Why Writers Go Crazy and My Plan Back to Sanity

Yesterday I mused about the pure joy I felt writing when I was a kid, and how I long to return to that innocence.

See, ten year-old me was a writer.  I wrote stories all the time, and it certainly never dawned on me that I might not get a novel published one day.

Through the years I wrote several novels.  They ended up getting deservedly trashed.  But they were great practice.

Then, I managed to get some short stories professionally published.  Happy Snoopy Dance time.  But, in my heart of hearts, I always knew I wouldn’t be satisfied until there was a novel sitting on a shelf of a bookstore with my name on it.  So, again I sat down to pen a novel.  This time, as an adult.

Through the years I gained much needed technical knowledge.  Just as a ballerina has to practice years and years at the barre for those  leaps and pirouettes on stage- it takes years for the writer to gain expertise on the craft of writing: grammar, style, voice, sentence and paragraph structure, balancing prose and dialogue, description, handling dialogue tags, plotting a smooth narrative.  It’s a never ending learning process.

The downside is one becomes too focused on the technical aspect.  (for instance, I’m cringing now because I used “I” 4x in the first sentence of this post.  Argh!!!! And it’s my own frigging blog.  I really, really want to fix it, but for the sake of this post, it’s going to remain no matter how much it hurts)

And, like many wannabe authors, I’ve become too paranoid.  The book industry is brutal.   There is no denying, no sugarcoating it.  Agents often state they only ask to see roughly 5% of partial submissions from the hundreds of query letters they receive each month.  So, let’s say you wrote a clear, intriguing query and you are one of the 5% asked to send in the first 3 chapters of your novel.  Great!  But, agents then admit they often put down a manuscript if they are not grabbed by the first page.   Often times, the first paragraph.

Is it any wonder we go into a tizzy?  Worrying about whether our word count is too short or long, should we use “said” because it’s invisible or does it get boring?  Will the agent toss my work because I still doublespace after periods?  Can I use adverbs? How can adverbs indicate weak writing when some of the greatest writers in history used them?  A lot.  Am I showing enough?  Telling too much?  I’ve heard agents hate exclamation points.  I have one on page 121.  If they’ve liked my novel til that point- will they toss it?  I write better in first person but I hear many agents prefer third.  What should I do????  I write in third.  I heard a rumor first is becoming more popular.  On and on it goes…

Writing boards are filled with frantic writers posting such questions.

Many of these questions are valid and necessary while editing.  However, they wreck havoc on creating  the story. And they certainly kill the joy of it all.

So, I have a plan to kill the evil inner-editor while I finish my second draft.

Now, I was going to make myself some rules.  Like, “no editing until draft done”, “no stopping to pick up dictionary or thesaurus”.   But then I remembered kids don’t give themselves rules.  Perish the thought!

An author once said, “Write the novel you want to read”.

So, I’m going to write like I did when I was a kid- in other words, write whatever the frell I want. Not second guess myself.  Not analyze anything.   Not picture future beta-readers critiquing.

Just curl myself up and have fun.

No rules!

Anything goes!

Yup.  I’m going to make it that simple.

Published in: on October 19, 2008 at 5:21 pm  Comments (10)  
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10 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I’m absolutely paranoid about my work in progress right now…and the thing about paranoia is not knowing if you’re paranoid with good reason or not. Ugh!

    Thanks for stopping by my blog- come on back anytime! 🙂

  2. Hi Colby,

    Exactly! Are we stressing because our novel really needs tons of work or are we just being too hard on ourselves?

    I will definitely come back to your blog. And thanks for checking out mine. 🙂

  3. Great post. I definitely saw myself in there over and over! I try to write without the rules the first time around. Adverbs? Absolutely. Cliches? Bring ’em on. Bad dialogue? You betcha. Then I get to go and fix everything the second time around. 🙂

    Good luck with your writing!

  4. Hey Rachel!

    Thank you! Glad you liked the post. Means a lot to me.

    No matter what genre we write in- from gothic to fantasy to romance to mystery to literary… one thing we all share is the constant worry mixed with passion for our work. 🙂

  5. Great post, and so true!

    I do whatever the hell I want when I write, lol, and I ignore any predetermined or restrictive rules, or gossip of such rules, although it probably doesn’t make it any easier for me as a writer.

    But, you have to draw the line somewhere — you’re an artist, too — imagine telling Michelangelo how to paint, or Emily Dickinson to write a different way. Absolutely absurd.

    I say, stay true to yourself, and to your inner artist. Watch your grammar and present professional work, of course, but don’t lose yourself or your style in the process. If you do, you’ll most likely lose the joy, too.


  6. Em,

    Thank you!!

    Anytime I forget my plan to write my story in MY Own WAY- I’m going to reread your comment.

    I never ever cared until just recently. All my life I’ve been told I have an “original mind”. Why in the world would I want to forsake that? How did the worry/pressure take over in such a short time?

    Nope- I’m not forsaking myself. I’m returning back to the real me and doing it my way. Even if I have to listen to Sinatra a thousand times a night. 🙂

  7. Wanna hear something really strange? I too started writing as a child. But somehow I never understood or knew enough to even dream of being published. It just never occured to me. I wrote stories and poems just to write them. And I loved it. So for me, getting back that innocence you speak of would be going back to writing without worrying or even thinking about whether this is publishable or not. Great blog post! ~Karen

  8. Hi Karen,

    Thank you so much! I’m really glad you liked the post.

    It sounds like we’re in the same mental place right now. Let’s both of us forget we have any desire to be published and instead just type away our thrilling stories. 🙂

  9. Great post! I know I have the same problem with being hard on myself, and losing the fun sometimes in the face of technical issues.

    I say we round up all the inner editors and lock ’em in a closet ’till it’s time for them to come out and do their thing.

    Soon as I find a suitable closet, I’ll let ya know. 😀

  10. Hi Jennifer,

    Thank you so much!

    And I’ll merrily join in the search for a suitable closet.

    Geek alert: A few days ago I re-watched Star Trek: First Contact. Data, when frightened of the Borg, temporarily shut off his emotion chip.

    Wouldn’t that be great? Inner-editor Chip OFF: fun, creative story time. Inner-editor ON: Okay, do your thing…


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