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Progress, or Not October 15, 2008

Posted by LHK in writing craft.

I’ve been trying to stay away from my novel for the last few weeks. Now I’m getting the shakes.

No matter what else I do, and how much progress I make in other areas of my writing life, I don’t think I’ll be able to feel accomplished until I get the novel out of lack-of-suitable-character-arc limbo. The sad thing is, I have made good progress in other areas that I should be celebrating — two short stories submitted recently, and three first drafts of totally new pieces finished over the weekend. That’s good! But it’s a bit like how I felt during my junior year of college when I had A’s in all my classes except my Faulkner class. Faulkner! Who I’d read and studied and emulated (badly) and memorized and cried over for years before that class ever showed up on my schedule. And I was doing well in the class up until the final exam. I got the flu that week, and I’m certain that anyone who touched my exam book likely got the flu as well, considering how much I coughed and snotted over it during the three-hour exam period. (My apologies.) It hurt. I was trying to write an essay about Jewel and the horse in As I Lay Dying, and all I could do was work myself into dizzy spells with the phrase “Jewel’s mother is a horse” careening on a loop in my head.

It hurt.

It hurts to love something that much and know something so well and not be able to prove any of that when it really matters. It hurts the same way with the novel because I feel like I could stand up right now and give a talk called “From Forever to Alaska: The Evolution of Language and Life in the Young Adult Novel,” but I can’t bring together the working pieces of my own manuscript into something that can survive on its own.

Are there therapists for frustrated writers? Is this the point at which some people dig into their bank accounts and hire freelance editors? I don’t want anybody who talks the loopy talk about unblocking your creative self, and I don’t want anyone to recommend a course in The Artist’s Way. I’ve thought about starting the search for a critique group, but I’m not sure if I can make the time investment it would take to find a group where the members really understand YA fiction. What would be ideal is a critique partner who’s at nearly the same point in his or her manuscript that I’m at in mine. I know that folks usually find these mythical critique partners on this here Internet, but I’ve spent so many months trying to detach myself from the Internet in order to progress on my writing that I haven’t made many connections among other YA writers.

Still, I look at acknowledgment pages in published novels and marvel at how people are able to acquire that sort of support network for their writing. Am I simply not recognizing the opportunities I’ve had to connect with people and ask for help? I will say that I’ve got plenty of first readers / beta readers lined up for whenever I have the just-about-polished manuscript ready, but I don’t think it’s fair to foist a broken manuscript upon those same people.

I guess the novel hiatus continues. I’m just too worked-up about its state of unfinishedness to try to dive back into it this week.



1. burningsteady - October 16, 2008

You know what could help? AWP in February. (;

(You know I’m totally determined to get you to go, and I’ll pester you every year until it happens, right?)

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