Mid Novel-Malaise Part II: STILL STUCK

To quote Julia Child in a letter to her co-author and friend, Avis, “HELL AND DAMNATION, is all I can say. WHY DID WE EVER DECIDE TO DO THIS ANYWAY? But I can’t think of doing anything else, can you?”

I’ve been taking a short break from writing after hitting an extremely rough patch about halfway through the novel. Over and over, I have been told that this is perfectly normal, but it does nothing to diminish the awfulness and subsequent self-loathing. At this point, the following became pertinent questions:

1. Is this something I want to write anymore?
2. Is this really something anyone is going to want to read?
3. What is the meaning of life and why is it absolutely nothing at all?


Bob's Burgers recreating an exact conversation between my father and me.

Bob’s Burgers recreating an exact conversation between my father and me.

There are probably a lot of trite things I could say but the truth is that I’m still figuring out things as I go and I think I’d feel better in this world if more people did that as well. It makes sense that all we ever see of a finished product is, well, the finished product, but reading about the (often long) histories of how other books, inventions, and successes came to be makes me feel a lot less like giving up altogether.

For now I’m trying to get back in the swing of things with significantly less self-pity and anxiety for the future. What seems to help most is not bemoaning what will not be simply because there is still time to keep trying or something.

(This is not true. This is placating. This is the blog post everyone writes and it is the fake smile one wears because someone orders you to smile. And so, the reality: The words and words are piling up and I know I’ll feel better if I let them out, that it will be just like vomiting and what will initially follow will be stark relief. But then will come the clean-up and, shit, that’s the hard part. And then what if all that comes out are the ugliest cliches and the trite boring plotlines I’ve been fighting against from the start? The rewriting and rewriting can be good — has been very good — but all I end up doing is rewriting in circles and calling it progress. At times it feels good unraveling the puzzle, searching for the solutions, but then I take a step back and see my exhaustion mirrored in my characters and…I have to wonder if I’m doing the right thing at all.)


Okay. But the fact is people are putting out a shitload of art every day (see above horse-head, lady-body) and being bitter about their accomplishments has little to do with my own failures. Books are going to continue being published regardless of whether or not I stop writing. As much as I would like to stay in my mire of emotion, wallowing in the self-righteous flights of fancy about how great my story ideas could be if written, at some point doing the actual writing is the only thing that will satisfy. It is also the only thing that is going to eventually be publishable.


On a more positive note, read about Bout of Books and more at 2WritersNot2Write, especially since Cya and Plutark continue to fight my battles for me.


Mid-Novel Malaise (Also: Let’s Talk About Storyboarding)

I recently hit the 300-page mark on the post-apocalyptic, sci-fi novel I’m working on (basic premise here) and everything is awful.

This is one of the most important pieces of internet art ever.

The biggest problem I am currently having is that I wrote Part One in a feverish, fast-paced haze because it was my thesis. The cut-off was a cliffhanger and it was that zenith of building action that I was working towards for well over a year. And then, done. Finished. …Except not because no one is going to buy, read, or enjoy one-fourth of a product.

Building onto all that work is proving difficult. It turns out knowing only one-fourth of a character’s trajectory is not going to cut it in the long run. Cya, with her everlasting patience, began helping me storyboard complete endgames for each of my six narrators (which, why? What the hell was I thinking? I CANNOT BACK OUT OF THAT NOW).

Thank you, Post-Its.

Thank you, Post-Its.

I got through both undergraduate and graduate programs without ever planning out a story. That has never been my modus operandi. I write on the fly and when things change I go back and edit. Well, this works out fairly well for twenty to fifty page stories. It will not hold for an 1000+-page behemoth. There are too many things that will change and there are only so many times I can do a rewrite before my soul shatters completely (recently rewrote one particular chapter six times. FROM SCRATCH each time. It never got better???)
If anyone has any advice on storyboarding or planning, please feel free to bestow me with your generous wisdom.

If you are here for advice: Do not have six narrators on your first-time out. George R.R. Martin has, like, fifty years under his belt. Of course he makes it look easy.

On a lighter note, since I last blogged, I’ve been finished a rough draft of my Okinawan children’s book story, so there is that. Also have been playing around with potential illustration ideas. While pitching your story with an illustrator in mind (especially yourself) isn’t really recommended, locally it can be an asset, or so I’m told. So I’ve been playing around with my watercolors and tried my hand at a quick mock-up of a color palette for my shisa:



I don’t know, guys. Just gotta keep trucking, I guess. I see all of you liking and lurking, and appreciate your watching my tragic writing life unfold from the shadows. Please leave a comment if you have any advice about storyboarding. Seriously. Till next time.