Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Burning Question

Today's question is from Marie. What was (or is) your biggest writing challenge and how did (or do) you deal with it?


Candace said...

In the past, my biggest writing challenge has been not to let outside influences inhibit my writing. To illustrate: I used to belong to several online writers groups. A big part of what writers discuss online focuses on market trends...what's hot and what's not...what editors are looking for and what they've presumably seen enough of..what is and isn't (mostly isn't) selling...and so on. I found that after I'd been online (lurking, mostly) I'd get back to my WIP and find I was second-guessing myself.

Was my premise already passe? Was my writing too sexually explicit? Not explicit enough? Was my hero alpha enough? Too alpha? Was my heroine a wimp? Or too kick-ass? It was paralyzing.

Although it took me a while to figure it out, the solution was easy: Stop reading the online writers' discussions! Sounds simple, doesn't it? Not so. I really thought I needed the information I gleaned from those discussions. Writers are supposed to keep up with the trends, aren't they? We're supposed to write to the market. And how else are we supposed to find out what the trends are and what the market wants?

What I finally realized, though, is that I wrote my first ten books without benefit of the Internet and writers' boards...without knowing what the trends were, or even that there were trends. And those books sold just fine.

So I gradually opted out of all but one online writers' board. And I don't read that one when the discussion veers into dangerous (for me) territory. I've learned that I'm better off not knowing what the trends are.

anne said...

oh, so many... i can't pick one.

*justification: in pre-pub days, this was the hardest. how could i continue to justify spending days, months, years, on something that might never sell?

space: when my kids were little i was used to chaos and could write anywhere. now that i'm older i need solitude and privacy to write. finding it has been a big challenge for me.

guilt: if i'm cleaning the house, i feel guilty because i should be writing; if i'm writing, i feel guilty because the house is a mess.

visibility: this is a new one. this year i decided to attempt to "raise my profile" and create an internet presence. it became too much fun, and i have to somehow find a balance between writing and internet socializing.

Helen Brenna said...

My biggest challenge was, is, and probably always will be fear. It can paralyze me in so many different ways and for so many different reasons I could write a book on it.

Fear that my books won't sell. Fear that even if they sell readers won't like them. Fear that I won't be able to make enough money at this career to justify continuing. And on and on and on.

How do I deal with it? By realizing that for me any writing issue I have will very likely be driven by some underlying fear and by accepting this will probably never go away.

Understanding a problem is half the solution, right?

What gets me the rest of the way is the fact that I LOVE to write. If I didn't, I couldn't do this.

amy*skf said...

Absolutely, second guessing myself.

But after reading other people's comments, I feel more normal, but for me as an unpublished writer--and deciding this would be the year I become serious--the second guessing wins hands down.

anne frasier said...

fear. oh, yeah. that's a big one. that never goes away. that's so much a part of writing that i don't recognize it anymore. sometimes it surprises me, and then i realize it's been there the whole time.

Kathleen Eagle said...

My problems have to do with focus, family, and finances, and they're all intertwined.

Writing is intensive, and writing a novel, which is A LOT of writing, requires sustained intensive focus. I've been doing this since my 27-yr-old, the baby, was about 5. Focusing on a fantasy when your reality includes kids is difficult because there are periods in the writing when I need to stay in my fantasy world nearly all my waking hours. Even though I work at home, I've had major working-mom challenges. And, yes, all the guilt that goes with it. Now that they're all grown, whenever they have problems, I'm sure it's my fault. (Don't anyone tell them that!)

I can't say it's all family--I do let other distractions fiddle with my focus. Dealing with it is a matter of ratcheting up the discipline when the avoidance behavior really becomes a problem. And it does, especially in the early stages of a project. Oh, yes, I've got my pet useless distractions. Internet, yes. E-Bay--I've gotten better about staying off. Movies, TV (especially HBO and HGTV and--oh, "Project Runway" tonight...).

And then finances. Getting paid in chunks a few times a year requires a good money manager. I've yet to embrace that role. And, of course, the family and the focus would benefit greatly if I would improve the financial planning.

As far a second-guessing myself, I do that, too. I'm not as commercial as I'd like to be. But I've tried (sort of) "writing to the market," and I've come to the conclusion that if you focus on writing what's "hot" you're likely to compromise the quality of your work. I've had this discussion with my agent many times. (He's very sweet about letting me whine. Then he tells it like it is, and says, "These are your choices." An honest, straightforward agent is the only kind to have.) I always come back to the conclusion that I have to write the story and the characters that interest me. If I'm lucky, my kind of story will be "in" when the book comes out. Otherwise, I have to believe that enough readers have come to trust my name on a book cover by now to make publishing my books profitable for the house. I just can't go chasing trends. Too many of the popular trends frankly do not interest me enough to warrant 9 months to a year of my precious focus. Some of them bore me to tears very, very quickly.

Michele said...

I'm currently involved in a huge writing challenge — collaboration with other writers to create a series. Sigh... We've gone so far as to promise we will not curse each other with cyber-spells (as much as we wish to on some days), and we will all remain friends, no matter what is said (and man, is stuff said).
Trying to form your vision of a project to mesh with three other people is a major challenge. You want your voice to be heard, and yet you know you must compromise.
I've learned great patience being a writer. Now I'm learning to spread that patience out to others. And if they cannot accept it, then I've got to deal with it in my own way. We don't get frustrated with other people's problems, I believe, it is something inside ourself that is being mirrored back to us that drives us nuts. Now to figure out what parts of me are being mirrored and to learn from this experience!