Friday, May 28, 2010

Naked Words! Put Something Decent On!

So we've all had that naked dream, right?

Actually, I don't remember having a naked dream, but I'm sure it happened and I just blocked it out to protect my delicate psyche. I have, however, had plenty of dreams wherein I felt completely humiliated for one reason or another. Which is basically the same thing as a naked dream, in principle.

At the crux of the naked dream is the uncomfortable feeling of being exposed--warts and all--against our will. It is characterized by embarrassment, stage fright, and perhaps some jiggly running (I apologize for the mental image, but hopefully you were only picturing yourself, right?).

Stephenie Meyer, acclaimed author of the Twilight Saga and The Host, talks about her own stage fright here: STEPHENIE MEYER ON SEQUELS. (Spoiler alert, but really, WHO hasn't read these yet?)

I'll quote her here for those of you who don't want to spoil the fun of reading New Moon on your golden anniversary:
It's hard to explain how joyous the writing process was for me when I was creating Twilight. It was something I did for fun and excitement, with no concern for what anyone else might think, because no one else was ever going to read it. With New Moon, I knew people were going to read it. And some of those people were going to have bright red pens in hand while reading. I knew enough about the editing process to know that there were painful changes ahead; the parts I loved now might not make the final cut. I was going to have to rethink and revise and rework. This made it very hard to put the words down, and I had a horrible feeling much like stage fright the whole time I was writing.

Last night I got to thinking about my own stage fright and how it affects my writing, which it does...a lot. Of course, I can't claim any special reason for this. I'm not Stephenie Meyer writing sequels to the beloved Twilight. Nobody knows who I am, except for Mandy Hubbard (hee hee), and even fewer people have actually read my long form work, like the 3 novels gathering giga-dust on my hard drive. I can count the person who's read all of my work on one finger. By the way,


But after reading countless blogs, books, and author interviews about 'how NOT to write a novel', I'm suffering from a mild case of Faux Pas Phobia. Of the writerly variety.

The symptoms of Writerly Faux Pas Phobia are as follows:

  • inability to reread anything you've written without gagging
  • crippling anxiety over: sentence structure; overuse of adverbs, adjectives, pronouns, proper nouns
  • WRITER'S BLOCK, or the feeling of being stuck in the mud whenever you try to write more than a sentence.
  • reading the classics ad nauseam and comparing your writing to the likes of Austen and Poe.
  • talking to dead authors about your writing, even if in whispers
  • snapping at family members who call your writing just "good"
  • typing with one hand on your forehead
Basically, like me, you've read too many how-to's and now feel like nothing you ever write will ever be good enough for the market. Or maybe you've had a little bit of success, and now feel compelled to keep up with that success in everything you write.

I've thought of three ways to get over this fear, which is really just insecurity. *I cannot vouch for the effectiveness of these methods.

  • Pretend your audience is naked. (Okay, this has never really worked for me.)
  • Write a story for your kids, nephews and nieces, cousin's kids (and not for publication). In short, write something for fun. That is why you started writing, right? 
  • Say it with me: "It's only a first draft. It's only a first draft. It's only a first draft."
Wooh. Well, I don't know about you, but I feel much better! 

No? Well, maybe more wisdom from Stephenie will help:

The good news is that I got over—or rather got used to—the stage fright. Book three was much easier in a multitude of ways. I learned a lot through the New Moon experience, and I grew as a writer. Even better, my characters grew and matured in interesting ways that gave me so much to work with throughout the rest of the series!
 In closing, there is no published author in the history of time who has received only positive reviews--not even God himself. Art thou greater than He? (We'll discuss the God complexes of writers in another post.)

So go tell your WIP (work in progress) to GO PUT SOMETHING DECENT ON! And get on with the joy and the pain that is writing. See you in the query trenches.

Oh, and tell me: how do you get past Faux Pas Phobia?

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