Image courtesy of talliesin  morguefile

     I reached a point a little over a week ago, where I just couldn’t write anymore.  It wasn’t writer’s block or anything like that.  I still had plenty to write about.  But between work, NaNoWriMo and normal life stuff, I was wiped out.  When I’d sit down at my computer to write, I’d just sort of zone out; eye glazing over, mind shutting down, words dripping out so slowly that it would take hours just to get around a hundred words.  Even my body was screaming at me to slow down and take a beat.  So that’s exactly what I did.

     For one week, I didn’t write (not even for the blog), I didn’t read, I didn’t even keep up with social media. What I did do was rest my brain as much as work allowed.  Fortunately for me, this break came at the most opportune time.  With Thanksgiving thrown into the mix, I was afforded a rare, but much needed, 5-day weekend.  Five whole days of no work, where I was free to do fun things like spend time with my family, go to the movies, or go shopping.

     And then something happened.  Not only was I ready to get back to writing, I was finally ready to focus on that edit that I had been putting off for months.  I didn’t just want to edit it, I needed to.  I had abandoned my characters long enough and was actually starting to miss them.  A “visit” with them was definitely in order.  But I didn’t immediately get started.  I allowed my mind and body the time needed to finish relaxing and restoring.  The headaches that were coming virtually everyday were gone, the lower back and hip pain that had me walking around like an old woman were also gone.

     Finally, on Sunday night, I booted up the Mac, opened Scrivener and got to work.  By the time I was heading out to work on Monday morning, I had actually managed to get through four whole chapters.  My goal is to get this edit done so that the novel is ready for either another beta read or posting to  Once I get this novel sorted out, I can get back to focusing on the rest of the series that had to be put on hold so that it didn’t get disjointed after all of the changes happening in book one.

     Sometimes, taking a break to get your mind right is more productive than soldering on to put words on a page.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles

Image courtesy of Grant Cochrane

     Every writer can attest to the fact that we are our own biggest critic.  No story we write will ever be perfect, the characters will never be quite as real on the page as they are to us and there will always be more to add.  Sometimes, a story will feel as though it is beyond salvaging and so it is set aside for something new.  This can be due to boredom, frustration or just plain lack of potential.  How do you know if a project is truly beyond saving or if it just needs a bit of TLC?

     One way that I can tell that a project is worth reworking is when I set it aside and weeks or even months later, it starts to permeate my thoughts again.  Much like when the story first came to fruition, its voice grows louder and louder until it can no longer be ignored.  A project that refuses to be ignored is one that must surely be worth sharing.  It may require minor changes, or it may require a complete rewrite, scrapping entire paragraphs or even chapters.

     Eventually, we must reach a point where we say that the story is good enough; good enough to be shared with others, even if we still have changes to “perfect” it.  Beta readers, friends or family are the perfect starting point.  Sharing your work with another person is the first step to completing it.

     But sometimes, a project truly is not worth saving.  Maybe it made sense while it was in your head, but once it was put on paper, you found it really just didn’t work.  Maybe the characters were too flat or not real enough and no matter what you tried, you just couldn’t bring them to life.  There are some cases where a project is just beyond repair and despite our best efforts, we must choose to scrap the whole thing and move on to the next one.

     How can you tell if a project is doomed for the scrap pile?
Image courtesy of Penywise  morguefile

     I have been asked what I am currently working on, so I thought I would share with you what has been going on.  Over the last two months, I haven’t done much work on my novels.  Having offered up my first novel for a beta read and deciding not to continue working on the third novel until I finalized the first two, for fear of creating an inconsistent mess, I turned my focus to the second novel in the series.  I would sit down with a broad vision of what I wanted to happen and words would make their way onto the page as I tried to build the bridges I needed to reach my destination, but something just didn’t feel right.  Something just kept gnawing at me, preventing me from making any real progress and for the longest time, I just couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was.

     Even after getting feedback from the beta readers, I wasn’t gung-ho about getting back to work like I had hoped.  I thought that maybe I just needed to stew on the feedback and work things out mentally, but it wasn’t that simple.

Image courtey of Arthur Tress

Other than a few notes here or there, I had absolutely no drive to write and it was making me so anxious that I didn’t know what to do with myself.  So, when faced with a case of what I like to call “writer’s dunce”, I did what I usually do; I turned to reading as a means of clearing my head and gaining a fresh perspective.  After reading three novels, I still didn’t have the urge to jump back into my work and I still hadn’t pinpointed the source of the problem.  Normally, before I’ve even finished reading one novel, I’m filled with ideas and the urge to get back to work, so this was troublesome.

     In addition to reading books, I started reading critiques and discussion boards, not only on the books I was currently reading, but on others in genres similar to my own work, that I had read in the past.  Some of the discussions helped to bolster my confidence that I was doing some

things right, avoiding some of the pitfalls that caused the most grief for readers of my intended genre.  I think somewhere along the way, I subconsciously began to realize why I was having such a hard time continuing with my own work.  It wasn’t immediately apparent to me, but the more discussions I read, one by one eliminating the doubts that were clouding my thoughts, the clearer it became.  My problem, it would seem, is that I had completely lost the essence of what I was trying to achieve.  

     I had set out to write a vampire story laced with romanticism.  What I ended up with, was something altogether different; a romance novel with a vampire twist.  My main character was a watered down version of who I wanted her to be, of who she is, epitomizing the weak, dependent females so often featured in romance novels.  This was not what I had wanted at all and the further I had written into the story, the stronger this theme seemed to weave its way into my novels.


Image courtesy of imagerymajestic

How could I be expected to keep writing when my work was starting to get on my own nerves?  I think that somewhere deep inside, my main character was trying to tell me that I wasn’t writing her story correctly.  Sure, the events were unfolding as they should, but I hadn’t painted her in the the right light.  Vampires are meant to be hardcore; so dark that they terrify you, but at the same time beguile and intrigue you.

          Now that I have identified the problem, I need to work out how to go about fixing it.  It seems that I have quite the challenge ahead of me.

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     Over the last month or so, I have been too unfocused to do any real writing.  To clear my mind and focus my thoughts, I turned to reading. Between beta reading for fellow writers and reading a few self published novels, one thing became blatantly clear.  A little editing can go a long way.

     In a 2009 article entitled “The Importance of Editing Your Writing” the author explains why editing is so critical.  Any author that wants to get published via traditional means, should already know that publishers look for work that is polished and well written.  If you want a publishing company to take your work seriously, you need to not only captivate them with your story, but show them that you are serious about your work.  Misspelled words and poor grammar send publishers a message that you are unprofessional.

     Don’t think that editing is any less important if you intend to self publish your work.  Although you may not be trying to woo a publisher, you still need to keep your readers in mind.  Some readers are extremely adroit and will notice every mistake you make.  This can lead to a frustrating reading experience that may cause the reader to stop reading and perhaps even be turned off from any of your future work based on this poor experience.

     For those readers that are not as easily swayed by typos, it can still lead to a poor reading experience.  Some readers use books to escape to far away worlds or to take a journey with the characters, focusing more on the entertainment factor.  But if an author makes poor word choices or words are missing or misspelled, it can break the spell of the story as the reader tries to make sense of what is written.  Even if the reader makes it through the story, they may be turned off from reading any more of your work.

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     During my own recent experiences, I’ve been tripped up due to poor editing or a complete lack of editing.  I could see the potential of some of the authors, but their rush to get their work published led to poor execution of their visions.  Initially, although I knew I would need to edit my work, I thought that it would be something I could do myself.  After seeing the short comings of not having work edited by an expert, I can now truly understand the value of paying for the service.  Beta readers are great for giving feedback on plot points and character or world development, but for a truly polished novel, it is worth spending the money to have someone go over your work with a fine toothed comb.