Nov 8, 2010

The Proverbial Bump in the Road

How many times have we all heard that every aspiring writer’s journey toward publication is fraught with numerous obstacles and detours? Regardless of how well we’re prepared, the pace we proceed at, or the measure of our wide open eyes, there’s just no way around them. I ran into mine three weeks ago. Not so much a bump in the road, but a pot-hole, rather…a crater. It was a hazard that a toughened road crew, wearing yellow hard hats and their clothes dripping with sweat must have toiled long and hard to dig…then camouflage. And when I hit it, instead of the ground disappearing beneath me, I found myself fighting for traction on a slippery slope.

Afterwards, shaken and unsure of anything and everything, I surveyed the damage to my pedantic vehicle. It was going to take a lot more than a wheel alignment to get it back on the road. Yet there was something else even more dire, my will to drive, to continue the voyage, was now in question. So I simply did what every well adjusted adult does when faced with a reality jolt, I turned around and walked away. I left my imaginary vehicle behind, along with the path that was suddenly covered with literary acne.

There wasn’t a single inciting event that created my particular bump in the road, but rather a culmination of several. First and foremost was my job. Over the past several months the demands and pressures at work have steadily been increasing, making it harder and harder for me to come home at night and spend more hours in front of the PC. It was draining my creative energy and all I wanted to do when I got home was zone out in front of the TV. The frame of mind I was in had a lot to do with how I reacted to what followed.

With the help of my awesome CP’s I have been thoroughly revising my manuscript and just recently put a new version out for beta’s to read, fully confident my book was ready to query. I even had what I thought was a dynamite query letter all ready to go. Imagine my surprise when the feedback I received back from my beta’s was less than enthusiastic, pointing out many of the same flaws my CP’s had brought to light (mainly with shallow POV), and I thought had been addressed. What I’d learned was I had written a GOOD book, but I knew that in order to achieve the results I desired, it had to be GREAT. On top of that, the query letter I was so proud of and posted here on my blog, was rightfully shredded by commenter’s (which I’m very thankful for!).

Que the sound of screeching tires!

One moment I went from researching which agents I planned on contacting, to facing the daunting challenge of going through my manuscript scene by scene again to bring more depth to my characterizations, a skill I’m wondering now if I even possess. Factor in the frame of mind I mentioned earlier and my resulting fetal position response might be understandable. I turned off my home computer and ignored anything remotely writing related, which included the blogs.

The bottom line is…I’m still here! (as if I was even missed) Let me tell you why. Although none of the issues outlined above have changed, especially the confidence in my writing ability, time and distance has allowed me to realize that I do believe 110% in the characters and story I’m trying to tell. They deserve nothing but my best effort. Until I’m certain that I’ve reached my full capability as a writer, I’ll keep plugging away at it. That also means I’ll be hanging out here for a bit longer.

Yesterday I peeked at my Google reader for the first time and discovered while I was away licking my wounds, I missed 994 posts by the bloggers I follow the most. *deep sigh* I’ll never get back the three weeks I was away, or the blog posts I missed, but you’ll have to trust me that it was time well-spent.

I’ve read many similar accounts of what I went through on other blogs and learned that taking a step back can return much needed perspective. This post is about me paying that knowledge forward, and taking my first step toward rebuilding.

Maybe someday I’ll even consider this a merit badge earned.


  1. You were very greatly missed indeed, sir! And you are not alone. Not. One. Bit.

    I'm glad you've come back, though! :D

  2. Hi DL! I'm a new commenter here, but your plight speaks to my heart so I had to respond. I'm on draft eight of my novel and like you, I believe in my characters and in my story, so I've chosen to persevere. I'm sure that you will find a way to deepen your characterizations and turn it into that great book that you know it can be. Wishing you well on your journey.

  3. You were missed. As a matter of fact, if you didn't blog today I was sending out the bloggoons to look for you.

    I'm sorry you feel that way about your ms. You know how I feel about it. Just remember, this business is very subjective. What you might change because of what a critter says, might be the thing the agent wants you to change back.

    I believe in you, in your book, in your query. You can do this. Don't give up.

  4. Thank you Charlotte! It's going to be a lot of work, but I'm ready for it now. It's motivation enough to keep going just so I can hang out with people like you! :)

  5. Self-doubt plagues every creative soul -- at least that's what I tell myself every time of question my own abilities (which is roughly twice a day). Taking a break, giving yourself time to work through the feelings and compartmentalize the emotional junk, is exactly what this doctor would have ordered.*

    The journey is a reward, in itself.

    Glad you're back, reinvigorated and ready to roll those literary sleeves back up. Write on!

    * I'm not a real doctor, but I play one on your blog.

  6. I've been where you are, Don. Totally understandable. Think of every 'pot hole, crater, or even a crack' in your journey as a why to grow your writing skills and toughness. Give it value and it will have value. lol (sounds good in theory, huh??)

  7. Great post. I'm glad you got your motivation back.

  8. Welcome back! Google Reader can put me into a tailspin as the number of missed posts climbs. I'm at 83 right now...having cleared everything last night. I won't start sweating, though, until I'm somewhere over 150. LOL.

    BTW, I opened up reader today thinking I hadn't heard anything from you in yeah, you were missed!

  9. Breaks are great ways to recharge. Nothing wrong with taking one when you need it. Now you can re- examine your ms with fresh eyes.

    Welcome back.

  10. Hang in there and keep going. While we may know it happens to the most of us, when it happens to you it feels like everything is ending. You'll make it through if you don't give up. :)

  11. DL: Happens to all of us. You're not alone. Heck, I just spent all of yesterday agonizing over one sentence because I realized that it was the turning point needed to give my MC proper motivation. Motivation that lacked before.

    When things like this happen it's just awful, but I think it's all part of being a writer. Glad to know you're sticking with it.

  12. I've been where you are and it is not fun at all. I'm also afraid that once I'm finished with these last round of edits and send my MS to beta's that I'll be where you are again. I haven't looked at my story since Aug. and am hoping for a new perspective on it. You are not alone and I know that you are going to figure this out! I can't wait to hear about your progress! Good luck.

  13. We've all been there. A lot of us still ARE there. Don't lose hope, and what I always have to do is pull out something new for awhile. We're here for you!

  14. Glad you're back, D.L.! Llike many here have already said, it's a place most of us land at at some point. For me, the realization that I am not the world's best writer (as I secretly thought I might be) staggered me greatly.

    Writing is such a personal thing, and to have someone rip our work apart, even if they do it nicely, is like being back in junior high and having all the girls (or boys) laugh at us. It hurts and it IS personal.

    But just like I eventually survived junior high, I shall eventually survive this as well. I no longer think I am God's gift to writing (not that you do, but I sure did) and instead see myself as a person with talent who is trying his best to learn his craft. I'm okay with that.

    Hell, if we didn't fail more often than not, then success wouldn't be nearly as sweet.

    In other words, I've taken all this space just to basically say: Dude, I hear you! :)

  15. Taking a step back is sometimes necessary. I know exactly how you feel.

  16. Visit the blogs you can and don't worry about the rest.
    Now get back on that damn horse and keep moving forward!

  17. There are a lot of different things I want to say here...

    But this is not the place or time.

    So I shall only say these things:

    Every writer, every creative person, feels this way at points in their journey. You are not alone. Hopefully there is comfort knowing that what you feel is part of the process, normal.

    Improving our craft is a lifelong quest. No one comes out of the gate perfect.

    Being open to (good/honest) critique is something that gets easier with time.

    There are SO many, many lessons to be learned here, and I can almost tangibly feel you learning some of them in this post.
    Everyones learning curve is different.
    The biggest rookie mistake is querying too soon.
    At least you figured that out before you pulled the trigger.

    I'm glad you've pulled yourself up, dusted yourself off and are willing to get back to it. :)


  18. You were HUGELY missed, and I am so glad you're back. I was getting ready to track you down by email to make sure you were okay. Hang in there, D.L. We all know and understand what you're going through, probably too well. And we are here with you every step of the way. :-)

  19. We've all been there. You were missed! But thanks for explaining what's been going on with you and congrats on biting the bullet and going back through your ms. You're stronger than I am (I shelved two books in favor of bettering myself on something new- it's often the easy way out for those who HATE revision:) :) GOod luck!

  20. You were definitely missed! And, no you're not alone. We all hit those bumps (or craters) and it can happen anytime at any point. You CAN do this. I believe in you!

  21. Here's my lament posted not long ago- Me, My Self-Doubt and I. This experience is a writer's badge of honor, no matter where you are in the journey. In some twisted way, it means you've arrived!

  22. Hi,

    Funny that (missed) I was thinking about you only the other day, wondering whether you'd fallen into a void! Not far off, as it seems.

    It sucks, work and writing - the latter causing headaches on top of outside pressures. But, ;) see how the birds are all pitching on your blog's sill! :o

    Hee hee, a real booster for rooster.


  23. Like you said DL, taking a step back can return much needed perspective.

    It is easy to give up hope. Harder, is to get back on the horse when you've stumbled. But you will, because you're a writer after all and that's what we do.

    PS. And of course you were missed :)

  24. Yes, you were definitely missed! I'm glad you're back:)

    I've been in the same boat a few times this past year. Stepping back and taking a break was a good thing in my case, although sometimes I stayed away too long.

  25. you were very much missed, but hard work is very important! Best of luck with revisions. Ugh! They're so hard. :o\

    Hang in there~ <3

    Tigers beat Bama. whoot! ;p

  26. Welcome back! I've been wondering where you were! I think it's great that you took a breather, DL. Stepping back to get some perspective (and peace and quiet from the internet) is a good thing every once in a while.

    Even though I'm in the process of getting published, I can totally relate to what you're going through. There are plenty of times when I've questioned my abilities, wondered if I can handle the publishing world, and felt like shutting off the computer indefinitely... but the reality is I'm still here with my writing dream intact...and so are you... which means we both want it bad enough & are dedicated enough to succeed. Bouts of confusion and insecurity are hurdles all writers face...what's important is making it over the many hurdles to keep going for your dream.

    Good luck with your revision & query process. I know you have what it takes to make it.

  27. Hello everyone, Jeff here, (aka "Thriller" blog post Aug. 2009).Don is my life long best friend;more of a brother in my heart, of 35 years. I just wanted to say the support & advice that each of you offer to one another is truly amazing.

    Do not worry about Don. If I know him & believe me I do very very well, he will be back better than before.

    Love ya buddy!

  28. I'm so there with you, in revision hell myself at the moment! Glad to see you've dusted yourself off and are keeping on swimming :)


  29. I noticed your absence! (And hasn't it been longer than three weeks?)

    Don't be too hard on yourself about deep characterization. This is the single hardest thing to master about writing novels. Despite spending seven years studying literature in grad school, I *still* wrote a first novel with shallow characterizations. When I fixed that problem in my second novel, I landed a contract. It's hard, hard work, but you can do it. One tip is to write your characters' diaries about the events in your novel. This will get you inside their heads and help you break into the "deep" mode.

  30. I MISSED YOU! Glad to see your back on the blog and YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

    I've currently learned what Revision Hell is, I was so naiive to think that I would experience a blissful ride to publication.

    Trust me: Lesson learned!

  31. Don, I've missed you and Sierra! I'm sorry you hit a bump in the road, but I can totally relate - although I'm probably more in a ditch than anything. I'm digging myself out. Don't worry - we're all on that same stretch of road but we'll get on somehow. Keep working at it. I truly believe you have something great there that just needs a bit of polishing.

  32. I missed you but I've had to cut back to only posting and reading once or twice a week. So I only missed you like once a week, which is a small price to pay for you turning your GOOD book into a GREAT book so we can all support you when you're a Best Seller. ;)

    I sympathize with your bumps though. I have been there a few times.

    Literary acne. *giggles*

  33. DL,
    I can relate to what you're writing about 100%. Be happy tho', because w/ all the help you've received, your book will be better than ever.

  34. Hooray! You're back. I'd been wondering where you went. Hang in there.

  35. Sara ~ Whether or not I'm successful landing an agent or selling my book is still debatable, but it won't be due to a lack of effort! :)

    Francine ~ Work SUCKS, when it comes to writing. But paying the bills is kind of important too!

    Wendy ~ The support I've received from this post is amazing...and humbling. I'll do everything I can to return the favor.

    Rachael ~ It's so tempting to start on something else, but that only postpones the inevitable. I believe in THIS story!

    Rosslyn ~ That is excellent advice!! I'll give that a try next.

    Julie ~ I miss you!!!!

    Jaleh ~ Don't worry. I'll be hanging on with both fists! :)