Friday, May 8, 2015

My Writing (meltdown) in April.

Image result for free image train wreck

I had a writing meltdown in April. I was, and still am, frustrated with the lack of output and progress with my fiction writing. Strangely, the meltdown was caused by my non-fiction writing after I submitted an article to Divine in mid-April. The editor immediately replied, wanting a few changes. Most of the changes were due to restrictions imposed on Divine because it is run by the state government. These restrictions would not allow me to mention the name of the website the article was all about.

I had hoped that I would be on safe ground mentioning this website because its creator – who I interviewed – had, what I considered, a great deal of credibility due to her advocacy in the disability field. The website had also been written about in mainstream newspapers.

My initial reaction to the editor’s request for changes was that the article would not work without mentioning the website, so I should just scrap the idea. But then what would I write? I had no idea. Coming up with ideas for Divine is becoming harder and researching and writing them seems to becoming less enjoyable and fulfilling.

The last article that I had enjoyed writing for Divine was a review of the movie The Theory of Everything.  The unsentimental and unsensational movie combined with some knowledge of Hawking made it easy to write. But since then I have had various issues when researching and writing articles. I thought that with the problems my recent submissions were encountering, maybe I should just take a break. So I shot off an email to my editor saying I was going to scrap the article and take a break.

When I finally had a look at the article again, I found it relatively easy to remove the website name and make the necessary changes that came with that to still have a reasonable article. So I sent another email to my editor saying that I could make the changes if she still wanted the article. I had real doubts whether the editor actually wanted the article. I also had real doubts that it or anything I had written for Divine were any good. I feared my enthusiasm for Divine had more to do with my articles being published than my writing.

I then began questioning whether anything I had ever written was more than just misguided enthusiasm. And whether my Master of Creative Writing was more a Master of Creative Delusion. On top of that, I thought my writing had improved little over the years, and might even have gone backwards due to my constant tiredness.

Anyway, I decided to take a real break from writing and get away for a few days. I went to Melbourne for four nights.  I went to the footy, Scienceworks (including the planetarium), the zoo and the museum. I almost expelled writing from mind for four days except when I came across two ideas for articles for Divine.

But then came the day I was due to return home, and I checked my emails. My editor wanted to speak to me. She wanted to “renegotiate” how I wrote for Divine. This sounded ominous to me, like she was going to take the opportunity to get rid of a crap writer. Unfortunately/fortunately, she was not in the office that day, so I could not contact her to have my fears confirmed. Instead, I had all day, including a three-and-a-half hour train trip to ponder what renegotiate meant. As it turned out, I did a lot more than ponder Divine, I spent a lot of the train trip thinking about my writing goals and why I was still standing alone at full back, a long way from my goals.

I concluded that I was more in love with the idea of being a writer and trying to appear like one, rather than actually being one. I had written 46 articles of varying quality for Divine, and I had written a post for this blog nearly every week for the past seven years, and I had done a number of writing courses, and I had completed Nanowrimo three times, and I had connected to 100’s of writers through social media and some of the published ones actually commented on my posts. I even write every day, but precious little quality fiction.

I am still yet to have any fiction published. I have three novel scripts, a novella, and numerous short stories all filed away in first or second draft stage. Although I write every day, I don’t write much and on many days writing is the last thing I get around to doing. I don’t read much either. The way I am going, when I die the sum total of my fiction writing will be a dozen first/second draft novel manuscripts on a USB stick which no one else will ever read.

Something had to change. On the train trip home, I felt I had two choices, either get stuck into fiction writing or quit. By getting stuck in, I mean writing a lot more quality fiction, and improving as I learn more about the writing process. To help improve my writing I need to get it critiqued.

I need to make changes in my life to help me achieve my writing goals. The big one is to overcome my constant tiredness. I am sure one of my chronic illnesses has a lot to do with it, so it’s time to finally try everything to get it under control. To help with this I decided to reduce some of the stress in my life, part of which I achieved by negotiating a two-month break from Divine. I have no doubt that my reaction to the Divine editor’s changes and my diminished enthusiasm for writing for Divine have been influenced by my tiredness.

I decided to get off social media. There are a number of reasons for doing this, including using that time to write. But primarily I wanted to get rid of the delusional satisfaction that I am a real writer because I associate with actual writers, many of whom are published authors. In reality, I am just a wannabee writer. So I quit Facebook a fortnight ago. The lack of contact with people I care about, and many who I am curious about, has been very hard, and I really miss playing Word with Anny during my afternoon coffee break.

I decided to get some quid pro quo going for critiquing. I re-joined, and I also joined the Australian Writers’ Forum. I need to find other science fiction writers for mutual critiquing. My search for trusted critiquers and beta readers begins.

I also have decided to spend less time blogging. Some of the posts on this blog have taken many hours to research and write, time I could have spent writing or learning about writing. From now on most of my posts will be book reviews. I figure reviewing books will get me thinking about what works in writing.

So what did I actually achieve writing wise during the month? As I didn’t write for 14 days in a row, I only added 3766 words to the novel. I read a book, Robert Swindells’ nuclear apocalypse young adult novel Brother in the Land, review pending.

PS. I seem to be writing more fiction since I quit Facebook. And I also find myself thinking more about the novel I am writing and not about some status update on Facebook. But computer problems have not helped. First some malware, then a product recall on the power cord for my laptop, where they recommend not using it until a new cord arrives. Toshiba told me that they will “process” my registration for a new cord within five working days. Does that include mailing the thing out? As I was also having trouble with the laptop’s DVD burner I decided to buy a new computer. Now I have to get use to using Windows 8. In between fiddling with the new computer and transferring files and trying to remember all those passwords, I did make the time to critique a story for critters. Yaa, one whole critique this year.


Chris Pavey said...

Will comment here since it seems you may not read it on Facebook. I'm using it a lot less these days too. And gave up blogging too quite a while back as you'd have noticed, all to focus on my fiction writing. The book I recommended to you a while back, you've got to read it. I promise it will help. Has some great tips in it regarding getting the best out of your critics and beta readers. But, that being said, I've been having a very similar crisis as you so far this year myself. Even today, I was working on re-writes and starting to seriously question if I can even form correct paragraphs anymore!! Self doubt for writers is like an illness itself.... All I can say is I hear you, I think you are a good writer, and keep fighting....

Graham Clements said...

Thanks Chris, my editor did reassure me that my writing wasn't crap too. I did buy the ebook of Wired for Story - but I have not made time to start reading it yet, I will. I know self doubt is huge among writers. Hopefully that is all it is with me. I think you're a good writer too, and considering the limited time you have you seem to be devoting significant time to it, and are a lot further down the process with your publishing of Running Against Time. I noticed you have a novella on Amazon too, which I bought - but have not read yet. I need to get something finished and approach publishers.

Anthony J. Langford said...

Quitting Facebook seems like a good idea. Been contemplating it alot lately.

Anyway, hang in there Graham. I think its a good idea to focus on one novel, get it finished and get it out there. Then you too can get depressed haha
There's a lot of crap out there as you know, so its a matter of luck I think. I believe its also mainly about contacts.. anyway, I'm pretty jaded after almost 10 years of trying to get novels published.

Stick with it mate. At least you've done something productive with your life that you enjoy. Cant ask for more than that.

Graham Clements said...

Yes Anthony, I have the pain of rejection to look forward to. I think that fear of rejection has a fair bit to do with me not finishing anything to put out there.

Graham Clements said...

I have been thinking about your situation in regard to Facebook. Your situation is different to mine, I hope to one day join you as a published author and will need to market my book(s) on social media. I reckon as soon as a publishing contract is signed, or as soon as I start the self-publishing process, I will be back on Facebook, if it is still around. I know you had two sales from me because I ran into you on Facebook. I bet you don't spend anywhere near as much time as I did on it too.

Anthony J. Langford said...

Yes, I'm well and truly over it. If it werent for the prospect of future works being published, I would probably quit it now, permanently. I think I only sold two copies of Caged through Facebook, but then again, hardly sold any anywhere so perhaps it was the fact that its a poetry book. Can't rely on Facebook but I suppose its a useful tool.

Hope you enjoy yr break and get some work finished.

Chris Pavey said...

Forgot to pop back in here and didn't receive any notification of additional comments (forgot to tick the box)! Hope you're going OK Graham. I am plugging away. But the mountain I'm trying to climb in terms of my next book is huge. My biggest concern is that by the time I finish it (probably a few more years) and publish it (probably a few more years again!) no one will read books anymore... or at least not enough people for me to make a living out of it... man it is hard...

In terms of Facebook. One of the key reasons I stay with it is to keep up with you both and other authors and readers. I don't have many friends in my life who share the same passion for writing that I share with you both. So when you're not around on facebook, I feel like I lose touch with people who I get and who get me and my determination to write at all costs. :-( I think it is a matter of using it and don't let it use you. I try to be selective on what I read and do on there as much as I can...

Graham Clements said...

Hi Chris,

I wonder whether there will be any readers left too, especially of science fiction. I recently read an article about the drop in science fiction sales and the fact that the average science fiction reader is an old white guy. But that does not take account the massive sales that YA science fiction series like Divergent and the Hunger Games have - whose readership would be predominately young females (I have enjoyed the Hunger Games movies though). So perhaps writing YA, like my current novel, is the way to go. Interestingly, the original idea was a stand alone novel with an ending that explains most of what has happened, but leaves some aspects hanging. As I now get very close to the end, I can see how easy it would be to write a sequel (just as I wrote that a whole lot of ideas for a sequel popped into my head).

I think the fantasy market should grow, partly due to Game of Thrones. Perhaps your book will come out just as Game of Thrones comes to an end and there are all these people desperate for a fantasy fix turning to books. We can hope that something happens to get people reading more. Perhaps the Chinese might mandate that all Chinese have to be literate readers of English, opening up a huge market. But then again, probably flooding it with millions of more books.

As my next blog post will show, since I have quit facebook my word output has risen drastically. And I have critiqued a few stories. But I miss the contact with people like you and Anthony greatly. Perhaps I could trial a half hour at the end of the day on facebook, and force myself to ignore all those interesting political posts and posts on climate change and force myself not to comment on all the recent crappy science fiction movies like Mad Max (the original is still the only good one). I also want to use Facebook to plug articles I write for Divine. I am still on Google+ mainly because I created a community there devoted to publicising all the articles written for Divine. But I have always used Google+ differently from Facebook.