2nd Time Tribulations

The first writing project is a combination of guts, glory and desire. A first-time writer doesn’t have a clue how they are supposed to do all this and keep it all straight, but by george they are going to make it work!

On of the ways to make that work is to read read read. But with reading comes knowledge. And knowledge is a frustrating little bugger. Because knowledge makes a writer realize that I wasn’t doing it right!.

Cue the second project. Now, it must be done RIGHT. LAWS must be followed. The RULES OF WRITING ™ must be obeyed. There are sekrits about this writing thing, don’tcha know? And if you do them all right, well then, you’ll be HEAP BIG AUTHOR.

Yeah. That gets frustrating in a hurry. Trust me. I’ve been there. My first project was the ancestor of Shadow and Soul, but it was based on years of casual, hobbyist writing with definate overtones of fanfic. But I wasn’t doing it to be HEAP BIG AUTHOR, I was doing it because it was fun. 50,000 words of literary tangle later, I shelved it, and started a new project.

This time, I was going to follow the RULES OF WRITING to the letter. I researched, I plotted, I outlined, I followed word-counts, I did everything right. And Red Sun kicked the hell out of my enthusiasm and love of the written word.

My mother will tell you that I hated that book by the time I was ‘through’. It had gone through so many dramatic changes and convolutions that I had my million words of shit right there in the history of one book. But I was doing it RIGHT, and so I would be HEAP BIG AUTHOR, yes?

No. Red Sun is a premise of gold that was alchemically reduced to a steaming pile of crap. I didn’t like my own writing. Someone less bloody-minded (and possibly far wiser) than I would have chucked the book the way of the original fantasy project. I didn’t. I actually submitted the damn thing to about ten agents before I came to my senses. Red Sun now waits to be rewritten. From scratch. Because it is a golden concept that was mangled by doing it RIGHT.

Third time’s the charm. I wrote the 11,000 word New Name in a month. Within 3 months, it was edited and ready to be read. I loved it from beginning to end, I will ALWAYS see that story as the real ‘lightbulb’ moment of “Oh my god. I love this thing called writing.” Unfortunately, its length leaves few avenues of publication, so it has sat idle for a while.

Inherent has mostly gone the way of New Name. Fast, challenging, enjoyable, beautiful. I even love editing it. I can toot my own horn over this story, I can sell it. Or, I’ll be able to sell it once I boil the premise down to a few pithy sentences. It’s had its trials, and it certainly needs more editing. But it is night and day compared to Red Sun or the early Shadow and Soul.

I’ve seen this ‘second-time blues’ in other places too, in other forms. It seems to be more pronounced when the first project goes unexpectedly well.

New Name was something I wrote from a fragment of a dream. I didn’t expect anything out of it, I’d never written a complete short story. It was so good, that I felt capable of setting the market alight with my short stories.

I haven’t completed a decent one yet, in 6 months. Nothing can compare to New Name. I’ve started, set aside, and moved on. Finally, I’ve sat down and made myself write a new story in the spirit of New Name. Instead of using any inspiration, old story or anything else, I wrote a line about the wind and have written a new myth. And I’m actually relatively pleased with it.

The most striking example I’ve seen of this concept is in my friend and writing buddy Kuro (Kelly Stiles). After submitting a piece to Fantasy Magazine, almost on a whim, Fantasy published her micro-fiction Night Comes Softly. It was an amazing success, her first publication, and against some very good competition too.

But how do you follow up such a success? She and I have been wrangling with edits on her next piece, Calling Down the Rain for a few weeks now. It’s got a ton of promise. But somehow, it keeps bumping up against the shadow of Night Comes Softly and getting scared. We compared it to the first story, when it is really its own thing and shouldn’t be lumped with that old one. The old one was a success however, and so now its a standard, a measuring stick.

It’s hard to follow success without wondering ‘will this be as good?’ ‘Was that a one-time thing?’ It starts getting too thought-out, and not as natural. And then no, it doesn’t work like a heart-felt piece does, at least not without a hell of a lot of love and nurturing.

The key to truly powerful writing is to write the unexpected, the heart-felt, the story that won’t be diagrammed and outlined like all the others. It can’t be done RIGHT. It has its own mind, its own ideas. Plot, outline, research away, but if the story doesn’t agree with you, listen to it.

I deleted 50,000 words of the old Shadow and Soul and started a new world, of which Inherent is part. And now I listen to the story, and I love it more than I ever hated it.

Leave the successes and failures behind you when you write. They have no place in anything but themselves.


6 Responses to “2nd Time Tribulations”

  1. ladykuro Says:

    Now I have to disagree with you. Things you have published do have a place in any current writing you submit for publishing. In fact, they belong at the very beginning. I believe it’s called ‘a pad to the cover letter’.

    Thanks for the tag, the shout out, and the editing. I’m not sure what I’d do without you.

  2. Jaym Gates Says:

    Heh. Cover-letters ASIDE….

    Within the actual stories and writing process, I don’t believe old stories have relevance. Things learned, yes. But not the success, failure or story itself.

    And it’s a two-way street darlin’. That’s what writing buddies are all about. Someone has to balance out my blood-lust and your sugar-lust. Perfect foils!

    • ladykuro Says:

      Okay..hopefully this one won’t get eaten by cyberspace.

      I don’t know, you can use the older successes as a moral boost and something to spur you on. And give you something to look back on and go ‘dang, that’s crappy writing. I’m so glad I can write better than that now’.


  3. Jaym Gates Says:

    *hands Kuro a bag of sugar*

    The problem, as I see it, comes when a moral boost becomes a comfort level. Artists of any sort need to keep growing and expanding constantly, and I’ve found that I’m tempted to think I can’t get better, that I’ve hit the top of my game.

    Not that I’m better than anyone else, but that I personally can’t get better. Perhaps its an indication of my polarity and lack of confidence, but I also find myself comparing good to bad and thinking that the good is a fluke, that I can’t possibly repeat that success.

  4. […] in touch with her, why should I have expected a prompt return call? So, after reading Morn’s shout out to me I gave up to go take a […]

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