Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Squeek, Squeek, Squeek.

I know I've promised more Santa tales but before I hitch up the sleigh and head down that icy trail I want to cover a few other things. So today is going to be one of those conglomeration posts with no real theme.

I've said it before, but I'm gonna say it again. Writing Fiction has as many ups and down as a bordello's bed springs. I could take the analogy farther, but not without grossing a few of you out so I'll leave that metaphor alone. In the span of a week I've gone from, Yeah the story is flowing now, the characters are engaging, the plot is tight, the novel is tight, someone is bound to take it on, to -- This is all mindless dribble, I don't know how I'll finish this thing and keep the tone funny, and even if I do who the hell would want to buy it.

Do the rest of you writers go through these cycles? Do you force your thoughts out of the negative and will yourself to keep going, or do you wait until your mood improves?

I have always willed myself to keep going, but the task seems to get harder each time.

But I am lucky in many ways when it comes to support. My wife's faith in my ability has never wavered, I have numerous friends who say things like, I don't see why no one will publish your novels. I 've read lots of books that aren't half as good. And then there is my network of writing friends here in Amarillo.

Last night my wonderful critique group talked me away from the ledge when I hinted that maybe i should abandon Plundered Booty as a novel and simply try to market the short story. Despite my concerns they have convinced me to finish, that the project has commercial merit.

That got me to thinking how fortunate I am to live in a community where there is a strong presence of knowledgeable and talented writers.

Amarillo is home to Panhandle Professional Writers. PPW is the secodn oldest writing group in the nation and home to many talented and published authors. The group offers an online community as well as bi monthly workshops. PPW also hosts the annual Frontiers In Writing conference each June. If you live within an easy day's drive from Amarillo, basically anywhere in Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, western Kansas, western Arkansas, and most of Texas you should make an attempt to attend. The full lineup is not set as of yet but here is a bit more info, FIW 2008.

The conference also host a contest that anyone can enter whether they plan to attend or not. I can't find the info for this year's contest but here is a link for last year. The rules will be pretty much the same and the deadline is usually around the end of February. The first round is always judged by published authors and the finals are judge by either and acquiring editor or a literary agent. If you are interested let me know in the comments and I will make certain to get you the rules for 2008 as soon as I can get my hands on them.

And if any of you know of some good contests coming up let me know. I would like to get some feedback on the start of Plundered Booty and many contests are a great way get a bit of insider take on a work in progress.

Now that I've sufficiently bored all my non-writing friends, I'm going to call it a day. Guess this post had a theme after all. Tomorrow, I'll get up a Santa post, or at least I'll try. I am scheduled to work 8Am till 4:30 PM for one shift and then I return at Midnight to pull an all nighter. Trust me by the time I get off a 8:30 Thursday morning I'll be as worthless as a bulletproof vest in a grenade fight.

Oh wait. I probably shouldn't talk about bulletproof vests and grenades being as I am a Postal Worker and this is our busiest and most stressful season. have I ever mentioned I hate red and green envelopes especially when people fill them up with festive glitter which plays hell with the machines I'm supposed to work on. And don't even get me started on flocking.

I wonder how many people would stand in line and pay to sit on the Grinch's lap and take a picture. Just a thought.


Sherry said...

Well, I haven't read what you are writing to publish, but I have to say I love reading your blog...I like how your mind works, and how you string your sentences...I'm seeing it as you are writing it. So as a reader, that's good!

I think every creative person goes through this...I know I do with my art. I like it, but is it "good enough"...and then I kick myself in the ass because it's not about it being "good enough"...it's about it being good. If I think it's good, then it's good.

Then it's about believing in self, believing in what you are doing and having the guts to keep pushing onward to be successful. When you think in terms of success you are a success.

My 2 cents for what it's worth..and oh yeah, since I'm from Canada, it's worth almost a nickel in the U.S.! You got a bargain from me Travis!!

Beth said...

I would line up for a picture like that! I am such a scrooge at this time of year...so that would fit perfectly for me..

i love you as Santa....can you come to my house and surprise my grandson?

cher said...

you are right, this post totally had a theme. i think you are so onto something with the grinch photo. you should market that idea.

i've never attempted a novel, but i think it would be like anything else you get demotivated and deflated on...just keep going, even if it feels wrong and eventually, it'll start feeling right again. or as i sometimes say "fake it til you feel it!"

oh, and what on earth is flocking?

Brooke said...

I have to be in top form when I write which is why I am sporadic at best...I should try the opposite and really push myself when I am in a fierce and flesh tearing mood...might be interesting...

Bernita said...

"This is all mindless dribble"
Yep. That's what mine reads like right now. Shallow, too.
Sherry's right on the money.

Monnik said...

Love the bordello bed springs analogy. See? That's exactly why you should keep writing. You've got it in you, Travis. Your stuff is very good.

Hmm... Glittery envelopes are bad, huh? Good to know.

Shauna said...

Writing Fiction has as many ups and down as a bordello's bed springs.


I have always willed myself to keep going, but the task seems to get harder each time.

This is why I have such deep respect for writers. It takes a lot of ambition and strength to keep going, to keep typing, when you're faced with discouragement.

Keep pushing forward, Travis! Your visuals - like bordello's bed springs - are what make your writing pop and bring a vivid picture to mind. I read your other story and loved it. And I'm wantin' to read Booty, so don't you dare quit!

alex keto said...

On the glitter in envelopes (and not on lips), that stuff is apparently closely related to plutonium. If you've ever had the misfortune of opening one of those envelopes in you home, you'll still be cleaning up the bits six months later.

As for ups and downs writing, yep, sounds familiar. And, yep, you probably need to keep going. What can be stressful is writing 10,000 or 20,000 words then having to junk it all. Anyone got a better way?

Only contests I know of are Frontiers, Pacific Northwest Writers, Southwest Writers Association, and Maryland Writers Association. First three are synopsis/first 30 more or less. Maryland is a full novel submission.

alex keto said...

Oh well, I said Maryland was a full novel submission but the fine print says first 27 pages to be sent in.

Angie said...

Do the rest of you writers go through these cycles?

Oh, yeah. Definitely. :P I'm in a low mood myself right now regarding my NaNo novel and it looks like I'm not going to hit 50K by Friday night, or even come close. And I have several obligations for December (two stories and a sort-of-writingish promotional piece) so I probably won't be able to get back to the novel until January, which really sucks. I'm trying not to let it get me down, but I made the 50K goal last year and having this year be a flop is depressing. :(

It sounds like you have a great support group around you, so lean on them and listen to them and keep going. I thought the bits you posted a while back were great, funny and entertaining, so go for it. {{}}


Bluefingers said...

First off, it depends on who is playing the grinch. If its you, then I wouldn't hesitate to send the kids your way to have their picture made.

Second, flocking Christmas cards? I never even thought about this from the other end of things. YOu poor worker bees. Will have to be more careful.

Third..I was on my ledge yesterday too. I even got to the point where I had the delete button in hand. So instead I reached into myself and wrote something really dark and depressing. And you know good and well that I go through thsi about once a month.


The second you do, I am sure I will have to as well.

Smile, breathe and remember that the only novel that gets turned down 100% of the time is the one that isn't written.

two weeks and counting till the trip.

Can't wait to see Hilary.



WordVixen said...

1. Green and red envelopes I get- but do they really glitter and flock envelopes? I've never gotten one- how rude!

2. I would totally pay to sit on the Grinch's lap, but then, I'm weird.

Travis Erwin said...

Sherry- Thanks for the kind words. You are right I am my own worse critic. And thanks for pointing out the disnmal value of the American dollar.

Beth - I am afriad that I tunred my suit in long ago, but if you ever need a Grizzly Adams look-a-like I'm your man.

Cher - Flocking is thsi spray on white crap that is supsoed to look like frost or snow. It doesn't stick so well to paper.

Brooke - Now you got me scared.

Bernita- Glad I'm not alone.

monnik - Thanks, and why do I get the feeling that everyone who reads this and sends me a Christmas card wil not fill the envelope with glitter?

Shauna- thanks and I really appreciated your sommetns about my short story. I'll never quit writing but sometimes it is better to cut your losses and abandon a particualr project. For now, Plundered Booty lives on.

Alex - when are those other deadlines? And what is it going to take to get you to Texas for FIW?

bluefingers - I'd rahter play grinch than take antoehr turn in Santa's chair. I could have some fun with that role. People coudl come sit on my lap and tell me what they do not liek about the Holidays. Instead of gingerbread cookies I could hand out Tequila shots to help ease the pain.

Wordvixen - see my coment above about the Grinch. I might be on to something. Think you could sew the suit?

Kristen Painter said...

Every writer goes through the highs and lows. It's natural. Tell your internal editor to shut it. That helps. Sometimes. = )

Charles Gramlich said...

I've definetely gone through that kind of cycle with books, and stories. I occassionaly have abandoned pieces, but most of the time I've found that if I keep on writing I start to cycle around agian to the "it's not too bad" side, or, "maybe I can spruce it up in the rewrite stage."

Hang in there.

alex keto said...

PNWA deadline is Feb. 22. website pnwa.org
Maryland is Feb. 28. at marylandwriters.org
Southwest hasn't announced but was May 1 last year. southwestwriters.com

You've heard of frontiers

Penelope said...

I think I'm about a days journey from Amarillo. Let me in on the details (like cost).

Granted, most likely cats aren't invited (insipid writers-- no ability to think outside the box), so I most likely will have to send Karen if we can work it into her busy schedule . . .

-- P

Ello said...

I'm glad your group convinced you to keep going. You have an awesome writing voice that we all can see on your blog. And I would be proud to pay full hardcover price for your book whenever it finally comes out.

ANd I don't know a writer who doesn't go through exactly the same process. I nearly threw my book out several times but something always kept me from completely ditching it. Now it's done and I'm so glad I finished.

Phats said...

Hey Umm I got my picture taken with the grinch at Universal Studios!! he rocks man.

Will you dedicate your first book to me?

jjdebenedictis said...

As Earnest Hemingway said, "The first draft of anything is shit."

Just keep writing. Get it on the page and worry about quality when you're editing it.

Stephen Parrish said...

Do the rest of you writers go through these cycles?

Oh, yes. It can go from brilliant to WTF overnight.

Do you force your thoughts out of the negative and will yourself to keep going, or do you wait until your mood improves?

If it's bad enough to sap my confidence I rewrite until I'm satisfied, then move on.

SmartlikeStreetcar said...

One other voice in the chorus. The more that I work on something, the more I polish it, the more I think that it's unworthy. I believe the phrase familiarity breeds contempt was first coined to describe the writing process.

PS... loved the bordello bed springs comparison, too.

Merry Jelinek said...

I love the familiarity breeds contempt comment! Putting it away for a while in between revisions is always a good thing, looking at it with fresh eyes will give you a better sense of how it really reads, as opposed to how you think it reads...

I have to agree with everyone above, all writers go through this. When I really hit the wall and hate everything that comes off my pen or out of my keyboard, I rifle through some quotes and thoughts by great writers about their process.

Here's one you might like:

"I am not a writer. I have been fooling myself and other people."
- John Steinbeck wrote this in his journal while writing The Grapes of Wrath - he also said in a letter to a friend that it was not very good, but it was the best he could do.

I don't presume to compare myself with Steinbeck, but it helps to see that even the most brilliant writers had self doubt... it makes my own little nagging voice less believable in some way.

Tee said...

I go through the same ups and downs with writing. And it doesn't just change day to day - sometimes minute to minute. I'll be feeling crappy about what I'm writing and then I'll get one good line and then they'll just start flooding out of my head so fast my fingers can't keep up.

You're very lucky to have your wife and friend's support. My husband was supportive for a couple weeks but he's become a widow - lost me to the laptop - and he's getting bitter about it. SIGH.

Didn't know you worked for the post office. Note taken on green and red envelopes. LOL.

:P fuzzbox said...

I just have to say that the bit about bordello bedsprings is a great turn of phrase.

Travis Erwin said...

Kristen - I think my interanl editor went on strike, but if he shows back up I'll tell him.

Charles - Thanks. It does make me feel better to know I'm not alone.

Alex - Thanks.

Penelope - The cost for registration and meal sis about $150 dollars give or take and they usualy block some rooms at a special rate, but I'll let you know more soon. Would love to meet Karen, in your place that is.

Ello - Thnaks. I do think my voice is my strongest assest since it is the thing agents and editors commetn on the most. Now if I can jsut wrap it around a compelling story.

Phats - My wife might take offense if the first book is dedicated to her.

JJ - I love Hemingway. No beating around the bush.

Stephen - Thanks for your input. I am already feeling better after writing and rewriting a tone yesterday.

Streetcar - you're right. My work seems old and tired because I have seen it and thought about it so much.

Merry - that Steinbeck quote is great. ANd I guess I'll have to settle for as good as I can do myself.

Tee - My wife is way more tolerant thatn she should be becuse when my writing is going bad I am grouchy.Not inly does she put up with my inattention but also my foul moods at times.

Fuzzbox - Something tells me you lik eanything that mentions bordellos. :)