Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Imposter Syndrome. I haz it.
I'm two-thirds of the way through my gazillionth round of revision on my current story. Current being the key word, since there are a lot of other Not Ready for Prime Time stories waiting to be revised.
I've lost track of the number I've "completed." I put that in quotes because, while they have a beginning, middle and end, and are mostly in the 90,000 word ballpark, they aren't complete in the Ready to Submit sense.
In fact, right now I'm thinking more along the lines of "Let's Have a Bonfire and Toss Them All In It." Unfortunately (or fortunately - these moods usually pass), they're not on easy-to-burn paper. They're in my computer.
Bad, bad computer! It sits there, day after day, leering at me. It knows the truth. It's seen all those poor, orphaned stories, the characters lost in the limbo of the unpublished. Surely this state of affairs isn't all MY fault. Moi? No, that can't be right.
I figure my computer should shoulder some of the blame. Remember that scene in OFFICE SPACE where the guys kill the copy machine? I have moments where I picture doing that to my trusty Dell. I just finished paying for the damn thing, though, so I'm trying to restrain myself.
(Did anyone else notice how "should" and "shoulder" are spelled almost the same way? Huh. I have an uncanny ability for using repetitive words.)
Let's have some backstory - God knows, I have a real gift for it. I'm published in non-fiction. Heck, I've had six books published. They all sold well. One is even still in print! And I've read a book a day for most of my life. Surely some knowledge of writing craft must have sunk in?
Not so you'd notice.
I've blogged about Imposter Syndrome before, over at Romance University. I'm something of an expert on it. I'm normally a happy, mild-mannered sort of person, but I used to be a redhead. There's a volcanic temper under my skin. These days, the only thing likely to trigger an eruption is frustration with my writing.
In the four years since I started writing fiction, my skill set has improved in a lot of ways. What really bugs me is the issues that consistently come up.
1) Tone. It's like I have a split personality: one side is light, humorous and chick-lit-y; the other side is dark and scary. There are authors who combine the two successfully, but I'm having a lot of trouble finding a balance. I can't change my voice, nor do I want to. It's the main thing I get positive feedback on (that and dialogue), but it's also a problem.
A couple of contest judges have compared my voice to Vicki Lewis Thompson's (a huge compliment - I LOVE her "Hexed" series). The problem is, I have a tendency to slip into Karen Rose territory. It's unsettling for readers to find both styles in the same book. (Duh!) Must find a way to fix this.
2) Classification. Thanks to issue #1, it's very hard to classify my stories. I talked about it with an editor who gave me extremely helpful feedback. She said what I write is really contemporary romance with magical/paranormal elements, which is what I thought, too. BUT she suggested I pitch my stories as paranormal romance, since editors are more likely to look at those. Problem is, when most people think "paranormal" they picture something a lot darker and with more world-building. Not sure how to address this.
3) Heroines. My heroes, oddly enough, don't seem to be a problem. It's the heroines I have trouble with. They're either too nice or too snarky; a wimp or a bitch. It's a challenge to find a balance. (There's that word again...) I've come up with a partial solution, though. My next story will DEFINITELY have a hero as the protagonist!
4) Writing passively. I overuse words like "was" and have to make a conscious effort to write actively. Show, don't tell - I SHOULD KNOW THIS BY NOW! *bangs head on desk*
5) Backstory. There's that bad boy again. The issue of backstory is one reason I'm always rewriting my opening scenes, to the endless frustration of my critique partners. I KNOW I should start where the story begins and I KNOW the story should jump right in with action. Easy peasy, right? (You can see where this is going...)
I'll write a scene and feel like I've accomplished it, but when I look closer? Cleverly disguised backstory. This will come as no surprise to my family and friends. I TALK in backstory. I'm into history and genealogy, for Pete's sake. I'm almost freaking sixty years old - my whole LIFE is backstory!
So, yeah. Need to get over that. Backstory is Bad - got that, brain?
I'm not much of a drinker, which is kind of a shame. I suspect I might find inspiration in wine, or even chocolate. Instead I'm going to have to do it the hard way.
Instructions to self:
*Keep writing, even though practice doesn't really mean perfect.
*Pay attention to passive words and cut them out.
*Understand every character's goal, motivation and conflict.
*Make each scene count.
*Work on the damn conflict box.
*Don't use action for the sake of action - everything must have a reason. (And watch those em-dashes while you're at it. Even though you haven't figured out how to create an em-dash on Blogger, so that last one doesn't technically count.)
*Pace the turning points so readers will keep turning pages.
*Show, don't tell.
*And stop writing blogs as a form of avoidance.
Here endeth this lesson, self. Enough with the whining. Go forth and write.