Friday, March 12, 2010


Straddled between editing one book and developing another, I find myself staring out the rainy window instead of working on either.

I don’t feel blocked. I just finished the race profile I needed for the mermaids in my WIP, a victory and small weight off my shoulders.

Editing is another story. I seem to be at an impasse at the moment. In the beginning of the book the main character isn’t likable. I was secretly afraid this to be true, but had it recently confirmed by outside sources. I need to be able to empathize with the main character to write them very well, and I do, but not until later on in the story, after the fur starts to fly. I am not exactly sure what to do about it. I still love the book, still plan to edit into publication, but the dilemma with the protagonist is on the back of my mind, a concern I am turning over in my mind.

I am confident I will figure out how to fix it. Rewriting, cutting paragraphs, the answer is there. I just don’t have it yet.

For either project I have to keep pushing myself, deeper, harder, to reveal the voice. What I am really trying to say about the events of the story I cared so much to write about in the first place. I just finished a book about finding your voice, and while it wasn’t as helpful as I had hoped, there were still several points I feel is important.

There is no other writer out there that is you. You are not Stephen King. You are not James Patterson. You are not Stephanie Meyers or William Faulkner. You are just you. When we write a book it’s easy to forget to put your voice on the paper. It’s easy to fall back into beige writing, instead of stepping forward and saying: This is what I want to tell you about. This is what I feel is important enough to write down.

Sometimes I think I would do better back in ancient times, when storytellers gathered around the fireplace and spun tales of heroic deeds and ghastly beats. You can’t hide from your voice then. When you write it’s easy to fall behind the words.

During edits I catch myself lapsing into beige voice all the time, where I describe a scene, but vaguely. Even during development of my WIP I catch myself not digging as deeply as I could.

For me the writing is best and most captivating when it feels like it’s tearing out of me. When I feel like I am confessing my sins, when I lie and tell myself no one is going to see this: I can write whatever I want. I have to trick myself sometimes, because if not my internal censor crops up. “No, don’t say it that way. Nice people don’t write bad words. No, don’t do that story again, people will think there’s something wrong with you and come and lock you up.”

And so on. I don’t know if I am the only one with an internal censor, or a vague fear of putting “myself” out there on the page, but sometimes it’s an epic battle to make sure I tell all truth (but tell it slant, my internal Dickenson pips up).

Which is why I like blogging. It forces me to use my voice. It forces me to calls ‘em as I sees ‘em, because that is what a blog is.

So sometimes I lure my internal censor away with chocolate chip cookies, and lie to myself, and say it’s something that I am writing between the shadow and the soul. No one will ever read it, and I can write whatever I want.

I tend to place a lot of pressure on myself, to do better, be better, to have goals. It’s an asset to me, because it’s where my passionate ambition to be a writer in the first place comes from, but sometimes it can be my worst quality because when I look at my work in this light, it’s never good enough. It’s never funny enough, or heart-wrenching, or deep. It’s never what I expected. I expected to be done with editing by now. I expected to have another book written by now, and so on.

These silent expectations only worsen if you spend a lot of time on the internet, reading about other authors and how they already have books published. “I should already be there,” that voice whispers to me, “You’re slacking off. Watching too much Criminal Minds, reading too many books about writing. Too many fiction books written by other people.”

So today, I say: Shut up.

Leave me alone. I do what I want, and I will get these done at my own pace, thank you very much. Writing is fun, it’s not a chore. It’s not a check mark on my obsessive compulsive list. It’s my lifestyle, a journey, not just a goal. I think that’s where a lot of writers go wrong—they want that validation. They feel pressured to write a book, get the sucker edited ASAP, and off to the agents because if they have a book published, MAYBE then they will feel like they are a real writer. But even when the agent comes, and the book contract comes, they aren’t happy. I need to sell loads of books. I need to be a household name. I need literary accolades and honors.

There will always be another step on the road. Another milestone. Today, I tell my inner over achiever this, and to go sit in the corner with my internal editor.

What about you guys? What battles do you have? Do you find yourself censoring what you write, or am I just crazy? ;)


  1. Tell those silent expectations where to go, Elizabeth! You're the boss of you. (And your writing, of course.) I think we all feel too much pressure as we try to seek and improve and move forward. I'd say, get yourself a cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows and revise until you are tired of it. Then go and do something else for a while. Be kind to yourself and have a great weekend. (In spite of the weather. :)

  2. I'm with Roxy on this. You are indeed your own boss. I wouldn't let your inner censor loose unless you felt it was absolutely needed. I spent a whole year re-editing my manuscript once. I censored my voice to try and make the story more pg-13, and in the end it wasn't the same story. The content was mature, but the voice was that of a nervous child. It didn't work at all. I scrapped the entire edited version, and kept the uncensored manuscript. No one is going to judge you for your story unless you explicitly say, "this is about me." Even then, most people are fascinated by creatives so you have plenty of wiggle room to let loose. Write what you want to write.

  3. Wow, you guys are awesome! That is exactly the sort of gentle but firm encouragement I needed to hear.

    Roxy: hot chocolate with marshmellows? That's a brillient idea! Have a great weekend yourself!

    Michael: Thanks for the personal testamonial. I KNOW it doesn't work, intellectually...but then I always think, "well, but what if..." Now I can just use your experience as proof it doesn't work. Thanks for taking one for the team. ;)

  4. Here is my question: is your protagonist so unlikeable that a reader is likely to give up on the story before he becomes likeable? If so, then you definitely have a problem. If not, well then, redemption is a story to tell. He doesn't always have to be likeable. Really he never has to be likeable, he just needs to be empathetic. There needs to be a reason for the reader to root for him even if he's a jerk.

    But like you say, in the end you just need to decide what works for you. It may not be to everyone's tastes, but if it's to your tastes, you should fret about it. There's still plenty of other work to do. You don't need to obsess about the work you've already finished.