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View Full Version : Mid-book revision slump and my life sucks



Gray Rose
06-25-2008, 03:12 AM
I've never whined in this forum outside of the purgatory and CHOP threads, but I feel the desperate need to vent my spleen, hoping you will bear with me and share your wise words and experiences. So. Deep breath.

I started writing fiction somewhere in late August or early September of last year. That's when I started writing my book. I finished the draft sometime in March, that is, the draft without an ending because I was writing in multiple 1st person POVs and the end would just not come together. So I put the draft aside, because at that time I also needed to finish my dissertation and put some work into other academic writing projects.

I became a Ph.D on May 21st. May 22nd, still not completely sober, I started rewriting my book in multiple 3st person limited POVs (a massive rewrite, not just "exchange I with she" type). I've completed a little less than 50% of the rewrite by now. It is a much stronger book. It appears I learned a lot about fiction writing during the year. There was some strong writing in the book already. But here's the catch: if I go slow, agonizing over every scene, it is much, much better than if I go fast. But if I go slow, how long will it take to finish?!

So here I am at 43k out of 90k. Mid-book. What I wrote up until now works, it is good even, I feel. But let's see. August to March, I wrote 88k of a draft on top of the teaching job, dissertation, mothering, relationship, job search, plus short stories and poems, some of which sold. I also put work into additional academic projects such as articles, book reviews, etc.

I cannot drop ANY of my balls. I love my academic work and I'm good at it, plus it pays my bills. I obviously cannot get rid of my family. I've become a very anxious, forgetful, and generally flaky person because there are just too many things on my plate.

And I am sloooow. Stephen King produces a 120k draft in three months. Most professional novelists produce a novel a year. Me? Slow like a tortoise. Even if I finish my book and it sells, how can I ever keep that up? Will I ever be brave enough to take on another such project?

I am feeling dejected. Not yet rejected, but dejected. And sad. And anxious.

Thoughts?

alleycat
06-25-2008, 03:31 AM
I bet you can guess what some of us are going to tell you: Give yourself a good pat on the back. You may have been in "over achiever" mode for so long you can't give yourself a break and put things in perspective.

If you did all of this: "I wrote 88k of a draft on top of the teaching job, dissertation, mothering, relationship, job search, plus short stories and poems, some of which sold. I also put work into additional academic projects such as articles, book reviews, etc." then you should be very proud of yourself instead of feeling dejected.

Just my thoughts about it.

BTW, I have a "little sister" who is a professional engineer and college professor and she gets into a similar funk at times. She's taken a class in writing children's stories, but can't ever seem to find the time to write the things she wants.

kuatolives
06-25-2008, 03:35 AM
Stephen King writes for a living. To my knowledge he doesn't have a P.H.D or have to a full time job to pay the bills. (apart from writing.). He's also very good at writing so for you to produce the quality and quantity that he does is a unreasonable expectation of yourself.

Tom Robbins produces one book like every 5 years or something.

I really wouldn't worry about becoming a full time writer. If you do something for a living you enjoy, everything else is gravy. Making a living at writing is a LONG SHOT at best. Even people who briefly make a living at writing are forced by slumping sales to adopt pen names and start all over. It's a messed up industry.

Keep working at your regular job and put as much effort into writing as you are allowed. For every Stephen King who came from working in a laundry, there are a million more wanna-be's still there.

As with everything else, it's a question of goals. If you write to get published, then agonize away at those books making them the best you possibly can. Personally, I make my books good enough that my friends don't call me a worthless hack and move on to the next project. I'm not published. That's probably the difference.

good luck.

Kalyke
06-25-2008, 03:35 AM
Stephan King does it 100% of the time, and he is very experienced. It sounds like this is your first book, and you are doing elevety-eleven things too. The multiple first person switch was a good idea. Keep at it. (Oh, Stephan King was a H. S. teacher-- not a laundry worker. He worked in a laundry temporarily.)

Karen Duvall
06-25-2008, 03:37 AM
Grayrose, I think you're suffering the standard first-bookitis. First books should never be slam dunks. Good grief, you've only been writing fiction for less than a year. You should be slow. Ease the pressure off yourself. I write slow, too. My first book took me 2 years to write. It was never published, and I'm very glad it wasn't because in my case that first book sucked canal water. Book 2 took 9 months to draft, then another year to polish enough to submit. It was published with a small press. Etc., etc., etc. I've written 6 books, each one going faster that the one before. Not easier, just a little faster. And I had a family, little kids, a full time job, and that's just how it is.

Don't force yourself to do something you can't. If you can only write one book every 2 years, so be it. But as you complete more books, you will get faster. My latest book took only 4 months to complete. That's a far cry from the 2 years it took for (crappy) book one. And this latest one is good! At least good enough to get me an agent.

Just don't ever compare yourself to other writers, not in quality, production speed, word count, bestsellerdom, etc. You're a unique writer. No one writes like you, and you don't write like anyone else.

Give yourself a break. ;) You deserve it.

WackAMole
06-25-2008, 03:43 AM
It took me a total of ten years to write my first book! I finally just had to put it down and say "I am done!" after the 5th or so rewrite.

The experience I gained was invaluable, but I made myself move on to another project. As I moved on, I found myself applying the things I had learned and was able to really go through the pages!

I am in my slump too at the moment. I havent written much of anything that doesn't involve some official document for a while now, but I sure have been feeling the pinch of wanting to get back to it.

The slump really sucks, but hey, who can be creative 24-freaking-7?

I find that writing anything, even a paragraph of journaling helps during that time.

WendyNYC
06-25-2008, 03:43 AM
I agree with Karen about giving yourself a break. Once you are a Big Famous Author and don't need to worry about bills, you can hire a nanny and write all day long.

Until then, your other responsibilities call...

And congrats about your PhD. Yeah, you are quite the slacker. Right.

dawinsor
06-25-2008, 03:45 AM
Oh my. I'm having flashbacks to a number of years ago when I had a baby while finishing my dissertation, then struggled to teach, be a wife and mother, produce academic publications so I could keep my job, and not go crazy. I felt guilty all the time, like no matter what I was doing, I should be doing something else instead. And notice I wasn't trying to write fiction at the time. So believe me, you have my sympathy. Your life is undoubtedly rich because it's full, but it's also stressful because, dammit, it's full!

Now I look back on that from full prof/grown up kid status. And from here, what I say is life is long, and there are many phases, and in the long run, there's time to do a whole lot of different things. Just not all at once.

(If I had it to do over again, the one thing I'd do differently is spend more time with my kid. He was on his way to somewhere else. Everything else was still there when he left.)

And yet even with all that, I have to say you don't look that slow to me. If you write a book every two years instead of one, what's wrong with that?

Karen Duvall
06-25-2008, 05:10 AM
Just be sure you never query this agent (http://scotteagan.blogspot.com/2008/06/wanted-fast-writers.html). The link is to his blog post about his expectations for his clients and how professional writers write 6 to 8 books a year. He reps ebook authors, mostly erotica I think, so maybe that's how their production schedule works. I don't know. But man, I can only imagine what those books are like, and I don't mean that in a complimentary way. Boogety.

Gray Rose
06-25-2008, 06:51 AM
Thank you everyone for your thoughtful responses.


I bet you can guess what some of us are going to tell you: Give yourself a good pat on the back. You may have been in "over achiever" mode for so long you can't give yourself a break and put things in perspective.
If you did all of this...then you should be very proud of yourself instead of feeling dejected.


Alleycat: thank you. You are absolutely right. The problem with me is that I get things done but never am able to pat myself on the back. The creative writing began as an outlet, something to do which would not be work. But pretty soon it became just another potential accomplishment.

Don't get me wrong - I love writing. Love my book. My other projects. But I cannot be proud of myself, because I haven't quite achieved what I need to achieve. Now, "need" is not objective, but that's how I feel. I feel that if I give up on this book I would be betraying myself. And so much time, effort, emotional energy went into this book... And people are waiting for this book... (my few betas love it). Not sure.



I really wouldn't worry about becoming a full time writer. If you do something for a living you enjoy, everything else is gravy. Making a living at writing is a LONG SHOT at best. Even people who briefly make a living at writing are forced by slumping sales to adopt pen names and start all over. It's a messed up industry.

As with everything else, it's a question of goals. If you write to get published, then agonize away at those books making them the best you possibly can. Personally, I make my books good enough that my friends don't call me a worthless hack and move on to the next project. I'm not published. That's probably the difference.
good luck.
Kuato, I do not want to be a full time writer. I want to be a full-time research professor with a good publication record, students, a full family life, and a couple of books published on the side, if I can. As a bare minimum I want *this book* to find a home. I love my job, as I said, and have absolutely no desire to quit it to fund my life by writing. But I do want to get published. Moreover, I am already published. Not in pro mags yet (haven't been targeting pro mags tbh), but I am very happy with my sale to Fantasy Magazine. And no, I do not want to get ANYTHING of mine out there which is not an absolute best of what I can do and what the project deserves. This is how I am wired. It is better for me to sit tight on something which is almost there until I figure out how to get it there, then to sell the almost-there and let go. This is not a question of ambition but a question of internal wiring. I will be OK if I won't publish Otherblood. But I will not be OK if I get a half-baked book out there, even if it does sell.


Grayrose, I think you're suffering the standard first-bookitis. First books should never be slam dunks. Good grief, you've only been writing fiction for less than a year. You should be slow. Ease the pressure off yourself. I write slow, too. My first book took me 2 years to write. It was never published, and I'm very glad it wasn't because in my case that first book sucked canal water. Book 2 took 9 months to draft, then another year to polish enough to submit. It was published with a small press. Etc., etc., etc. I've written 6 books, each one going faster that the one before. Not easier, just a little faster. And I had a family, little kids, a full time job, and that's just how it is.


It took me a total of ten years to write my first book! I finally just had to put it down and say "I am done!" after the 5th or so rewrite.

The experience I gained was invaluable, but I made myself move on to another project. As I moved on, I found myself applying the things I had learned and was able to really go through the pages!

Sigh. I heard this from other writers, but damn, I love this book. I think it is a good book. MDGW (the next project) will probably be a better book. But I cannot just drop this one and start MDGW. That way lies madness, slackerdom, and feelings of guilt. Perhaps after six books I will be wiser, and will look back and laugh madly at my own stupidity. It is very possible.


I agree with Karen about giving yourself a break. Once you are a Big Famous Author and don't need to worry about bills, you can hire a nanny and write all day long.

Until then, your other responsibilities call...

And congrats about your PhD. Yeah, you are quite the slacker. Right.

I don't want to be a Big Famous Author. I think I managed to thoroughly misrepresent myself. All I want is to do what I am doing to the best of my ability. I will pursue publication because I think that my best effort is publishable, but if I find out that the book is not publishable I will trunk it. I have very little desire to stand on a pedestal surrounded by crowds of adoring fans. :D Nor do I want to give up mothering my son. I write at night after he goes to sleep. Now, if someone would clean my house for me.... that would be delightful!

As for being/not being a slacker... It's a question of how I perceive myself. Unfortunately, if I don't get things done, I feel like I'm a slacker. Getting things half-done is even worse.


Oh my. I'm having flashbacks to a number of years ago when I had a baby while finishing my dissertation, then struggled to teach, be a wife and mother, produce academic publications so I could keep my job, and not go crazy. I felt guilty all the time, like no matter what I was doing, I should be doing something else instead. And notice I wasn't trying to write fiction at the time. So believe me, you have my sympathy. Your life is undoubtedly rich because it's full, but it's also stressful because, dammit, it's full!

Now I look back on that from full prof/grown up kid status. And from here, what I say is life is long, and there are many phases, and in the long run, there's time to do a whole lot of different things. Just not all at once.

(If I had it to do over again, the one thing I'd do differently is spend more time with my kid. He was on his way to somewhere else. Everything else was still there when he left.)

And yet even with all that, I have to say you don't look that slow to me. If you write a book every two years instead of one, what's wrong with that?
Dawinsor, thank you so much. It means a lot to me that you went through a similar process. I've been writing my responses above and going, OMG I need a shrink (which is probably true, hah).

ink wench
06-25-2008, 04:18 PM
Gray Rose, a lot of people here have already offered good advice. I just want to add that I'm so impressed you were able to write a novel while in grad school and working on your dissertation. I got almost no writing done (besides academic) in grad school, and my diss sucked the creative life out of me. No way could I have written anything. So kudos!

VGrossack
06-25-2008, 04:27 PM
Besides agreeing with what everyone else wrote let me add:

This is your first book? The more you practice, the easier it will get. You will become more productive. My advice: go slow. You're still learning, and the time you spend learning this stuff will make your writing not just better now, but better in the future.

And, one trick that some productive authors use - they have a book in the planning stages, a book in the writing stages, and another in the polishing stages - so that they're producing as many as possible yet giving each book enough time to simmer.

MsJudy
06-25-2008, 10:04 PM
Now, if someone would clean my house for me.... that would be delightful!

Hiring someone to clean my house once every two weeks is the one and only luxury I allow myself. I'm living in a mobile home and driving a 15-year-old car, but the hours I used to spend scrubbing and vacuuming on Saturday morning are now devoted to writing.

I highly recommend it!

Your story reminds me of my own struggles--I teach full-time, have two kids, plus I got divorced about 6 years ago. I spent almost 5 years working off-and-on on my first book, which got absolutely no nibbles from a single agent. Plus, like you, I'm slow. When I read about some of these folks who write 2000 words in a day....I seldom manage more than 1000 words in a week.

So about a little over a year ago I made myself a promise that I would find time to write every day. I even make my younger son LEAVE ME ALONE for at least 15 minutes (we set the timer). I've read a ton of books on how to structure a plot so I won't waste time spinning my wheels, I've attended a couple of workshops and paid a writing coach to look at my current WIP.

Now I'm in final revisions on one project, have a first draft of another simmering in a notebook with TONS of notes, and have a third outlined.

It really does get faster as you develop the habit. Plus you have the PhD out of the way, and your kids will be less demanding as they get older. (Now it's me begging my teenager to spend some time with us, pay some attention to me....)

Anyway. Good luck on finding the balance. I know it's exhausting sometimes, when it feels like no matter what you do or how much you do, there's always something else being neglected.