Thursday, February 20, 2014

MY WRITING STINKS (Or does it?)

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We've all had those moments, those snippets in time when we look at what we've written and think, "Wow, that's amazing!"

But I'd venture a guess we've had about 100 times more moments when we've looked at those words  we just poured our last drop of blood into and thought, "Holy crap. That is AWFUL!"

I've had a lot of those moments. More than I'd care to admit.

The first one was after I finished my rough draft of my FIRST novel in 2007. I was SO INCREDIBLY excited.

But then I started to edit the thing. What I found was a nice story written by someone who hadn't a clue how to right a nice story. My writing was HORRID.

Fast forward to another time... May 2013. One published novel under my belt. I was carpooling with fellow Alleycat Amy to our first (hopefully annual!) Alleycat retreat. Amy and I thought it'd be fun to read our storys aloud and give each other tips.

But Amy was driving, so that left me to read.

I read hers. It was AMAZING. Her prose was perfect. I was in awe of her elegantly fantastic descriptions.

And then I took mine out. First, I found at least 3 spelling/grammar issues in, like the first page or something crazy. (In hers, I found NONE in the whole thing.) And in the whole scene, I don't think I "described" one dad bloomin' thing.

It was like comparing her Picasso to my stick figure I use when playing hangman with my kids.

How could it be that *I* published a book when this fantastic lady hadn't yet? And what in the world had my editor been thinking to give me a contract??? My writing was AWFUL!

Fast forward again to a week or so ago. I'm in the middle of editing a novella I wrote as a sequel to my first book. I've never written a novella, though, so am trying to figure out timing and all the things that are "different" from writing full-length fiction. I was reading my first chapter for the 1,000th time and thought... wow. This is pretty much on the level of horse manure right here.

But here is what I'm realizing...

#1. I am not Amy. I mean, outside the obvious hair difference and weight difference and the whole Amy's-prego and I only LOOK like I am since I'm still carrying WAY too much baby weight...... I AM NOT AMY. I don't write like her. Our voice is totally different. She's a suprano and I'm an alto. She has these fantastic descriptions and my voice focuses a bit more on sarcasm and humor and action. Does she write better? She'd say no, I'd say probably, but I'd also say more than that, we write DIFFERENT.

And different is GOOD.

#2. All unedited writing stinks. Some of us *ahem--amy--ahem* do a fantastic job of editing as we go, thus our first drafts look more polished. I'm not one of those. My first draft is wordy vomit on the page that sketches out a plot. Edits are what make it shine. Smooths--even chops off-- edges and paints pretty colors and makes it presentable. Just because I edit at the end and not as I go, doesn't make me a bad writer. It makes me pretty normal actually.

#3. Being vain is overrated. You know, if we all sat down and read our books and thought, "Man, wow, we ROCK as writers---We got it going ON...." we'd all sound like a bunch of self-absorbed writer pricks. No--humility isn't a bad thing... only when we get stuck on the negative and don't let it spur us onto greatness.

Discussion: Do you ever struggle with self-doubt about your writing? How do you rise above it instead of letting it control or defeat you?


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Krista is a follower of Jesus, a wife, a mother, and author of Sandwich, With a Side of Romance . She blogs about finding JOY in the journey of LIFE at http://www.kristaphillips.com. She is represented by the fab agent, Rachelle Gardner.

21 comments:

Karen @ a house full of sunshine said...

LOL, oh, I can't WAIT to see what Amy has to say about this post... HAHAHAHAHA! When you said you were thinking about a post entitled "Why Amy's writing is awesome and mine sucks" I thought you were JOKING!! Ok... not so much. Sooooo funny!

Now seriously, I'm dying of curiosity to read some of the work of this goddess of prose, because every one of you who've read Amy's stuff has raved in a similar fashion! Ames, you've garnered quite a reputation to live up to! (Which I have absolutely NO doubt you do!) :)

And back to the point of the post, not that I'm going to begin comparing myself with Amy's brilliance or anything. Ok, I might. But I will try not to. ;)

Krista, I HAVE read your stuff, and can I just say, YOU are awesome!! You totally do NOT suck, oh sole published author among us!! There is a reason you got a book contract and that is because you are a damn fine author, girl! :)

Kate Hall said...

Haha! This made me laugh. Sometimes I go back and read my old blog posts and I cringe and think, I can't believe I wrote this crap... or that people actually liked it. What you're saying is encouraging. Too often I forget that my voice is unique and some people like it. :-)

Krista Phillips said...

LOL, I'm glad my stinky writing could provide laughter for y'all this morning!!!

Karen, yes, you need to. Although have some chocolate (and maybe a fan...or a husband...) handy when reading. You'll have to read to find out why!

Kate--oh, I totally do to!!! It's funny though, some of my REALLY old blog posts, I'll go back and read and actually like more than blogs I write now! I think back then, I wrote when I would have been excited if one person accidently stopped by. There was more freedom and less "OHMAGOSH-WHATWILLPEOPLETHING"... which lead to writing with a little more carefreeness. I'd like to get back to that same air of writing, personally!

Pepper said...

You are HILARIOUS, Krista!!! LOL!!
I loved hearing this story when you guys arrived at the retreat. Seriously - it was so funny.

And you're right. Comparisons can be the root of discontent...and discontent not only steals our joy, but our creativity.

Do I self-doubt?
Is eating chocolate a life skill?
YES!!! Every day, especially when I read Amy's writing ;-)
How do I rise above it?
Umm...chocolate ;-)
Seriously though, prayer, remembering your #1, and reminding myself of why I love the story, or writing

Julia M. Reffner said...

LOL, I, too, thought you were being sarcastic about the post topic. Not so much I guess. :)

Oh man, I write rough, rough, rough drafts. I think that's an important thing to accept.

Also to accept where we are at, for instance you are working part-time, have 4 girls, one who has significant medical needs from time to time, etc. This may be a season where you take a few more drafts because you have a lot going on and it is hard to concentrate fully on your writing with all those kiddos in the background. Just a thought.

Casey said...

Lesson learned from this post: I want to be Amy when I grow up. No, seriously, I've read her amazing books and I seriously want to go throw up all over my computer. Love you, Ames. ;-))

But ANYWAY, I completely agree with you on comparison! A trap I fall into waaay too often.

Mary Vee said...

Amy
See? You are a treasure. A beautiful person writing beautiful words.

Krista
You, too, are a treasure. Your writing style burst from this post. You are funny. You don't hold back. AND if we all wrote the same…well, the books would just be boring. You rock girl.

Jeanne T said...

Do I struggle with self-doubt? ONLY all the TIME. Beautifully written post, Krista. For the record, I LOVED your first book, and I'm looking forward to your next.

Most of what I do to move beyond the self doubt is change my thinking. As you mentioned, we all have unique voices, and God has plans for each of us, with the voice He gave us. I'm learning writing at the speed that works with my life. Is it as fast as I'd like? NO. I'm not where I thought I would be two years ago.

BUT, I'm exactly where God intended me to be right now. So, when I begin to take my eyes off my journey and put them on someone else's journey (and I've done this more than I'll ever admit to), I become discouraged and doubt rushes in like a raging waterfall. I'm learning to keep my eyes on Jesus, and practice a mix of striving to grow to be more of a writer than I am and yet accept God's timing for my journey.

Debra E. Marvin said...

oh thank you so much.
I have to wonder how many times I can think 'oh this is good!' to which I later think 'oh that was horrid'!

For me it's hard to not compare myself when someone seems to create great 'stuff' so quickly and it is taking me months just to edit/revise... and still see those big holes. I tend to think I'm not really a very good writer, but I can make up for it with effort and tenacity.

Ashley Clark said...

I was JUST thinking about this yesterday! I think what happens is that we get so connected to our own stories that we get used to them, and we can't see their own shimmer. I've been oscillating between confidence and a total lack thereof with my current WIP, and then I went back last night and read something I'd written like three years ago, expecting to be awful, but it was actually really funny! It's been so long since I've looked at it that I had completely forgotten that story--even the plot! HA! Anyway, all that to say, I know I definitely struggle with keeping my confidence while editing... and while writing that first draft!

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Oh my gosh!!! First off... I had NO idea you were writing this post! Must pay more attention to the weekly Chocolate email! Second, I think I alternated between laughing to the point of hyperventilation and preterm labor, to rolling my eyes at you about twenty times in the course of the post!

And while I appreciate all the hype, I'm afraid it's severely overdone. Though my poor lil ego thanks you all dearly for your sweet misguided delusions about my writing. Love it blind... Never have I see this more clearly!

So, can I just state---for the record--- that your rough draft was hysterical and witty and thoughtful and just so stinking charming!!! It may not have been polished, but who cares! That is so not the pint of a rough draft... I'm just anal and I was insecure about what all my alley cats might think about my newbie ways.

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

But I feel the same way as you when I read so done else's work that just blows me away! I may have mentioned over and over again how much I LOVED your first novel! LOVED!!! And you know I'm a tough critic... Just ask Pepper! But you are completely right... Our writing styles are just plain different. It's like comparing apples and oranges. I could NOT do what you do with words. Your art is so uniquely you and THAT is what makes it amazing. And PUBLIsHABLE! None of us are immune to that pesky comparison trap. I'm right there with ya!

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

And Karen... I HAVE crated quite a reputation for myself... But probably not the one you're thinking. And not one that is CBA approved ;) lol!

Amy Leigh Simpson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Krista Phillips said...

Amy--- I was wondering why you never responded to the email where I said I was writing about how great Amy writes and how my books suck:-) :-) :-)

And you ARE amazing, my friend. But as you said, even the best fall prey to the trap of comparing! :-p

(yes, that was a sly way of saying you're the best.... I'm good, I know it! MUHAHAHA!)

Krista Phillips said...

Oh, and btw everyone... my next blog in two weeks will be something along the lines of...

The sniff test: How to tell that your writing really DOES stink...

It's gonna get really smelly around here soon....

Ron Estrada said...

I have the same issues. My partner (Gina Conroy) has one published novel under her belt. Last week I sent her my opening scene from my latest wip. She write's back and says how she'd love to write like that. Seriously? I thought it was horrible. I know what I wanted to the page to say, but just couldn't make it happen. I think it's a lot like hearing a recording of our voice. We think we sound really weird. But others don't hear us that way. At least I hope I don't really sound like the kid in 4th grade who always had a stuffy nose that he continuously wiped with his shirt sleeve.

Kathleen T. Jaeger said...

Yep. I am often filled with self-doubt regarding my writing. I think often of a blog post by Michael Hyatt a long time ago when he said to not compare your start with someone else's middle. This meant that we are all at different points in the journey; so don't compare! The other thing I try to listen to is my friend's voice saying, "I have full confidence in your writing abilities." So I take her word for it, not mine.

In this post I am so glad to hear that someone else doesn't self-edit and that first drafts are pretty much a word vomit. That is very true for me!! Glad to know that I am not the only one.

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Yeah, Krista, it wasn't my week and I'm severely behind on emails so I didn't even have fair warning. ;) you're such a stinker! But I do love you dearly. Though most of this is untrue, it was very sweet! Muah! Completely brightened my day!!!!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Oh, I just died laughing reading this, because it's so true!!!! Every time I look around and see what some authors produce, I tuck my chin and duck my head and pull my Men in Black sunglasses a little farther up my nose.

Isn't it funny, silly and horrifying????? Thank heavens God loves DIVERSITY!!!! Oh, you go, God!

I remember reading a Nora Roberts book years ago and the ballet director was evaluating the two ballerinas.... one lyrical, flowing, magical, light on her feet....

The other just as talented, but quick-paced, humor-filled, stand-your-ground kick guys in the face as needed type.

And pianists... I have a friend who has always loved and admired the way a (now deceased) friend played the piano. Trained at Eastman, Bob made the notes sing and/or cry.... touching, heart-wrenching blend of timing and picking the strength of each note to complement the other...

And Kevin?

Plays in a rag-band, does amazing rock songs, can go rag-time, play every fun show-tune from memory, but can turn that to prayerful music ministry in church.

He'd say Bob was better.

Naw. They're both great, but in different ways.

Oh, thank you for showing this to be so true in writing as well! (runs to grab manuscript out of FIRE!!!!!)

You rock, woman!

Anonymous said...

I was reading out one of my poems at a poetry class, and I looked up to see this woman looking at me with an expression of horror on her face like it was the worst thing she'd ever heard. Afterwards I felt like throwing myself off a bridge. Shortly, after that I read the same poem at the poetry society and I looked up and this same woman was in the audience with the same appalled expression.
I felt so embarrassed to be reading the poem to all those people.
Afterwards the woman came up to me and said 'you know that is a blinding poem.' what I thought was a look of horror was in fact, what can I say, 'awe'. So you never can tell what people are really thinking about what you write. Subsequently, other people came and told me they also loved it, but I was almost ready to pass on poetry.