Monday, May 30, 2011

Under Pressure

I haven't written much of anything since January. I'm thinking about one story that I promised, and another promised story is looming in the back of my mind, but I'm not actively working on it. Also, I have a novel on submission that I have to act on sometime in the near future, but for now, I'm content to let everything hang out there in a suspended state.

Not writing used to worry me. If I were a professional writer, I'd be frantic about now. Five months without any real output would be disastrous. But I'm not a professional, and by now, I've had so many of these dry spells that I can't work myself into too big of a fret over them. It's part of my natural rhythm. At least, that's what I tell myself.

Every writer has a personal definition of success: making the New York Times bestseller's list, a movie deal, critical acclaim, being published, or even simply self-satisfaction. I love being published. The thrill of acceptance never gets old. I'd love to see a stranger holding my book at the airport or on a bus (although in this e-reader world, no one sees what you're reading).  But it's never been my absolute goal. So I don't feel much pressure to create a bestseller. (Not that I'd complain. I'm not artsy-fartsy enough to look down on commercial success.)

The only real pressure I feel is from my little slice of vanity, my weird idea of success, and that's to create a world so engrossing that a reader feels sad when the story ends. That's how I feel when I've read a story I've enjoyed. When the characters remain with me and I think about the ideas days or even years later, that, to me, is a great book. The prose doesn’t have to be beautiful in a literary sense. The tale doesn't even have to be high-minded. I just like a truly ripping yarn, and I like that lingering sense of loss after the final page. Weird? Yes. And even weirder that I want to make other people feel that way. In my most self-deprecating hours, I doubt that I'll ever get there. I want it though, that power of transportation, so I pressure on myself to try to deliver it, even though I may never know if I reach that goal.

9 comments:

  1. I know the kind of story you mean, Kathleen, and I'd love to create one, too. But my own characters don't do that for me - at least none of the ones I've birthed yet. So how can I expect to have that effect on a reader?

    Warmly,
    Lisabet

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  2. I don't know how it's done. I can remember stories that did that, but as I try to read them as a writer with an eye on the technique, I still don't grasp the magical point - when or how it happens.

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  3. Initially when I started writing it was all whenever I have time, in my spare time, definitely a hobby. Those stories are still WIPs that I have in progress. Then I had this fully formulated concept and I had defined characters and I had a story that I had to get out.

    That is where the pressure came in. Self imposed pressure. Pressure to get it written, to make it good, make sure the characters had enough shape, get a professional cover, have it edited and get it out. I don't know that I've written characters that stay with my readers. I hope that they do. The characters stay with me and some of them I don't know in depth. I haven't lived with them.

    I do know this. I think about the characters and the story lines from my favorite authors (JR Ward, Kallysten, Shiloh Walker, Miranda Baker) and I ask myself why those characters make such a lasting impression. Ror me the answer is simple. The characters are tortured whether emotionally or physically or both. The authors are very good at making the reader empathetic to the plight of the character, whether hero/heroine, or secondary characters. If the story is good, I will care about them all.

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  4. Aha! I need to torture my characters more! :)

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  5. I write every day, even if it's just a tweak on whatever I'm working on. I'm a slow writer compared to some,
    but I've developed a system that works for me. I
    write in fragments, that is, I vaguely sketch out a few characteristics of my main characters, then as the story
    develops, I build on that, and eventually as it gets really full, I start to rearrange the fragments so all the
    characters and scenes come to life for me.

    I wish I were like some of you who can really pump the work out and fast, but I've come to accept my writing style and I always like the end result.
    I've spent most of this year also being a Judge for
    online e-book contests and just recently three poetry contests. My own writing did slip off a bit during those periods b/c I was doing so much reading. Thankfully I'm in a place in my life where
    I just let everything play out as it should w/o much fret about it. It's a good place to be...

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  6. I'm a slow writer too. I have no idea how people write so fast.

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  7. I don;t know how people write fast either. I do try to write every day, but I'm incredibly slow most of the time. And yeah, i'd love to see a stranger reading one of my books too. Someday.

    Garce

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  8. In my experience, there's no point forcing it - if the muse isn't there, stop and wait for her return. Writing when you're not really inspired tends to result in gibberish that ends up in the metaphoric waste-basket. I've been working on my current project for 2 years now, and right now it's stuttering badly, so I'm taking a break, doing something different, and trusting things will reset. They always do - it's the blessing and curse of being a wordsmith!

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  9. A few little "sound bites" for you:

    I hate to break it to you, but you are a professional. You haven't been able to claim amateur status for years and years.

    Hector and Sam are characters who stay with me. The first book was one I hated to finish and couldn't wait to rush into the next one. So, you've done it, at least for this fan girl.

    You said: Aha! I need to torture my characters more! :) --Hey, works for me!

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