Wrestling Doubt: An Intervention

Some days I think that I shouldn’t post anything about potential new WIPs on this blog until I can be certain I’ll stick with them. Some days I think talking about new story ideas is the way to get myself to stick with them. Sometimes I’m certain that my new MS is going to be the best thing I’ve done to date, and other times I know that it’s the worst.

Most of the writers I know (myself included) doubt themselves more than anyone else doubts them. And though doubt and criticism are totally different monsters, they’re equally insidious and equally damaging. Doubt is the voice in your head that whispers, “Why bother? Nobody’s going to read this. Nobody gives a damn. You’re talentless. Why are you wasting your time? Find a different pursuit. You’ll be so much better off.” Everyone has this voice in their head. Everyone struggles with whether to listen to doubt, or give doubt a good kick in the pants and get back to work.

For most of the last month that’s where I’ve been. Going around and around in circles over whether I’m doing the right thing for my self, or my sanity, or my writing. Maybe I should take a break. Try harder. Go back to this one story. Start a new one. The inability to trust your own decisions-making process is the most obvious of doubt’s side effects–and the one that seems to go most often unsaid.

Right now I’m doing as thorough an edit on “Facing the Music” as I can manage by myself. Then, when it’s mostly ready, I’ll start sending it to my CPs and getting their feedback. Those are all good things. But even though I’m still making progress on that MS, my writing itself has suffered. And that’s because I’ve changed my mind about what my next story should be about three times now.

First I was working on Amnesia Conspiracy: version 1. Then I realized that version 1 had no plot and moved on to version 2. Version 2 had no compelling characters. I shelved the story temporarily because I recognized that I was trying to do to much with it. Okay. For the last two months I’ve been vigorously brainstorming and outlining a new MS with the working title The Mystery Musician. I was super excited about this story and super thrilled to write it. But now that I’ve started writing it, I’m mired down by concerns that The Mystery Musician and “Facing the Music” have too much in common. That they’re too similar at their heart for me to work on so close together.

Just when I’d been debating whether to set that MS aside and work on something entirely different, what starts writing itself in my head after months of dragging its heels? If you guessed Amnesia Conspiracy: version 3, you’d be correct.

It’s a vicious cycle, and not breaking it cripples your confidence and your desire to produce. I don’t want that. I don’t want to be putting off sitting down at my computer or coming up with not-so-great reasons to abandon my writing. I don’t want to listen to doubt when I should be listening to the characters whose story I’m trying to tell.

This is my promise to myself. I’m going to quit making excuses. I’m going to make the time. I’m going to pick a MS and stick with it until I’ve finished or moved onto something else for better reasons than my own paralyzing insecurity.

I might not ever win the battle against doubt. But I am going to win the upper hand.

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Book Review #26: The Night Shift

The Night Shift by Lilith Saintcrow

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Having already read and loved Lilith Saintcrow’s “Dante Valentine” stories, I was super eager to tackle her next urban fantasy series. And “Night Shift,” the first book in the Jill Kismet series, did not disappoint.

Jill is a Hunter, one of an elite group that works closely with law enforcement to keep the creatures of the ‘Nightside’ under control. Still adrift over the recent loss of her mentor, she ends up working with a mixture of old friends and new faces when a series of brutal murders rock her city.

Saintcrow builds damaged, ass-kicking female characters and realistic but off-color worlds like few urban fantasy authors I’ve read. Some of the most interesting parts of the story for me involved the small glimpses of Jill’s past that are revealed during her more vulnerable moments. Her relationship with her former mentor and her conflicted feelings about his death given the massive role he played in her personal history have shaped her so much that I hope those arcs are explored further in later books.

Generic UF similarities aside, Jill’s world is a vastly different place from Dante’s, and I have a ton of respect for the author and her ability to carry that off. I got the impression that the version of America that Jill lives in isn’t so different from ours except for the existence of nightside beings, and I’m eager to see if it stays that way.

I loved the taste of romance that “Night Shift” contained, while also appreciating how little Jill’s growing feelings for the LI compromised her murder investigation. That said, I think these two characters made a fantastic and fascinating team, and I’m eager to see where their relationship grows in later books.

That said, the story remains very dark, although the devil’s mostly in the details. Saintcrow managed to make me shudder without having to specify too much or delve too deep. The killers that Jill and her team are hunting are horribly brutal, but by the end of the story I pitied them more than I hated them. It’s rare that the first book in a series can make me ache for characters I didn’t feel I was supposed to like.

The rest of the series is in my possession, so I’ll be getting to it in stages. Being hooked this early on feels like a pretty good sign though.

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Celebrating Accomplishments & Setting Goals

About six hours before midnight on December 31st, I was struck by a fresh wave of optimism upon remembering that 2014 was right around the corner. New Year’s Eve for me is usually a time to catch up with friends, eat a bunch of so delightfully rich but oh so bad for you food, and toast the start of something new. I’m not in the habit of attaching symbolic resonance to the holiday, but this year the whole ‘ring out the old and ring in the new’ attitude really hit home for me.

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m ready to leave 2013 behind. Mentally, emotionally, financially, and creatively this has been one of the most challenging years of my life. Maybe it’s the post graduation blues, the struggle to carve out some space for myself as an adult and a functioning member of society, while attempting to stay on top of the many activities I enjoy. Whatever the reason, I’ll be hoping for a little more stability and A LOT more happiness from 2014.

Because I’d prefer not to start the New Year as a Debbie Downer, here’s a short list of things I accomplished (or consider to be accomplishments) in 2013:

1. Found full-time work that I enjoy in a place where I already know a bunch of awesome people

2. Moved into a new place with my lovely boyfriend and discovered that we make just as good of a team as roommates as we do a couple

3. Became a member of the CS and found a phenomenal group of critique partners-turned new writer friends

4. Took control over my health and began working to get it back on track

5. Finished a complete rewrite of my manuscript FACING THE MUSIC

All of these successes are a big deal to me, and I’m proud of how hard I worked for each of them. That said, there are so many goals I wish to accomplish in 2014, and so many more things I’d like to do. Here’s that list:

1. Sign with a literary agent. I’ve been out of the querying game long enough, and it’s time to polish a manuscript (probably FACING THE MUSIC at this point) and jump back in.

2. Finish writing something else. Last year was a super slow writing year for me. I’d love to complete at least one new manuscript in 2014. Two would be icing on the cake!

3. Establish a routine for working out and stick with it. Not because of any specific weight loss goals, but because I always feel better when I’m getting some exercise and being more active.

4. Take a trip. Hell, take several. I miss traveling, and I’m starting to creep toward that point where money and time aren’t too big of issues. There’s no excuse for my sitting around.

5. Do a better job keeping in touch with people. More calling, texting, Facebook messaging, Tweeting, chatting.

6. Read more books, play more music, learn more, do more, see more.

Are you eager for the start of a new year? What are your resolutions, if you’ve made any? What would you like to accomplish this year? No matter what your plans are or whether you’ve made them at all, here’s hoping for bigger and better things in 2014!