Struggling with the whole “not good enough” mental demons as of late. Sometimes I feel like I’ve made leaps and bounds as a writer. Other times I feel like I’m just not getting it and skirting around drafting a story correctly, like I’m creating an outline of the right approach while hopeless stuck in the muck of bad writing. Like, I see the right way to write a story, but every attempt just doesn’t quite peg where the story truly lies. I’ve doodled a visual that hopefully helps you understand how I feel, how frustratingly close I seem to be but can’t get it right.
Boo hoo, poor me aside, I know I’m getting better. I’m learning to write character-driven stories, instead of ones where the characters get jerked around by the plot. I know I’m good at character creation. Sometimes I create too many and have to nix a few before the final draft, but I think that goes for any fiction writer. I know I’ve gotten better at letting characters decide what they want to do, instead of doing what I need them to do for the sake of plot. One of the most magical parts of writing is letting your characters take control of the plot. You just never know where they’ll take your story. They often come up with better ideas than you, even though these people exist only in your head. Yep, another “chicken or egg” scenario.
I know I’m good at world-building. Sure, I bounce between giving too much or too little, the good ole info dumps or readers going “huh?”, but as I keep writing/practicing, I get better at it. I draft to get all the ideas down on paper, knowing some parts need hefty work, but I leave those areas to test readers before I start revising. I just need to get the entire gosh darn story on paper before I worry about flawless grammar and such (pfft, my grammar goes in and out from time to time). In the end, I believe I create worlds readers will enjoy escaping to, no matter how scarred and imperfect they are. There’s a beauty to these blemishes.
I also know I’m good at description and writing action scenes. Yes, I get wordy. Yes, I tell instead of show. But this is all practice, practice, practice. You can always see the action, see the scene. I just need to tighten the writing and learn to always show and never tell. That right there is probably the hardest thing to do.
So, with all that said, what do I need to work on? Oh, all the aforementioned and more. I’m 28. I’ve been reading since I was 16 and writing since age 18, and even then I went years without doing much writing. I self-defeat easily. But at the same time I feel this dire need, this desperation, this hunger to get better at writing. I feel so far behind anyone my age who’s been reading and writing all their lives. I’ve worked so hard to try and catch up. So hard. Yet I feel left in the dust, gasping for breath with an arm stretched towards the obscure figures in the dust cloud. I don’t know how to stop running, the words “wait for me!” lodged in my throat. All I need is one person to turn around and see my sorry ass. Just one that possesses enough compassion to see the potential I see in myself, take my hand, and give me a chance.
I’ve reached out to so many people for help, advice, guidance, and constructive critique, gotten an array of feedback, and then said people go in and out my life like seasons. Right now I have two very helpful people that I’d have lost my sanity right now if they weren’t there. Seriously, I’d be locked up in a room with padded walls. I’m so passionate about my writing that it can’t be adequately expressed in words; only action. I’m sure that sounds cheesy, but it drives the point home, I think.
I honest to goodness wish I could do my MFA over. I feel like if I repeated those two years several times, I’d make amazing progress as a writer. I learned so much during that time that I realized just how much I have to learn. I don’t feel like my skills are respectably good, compared to other dedicated writers. Yes, I’m a much better writer than the average person since I put forth the effort to set myself above average, like a professional athlete, but the real competition trounces me. I just want to be good enough. I just want a chance.
In the name of this passion, I recently approached two people for feedback on my writing. The first one was from some stranger on goodreads.com who stumbled upon Shield of the Gods. I’ve gotten nothing but 4 and 5-star reviews on amazon.com, but I’ve gotten ratings from 1-5 on goodreads.com. Said stranger gave me a 1-star and said the following:
“It was interesting in the beginning but got extremely boring really really fast. I dropped reading around 60% after discovering myself skipping more lines than what i was reading.”
Well that’s quite the sucker punch, especially when I have contrasting reviews like this one:
“I started this book around 9:30 last night and finished it at 3:30 am. I simply could NOT put it down. S.M. Welles really knows how to draw in a reader and keep him/her hanging on for the ride!”
So the other day I sent this message to the unsatisfied reader: “I was wondering if you would have a minute or two to help me become a better writer. My book definitely tanked in your eyes. I know I have to work on wordiness and over-description. I was wondering what else you’d like to see in a revision that would make Shield of the Gods a book that stays as good as it started. Hope you don’t mind me approaching you.”
To which I received: “I’m really surprised and pleased by your contact, I love people that try to improve themselves. At the moment I’m at work, but I’ll go back tonight or tomorrow and try to explain to you what got me lost and blocked me from getting “into” the book…”
So yay. I believe either one of two things will happen: 1) I’ll rapidly discover that this person isn’t my audience, or 2) There’s truth in this person’s complaints and I’ll be submitting a revision to my ePublisher and get the book updated. Shield of the Gods has been updated twice for typos and grammatical errors. I have no problem editing for content, so long as what this person feels needs to be fixed meshes with the story I’m trying to write. It’s so easy for me to take every bit of feedback as gospel, but I’m learning to keep all of it in perspective and analyze who’s saying what, and possibly why. Sometimes I get useless feedback. All us writers do.
So person number two I reached out to this week: an accomplished writer in paranormal romance. While I got useful feedback, I didn’t quite get the feedback I was looking for. To Ocean’s End contains a bit of romance content in it. I never intended to write that but two of my characters insisted on it. I’ve read three paranormal romance books–well technically one since I skimmed through the other two after reaching a breaking point in bad writing–and I didn’t find them overly useful. Two characters randomly fall in love or are even forced to by the author for the stupidest of reasons, and my brain just starts hurting. So yes, I developed a headache or two while trying to research how to write romance. I did learn a couple useful things but overall, I still needed more guidance, so I reached out to someone from my MFA who writes romance and she forwarded me to someone who writes paranormal romance. I have mixed feelings about the feedback I got (on her reading just the first few chapters):