It’s Saturday again. This time I wanted to share something I’ve been going through the past couple weeks.
Early last week, I had what I’ll call an “existential writing crisis”. It started on Sunday night, but had been brewing for a bit. It reached critical mass on Monday morning and I did a twitter thread ranting about it while I was stuck in traffic. Here’s what happened:
A step back
I read a Writer’s Digest article about villains and I thought back to my story. My villain. Their motives aren’t apparent to the reader. I know them, because I’ve rewritten this story ten times over the past 13 years and I understand pretty much everything about my characters. But I wasn’t showing it. From a reader’s perspective, it didn’t make sense. It was “evil for evil’s sake” which is unrealistic. So I decided that I needed to work more on this character. I needed to step back and figure out how to work it in. I figured I’d delay everything to do with the book until I’d reworked and written this correctly. Surely it couldn’t take that long.
Comparison is the thief of joy.
That’s a joke. You have to compare yourself to others if you’re going to have any gauge of how well you’re doing. The first thing I compared my own writing to was P.S. Malcom’s Lanterns in the Sky. I did this because I know the author, and in my brain anyone I know can’t possibly be as good as ‘famous’ writers. Right?
Wrong. Her imagery is fantastic. Her writing is flawless. But I know she has creative writing degrees, she has a business as a writing coach, and she’s ranked as a best seller on Amazon. So of course she’s amazing. She must be the exception to the rule.
One of my Facebook friends (from a group, I don’t know them in real life) shared that they were participating in the Wattys, a writing competition on Wattpad. They’re a fan fiction author.
I have to do a disclaimer here: I love fan fiction. Seriously, LOVE it. I couldn’t do it myself, because I’d be worried about messing up the characters or worlds that someone else has created. But there’s a little piece of my mind, a little bias against fan fic authors. Because they didn’t create their characters or worlds. They can’t sell their work. So surely they must be less than. I’m annoyed at myself for even typing that, because I know it isn’t true. But we all have inherent biases we must struggle against, acknowledge, and work to overcome. And that’s one of mine. And it’s completely untrue because I started reading my friend’s story.
And oh my. Oh My. The prose flows like water. The descriptions are perfect–they leave just enough to the imagination. I wasn’t even conscious that I was reading a story.. I was experiencing it. And I know this person. I don’t think they have formal schooling in writing. Suddenly, I was comparing my own writing to theirs.
And I fell short.
I fell so short.
For some background, just imagine this. You’re a storyteller. A writer. You’ve been writing stories since you were 8. You took creative writing 3 times in high school. And you’ve never received negative feedback on your writing. The teacher thought you walked on water. Your parents, your friends, the online communities you shared stories with. No one ever said anything critical. You think you’re hot shit, right?
I knew there was something missing in my writing. But I didn’t know what it was or how to achieve it. And now I know. So I decided to buckle down. Get back to basics. Write short stories to practice, get feedback from others, and fine tune my skills before revising my story yet again.
The best thing, though?
The responses I received from the community after I shared that rant on twitter. The validation. The relief. This is normal. This is a part of the writing journey. A rite of passage. It’s what separates those who are passionate about the craft, who care about their readers, from those who don’t.
The new plan.
I’ve joined a channel on Discord for Fantasy Authors support. They do critique swaps and skill shares. I’ve joined Wattpad and plan on sharing short stories there for feedback. And I’m writing short stories based on the characters in The Wraith. I’ll be sharing these stories so that people can get to know the characters–and I can have more to draw on in the case of my villain. Whenever I post one I’ll share it here as well. I really can’t wait to continue my growth as a writer.
And once I can do my story justice, I’ll begin the process again. Because this story needs telling. It deserves to be told with skill. It deserves an audience.
And this time, I’ll do it right.