Writer’s Growth Cycles

Somebody linked to “Growth Cycle of a Writer” by Jenn Reese on one of the various writing lists I’m on. It’s an interesting essay, well worth reading, and I think it aptly describes a vast majority of writers.

However, reading through … while some applies to me, not all of it does. (Ms. Reese makes an outright disclaimer that it’s not applicable to all writers, but now I feel all introspective. ;))

Stage 1

I never experienced what she describes as “Stage 1.” Or if I did, it was for a very short time, so far back that I can’t remember it. When I was eight, I decided I wanted to be a published, professional author. I wrote short fiction and printed it up on the family computer. Now, being a kid, I formatted like juvenile books I’d read (or at least as much as I could manage on a deskjet with xerox paper!), including a page on the back with lists of other stories and “Heidi Smith books are the best!” (Though, to be honest, that was more a childish attempt at marketing than true belief — I knew damn well my work needed improvement. Even then. :P)

What frustrated me the most was that I couldn’t get any critique from people other than “That’s nice, dear,” or “I really liked it,” sometimes with specifics as to what was good about the piece. I’d respond impatiently, “Yeah, but what’s wrong with it?”

And get no response. This was outright depressing. I’ve always been confident in my work, even when it sucked. If it was horrible, I wanted to know about it, so I could fix the problem. There’s no point in doing anything if you don’t learn and improve. No one succeeds in a vacuum.

Stage 2

I started researching submission procedures (minds out of the gutter, folks) when I was thirteen, after I’d completed the rough of a 20k juvenile novel. I was serious about submitting, and I’d asked my father (who is also a writer, and I really wish he would get off his arse and finish something) for a thorough critique. He agreed, so while I waited for him to crit it, I got a copy of Writer’s Market (I believe with my allowance) and started reading up on queries, synopses, and markets. I also scoured the internet for resources, and found Speculations and the Rumor Mill. Both of which were very helpful.

My father never got around to critting the novel, but after a few months, I realised myself that it needed a lot of work, so set to rewriting it.

By the time I actually submitted anything — my first submission was a story to CatFancy’s short story contest when I was fourteen, and then I started submitting other work the following year — I knew proper submissions format and procedure inside and out. I didn’t make the idiotic mistakes a lot of n00b writers do.

Stage 3

Never been there. Rejection’s never been anything but part of the game to me. My folks, my dad in specific, was convinced that rejections would damage my confidence. Hah. Yeah right. I’m a stubborn bitch (it runs in the family), and that’s come in damn handy. Especially considering the 150+ rejections I have at this point. 🙂

Stage 4

When I was sixteen, I asked permission to find an online critique group. Dad discouraged the idea. “People can be harsh with critiques, and hearing too many bad things can destroy your creativity.”

“If I can’t handle negative opinions, then I’m in the wrong business,” I replied.

So I joined Critters. I’d been banging my head against the wall that was The Diary of Owl Katerina, aka Sacred Daughter — that first finished novel, which had gone through multiple drafts by that point. I sent it through. Some people liked the concepts, but thought that it was too juvenile to be an adult novel and too adult to be a juvenile. (As it originally started as a juvenile and then the conflicts grew to the point where they didn’t fit J/YA, not surprising.) So I threw another WIP into the critique machine, Jaguarundi’s Rise, a truly horrid S&S novel. Again, mixed reviews.

I put both aside for awhile to mull over what I’d learned.

Stage 5

At first glance, I didn’t think this applied, but having thought it over, it does. I joined Critters in Summer 2001, but entered college that fall via Washington State’s Running Start program. First quarter, I dedicated almost totally to school, even though I was taking only one class. (I was homeschooled all my life, see, and had to learn how to write school papers and such from scratch.) I attempted NaNo, but got less than 3k in before giving up.

Over winter break, I started lurking Forward Motion, read class transcripts and writing articles. In February, I started posting. At first, I thought it was only going to be one post, in response to a thread on S&S, but, well, I stuck around. Started working on Jaguarundi’s Rise again in March, put a couple chapters through Critters, decided to leave Critters because it wasn’t helping all that much, signed up for a challenge at FM, entered chat (aka The Addiction) for the first time … and stuck around and got back into the game.

Finished the rough draft of Jaguarundi’s Rise, renamed Sanctuary, by the end of April. The 27th, I believe.

After that point … well. The only other place it might apply is the writer’s block (at least in regards to novel-length fiction) I had from mid-2003 through 2005. But that was brought about by a combination of real-life stress (read: abusive relationship and recovery) and sub/unconscious issues I didn’t recognise. I knew part of it related to the destruction of the writer’s community I’d called home for a year and a half. (The community still exists, but it changed so drastically in atmosphere it’s no longer the place I loved.)

But it wasn’t the only issue. Once I realised what they were (clicky if interested), I broke through the block. I’m still trying to get back into the swing of things, as it were.

However, I don’t think I would categorise writer’s block due to unconscious psychological issues in with self-censorship due to writing rule overdose.

Stage 6

I’d say I started at a cross between Stage 4 and 6. Even when I sucked, I wanted to learn — and I applied what I learned. Not always well, but that’s true of everything. I can look back at stuff and see improvement along the way. I’d say this is definitely where I was when I joined FM in March 2002.

Stage 7

In regards to “being good,” I’d say I’d reached here by Summer 2002. I’ve sold fiction I wrote back then. Not everything was good — some of it needs definite work — but it’s competant.

And it’s probably still where I am now. I’ve sold fiction to pro markets, but I won’t consider myself a “professional” till I’ve sold a novel to a NY publisher. Yes, I know it’s fucked up, because you can count as a professional by SFWA once you’ve sold three short stories to qualifying pro-paying markets, or (presumably) if you’re selling enough through epubs.

(Just to qualify — I don’t consider people who are pro-pubbed story authors or epub authors “non/semi-pros.” IMO, if you count through SFWA or the appropriate writer’s association for your genre, or you’re established in legit, reputable epubs like Ellora’s Cave or Double Dragon … then you’re professional. For me, though, I don’t think it would feel the same, though it certainly would be an accomplishment to be proud of. :))

So, for those of you who managed to slog through this overly long, introspective post:

How does this represention of a writer’s growth cycle apply to you?

The Scene From Hell

OK, made some progress yesterday on the Scene From Hell. I think I got roughly 1k done on it, but I haven’t finished it. However, I’m through the worst; I left off right around when the sex was starting. I just need to write that, and then I switch back to the heroine’s POV, which I’m much more comfortable with. (And, honestly, I’d thought the heroine’s scene was next — I’d completely forgotten about this one.)

With all luck, it should speed up. I haven’t gotten much written on Stronger, but between beating my head against the wall with this chapter, miscellaneous health issues/complications, and teaching A&B, I think I’m just glad to finally be making progress on the chapter. LOL.

I think I’ve gotten the inner critic to stop bitching about the supposed “head-hopping” in the scene. It’s really not, because the POV character is a telempath, and I establish that early in the scene. *shakes head*

Call for Moderators

(x-posting from Evo)

Seeking:

A handful of members who understand the direction we have Evo heading toward and would like to take a more active role about the community.

Evolution’s direction:

Evolution is a community for writers to focus more on the actual act of writing. We’re here to help people learn the basics of writing and submitting, true, but our main focus is to share our common love of writing itself. We want our members to develop their skills and comfort levels with writing — but not to forsake their initial love of the act with the stress and pressures of ultimately reaching publication.

What you’ll need:

Evolution, even though we have been around for a couple years, is still very much in its infancy.

Because of that, moderators need to be able to devote actual time and energy to the community — encouraging discussions with members and helping to come up with activities (and running said activities) to take place around the boards and in chat.

If interested: please PM one of the administrators: Amme, Nonny, or Morgan.

Have questions?

Feel free to ask them here. 🙂

Ugh…

It’s been a hellish week. I haven’t gotten much done in regards to writing due to a fibromyalgia flare, combined with nausea from acclimation to birth control.

Also, I’ve been having some difficulty with the chapter I’m on of Resurrection. Mainly because I think it would work better in Orell’s point of view — but I haven’t used it before in the book and I don’t know if I will again. Also, I need to dip Xalidora’s (other villain) thoughts, because he’s semi-telepathic. My inner censor is screaming, “Head-hopping! Bad girl! No donut!” 🙄

*beats head against desk*

I’m probably going to end up handwriting it — as for some reason, that seems to help anytime I get into a sitch like this. Unfortunately, my hands don’t tolerate it as well as they used to. *muttergrumble*

In regards to pen names, at this point I’m pretty much wavering between Elisabeth N. Morgan and Elisabeth Drake. Someone commented on my LJ post about the subject that there was a famous court case some years back regarding an Elizabeth Morgan, so there might be some negative associations with the name. However, I really do like it — but I like Elisabeth Drake, as well. (Which is a pen name I’d considered before.)

I’m so indecisive. 🙄

Also working on stuff for A&B — next lecture is due tomorrow, so I need to get that finished sometime today. I’ve got it mostly written from last class, but there are a few things I’m going to add/edit.

Book in a Week starts today over at Evolution. I’ve got a 10k goal for this week. Let’s see if I can do it. *crosses fingers*

Pondering on Pen Names

By this point, most of you know I’m intending on finishing Resurrection and Stronger than the Night and submitting both this year. Hopefully I can have Resurrection in the mail by May. (Perhaps sooner, but I’m not going to hedge any bets on that, what with my health and all.)

This has gotten me thinking about pen names. When I very first started writing, I intended to publish under my legal name, Heidi Elizabeth Smith. My loathing for that name has grown over the years, though, and I’ve since instead used H. E. Smith.

However, I’ve been considering changing my name. At this point, what I’m leaning towards the most is Elisabeth Nonny Morgan, when my male and I are handfasted, married, or whatever we decide to do. If I change my name to that, I’d use it as either Elisabeth Morgan or Elisabeth N. Morgan. Which I like — it looks and sounds very elegant.

There’s other names I’ve considered using for pseuds at various points, but that’s not quite the dilemma I’m running into.

The other day, I found some old notes regarding the world setting for Resurrection. I’d forgotten that I’d connected it with the world for Stronger. Not directly — multiple worlds are connected by portals which powerful mages/shamans/etc can open. There’s a subplot in the book I had plotted involving the MC and a character from the vampire homeworld.

So… Stronger is fantasy/romance crossover. Resurrection and the rest of the books set on the Shifter World will be erotic romance. But they’re both set in the same universe. Do I use the same pseudonym for them, or different ones?

To make it even more complicated… I have an epic fantasy trilogy, Shadow’s Blade, that takes place in the distant past of the vampire homeworld. As in, thousands of years ago. I have another book plotted, A Cry For Elaine, that is set in the same world, about 500 years behind present day, which is fantasy/romance a la Jacqueline Carey. (And this isn’t counting books I have in other unconnected settings.)

So I have three, perhaps four, different classes of fiction all set in the same universe. Do I use the same name for all of them? Do I use different names per series / obvious setting? Like, use one for Stronger and the other books in that series, a different one for Shadow’s and A Cry For Elaine and other books, etc?

Should I use one for the stuff in that particular connected setting and use pseuds for other work? Or should I just give it all up and use one name for everything?

I really don’t know. I’ve heard from writers who span genres that it’s best to use pseudonyms, even if you’re open about them on your website and in author bios in the books. On the other hand, with so much connected, it might make more sense to write them under one name.

… help?

Plans and Goals

Okay, so it seems to be another one of those days… *sigh* Not hurting as badly as I was yesterday but am possibly having more difficulty concentrating. Grumble.

The past few months have been … interesting, in a number of different ways. Back in January, I discovered the root of a three-year-long writing block. I figured, even with making the realisation, I’d still have lots of crap to struggle with before I broke through.

Every time I started working on a project, I’d feel really good at first. I’d start to get back into the “zone.” Feel great about my writing. But then something would happen. Hell, not even that. I’d start feeling depressed and crappy around writing. I attributed it to a lot of different things — the fibromyalgia, my ex-fiance’s discouragement, visceral memories surrounding old WIPs, Seasonal Affective Disorder, starting the project too early, not having people around to write or brainstorm with, not getting the support I needed, etc.

This isn’t to say that they didn’t contribute. I’m sure all of them played a role to some extent. At the very least, they exacerbated an existing condition.

So when I started to feel good about writing again in January… well. I figured it wouldn’t last. I figured by mid-February, I’d be back to feeling depressed. Certainly by now.

Except I haven’t. I still feel confident about my writing in a way I haven’t for … dear gods. Three years, when I left college in order to pursue my writing career. I was willing to do whatever it took and I believed I could do it.

And then… so much happened. *sighs* It’s all a long story, so I’m not going to get into it – most of y’all have already heard it and those who haven’t can ask, if interested. Suffice it to say I got knocked majorly off track.

So … to be feeling like I did three years ago, only … stronger than that. More confident and less arrogant. Because — I know I can do this.

The plan, as of now, is to finish Resurrection, do a one-pass revision, and submit it. If it sells, I’ve got enough planned in that setting that I could do other books in it, as well. I’ll be hitting the ebook market with it, as it’s non-trad erotic romance. Ebooks may not bring in the advances, but if they take off, it’s a good amount of steady income. Right now, something steady, even if it’s not a lot, would be enough.

At the same time, I’m going to rewrite Stronger — which at this point will involve writing some 30k-odd new words — do another pass on it, and start agent/publisher-hunting.

I’m also teaching A&B at Evolution and will be developing a novel for that, too.

I’m going to do this.

Meh…

Didn’t get anything done yesterday. I’d been going to, but my fibro snuck up on me in a dark alley, whallopped me over the head, stole my clothes and wallet, and scampered away giggling. By the time I realised how bad I was hurting, it took several hours for pain meds to do anything. *sigh*

Hopefully I’ll be able to get something done today. 🙂

Ch. 18 finished!

I wrote 1035 words earlier in Resurrection … many thanks to Loribelle and Jo from RD for word warring with me!

Now, must decide if I want to keep working on that or switch over to Stronger … decisions, decisions.

Or, I may take a break and take a bath. My back’s bugging me a bit and I’m feeling overall kinda icky-ish. Hm. *ponder*

Progress + Snippet

I didn’t finish the chapter, like I’d hoped I would, but I got a good 1622 words in it. Adding that to what I’d written earlier puts me at 3046 for the day. It’s been a bloody long time since I’ve written that much. I’m … very pleased. Exhilerated, in fact.

I’m quite proud of a specific bit of writing I did during the Word War with Amme and Morgan. Snippeting because I want to share:

Conflicting thoughts swirled in his mind as he prowled his ebon palace, his domain. Now, without the demon’s influences, he could see changes … slight changes in the atmospheric matrices. Part of him thought he should stop thinking about her–after all, it wouldn’t change anything–and return to his duties as Dragonlord. And yet … There is so little time. I can’t lose her. I can’t.

But he already had. Soon, she would be leaving, and there was nothing he could do to stop her. Over. The thought repeated in his mind, driving him into a downward maelstrom of inner torment. His heart felt like a fragile statuette on a wobbling pedastal–even the slightest nudge would send it shattering to the floor below. It had only been what, a matter of days since he first met her? And now he could not imagine life without her? Without her laugh, her smile, her witty and talented tongue? Veren smiled at the thought, but it was an expression marked with deep sadness.

I never had the chance to get to know her … to know who she is, deep down, at her core. And yet … their souls had touched, in that brilliant moment when she’d sacrificed her virginity, her sanctity by some definitions, to restore him unto the world. He knew her, in a way he had known no other woman alive. Even if he did not know the specifics of her life and origins, he’d touched the beauty, the strength and jubilation, the passion and pain, truth and honor and justice and all that was good but also the darkness, the wild bestial lust of her feline self. The second skin, the darker side of her soul.

He’d hunted with her. Brought down their prey, tasted its blood together, shared the joy and rapture of the kill, made love soaked in the remnants of its life force. Partners. Not master and servant, like the humans with their bonds, but equals.

That was the difference. She, in all her dark glory, was equal to him, like no other ever had been.

And he was about to lose it all.

I’ve been writing for several years, and I have never had description flow as quickly, smoothly, and overall well as these two chapters. Seriously. When I did description of this sort for Wings of Steel last fall, I had to struggle for it. This is just … flowing.

Not that I’m complaining. It’s just… a surprise. Especially since I hadn’t worked on this specific WIP in almost three years. By all rights, it shouldn’t flow like this … but it is.

Wow.

And … with that, I’m headed off to bed. I’ve been up near 24hrs this point, and I need to get some sleep. I’ll pick up the WIP in the morning, I think, finish off the chapter, and then work on Stronger.

Love to all! 🙂