Among the many things that delayed me last year, and some that made writing virtually impossible, it might have been that I was molting. (I’m still not sure about this, btw, but it is possible.)
I was, as I’ve said, also very busy with non-fiction, overcommitted on my blog, and other serious issues, including the health problems that might have been influenced by these other problems. The health problems definitely influenced my writing, (and reading) but that is something else.
I’ve taken steps to deal with the blog overcrowding. I’m trying to do no more than three original blogs a week, not counting the two chapters (Rogue Magic in ATH on Friday – this week, tomorrow – and Elf Blood here on Sundays. I will confess that I will be quite happy to cut that down to a chapter a week, as soon as Elf Blood is done.)
I’ve also taken steps to cut down on the massive amount of non-fiction I was doing. That’s fine, also.
This brings us to the remaining problem that has dogged my writing for about a year. This was that when I did have time to write, when I had time to sit down and type out a few words, everything I wrote read like pure blah.
And this is what I want to talk about. You might not get to the point that you’re overbooked on writing for your blog, or group blogs, or whatever. You might get to the point that your dayjob (which is comparable to non-fiction writing) is squeezing out your writing.
If that happens, you have choices to make and ways to cut down, and you might or might not be able to do it. Took me a year to even realize that I should be cutting back (though people had told me that.)
But the other one is something you will run into. I guarantee you will run into it because every writer who is working even mildly hard at it, runs into it sooner or later. And if you’re writing really hard and really fast, you’ll hit this point harder and faster.
There is a system of analysis that says that absolute raw beginners at any art or craft will overestimate their competency. And right after there is a period where people judge their stuff too harshly. By and large, this is true. I started writing too long ago to be fully aware of it – though I have seen other people going through this – but I was aware of it with art which I started doing in my forties.
When I started out, I was in awe of my own art. Then I hit a period when everything I did seemed horrible. I still feel that way, which is why I need to start doing art again and get part the hump.
I think in writing this is responsible for a lot of new authors who never get off the launching pad. They write their first stories and everything gets turned down; then they get just enough better that the stories they try to write next feel like sheer crud – so people walk off.
That is good to an extent – and you know I’m not of the “if you can be discouraged, you should be” pov – because if you can’t handle that first instance of molting, you won’t be able to handle all the others.
Because what is not normally spoken of, it’s that this cycle of “best thing ever” and “OMG, I suck” is eternal. You don’t go through this once and then you’re done. You go through this over and over and over again.
After a while (I figure crabs feel this way too) you get used to it. You know you’re in the middle of the molting. This doesn’t make it any more comfortable or easy. You know you’re changing, but you don’t know what’s on the other end of the change. You don’t know if you can finish the change successfully, or what is on the other end of the change. We all have heard of authors who go backwards, rather than forward. (What I’m finding, though, is that these people are usually suffering from some illness or brain issue – so maybe we shouldn’t worry so much, but hey, I still will, and you probably will too.)
So everytime I hit molting, I panic. The first step of it is not to know what’s happening. I just know that everything I write is crap. (Which can happen, if I’m ill or perhaps very tired, frankly.) When I hit this step and I can’t move forward, I send my stuff to my beta readers, (two of them writers on this blog) who are known not to pull punches, but who also aren’t going to take my “I feel like I suck” as the invitation to find stuff to tell me that is wrong. (At this point the book is first draft and there will be a ton that’s wrong, mostly at that point typos and continuity, but that shouldn’t make me feel like it it sucks that badly.)
If my betas come back and say “oh, this… uh… is slow” then I know that it’s either that I’m ill or tired (no, I don’t, naturally, now write badly without other factors. Okay, maybe I have a huge head, but I don’t think I do. You see, I write a tons of words every year and there are things I can do with my eyes closed.)
However, lately what my betas have come back with is “oh, wow, this is great.” Or “It’s really different, but I like it.”
That answer means “You’re molting again.” This time it’s really, really bad because I’m in early molt. That means I can’t even see clearly what is wrong with my writing – I just know something is wrong and it makes me feel insecure and scared. The next phase of the molting, I start pinpointing what is wrong. I can say “Oh, I need to push my pacing a bit.” Or “I need better foreshadowing” (Both things I’ve gone through in the past.)
Actually right now, because I think I’m doing this mostly subconsciously, and I think in this molt I’ve already started changing. I just can’t pinpoint what has changed, or if it’s better. So it just feel strange: kind of like sleeping in a strange bed. You don’t know what is wrong, and you feel out of it a bit.
The last time I did the “subconscious molt” was while writing Soul of Fire, and it wasn’t till I started the book after that that I realized I had molted and that the book was a huge step up in plot.
In the same way, I think I’m molting with Through Fire. And I’m experiencing the same issue, which involves feeling dissatisfied and keeping getting pushed out of the book.
I have now, more or less identified that it is molt. And that is is subconscious molt, because my absolutely trustworthy first readers are telling me that this is considerably better than anything I’ve done before.
So, I will now get through it by pressing it as hard as I can. But it’s still going to be odd and uncomfortable.
So, what do you do if you’re molting? Just keep running as fast as I can.
There are monsters of despair out there ready to eat the soft-shelled writer. People can get crushed and give up at any point (unless they’re making millions… and sometimes even then.) So, keep running. That monster of despair is going to eat someone. Don’t let it be you.