SUCH A HOT MESS AND I DON’T MEAN ME

CAT NAP

I have 5 more pages to edit of this hot mess of a current manuscript. I’m embarrassed to admit I started writing it a year ago, which may not sound like a long time for a novel, but in the world of romance, I should have written 3 novels in that time. A Harlequin author on Facebook posted, “I have to write a book in 5 ½ weeks!” and I was like, Huh? I can’t even formulate an outline for a book in 5 ½ weeks much less write the damn thing.

This is the third novel I have written. One would think writing gets easier over time. It doesn’t. My first book was a young adult novel written in 2000, back when YA was actually written for teens, rather than adults. I wrote it longhand while sitting on the most uncomfortable metal chair you can imagine in the middle of an outdoor mall in San Diego. I worked full-time at a kiosk selling spiritual items, books, and $3000 Thangka paintings that the owner had brought back from Nepal.

I had nothing to do for 8 straight hours but write. The kid in the kiosk next to me selling cell phone covers (which were a novelty back then) was waaaay busier. Needless to say, my boss closed up shop 5 months later, but I had an almost-completed novel and was pretty damn proud of myself. I polished it up and started subbing it, 9-11 happened, all things publishing halted, so I ended up shelving it. By the time I dusted it off again Twilight had been written, and since my YA had no vampires in it, it died a slow death.

My second book, The Accidental Cougar, which was published last November, was written under similar circumstances as the first. I was an office manager, alone all day, working for a company that was trying to sell a $30,000 piece of exercise equipment in a failing economy. It was very slow and I was so bored. I mean, there’s only so much porn one can watch on the office computer. I started writing, and the words flowed so effortlessly that I completed a first draft in 4 months. Because let’s face it, even when I didn’t feel like writing, when faced with another 8 straight hours of sitting on my ass, what are the choices? Porn, dusting (again), or writing. I chose writing.

I have come to the sad conclusion that in order for me to be able to complete a novel in a reasonable amount of time, I need to be working alone at a mind-numbing job for a company that will soon be going out of business. As it stands now, I work from home, where there are so many distractions it makes my head spin. Never before have I wanted to scrub a toilet more as when I have told myself I must sit down to write.

Manuscript #3 was excruciating to complete. It was like trying to give birth to a breech baby, or worse, being forced to watch a Keanu Reeves movie. Nothing flowed, and every day I questioned my ability to form simple sentences. The entire writing process from start to finish felt like Dana Carvey’s “Choppin’ Broccoli” skit, where he’s making fun of rock stars who write songs with insipid lyrics. If you’ve never seen this, you must. Right this second. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BVGi7h2NTOg And while you’re watching it, think of me, sitting at my dining room table for a whole year, attempting to put together a story by pulling characters and motivations and words from my ass.

I think I’m going to print out all 286 pages of this hot mess, arrange it into a nice, neat pile and then stomp up and down on it like they do in the cartoons. Once I’m done stomping, off it will go to an editor. I can’t wait to be rid of it. I envision the euphoria will feel akin to how one would feel the day their freeloading, 36-year-old son finally gets a job and leaves the nest, or even better, the glee I would feel upon learning that Kim Kardashian has gone far, far away and will never be heard from again.

Have you ever despised a piece of writing or art, or any creative endeavor so much you wish you could have a funeral service for it and lay it to rest?

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13 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Ellen @ Bad Word Mama
    Jun 03, 2013 @ 16:54:21

    I have a couple projects I’m trying to work on, but sometimes I have no motivation not even to write a status on Facebook! I love hearing about what goes thru a writers mind while working on a project. I can relate.. about Keanu Reeves movie! LOL..

    Reply

    • Tiffany N. York
      Jun 04, 2013 @ 09:54:43

      Well, Stephen King says to sit your ass down in the chair anyway. Sometimes the motivation comes once you start writing. If I’m making an attempt and the words are just not flowing, or I’m very tired and my head feels foggy, then I have to go do something else for awhile and come back to it. No sense in beating a dead horse–or in this case, a dead author. The fact that you keep up with your blog says something tho!

      Reply

  2. Damien
    Jun 04, 2013 @ 07:47:28

    I have so much to say about this! Listen, the sign of a true writer is someone who puts in the work even if it is deathly slow, tough, or the writing isn’t great at first. That’s what I think about when someone says “I only write when I’m inspired.” And that is what separates you from those people and those ‘want’ to be a writer. Moreover, the fact that you wrote at a boring job instead of reading magazines and staring into Facebook says more about your work ethic as a writer.

    But don’t take it from me, take it from Frank Herbert (Dune): “I don’t worry about inspiration, or anything like that. It’s a matter of just sitting down and working. I have never had the problem of a writing block. I’ve heard about it. I’ve felt reluctant to write on some days, for whole weeks, or sometimes even longer. I’d much rather go fishing, for example, or go sharpen pencils, or go swimming, or what not. But, later, coming back and reading what I have produced, I am unable to detect the difference between what came easily and when I had to sit down and say, “Well, now it’s writing time and now I’ll write.” There’s no difference on paper between the two.”

    So keep up the good work, and yes, I sometimes HATE my work! hahaha. It’s all part of the joys of being a writer. That, doing bad things to imaginary people, fan sex, and becoming a bloated alcoholic suicide (joking)!

    Reply

    • Tiffany N. York
      Jun 04, 2013 @ 10:13:23

      It certainly helps to hear that. I must admit it’s difficult sometimes to hear about other writers’ prolific activity. Makes me wonder what’s wrong with me. I have to face the fact that I’m a slow writer, a talented procrastinator, and insanely jealous of anyone who can write 3 books a year. I mean, how does Stephen King do it? Stories seem to pour out of him. I know it’s stupid of me to compare, but that’s another thing I do really well.

      Btw, I’m guessing you’re only joking about that last one (wink).

      Reply

      • Damien
        Jun 06, 2013 @ 07:18:35

        You can’t worry about Stephen King. And please understand that I have filed the exact same woe about the exact same writer. But if you worry about him, you’ll be dejected and demotivated in your own work. Again, I think it’s this idea of ‘I want to be SK right now!’ that leads to a lot of fizzled writing careers, since people have the idea that great or prolific writing is a destination and not a work in progress (and I don’t include you in that group, by the way).

        But I do know that there is a tendency to compare yourself to a more commercially successful writer. It’s just common.

        What I do to combat any jealousy is to write my brains out. And I do this by setting myself goals and then meeting them come hell or high water (an idiom more significant this week given that I live in Prague!). My goal is 1,000 words a day and I give myself one day a week when I can write a little less or even have a day off. That way, if I don’t write one day I get back up on that writing horse the next day and it’s business as usual.

        Have you had any fan lovin’?! Or just the normal ‘I’m a cute and smart lady’ lovin’?

      • Tiffany N. York
        Jun 06, 2013 @ 22:06:05

        Stephen King is a bad example, because he’s a freak writing machine. I don’t actually compare myself to him because he’s waaay outta my league, but like I mentioned in the post about the HQ author writing a book in 5 1/2 weeks–That completely blows my mind. I know HQ is formula, but come on. One still has to do some research, and flesh out characters, and edit a few times, don’t they? Since I’m not bipolar and able to use the manic phase to my advantage, and since I find sleep and laundry to be somewhat important in my life, I’m just not able to power through for 12 hrs. like some can.

        All I need now is some cheese with this w(h)ine. Okay, I’m done feeling sorry for myself…What do you mean by fan lovin’? Fans mailing me cookies, or naked pics, or an ear?

  3. Menopausal Mother
    Jun 04, 2013 @ 11:16:31

    Ugh! I have so many unfinished manuscripts housing dust bunnies under my bed it’s not even funny! I started the humorous collection of essays I am “currently” working in 6 years ago…and it is STILL in a drawer in my office. Between blogging obligations and Facebook Fan stuff, there just isn’t TIME to write much else! It makes me crazy! Of course it doesn’t help that I spend an inordinate amount of time looking up squirrel memes in my free time….

    Reply

  4. Jen Anderson
    Jun 04, 2013 @ 14:23:51

    Hating a project is all part of the process. So is deciding that you have no talent, will never come up with a decent idea again, etc. Or maybe that’s just part of MY process. Though my husband says it’s part of his process too, so there’s at least two of us.

    I say that if you can still stand the sight of your manuscript, then you haven’t revised it enough.

    Reply

    • Tiffany N. York
      Jun 05, 2013 @ 11:04:56

      Your last line is a very significant quote that should be on a Tips for Writers page. Seriously. I hear all these other authors saying, “I just went through my ms and fell in love with it all over again.” Or “I can’t believe I wrote that.”

      Whereas I’m like, “I can’t believe I wrote that…crap.” So then I wonder what’s wrong with me, and why aren’t I loving my story? and blah, blah. I def need to hear more authors complaining about their work.

      Reply

      • Jen Anderson
        Jun 05, 2013 @ 11:29:30

        I think it takes real confidence to notice when your manuscript needs more work. People who think highly of their work are probably wrong.

  5. beduwen
    Jun 07, 2013 @ 11:31:50

    Just stopped by after seeing your comment on Amy’s blog…. so glad I did! Love this post – you are definitely not alone sister! It always amazes me how I’d rather do just about anything sometimes than sit down and write. Oh, and having to re-read what I’ve written so far, because of course I can’t remember anything it’s been so long – that’s just the icing on the cake. I’d rather give Keanu another chance in the hope that I could find some little snippet of hidden talent I never noticed before.

    Reply

    • Tiffany N. York
      Jun 07, 2013 @ 14:34:15

      That’s exactly what happened to me with this ms! There were such huge time gaps between writing I’d have to literally go back and reread it from the beginning because I had no idea what I had written. How can something that gives us such joy also give us so much torment?

      Reply

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