Writing Books/Quality/confidence issues
QUESTION: Hi Dorothy!
I've been practicing writing on and off for about six years now. I've written two novel manuscripts, one back in High School and one right after graduation, and the process behind them is always the same. I get a great idea for a setting or character and start working on a story at a frenzied pace. But the minute I type the words "The End" and look at what I've written, I'm absolutely horrified at the quality. The characters have no life, the action is either too poorly described or over descriptive, and any plot twist I think about using can be seen a mile away. Consequently, I spend the next few months not writing anything, assuming that it will be just as terrible in the end. I've been bitten by the writing bug again recently and am excited by a new idea I have, and want to make this attempt different, even if I can't improve the quality of the final product. It's my dream to publish a good book or two in my lifetime, even if it isn't a bestseller or anything like that, and I know these pauses I have between my work will only get in the way of accomplishing this goal.
Do/did you ever encounter this "horrible quality"/self-confidence problem in your work, and if so how do/did you overcome it and keep going?
ANSWER: Hello Matthew,
Please send me a note and tell me how you go about creative writing. How often do you edit, rewrite paragraphs, allow friends to read and critique...all of that. And then I'll try and see what your problem may be. OK?
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QUESTION: When I get over my phase I'll write two or three short stories a week, between one and four pages in length, depending on my school schedule.
As far as making my ideas for my projects, most of the time I'll just be doing some work and will have a daydream. It'll usually be an interaction between some characters or an idea for a setting where I might want to drop some characters and see what happens. I'll spend a day or two expanding this idea and if I don't like it, I drop it.
As far as editing, when I wrote my first manuscript, I wrote nonstop, only correcting major spelling errors. My mother is close friends with a professional editor who enthusiastically volunteered to look over my work, but everything I sent her got no reply. This, coupled with the lifelessness of my characters saw me off on my first hiatus from writing.
I spent more time looking over my second project while writing it, but I don't think I did any excessive editing, maybe one or two changes per page. Around this time I started to get in sync with my characters a little better as well, asking "Would they really act this way, or do that instead?" But again, when I read the finished product I was just horrified at how bad it was. My characters weren't moving the story, they were being moved by it.
My family wasn't and still isn't very supportive of my wanting to get published either, so I don't share anything with them.
Thank you very much for your time and any suggestions you might offer!
To answer your question about my confidence ... no. Quite often when I went back to rewrite I would get goose bumps while reading a rough manuscript and would often cry. So I knew that my characters were real and alive. I just didn't know that anyone else would feel the same way. After I discovered that readers felt the same as I did, I couldn't be stopped. I can still pick one of the books, open it, read and get goose bumps on some of the pages. I do admit that right after I have worked a manuscript for a couple of years, done rewrites and more rewrites, edits and proof reads, it gets stale. But if I leave it for a while and go back, it is fresh and strong.
Now to answer your real problem. The overall feeling I get from reading your question and your writing style is "FEAR". You are afraid of what you really want to write and say. You are afraid of what you mother might think. You are afraid of your critics. You are afraid of losing control of the characters and action. I suggest you give up your fear of everyone and everything when you write. Let it all come out. Time for polishing is after it is finished. Let it shock you. Let it rock you. Be surprised at what you are capable of.
I believe you need more to begin than some characters and interaction. I believe you have to have a moral question or a giant question that must be answered or a problem that needs to be solved.
Here is the way I write:
I have to begin with an idea or a question. I have to select an era, a place, and a setting. I have to know my first character. Then I sit down at the computer and I type a sentence. And I type another. Perhaps these two sentences are not very good, but I continue typing. This exercise releases your creative mind and gets you out of the "editing" mind or into the right brain and out of the left. My characters come as they are needed. They simply show up and they tell me who they are and what part they are to play. I allow them to help me write the story. And here is the most important thing I do. I do not edit, correct, re-write, polish, or even consider doing these things until I have a complete, rough draft of my entire novel. The only thing I do is this: sometimes I feel the story going astray and I have to get back on track. Sometimes the going astray is where the story really needs to go and I go with it. It becomes a matter of "feel". Often I do not know what scene will be next or how the plot will develop or how the book will end until I get there or almost there. I have to trust my creative mind to lead me. It has never failed me. I also NEVER allow anyone to read the story or any part of it until I have completed at least two rewrites.
Now to the rewrite process. This is where I restructure, cut and paste, delete, add, work for continuity, clarity and correctness. I do as many as 8 or 10 rewrites before I am totally satisfied that I have made it as balanced as possible.
I suggest you try this and see how you go. This may work for you as it does for me, or it may not. You may need to do the outline procedure. (I never use outline and could not if I wanted to.)
Keep me posted and let me know if you are making progress.
If you wish to know how the reviewers see my work, go to Amazon.com and check on the books of Dorothy K Morris and see all the reviews by Dr. Lawrance Bernabo and "DarkAngel"