Wednesday, June 2, 2010

It don't come easy

I'm lost. That much I know.

<----(This is a picture of me looking lost. Sad, isn't it?)
I spent two-and-a-half long years writing The Devil You Don't Know, and all it's given me so far is form rejections from agents. Sigh. I know I've whined on this blog countless times about how my book sucks, etc.

But really, I'm starting to wonder. Between the form rejections and beta readers just up and disappearing on me (for reals), I'm beginning to think I'm wasting my time. I've started two books since then, and bagged them both. I quit writing the sequel to TDYDK when it became clear that it's very likely the first one will spend eternity on my hard drive. I then started a political thriller, but quit after 20k words because, while I was enjoying it, it felt lightweight. I think I started it for all the wrong reasons -- mainly because I didn't want to have to work as hard on the next one as I had worked on the first.

Bad move on my part.

So when I had a great idea for a big, kick-ass action thriller last week, I spent several days plotting it out, doing an outline and creating a cast of characters. I started writing it over the weekend and really liked the first chapter. A lot.

The second chapter? Meh. Not so much.

Now I'm blocked. I sat for hours today, staring at the screen. And nothing would come. Nothing. Every idea I had to move the story forward seemed dumb. Stupid. Amateurish.

What a stupid fucking way to try to make a living, I decided. And I closed the manuscript and signed on to the Internet. And here I am. Yay me.

I think I'm scared. I remember how much work it was to complete the first novel, and I literally quake at the thought of spending another year or two working that hard ... for nothing.

At least, nothing so far.

I really wish I was one of those confident people who just brush rejection off and keep on going. Sometimes, I think I am. But then days like today come around, and I start to wonder.

At lunch, I cranked up the kitchen radio while I ate my omelet and an old song by Ringo Starr came on. It brought tears to my eyes, which ought to tell you something about my state of mind these days.

Anyway, here's some of the lyrics to "It Don't Come Easy." If you haven't heard it, give it a twirl on YouTube. Ringo was in a band at one time, you know ... ;)

Got to pay your dues
if you wanna sing the blues,
And you know it don't come easy.
You don't have to shout or leap all about,
You can even play them easy.

Open up your heart,
let's come together,
Use a little love
And we will make it work out better

I don't ask for much,
I only want trust,
And you know it don't come easy.
And this love of mine keeps growing all the time,
And you know it don't come easy.

Please remember peace is how we make it,
Here within your reach
If you're big enough to take it.


  1. Those sucky days come and go. Listen, I follow your blog because your posts are real and passionate. You speak clearly and invoke emotions. You're a writer, clear and simple. Don't doubt yourself.

    The words for your new book will flow and you'll break into a rhythm that will have you cranking that baby out and finishing in no time. Every single one us goes through blocks like this (don't listen to anyone who says writer's block doesn't exist).

    Sometimes our muses don't like being hunted down. Sometimes they like to sneak up and ambush us when we least expect it. :D

  2. Hang in there. Seriously. It's all part of the writer's lie. It sucks.

    KEEP sending your queries. Submit chapters of your book to magazines. Send them everywhere. But: don't. give. up. Okay, maybe just for today. Then brush yourself off and get back to it.

    I've been there...and tomorrow is another day!!!

  3. that first sentence, "lie" should be "life." Oops.

  4. Writer's Lie! Can you say Freudian Slip!


    I never even sent out my first book, still haven't. Didn't send out my second one, either.

    I sent out my third a few times -- denied -- and now I'm waiting on a publisher who's reviewing my fourth.

    In the meantime, I'm hacking away at my fifth. After that I have a sixth book already brewing.

    The point is this: Don't get too hung up on one book. Keep writing. Easier said than done, I suppose, but that's all you can do.

    - Eric

  5. Think about what you love the most, what rings the bell inside you, and write about that.

    And it's okay if something feels lightweight at first. Writing is like making an oil painting. You can go back into it and add subplots and details that give it depth. And lightweight can be good, too. Lightweight and sophisticated make a killer combo.

    Never give up! Can you take the bits and pieces of all those new starts and make them into one story?

    I'm never giving up. And neither should you. Take a walk this evening and look at the stars and the moon and feel the magic of this universe, and then go in and start writing.

  6. Don't lose your confidence in your book or yourself, Terry. Remember Ringo's first band? They got turned down by every label in London and one executive privately told Brian Epstein that he should tell them they should get day jobs because they clearly had no talent. My advice to you would be while you're mailing out queries to agents, start learning how to self-publish and promote your writing. If you put the book out yourself, you know you could get local publicity which would lead to sales and then you could send the agents another letter saying, I've done this on my own, imagine if I had a publishing house behind me. Just a thought. Hang in there and keep moving forward!

  7. P.S. Post another photo with a big fat cigar in your teeth, or a giant lollypop. Do it.

    Do you have a writing partner or a writing group? I swap chapters with two people by email, plus share a few pages at a once-a-month writing group. It's a great way to zap the blues.

  8. I've been having one of your days for almost a month now. I'm struggling to keep the faith, my friend. You, however, I'm convinced have a pretty good darn shot at success. Just keep at it.

  9. Emily, Dana & Eric: Thanks guys. I feel a little better after a marathon video game session and some quality time reading Noah Lukeman's "The First Five Pages." Although Lukeman's constant reminders of how easy it is to get rejected can be a bit off-putting.

    I think I've just been a deep funk lately. I'm not sure if it's mental, physical or emotional -- or a combination of all three. But I've just been *blah* lately. I need to pull myself up and get back to it. I know I can do it -- I've done it before.

    Marty: I used the Ringo Starr example with you in mind! Every time I hear them, I think of your story about how they ALMOST didn't make it. Thanks. :)

    Holly: Ha. I don't do lollypops. But I DO love cigars! I'll have to find a picture of me with one. I have some great pix of me smoking away in Mexico a couple of months ago on my laptop. Maybe I'll grab one and post it someday -- just for you! :)

    Anne: E-mail read and answered. Thanks!

    Christi: It occurred to me earlier today that we are going through a similar funk. I don't know about you, but I'M getting damned tired of it. :)

  10. Hang in there. DO NOT GIVE UP. Being a writer is the toughest job EVER. Just pray for the strength to continue.

    Did you know that Jk Rwolings was rejected for YEARS? She was even laughed at by editors and agents. Yeah well, now look at her.

    There is ALWAYS a market. And one day you will find the right agent to help propel you into success. You just have to keep believing that.


  11. Terry, I'm expecting that cigar photo. It'll be a lot better than that mopey-looking mugshot you have up now.

    Writing is for madmen and madwomen. Write what you want to write. Write the kind of book you would absolutely love to read yourself.

    Noah Lukeman has some good things to say, but some of his advice is nutty (send queries by Fedex because agents will open them right away -- no, no, no, they will just think you're an ass), plus Lukeman's agency went poof.

  12. Terry, when you're blocked it's time to do some writing exercises - limber up that part of the brain (bugger, now I have to go look up 'limber' to make sure I didn't misuse the word - eh). I recommend either joining a writer's workshop (forces you to work, but can be expensive) or downloading an audiobook that doubles as a workshop (just make sure you follow along with a pen and paper and DO the exercises).
    I quite like 'To Write is To Know' by Gabriele Rico.
    Do some mind-mapping or riff-writing based on your premise. Sometimes you have to get off the computer and use a pen to spark a different part of your brain into action.
    Don't read too much into Beta-readers dropping off, that happens a lot, people get other things going on in their lives and it rarely has anything to do with the writing.
    I'm sure you can do it, write. And smile :-)

  13. Holy Crap! What happened here? You've got me tearing up. Your face looks so sad and that makes me sad.

    We made a deal, remember?! "Til September, then the conference. "You're killin' me Smalls."

    You ain't givin' up yet. Do you wanna see some seriously bad writing? Go to RITM. I just posted my first chapter. That should make you feel better about yourself. ;)

    Come on buddy, cheer up or stay sad, but don't give up yet. That book is fantastic. I haven't seen your revisions since Piedmont helped you out but you said you loved it. I ass-u-me you came up with an ending?

    E-mail me a big long bitch fest if that will make you feel better. Or better yet, phone a friend. ;) You've got me all flustered here.

  14. Oops sorry about that. I'm signed into the wrong account. It's me Gina. But I'm sure you knew that.

  15. I'm in the same boat. I've written one chapter for my second book, and though I know all the major plot points, I can't seem to get that second chapter going. I remember with the first book how I struggled so long (2 years) to get through 15 chapters, and then how the rest of it (close to 100 chapters) poured out so quickly after that. I think that somehow we just need to get far enough in and then the rest will come. The key may be to truly be in love with the story that you are working on.

  16. Go read Lydia's blog today-it's an awesome reminder that this writing thing is boatloads of effort. Also, I have a story for you. When I was 15 I hurt my knee and had to stop dancing. I was maybe a month away from being able to dance on pointe, and I was crushed that I had to quit-but I couldn't land a jump without pain, and it showed. So I stopped dancing and pursued other arts, but I missed it. A few months shy of 19, I went back to my studio. I saw a physical therapist who helped me strengthen my knee. After a month or two, my teacher said she didn't see any reason why I couldn't dance on pointe. I cried and screamed and jumped up and down. I'd been dreaming of this since I was 3.
    When I got to the store, the girl who waited on me while we waited for the fitter ACTUALLY SAID: "aren't you a little old to be getting your first pair of pointe shoes?"
    I just laughed at her (my mom was ready to claw that kids' eyes out). I didn't care. The first time I went up on my own pair of pointes, I could have died of happiness right there.
    It took me 19 years to get them.
    And every time I don't get something that I've worked my butt off for as quickly as I think I should, I go stare at my first pair of broken, dirty, utterly useless pair of Freed pointe shoes that I danced into the ground.
    You can write, Terry, you can write brilliantly. No amount of rejections is going to change that fact. Persist and win, my friend. Persist and win.

  17. Don't look so sad! We all go through it.

    More advice:

    Skip to a scene you can see in your head and work on that one. Then, if you still can't figure out the missing section, skip to another scene you can see. The scenes you write are probably the interesting parts anyway, and you can go back and fill in the connections.

    Writers write. Period. Published writers accept rejection as a matter of course and write regardless. Some of us for years and years. But hey, what are you going to do with your spare time if you don't write, huh?

  18. Hi Terry, I saw this on Writer's Digest and thought of you...and me...and all of us writers, frankly.

    Mistake 70: Quitting

    Hope it helps!

  19. That's cool you remembered the Beatles story, Terry, it's been an inspiration to me my whole life not to quit and not to listen to closely to criticism and go with your gut. One request: Could you put up a happy photo of yourself today, that picture of you is bumming me out big time!

  20. I like this so-called sad picture. I do believe I see a smile lurking behind those eyes.

  21. Don't go doubting yourself while I'm out of town and not around to give you a verbal pat on the back or kick in the pants ... depending on what kind of mood I'm in that day. :p

    Looks like you're doing better already, so I don't have to worry that I got here too late.