I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

I Murdered My Story

By Jennie Atkins
One day I sat at my desk, staring at my computer, and cried. I couldn’t put one coherent sentence together. It went far beyond what authors refer to as writers block. It was a total brain stop.
I had taken time from writing to learn more about the craft. I listened to and read books, blogs, and websites from great authors such as James Scott Bell, Randy Ingermanson, and of course our own Susan May Warren. I had underlined, circled, highlighted and copied text all in an effort to improve my writing, but as a result I got so caught up in the mechanics that I couldn’t put two words in print without questioning if it was right.
With each word of the story I asked myself:  Had I followed the rules? Did I omit the dreaded was? Did I outline enough? Do I have enough conflict to keep my readers drawn to the next page? Did I build in enough story world.
Before I had a paragraph done I had been its judge, jury and executioner. With one resounding slam of the gavel (or should I say the lid of my computer) I sentenced my story to death.
I’d type, delete, revise and type some more. Some would call it my internal editor.  Believe me, this went f-a-r beyond normal editing. I second guessed my word usage, my grammar, my mechanics, and I questioned if my writing met the standards of the plethora of guidance books I had read.
Can anyone say obsessive perfectionist???
As a result, I had lost my joy of writing. My characters lay sprawled across the floor of my office in a bloody heap like something out of a horror film.
My will to learn as much as possible about the craft had left me incapacitated when it came to writing a novel.
Then one day a fellow Ponderer encouraged me to write just to be writing.  Write a blog, a gardening post, a letter—anything to keep the flow moving forward.  Don’t look down at what was written, don’t ask myself if this would fit in with anything I learned, don’t second guess what I was doing…just write.
I did and I’m trying.
What I had to learn was, God gave me the ability to write using MY ideas, MY experiences, and MY style.  There is no right or wrong in writing. It’s all about getting words down on paper.  I don’t have to be James Scott Bell or Susan May Warren.  I have to be ME and use what God has given ME.  
Also, it sure doesn’t have to be “perfect”, because I know full well there are plenty of books on the library shelves that are far from perfect. Therefore, I shouldn’t beat myself up over it.
Will the ideas from the craft books help?  Absolutely.  But, first I have to stop murdering my story and my characters and get the words down on paper. MY words. MY story.
Have you ever had this problem?  How did you solve it?

7 comments:

  1. Oh, Jennie, I know what you're talking about! I had to finally realize the craft books were great and I still read them, but I try not to look at one when I'm writing. I figure I have the knowledge in my head and it will guide me as I write. Oh, and as for the word 'was'. It.is.a.perfectly.good.word. Most of the time it's what you need. Use anything else and your work sounds writerly. :-) Great post and I'm so glad you're back!!

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    1. Pat, Thanks for the reply! I'm glad to be back.

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  2. You are so right, Jennie! Sometimes we need to just get it written! I hope I remember this more often!

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  3. Teri,
    Its very easy to fall into that pit, especially if you're an over-thinker like I am.

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  4. I only caught this this morn. after getting back last night, but also thrilled to have you writing here. Yes, I can relate. It's sort of like standing in wet clay that's drying to brick, but I know you'll break free and polish your already good craft to even better (& with more open doors).

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  5. Yes and absolutely! I finally had to do the same thing. I'm just trying to get words onto paper, when I write, not the perfect words. "Words better suited" maybe is the phrase I would use when I'm editing. Now I don't worry about the mess I make when writing because I know, as the layers go in, the "words better suited" will come in time.

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  6. I'm a little late reading this, but I'm SO glad I did! This has been me for a year or more. I've only recently been able to set aside all the "teaching" and just write. I still find myself getting paralyzed by it. Thanks for sharing this.

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