dust.

And still, I’m not writing. And the longer I spend away from my story, the more I fear I’m lost for good. Back when I was writing regularly I was Gretel, throwing out the breadcrumb trail of my story every day for me to pick up and follow on the next; only now, I turn around and find that greedy pig Hansel has scoffed the lot behind my back.

But today, in the midst of this fug, I was hit with a bit of perspective.

I’m actually lucky.

(Yeah, yeah, I’m one of those annoying “look for the silver lining” types. So sue me.)

Why am I lucky?

Because I’m unpublished. And right now, that means I have many luxuries that published and contracted writers don’t have.

I have plenty of room to make major stuff ups with no dire consequences. Plenty of time to hone my craft. Plenty of time to learn, learn, learn all I can about writing and the biz of publishing without the pressure of a deadline breathing down my neck.

Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, as the saying goes.

So really, I just need to harden up and Just.Write. But I know it won’t be that simple. A little mind-game playing will be called for if I’m going to kick start my writing. Like …working on a scene that is purely backstory, won’t ever appear in my book, but nevertheless will help me get a handle on some of my MCs deeper motivations. Writing a scene that won’t ever be read by another human being = no pressure. Oh, I like it. I may even man up and start that tomorrow.

Of course, there is still the little matter of needing to undertake some major plot surgery. Amputation, specifically. For that, I also need to get tough. See, my husband gave me a wonderful present for my birthday in November – a voucher entitling me to a child and husband-free break - thirty-two hours of peace and quiet, to be exact (why thirty-two? Your guess is as good as mine, bless his heart.)

However, he was (understandably) a little vague as to when, exactly, he would take all three little demons away for some quality time with their father, and this promised sanity break has not yet happened. Time to call his bluff and call the sucker in, I say. *cracks knuckles*

So. Perspective. Don't rue the fact you're far from being published (well, not too much.) It simply means you have more time to practise, more time to learn by trial and error without the world ending, more time to get things right.

OK. I think I can breathe again ...


  1. Practice is a hard job. I sigh as I contemplate the same scene I've been beating since the middle of January. I hear you, Rachel. I'm just not as philosophical about it...yet.

  2. I messed up when I drafted an outline. Big mistake! Now that I know where the story is going in detail, it is too easy to put off.


  3. I'm with you Rachel - DH makes fun of my tendency to see only the good in things. But I think you've hit the nail on the head here - there's no lamenting this, it just seems to be a necessary stage of getting a story to unfold. You've got some eager readers for when you do get back into it!
    Meanwhile I feel like I'm pushing that ol' boulder up the hill over and over. Editing never seems to end...

  4. Zan Marie, I suspect it's more a case of "if you don't laugh, you'll just cry" rather than me being particularly philosophical. :-P And yes, the practice is indeed hard; I hope you can wrangle that scene into submission soon.

    Nikki, hi! Thanks for dropping by the blog. :-)
    But you've just scared me. Part of my MS surgery is going to include me writing (for the first time, she whispers) a detailed outline ... but I think - hope - I'm enough of a control freak for the outline not to put me off.

    I hope. *bites nails*

    Deniz, amen to all that. And keep on shoving that boulder up that hill - you'll get there!

  5. Yes, there is something to be said for NOT having deadlines except the ones you set yourself ;)

    Maybe you just needed a serious break. And that's what you're getting!

  6. Trisha, oh yes, you're right, there is a distinct possibility that I needed a break - especially after NaNo - and was too far gone to realise it. :-P

  7. Ah, Rach- I could have written this entire post, just about word for word. Especially this part:

    >>Truth be told, I suspect my WIP has problems.<<

    Not that I'd wish the situation on my worst enemy, but it makes me feel like weeping with relief to see someone else in the exact same boat. I keep asking myself how many times I'll have to revise and rewrite before I just get it right.

    But you're so right- by the time I get it done and dusted and out there, I might be looking back on these days with fondness.

    Fight on- rest up- and we'll be back into it before you know it.

  8. Best. Post. Ever. :)

    -and what _is_ with the 32 hours? More than one day, but not quite two... Huh. But your man is a good egg. A very good egg.

  9. Kristen, yeah, the man *is* a good egg. But 32 hours? No idea. Best not to ask. ;-)

    Claire, thanks. Glad someone is down in the trenches with me. :-)