Friday, May 28, 2010

Hitting the Writing Wall

The 'writing wall' isn't to be confused with writer's block. Hitting the writing wall is much more serious, as it can spell the end of a writing career before it even gets started. 

It's when an inspiring writer, often after years of trying, suddenly feels a great and urgent need to just give up. Maybe it comes after a pointed rejection letter or a bad critique. Some writers seem to never experience it, while I've seen others--notably on the AbsoluteWrite Forums--hit it hard. It's impossible to gauge just how many writers experience it, because we never hear from the ones that succumb.

For me it happened after about 2 1/2 years in, which just happened to be about 6 weeks ago. I haven't been serious about writing all that time, but I have been doing it regularly. However, for the last six to nine months I've been writing daily, taking a writing course. I've even cleaned out a room to use as my writing space.

So when I finished my latest manuscript, Super Zombie Juice Mega Bomb (I'll write up a little something about it in the future), I knew I was only 1/2 done. Eight edits later--yes, I edited the whole book eight times--I was ready to show it off to a beta reader (for those who don't write, a beta reader is another writer, who reads your manuscript and makes nasty comments in the margins).

When it came back and the first comment went something like, I couldn't really get into the story, because I couldn't get past all the spelling and grammar errors. You really need to polish this up before you send it out.

I'd spent three months doing just that! So, at first I figured he was just crazy; after all you have to be a little nuts to offer to read the first draft of someone's unpublished novel. But after seeing his edits, I knew he was right.

Normally critical feedback doesn't bug me; I see it as an opportunity to improve. This time, I was dumbfounded, was my self-editing really that bad? I was forced to conclude, yes.

So, now I'm staring at this wall--that's just snacked me right in the face. Two and 1/2 years and I'm not even close. Will I ever be able to write something publishable, yet alone really good? I could have taken the family on vacation with all the money I've spent on books, classes, etc. Am I just stealing from my loved ones pursuing this dream?

The fact is, I don't know. This is my third completed manuscript; I've decided to ride it out. The characters in my story deserve that much. I'm certainly not over this wall yet, but I've decided to climb.

Did you experience the writing wall? If so, how did you get over it?

1 comment:

  1. I hit the writing wall hard, six years ago. I even gave up spelling. *grin* Let that computer die in a flood. Yup, I wanted it all gone.

    I've been there when the writing group votes to not even give your story a hearing, it was that bad. I've been there when a manuscript was returned, crushed and dog-eared. The worst was when a big name publisher asked me to not show my book to ANYONE ELSE and then rejected it two weeks later with a form letter.

    I could have been working on my golf swing. The problem is: I don't like golf. And if you are only happiest when writing (and your family will tell you, if you don't know already) then you'll keep at it.

    Grammar you can fix. My last novel took three people, three reads each, before it passed the Chicago manual. And then, after it was printed, it took my nine year old to point out what everyone else had missed. *shakes head*

    But few people can tell a story. If you are one of those who can, all else can be fixed.