Friday, January 7, 2011

A Writer's Pain

When I first started writing, I thought it would just be for fun. And maybe one day, I'd get published. It soon became an obsession.

My first attempts at writing were poetry and children’s books. But in 1996, I decided to write what I loved reading. Novels. Specifically, romance novels. My first book was a medical thriller and my first heroine had the same job I had. She was a radiologic technologist. (RT, x-ray technologist, or radiographer. Take your pic but don't call us techicians.) My fingers flew across the keyboard, typing story ideas and plot lines as they came to me. I didn’t plan the story out. I didn’t even have a rough draft. Just a basic plot in my head. It took less than six months to write what turned out to be the most God-awful book ever written.

It read like a boring radiology text book with a few characters thrown into the mix. I made every mistake new writers ever make. There were tense changes, no true POV, no uniformity of writing, and too much technical detail and backstory dump. I don't think I even submitted it. Anywhere.

The book no longer exists. It was written in Lotus Works and the floppies aren't compatible with today's technology. No great loss. The plot was dated so it would no longer work anyway. My radiographer still used film screen technology and developed films in the darkroom. Most every hospital and urgent care now uses computed radiography or digital radiography. No film. No darkroom.

My next attempt at writing was a time-travel. Again, the words flew from my fingers and I thought it was brilliant. Until I went back and tried reading it from beginning to end. Ug! That was a painful experience. But at least that story still has potential. So, maybe someday…

Until then, I have other stories both written and yet to be written. I love starting a story. The excitement is still there and the ideas are still flowing. I know how the story starts and I know how I want to end. But getting to the end? Now, that's when the fear sets in.

Once I reach the dreaded sagging middle, I freeze. What if I can't do it? What if I finish and it sucks as badly as that medical romance I wrote in 1996?

When I’m in the editing phase, the hard part is over. The book is finished. And it’s just a matter of fine-tuning and adding emotion to the story. But sometimes, it takes a while to get to that point.

I’m really more of a pantster than a plotter. I always plot a general outline of characters and the basic story premise, but once that's done, I just sit down and write. There's an excitment about getting to The meet. The kiss. The black moment. But that's where the excitement ends for me. I can't seem to move forward. And I have to make myself finish the book. I sit down at the computer and think of all the loose ends I have to tie up in the story before I can reach my happily ever after. Then I think of how long it took to get those first books published, and my mind starts to wander.

Invariably, I start web-surfing. I look for ideas for new stories or read blogs or just waste time on Facebook.
The good news is I'll never run out of story ideas. The bad news is I may never finish the damn book!

I know Out of the Darkness was good. And I know Slightly Tarnished is even better. Reading the final galley on those two books infused me with such pride. I couldn't believe I'd actually written such good books. Seeing the covers for those books and knowing I wrote them should make it easier to write the next book. That's what I always thought would happen anyway. Instead, I see those books and I'm afraid.

From first word put to paper until publication, Out of the Darkness was five years in the making. And Slightly Tarnished? Twelve! It was the third book I ever wrote. It only took a year to write but eleven years to edit to the point where it was publishable. And I think that's the key to my fear.

What if every book I ever write takes that long to publish? I don't think I can be that patient a second time.

Fortuantely, it's nice to know I'm not the only author who feels this way.

Amy Corwin is one of my critique parners. She's a multi-published author who's published Regency romances and paranormal. And she’s soon to publish a mystery but that’s not my story to tell. You can follow her publishing success at:

Amy says, “I can edit with joy. It’s this painful midway-to-the-end that is horrendous re: initial writing. The first few chapters are a breeze. The rest is blood pouring out of my veins.”

I know exactly how she feels!

So, what is your least favorite part about writing? Or, if you’re a reader, what do you most hate to see in a romance story?

Let me know. Maybe it will improve my writing skills and help lesson my pain. Lol!


  1. Ha! Lilly I have to laugh at this. You just described where I'm at with my current WIP. The first four chapters were a breeze. I had fun writing them, playing with the characters. Every chapter after that feels like I'm opening a vein onto the page. It's like pulling teeth to get this book out. Finally I gave myself permission during the holidays to simply not look at the stupid thing. I still haven't gone back yet. I have to write the ending, the last three or four chapters now. And every one scares me to death. It's kind of a relief to read your blog and see that I'm not alone.

  2. I also hear you. I've gotten stuck at times and frozen with fear, have to beg, bribe, threaten, pep talk, you name it to make myself go forward. In my Native American historical romance novel, Through the Fire, I dreaded writing the fort assault scene, a major scenario in the novel. I stalled, whined, put it off, until finally, I had the warrior hero, Shoka, lead the ill at ease heroine, Rebecca, to the edge of the overlook and point down at the fort rising from the clearing below. "There," he said. "Look." It forced me to begin. After that, I was good to go. It's not unusual for me to do something like that when I'm stuck.

  3. Great topic, Lilly, and to one authors can relate. My story is a little different but similar painful writing these days; 1st and 2nd books flowed like molasses with almost no rewrites. Then when they got published, I got the writer's 'how to write' disease; it took me 3 years to get the 3rd book published. The fourth was a bit easier but I still need to block the judge inside of me who now seems to know 'the way to write' and write from joy. Sometimes it works, sometimes it fails and I stare at the page, cringing at my writing!

  4. So glad to know I'm not alone! I never thought of myself as a fearful person before but this writing business is scary. Thanks for sharing, ladies!

  5. The joy and fears of being a writer. Isn't that the truth. I was thrilled to get published and scared shi*less that it won't happen again. There are always doubts in our minds, but like before, we work like mad to get it done - that's just what writers do. Even through rejections happen or we get stuck on our 3rd honeymoon chapter, something good finally comes and helps us along and then we worry about the next book. Great blog, Lilly.

    Dawn Chartier

  6. Lilly, we all have fears and roadblocks in our writing. As Dawn said, most of us struggle through. I love finishing a novel. By then I'm eager to move on to the next one churning in my head.

  7. Thanks Dawn and Caroline. Time to work on that WIP now and try to pretend I fear nothing. lol!

  8. You're not alone, Lilly! The closer I get to the ending of a book, the more I procrastinate. And even when I do finally complete a manuscript, when I get to the very end where I have to do the final proof, I drag my feet again.

    I guess that's why I've had no new releases since 2009. I'm slogging my way through a final proof of my latest novel, and then, I swear, it's off to the editor so I can get back to new stuff.

    And I've already decided to devote 2011 to short stories and novellas. Can't stand the pain of writing another novel right now.

  9. Boy! You hit the nail on the head with this post. I can so relate to what you said.

  10. Sometimes, I think writers all share some sort of genetic coding that makes us the way we are. lol!

  11. As they say--I feel your pain. I'd say LOL but it hurts too much!

    All we can do is keep on writing, even if it's just one freakin' word, tear open another vein, then write the next.

    BTW, I'm waiting for your next chapter!

  12. Thanks for the quote, Amy. And again, congrats on your recent good news!

  13. Oh, yes, lots of fear here. I've finally just adopted a rule that I must turn my editing brain off, stop worrying about whether the book is any good, and just finish the damn thing--otherwise, I'll talk myself into giving up every time!

  14. Linda, Let me know how that works out for you. lol! I get so bogged down in editing mode I sometimes find myself critiquing movie dialogue!

  15. Great blog, Lilly. Knowing such talented writers have doubts and difficulty finding the right words to convey their thoughts makes it easier for those of us who have trouble writing thank you notes, condolences or just thinking of you letters. I often agonize over what for others seems so easy. Thanks. So looking forward to your new release "Slightly Tarnished".

  16. I am a reader, not a writer, but I hate to see in a romance story where the story line just sits out there with no rhytum or reason and doesn't keep me interested from the very first chapter. I do not mine the sexual content if it is pertinate to enhance the storyline. I also enjoy when the author tells about the settings in such a way that I feel I am there beside the characters in the story. Lily does all that and more in OUT OF THE DARKNESS, and I am so excited for Lilly and her new Novel, SLIGHTLY TARNISHED. I am on pins and needles waiting for the release. Kudos to Lilly!

  17. Thanks Anonymous and Becky. Slightly Tarnished is set for release on 6/3/11! I hope you are as excited as I am. lol!