Can’t Lose It

30 May

by

Savannah J. Foley

~~~

How confident are you that you’re a writer? That you’re meant to be a writer, or that it’s all you want to do?

I’m very confident –when I’m writing. When I’m in cycles that I don’t write, however, my confidence starts to slip. I start thinking all these defeatist thoughts: Writing is so hard, it’s taking so long, the issues in this manuscript are insurmountable, etc.

I’ve felt like this a lot lately. May 15th was the 7-year anniversary of finishing the first draft of my novel NAMELESS. And I’m still in revisions.

Oh, there were times during this 7 year period that I thought I was finally done. But even after ‘done’ was declared something would happen that made either me or my agent decide that a little more work was needed. More recently, a lot of work.

I converted a trilogy into a single book and sent it off. It came back with a thumbs up on the new plot, but a thumbs down on the voice. My character was still clinging to her adult persona; I need to fully let her go and be a teenager. Susan recently did a wonderful post on how to revise, step-by-step, and though I thought her article was brilliant, and I’ll definitely use it for future novels, I’m at a point with NAMELESS where even Sooz’s brilliant methods can’t help. This is a voice issue. That means every single sentence has to be examined, and I need to determine if it stays or needs to be fixed. In a 110k manuscript, that’s a lot of sentences.

The task was (and still is) daunting. So after about five chapters of revisions, I just… stopped. Oh, I had good excuses. My laptop finally failed. My new laptop didn’t have Word on it. A tornado hit and the power was out for a week. I was on vacation. I was busy working, going to the gym, cooking, cleaning, reading, and watching Game of Thrones.

And through it all I kept thinking, ‘what if it will never be good enough?’ What if I can’t do this? What if this story will never come together right? What if it’s broken?

What if I’m not really a writer?

What would happen if I gave up right now? Left LTWF, shut down my blog and Twitter account and just… lived a normal life for a while. Tried to forget that I ever called myself a writer. Stepped out of the rushing stream that is the writing industry and laid by the shore.

I knew what would happen: I would be a quitter. A coward. I could not let that happen.

I finally buckled down and decided I would just get used to using Open Office until I can afford Word. I would let the house dirty itself and scrounge around for dinner and not go to the gym if I had to. But I had to start writing again, even if I felt like a failure.

Something magical happened.

I’ve read the first few chapters of my novel probably a thousand times, in all its different forms. I love the beginning. If writing a novel is like polishing a rough stone, then the beginning has been touched so many times that it’s a sparkling diamond. I always re-read my first few chapters to get back in the ‘mood’ of the novel, and psych myself up to keep working.

NAMELESS did not disappoint.

Suddenly I felt this rushing, like an invisible wind from the universe was rustling inside me, filling me up with all the faith and sense of ‘rightness’ I would ever need. Of COURSE I could do this. Of COURSE this is the right thing for me to do in my life. I was meant for this. I belong to this. To quote, writing is the one thing in the world that, when I’m doing it, I don’t think I should be doing something else.

And I remembered that this had all happened before. I go through cycles of not working, letting my manuscript’s problems settle and take root in my subconscious. And every time I decide I’m ready and go back to work again I get that magical feeling that lets me know I’m doing the right thing.

I feel like an instant writer again.  So if you’ve stepped away from your novel and are questioning whether it’s even worth the effort to go back, if you’re discouraged and tired and wondering if it’s all worth it, just try reading a bit of what you’ve already done. Soon you’ll be wrapped up inside your story and then you won’t want to stop. You’ll want to keep creating and growing your project until it reaches the shining conclusion.

While my agent had a few sample chapters of NAMELESS, I worked on my next novel, a sleeping beauty retelling. Then, with this memorial weekend giving me the perfect opportunity to stay home and write, I wrote 6,000 words on Saturday, 4,000 words yesterday, and finished the manuscript. It felt good to finish a long project, but even better than that, I felt relief at refreshing my faith in myself. If I could crank out word levels like that, then obviously I was good enough to hack it.

In conclusion, sit down. Eliminate Distractions. Write your story.

~~~

Savannah J. Foley is the author of the Nameless (originally known as Woman’s World) series on Fictionpress and is signed with the Bradford Literary Agency. Her website is www.savannahjfoley.com, but she updates more frequently on her livejournal. She is currently working on editing Nameless to go out on submissions. You can read an excerpt from Nameless here.

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30 Responses to “Can’t Lose It”

  1. Liz Hellebuyck May 30, 2011 at 12:25 AM #

    I go through the same cycles of wondering if I have it or not. I continue on though because I love doing it.

  2. Myra May 30, 2011 at 1:09 AM #

    Oh, this article is perfect timing! At the moment, I’m going through this doubtful bout of writer’s block, a la “Am I really a writer?” It’s really horrible because I haven’t written in months, and now that I’m on summer break, it’s so hard to get back into it. I still feel that writer’s rush when I write, but lately I’ve been despairing and wondering if I really am a writer. I think I’ll just come back and read this article again when I despair.

    • savannahjfoley May 30, 2011 at 9:53 AM #

      Not writing in months IS a horrible feeling, and it’s a looping thing; you get afraid that you don’t have it, but don’t want to find out, so you stay away from the one thing that could reassure you.

      Something I read recently is that your writing is in every breath you take. The story is constantly in process in your subconscious, so every moment you live you’re working on it.

  3. Ashley May 30, 2011 at 6:36 AM #

    *thinks of making this her desktop background*

    Good post, Savannah, and just like Myra said, this was right on time. 🙂

    • savannahjfoley May 30, 2011 at 9:53 AM #

      So glad you found something to take away 🙂

  4. Stacy S. Jensen May 30, 2011 at 9:15 AM #

    The last graph says it all. Congrats on finishing.

    • savannahjfoley May 30, 2011 at 9:54 AM #

      Thanks! I’m still kind of in shock about it. I feel grateful to be done, but that ‘jumping up and down’ feeling doesn’t really still hit you after book # 7.

  5. Bee May 30, 2011 at 9:41 AM #

    “…writing is the one thing in the world that, when I’m doing it, I don’t think I should be doing something else” – YES. YES. YES.

    Effing fantastic post. Your dedication is awe-inspiring.

    • savannahjfoley May 30, 2011 at 9:55 AM #

      To be fair, I am totally quoting that from somewhere… I think maybe Gloria Stein said it?

  6. Kara May 30, 2011 at 3:01 PM #

    I’ve been stuck in writing rut for a while. And, while I don’t have time to do much about that right now (because I’ve been putting off school projects), I’m really hoping that I have a breakthrough this summer. Maybe even a big enough breakthrough that I start loving to write again, instead of looking at it as the monster in my closet.

    Thanks for the post, this has definitely helped motivate me again.

    • savannahjfoley May 30, 2011 at 9:18 PM #

      Summer was my absolute favorite time to write when I was in school. It had so many possibilities that it just seemed magical. I usually complete big projects in spring and summer. Best of luck with your writing!

      • Kara June 4, 2011 at 3:59 AM #

        I usually write during the Winter, since I take time off of school then, but I’m finished after June 16th this year, so I think my writing schedule has just changed to year-round. Here’s hoping a big project gets done soon.

        Thank you and good luck with Nameless! I’ve read excerpts from it and they’re wonderful!

  7. Aya Tsintziras May 30, 2011 at 3:57 PM #

    Great post, Savannah! It can be kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy — if we don’t write for a while then of course the book isn’t going to get fixed 🙂

    • savannahjfoley May 30, 2011 at 9:19 PM #

      That is so true I wish I’d said it! Putting off a project does nothing for progress.

  8. Josh May 30, 2011 at 6:03 PM #

    This post perfectly summed up what I’ve gone through with my own novel. It’s so true, I get bogged down in the terrifying “reality” of the work that’s needing to be done and the tie that I just can’t devote to it and then I remember that the only reality is that I just need to write. And that I AM a writer and nothing else matters, and that my work is good. Thanks for this post!

    • savannahjfoley May 30, 2011 at 9:20 PM #

      😀 Writing is the one thing that will always be there for you.

      • Ashley May 31, 2011 at 5:25 AM #

        I really like that, Savannah. 🙂

        • Savannah J. Foley June 1, 2011 at 8:16 PM #

          It’s true… as long as you are alive your writing will never abandon you because it IS you.

  9. Susan H. May 30, 2011 at 11:10 PM #

    This post feels like my own personal pep talk. I’m on the last day of my four day vacation, which is the only break I get this summer, and I spent the whole time working in the garden. I feel like I just blew a great chance to get some real writing done. Plus I’ve got a sunburn.

    Your ten thousand words in two days is incentive for me to get off the internet and get some writing done.

    • Savannah J. Foley May 31, 2011 at 10:08 AM #

      Gardening can be super rewarding though, too. I feel so glad for all the work I put in during March and April, but on the other hand, that time totally could have been spent writing. But then I wouldn’t get to sit on my nice patio and write in the summer, either. 🙂

  10. laradunning May 30, 2011 at 11:22 PM #

    Sounds like you’ve got your muse and encouragement fairy back. Keep it up, sometimes you need to believe in yourself before anyone else can.

    • Savannah J. Foley May 31, 2011 at 10:08 AM #

      That feels like precisely what happened. 🙂

  11. Rowenna May 31, 2011 at 9:41 AM #

    Sav–you are the most amazingly honest and convicting person I know/ ‘know’ in the interwebs! Because I know I’ve felt this way–that I’ll never be good enough, that if I just stopped things would be so much easier. But you’ve reminded me–easier isn’t better. Easier doesn’t get anything done. Jump back in the rushing river and do what you’re meant to do! Thanks for this post!

    • Savannah J. Foley May 31, 2011 at 10:09 AM #

      Thanks for your comment! I appreciate it ❤

  12. Laura V June 1, 2011 at 12:47 AM #

    This was so so so inspiring! Thank you for being so honest with us about your struggles and successes….tomorrow I will write again after a 2 year hiatus…because I read this and know I can do it, dammit! 😀

    • Savannah J. Foley June 1, 2011 at 8:15 PM #

      Here’s the thing: You CAN do it. It’s scary and it’s hard, but once you’re doing it you’ll love it. Let me know what kind of progress you make!

  13. Dawn Brazil June 1, 2011 at 7:42 PM #

    Great post Savannah. We all go through this as writers. And most of us get through it. But it can be tolling. Thankd for the great post!!!

    • Savannah J. Foley June 1, 2011 at 8:16 PM #

      “Toiling”, yes precisely. I think I’m just so sick and tired of being afraid of my writing that I’m just not going to put up with that anymore. Let’s conquer these mss!

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