Friday, July 28, 2017

What is one thing you've failed at before you found success?


Raise your hand if you're jealous of Jill?

Both my hands are sky high over here, by the way.

This weekend Jill's tearing it up, teaching the teen track at Realm Makers, and we're all wishing her a fantastic time. I've told myself for a year that I'll make the two hour drive to Reno and hit this new conference created just for writers of speculative fiction, but life is a crazy thing and I'm not going to make it up the hill. I am however going to make it to my son's football shindig and my twenty year high school reunion.

Twenty years, you guys! I'm feeling a little gray just talking about it. But you know what gray hair means? Oodles and oodles of failures and some successes too.

So let's talk about it.


We talk a lot about the importance of allowing our characters to try and even fail in our stories. What is one thing you've failed at before you found success?



Shannon Dittemore
So many things, really! It’s what makes try/fail cycles so fantastic inside storytelling. Life is full of failures and it’s the getting up and trying again that matters. Angel Eyes had three different prologues at one point. I tried to start the story from inside Marco’s head and then from inside Jake’s head. Neither worked. Neither accomplished what I needed it to accomplish. In the end, the story began with an omniscient narrator. When I finally got it right, I couldn’t imagine it any other way.




Stephanie Morrill
The Lost Girl of Astor Street. I had never written a historical or a mystery, so I was learning two new genres at the same time made for a very messy first draft. My second draft was more like a rewrite, and there were times that I was convinced I would never get the book to a place where I was happy with it. Fortunately, with the help of Roseanna, Shannon, Jill, and my agent, I finally got the story to a good enough place that Blink bought it.




Jill Williamson
I would say writing a book well. As I’ve shared before, I thought my first book was “all that.” But it stank. The idea was good. And I have a gift for natural dialogue, so that was always fairly descent. But I was telling and not showing. And I had no plot. I simply liked to write about the people I’d created, follow them around, get them into trouble (which was good!), but I had very little plan. I must have rewritten The New Recruit three times before I decided what would help was to write book two. So I wrote book two, which had the same characters. It did stretch me a little, since the situation was different, but when I continued to receive rejections on book one, I got frustrated. I wrote some other things. A book about an Inupiat girl moving to the city. A modern-day retelling of Anne of Green Gables with many points of views. A book about a boy escaping a cloning lab. A book about a slave boy who began to hear voices. That last one was the story that became By Darkness Hid, my first published book. And it would be several years before I rewrote The New Recruit again, finally found Spencer’s voice by turning the story to first person, and had the book published. The New Recruit was the first book I started, the book I rewrite more times than any other, and the fifth book I had published. So, don’t give up!

I'm with Jill! DON'T GIVE UP! Failure just means you're trying. And trying hard things is incredibly brave. So, tell us. What is one thing you've failed at? Have you found success in that area yet? Or did that failure spur you into another direction?

17 comments:

  1. I've failed so many million times I don't even know where to start. Of course each failure was tough, but with time, hard work, and patience, and God's mercy, I have always been able to pull through so far and emerge the better for it.

    Right now is actually one of my "failing" points. After two and a half years of planning it, for the past six months I have been trying to begin drafting my enormous epic fantasy novel *The Justice War*. I have completely rewritten the entire beginning - which is tens of thousands of words long - seven times. It's just not turning out. (Today is actually the six-month anniversary of my beginning the first first draft of the beginning of the novel.)

    I've since tried starting the draft by just writing my favourite scenes and working from there. However, this method has not worked because my novel is so meticulously planned that each scene heavily depends on the events that happened before. Without having written the events that come before, I don't have a solid foundation on which to build the middle scenes.

    I've also tried taking a break from my novel. But I'm clearly quite distracted from any other writing I try to do (I miss my novel like a friend when we are separated); what's more, I can't find any inspiration to write anything else.

    What's a writer to do in a mire like this!

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    1. I think you may be struggling to find what your process is or what fits you best. Maybe outlining is holding you back. Some people do better writing out a draft before outlining.

      My process is all over the place that I couldn't even begin to tell you how I do it. I had a post on my blog about it, but soon after, my process for a different book changed. I think as we grow as writers and authors, each book will require something different, process wise. While one novel needs serious outlining and storyworld building, another may need you to just go with a flow. Yet, another may need both.

      It can be very disheartening when you've come so far and worked so hard only to feel like you're getting nowhere. We as writers might also be harder on ourselves and not see that what we're writing is better than we think. Have you tried showing what you have so far to someone else, an outsider opinion?

      iviewrites.blogspot.com

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    2. Don't worry, Hanan Adi. I know that sounds a bit ridiculous, but I can relate to your troubles with epic fantasy. I've been working on my own epic fantasy nove for three (four?) years now, and I still haven't even finished the first draft. I've started it over twice, once when I was already past 100k words, and at the moment I'm rewriting a major section which I messed up pretty badly. For some reason, none of that disheartened me too much--I guess because I just saw most of it as necessary work to make the book good instead of failures that needed correcting. It's good that you keep going, so don't stop.

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    3. I feel your pain. This happens to me a lot, because a first draft is my least favorite stage of writing. I have all these shiny, wonderful ideas in my head, but when I go to put them on paper, words fail me. And I so want to get it right the first time.

      Have you given yourself permission to write a messy draft? Maybe you should just power through, writing every scene you know of until you reach the end. Then and only then give yourself permission to fix it. Having words on paper, even if they're not quality words, is easier to work with than nothing.

      Anyway, that's what works for me. Hope you find your groove soon!

      -Ann

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    4. I think you have to let yourself get to the end. Let yourself write BADLY. It's so hard, I know. But just get it on the page. You can edit it later. WE ALL WRITE BAD FIRST DRAFTS. Count yourself among friends and just get to the end.

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  2. I got three rejections from art school this year so it was quite disheartening to see others in my year move ahead to uni as I was stuck at home, but I did get accepted onto a college course in the same field (after reworking my entire portfolio three times!) Although without this, the prospect of being stuck at home with no income, I would never have pushed to get my novel actually published, and now I'm querying it with agents.

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    1. That's the spirit! Keep on going. I admire your courage and I am rooting for you!

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    2. Ah, that must have been tough. But good for you for sticking with it. Perseverance pays off and makes us stronger, if we can just stick with it. All the best!

      -Ann

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    3. There is always that silver lining, isn't there? Way to keep your chin up.

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  3. My first article attempt for a writer's magazine was an epic fail. I spelled the editor's name wrong. Pitched an article way too short for their needs. Turned out they wanted writers from Canada or subscribers only, which I wasn't. And my article was about nonfiction writing that I had zero credentials for. The real kicker was how much research I put into that submission, just to get everything wrong. :/

    But, even though that piece never got published, the editor did ask me to submit something about fiction writing, which became my first published article. I hope I never forget the grace she showed a little novice like me.

    -Ann

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    1. That's amazing! God was working through the failure to bring about a success. Awesome story.

      iviewrites.blogspot.com

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    2. What a fantastic tale! Proud of you!

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  4. I can't really think of something life changing. But, one thing I remember is actually what started my love of writing. It was a kids and teens website with an area to write stories and comics, almost like a newspaper, but for fun and online. No actual news, just fun stuff.

    I decided to write something. The first story (stories) were awful and rejected. They are cringe-worthy. However, I began to write a story that actually had plot, somewhat likable characters, and a purpose instead of a story that wasn't going anywhere. I was accepted nine times after that. Each short story was a continuation of the last. I also entered a different short story contest on that same website and won twice.

    After that, I began to try to turn the story that was accepted in the first short story thing into a real book. A trilogy. While I don't work on that today, I still have hopes to turn it into something one day.

    I've been writing ever since. Now I can't imagine not being a writer. It would be weird.

    I'll have a more detailed story about all of this August first on my blog if anyone wants to see it. But this is pretty much one thing I failed at and came back out on top.

    God bless y'all.

    iviewrites.blogspot.com

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    1. GOOD JOB! What a glorious try/fail cycle!

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  5. I have a story that's very, very close to my heart. I started it in January of 2015. I've done so many partial rewrites, and two total writes, so...this story is a bit gnarly. I'm finally ironing out the wrinkles, so I'm hoping it works out.

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    1. Crossing my fingers for you! Keep going, girl!

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  6. This is a very encouraging post! I wonder what main POV an epic fantasy series I have in my mind should be. The mentor and guardian watching over and guiding his charge, a young man who is struggling with the fact he is immortal, or the young man himself? Or are these two separate series all together. The immortal I've had in my head forever. The other one just recently and I think they may be combined or they may not be. I will just have to write it out and see what works. I find it comforting you guys have struggled with the same issues. God bless and thanks!

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