This is the confession of a dying writer...
And, before anyone gets worried, I mean that figuratively, not literally, though some days it feels like the same thing anyway. Despite the somewhat insane flurry of activity and releases that have been appearing on my pages and blogs around the cyberworld, I have not been writing much in almost a year. Most people find that hard to believe, because there has been no change in the creative ideas, they still come fast and furious. However, my ability to put them onto the page for readers has all but died.
As a rule, I keep my private issues private and my personal business is rarely posted, the exceptions being if I feel there might be anything involved that could help save other people heartache or bad choices. But, I’ve decided to stop pretending about this particular issue and discuss it openly. Who knows, maybe it’ll help?
I wrote fan fiction for about twenty years before I ever published a single word professionally. Writing 15K in a single day was an easy task for me, especially once I got a computer. Edits were often minimal, and I can’t remember ever getting a bad “review” from fans of the shows I wrote my fiction for, which is quite an achievement. I won a slew of awards, actually. That ease of creating and enjoying the process continued when I began publishing professionally back in 2004. Oddly, that was probably when the first threads of my current paralysis set in, too, though. The first time conflict arose between me and a publishing house, the editor who sang my praises did a sudden about-face and began to tell her friends I was a “labour intensive writer who required more work than she had time to give to me.” Wow… so much for honest communication, huh?
I’ve moved around a lot in terms of publishing with different houses, almost two dozen in the past ten years as I tried to find a place where I “fit” to some extent. I’m not sure I’ve yet found a publisher I feel happy and confident with, so there may be more avenues to walk before this ever settles. (Notice I’m assuming it will?) Editors have played an interesting role in my work, some have been very good, and others have been a nightmare to work with, though I have managed to work with them all in a cordial and professional manner. I’ve worked with two male editors who pretty much stripped all the lyricism from my words, I have no idea if that’s because the work needed to be made stark and direct, or if it’s a male style thing? But, it made me wonder why so many people compared reading my stories to having a movie turned on in their brains–I think that would be largely due to these descriptions and the emotions.
While some of my editors taught me about my horrendous POV issues–which I liken to being the director of a movie–who wants to see ALL of the reactions–to the actor who stars and is responsible for only his own responses. I needed to learn to be the actor, not the director, and in time, I did. I still make the slips occasionally, but mostly I don’t head-hop a hundred times in a story now. That was a tool worth learning.
Most authors at one time or another encounter the conflicting requests of editorial directive. I’ve seen one editor ask for revisions after reading, and once they’ve been made, still decline to contract. Perfectly acceptable. The problem is, the next editor wants things put in that are often the very things previously removed. That gets confusing. Then there are the glowing letters that tell you how wonderful your story/book is, how well written, etc., but end with the statement that somehow in spite of its attributes, it’s not quite the right fit. Again, perfectly acceptable, but another layer of “WTH” gets added to the little serpent of doubt that’s been unleashed inside your brain.
All of this has impacted me over the years, and I’ve gone from being a reasonably creative and confident writer to a frozen block of fears and stagnation. I have serious things going on in my daily life that cause tremendous stress and pressure. Writing was my sanity maintenance, and my escape. I say was, because I can no longer write. I doubt every sentence I put on the page, agonize over it to the point where I have deleted stories to the tune of tens of thousands of words recently.
I have, however, been blessed with good editors in the past year. Ladies who push me to try to recapture what I’ve unconsciously been chopping out of my writing–the imagery, the emotion, the atmosphere. ALL things I used to revel in when I got into a story. There is one editor in particular, Penny Barber, who has more faith in me than I do, and she is not only generous with her time and her knowledge, she cares about making good books that authors can be proud of when they publish. She said it to me herself a couple of days ago, she’s trying to hack away at the frozen block that my creative writer’s voice has become. I’m working on relearning to love what I have always loved, and what came naturally to me once, with the help of this amazing lady who sees something worth working on.
Where is all this leading, you ask? To one hard-won truth–never let anyone take away your power to do what you love the way you need to do it. In pleasing everyone else, I lost all sense of my own style and voice. There is a point when other people should NOT have the power to decide what we do, or how we present it. I was once of the opinion that an editor’s recommendations had to be accepted or contracts would never be forthcoming. It’s taken me years to realize that an editor is your guide, and in the end, you are still the one who decides the course of your story. Don’t be afraid to keep your personal style intact, or disagree. That’s what creative compromise is all about. Learn to be better, and use what works for you. If you let your initial fears silence your creative instincts and storytelling voice, you will only end up with a huge case of utter terror of the page at some point.
The road back is long, lonely, and incredibly difficult. I hope I make it, because I am miserable without my worlds…