I hadn’t gotten more than a couple of paragraphs into the novel when it suddenly hit me. THIS IS UTTER CRAP. Aghast, I began reading faster and faster, hoping I would find something that indicated the story had some redeeming value. That the characters were not as flat and lifeless as I imagined. That the story wasn’t limping along with pedantic predictability. Unfortunately, it only seemed to get worse and worse the longer I read. In disgust, I shut the file and fired off a wailing update on Facebook about the disaster of discovering that my WIP was a total failure.
My friend and fellow writer, Margarita Gakis (author of Trial by Fire, published by Fable Press), talked me out of chucking the whole thing: the current story as well as the idea of ever writing again. She told me that she’d wandered in the VALLEY OF DESPAIR (all caps, courtesy of her) many, many times, and you must persevere to the other side. That, in fact, it is a passage that almost every writer makes at some point during the journey to a completed story.
You’ve all seen those circular commentaries on writing, right? Where the author is depicted in the center of the cartoon, madly scribbling away while the comments begin with “This is a brilliant idea!” and cycle through a gradual disillusionment with the work until it reaches a nadir of “This is utter crap!” before slowly coming back to the original idea again. Of course, you have. We writers laugh at them, seeing ourselves in the humor, but when you are actually in the Valley, nothing is funny. You’ve lost all objectivity; you’re convinced your story is a complete failure, and therefore, by default, you suck as a writer. I find that I usually reach this stage at about the three-quarter mark on each story, but like looking at a calendar and thinking, “Oh, THAT’S why I’m in a bad mood’ the very predictability of my own personal Valley makes it easier for me to deal with.
This one caught me completely by surprise.
In retrospect, I know now why this was so. I’d just finished a story, which subjected me to the usual post-story blues—something that is usually offset by the delight of publishing the story and receiving pleasant feedback—only this story went off to a long queue of stories to be read, and it will be months before I know whether it has been accepted for publication or not. Then there was the matter that the WIP is hitting the toughest part to write. Coming at it when I was already tired and fresh from a different set of characters probably wasn’t the smartest thing I’ve ever done. Add to that some major work-related stressors, and yeah, I was set up to take a huge hit when I stepped foot into the Valley.
But what do you do when you hit this tricky part of the creative trail?
Most of my Facebook friends said the same—the one word that kept coming up was persevere. Get it done, get it down on paper, worry about how good it is later. Get a good beta reader but get it done first.
All excellent advice, and that’s the course of action I usually take. This time was different, though. My friend and fellow author, Anna Butler (Contact Sport, Flashwired) suggested I take a hard look at the first couple of chapters. I did, and realized that they really were somewhat stiff and boring. I don’t usually write scenes that I end up cutting—I tend to know how I want my story to unfold and everything is necessary to the tale. But this particular story (being a sequel) has been different for me, and it is not the first time I’ve had to take pruning shears to it before I could progress further. I was quicker to come to that decision than I might have been before I started working on it, that’s for sure. I sat down and hacked up the first two chapters, ruthlessly jettisoning material and dicing up the rest to be blended in with the new opening sequence I’d just created. It was amazingly liberating and oddly satisfying, too.
It occurred to me that we as creative people need to be less afraid of letting go of things that aren’t working for us. I think it is the mark of a maturing craft when you can do this, when you don’t treat every word as one of your precious darlings that must be protected at all costs. When I was done taking a machete to my work, I was happier with the end result and ready to push on again. So in some ways, by taking a step backward, I was persevering forward, it just didn’t look like it at the time. What matters in the end, however, is not how you get to the other side of The Valley of Despair, but that you do.
In the immortal words of Jason Nesmith (Galaxy Quest, 1999), “Never give up. Never surrender.”
Even though you walk through The Valley of Despair.
One day she woke up. She opened the box on her shelf and discovered much to her surprise, her passion was there, just waiting to be claimed again.
Now, writing sometimes takes precedence over everything else. In fact, when she is in the middle of a chapter, she usually relies on the smoke detector to tell her when dinner is ready.
To learn more, visit Sarah on her
website, on Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads.
Genre: M/M Romance
Excerpt: Rated R for language
Trailer: Click to view
Bookseller Links: Amazon US (paperback), Amazon US (Kindle), Amazon UK (paperback), Amazon UK (Kindle)
David McIntyre has been enjoying the heck out of his current assignment: touring the Hawaiian Islands in search of the ideal shooting locations for a series of film company projects. What’s not to like? Stunning scenery, great food, sunny beaches…and a secret crush on his hot, ex-Air Force pilot, Rick Sutton. Everything changes when a tropical storm and engine failure force a crash landing on a deserted atoll with a WWII listening post. Rick’s injuries, and a lack of food and water, make rescue imperative, but it takes an intensely vivid dream about the war to make David see that Rick is more than just a pilot to him. Will David gather his courage to confess his feelings to Rick—before it’s too late?
For more info about the book and other tour stops, please click HERE.