Growth Pain – Even Writers Get Them

The first pang of growth pain that I felt as a writer was with The Runaway Courtesan. For almost four years now, I worked on TRC, and while I revised the story several times, the original structure of the story remained. The very story I wrote at eighteen was the very story I was fixing by the age of twenty-one. It was only a year later that I realized that this was a problem. It’s like a twelve year old trying to squeeze her feet into the shoe that she wore at the age of three. Just as the passing of time made her feet grow, time has made me grow psychologically and intellectually—especially after entering into university.

Somehow I didn’t realize this – trying to squeeze feet into an infant’s shoe – was what I was doing. But it was. I would read over TRC, feel a deep sense of dissatisfaction, but no matter how much I tweaked the story, I would still remain dissatisfied. And yet I remained wilfully blind to the answer of what I had to do with the manuscript.

I love the story; don’t get me wrong—I’ll still cry as I read Amanda and Lucas’ story. And though the second half of the story needs to be worked on I’m happy with it, and it’s most likely because I wrote it when I was older. Others noticed this too. They say the story blooms in part two. But in the first half, there was something about the character’s personalities, their thought process, their belief system….that was somehow immature.

Our Writing Group

It didn’t dawn me until my editor Kerrie told me that a rough draft is a rough draft. A rough draft is getting to know your characters. From there you write from scratch. I’m sure it differs from other writers, especially those who have written several books before and are now able to write a decent first draft. But what Kerrie told me was something I needed to be told. For four years I was clinging onto the words written by an eighteen year old. There were so many memories attached to my original draft that I ignored the obvious: Rewrite. The past agent interested in my work asked me to rewrite. The rewriting I thought I was doing was actually tweaking.

The second pang of growth pain hurt much more than TRC. With TRC I was more excited than agonized by the thought of rewriting. The acknowledgement that I needed to rewrite the first half of the story from scratch was liberating. But this second growth pain occurred recently as I was trying to get back into working on book 2: Fall of the Sparrows.

After two years of studying English Literature, it’s difficult to look at writing the same way. For nine years I’ve loved writing romance. For nine years I’ve loved writing flowery prose. For nine years I’ve loved writing in chronological order. But after reading and falling in love with contemporary lit – I found myself writing the old way that I do while glancing longingly at the writing style that is minimal, “indifferent and impartial” (as Sapphire put it), and a story with a broken timeline, and a romance that doesn’t always work out, or is an un-romanticized romance, or where romance is minimal and the focus is on other issues in humanity.

Not that the said attributes are what constitutes modern literature per se. But, nevertheless, I’m coming to find the qualities of modern/post-modern literature more and more attractive. And this thought frightened the heck out of me for some odd reason. The thought of me departing from the romance genre. The thought of me trying to break away from a writing style that suited me as an eighteen year old. I guess the fear came in part from me questioning myself—if I could actually succeed in this different realm of writing.

But I’m all good now. I think I was doubting myself because I hadn’t been writing for so long because of school. Now that I started writing again, the question of how I’m to write  doesn’t matter so much anymore, but rather, my focus has returned to: I love writing so much that as long as I can write and share my story that’s all that really matters in the end.

But.

There is one thing that has not changed in the nine years of writing.

My love for writing about history.

I once told my mom that I would never stop writing stories set in England’s past. Maybe one day I’ll write about Canada’s past. Or some other country’s past. But the past… There’s just something about history that makes my heart beat madly against my chest. Not the history of events per se, but the history of people. A history of people making decisions. A history of people rising and falling. A history of people fighting, loving and dying. Maybe it’s the fascination for people who thought so differently to us—and yet, at the same time, knowing that human nature has remained pretty much the same. Or maybe it’s this feeling of detachment, history being forever lost to us, and yet, at the same time, engraved within us—and therefore allowing myself to tell a story less restricted within my awareness of the present cultural context. I don’t know. I’m not even sure if I’m making sense. I guess it all comes down to: The past is always so much more romantic.

Dear Readers, What has and has not changed for you as a writer?

Listening to:

Here are some of the tweets/FB updates to summarize why I was not updating my blog for the past while:

Stephen Dedalus from ‘A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST…” always seems like he’s high on drugs.

I need to sleep so I stop missing classes. So my hand automatically picks up PORTAITS OF A YOUNG ARTIST. Hmm…

ugh, just finished my european history paper. Just brutal. Let me say that I’m doneee with feminism

Another successful all nighter. Am now at Starbucks #amwriting in my journal before working on history paper # 2

I am so burnt out. Mention the name “James Joyce” and I’ll burst into tears!

Looking over history lecture notes. Can you find where my mind (half-asleep) began to think about creative writng?: “…who controls the land, had existed even before 1663, under their part, land divided up as small plots, until he realizes the he has captured beauty…”

Faulk it, I’m not reading William Faulkner ‘Sound and the Fury’.

Discovering so many stirring assertions while doing my readings: “…men were born free yet everywhere they are in chains.” -Rousseau

Dear Rebecca Black, please make a song about TUESDAY! While Friday is a day of partying, Tuesday is the day of liberation. Why? Because that’s when I finish my last exam. Woooooo

Advertisements

13 Comments

Filed under Be Still My Heart (retitled: Fall of the Sparrows), Editing, The Runaway Courtesan, Writing

13 responses to “Growth Pain – Even Writers Get Them

  1. June, you amaze me. This time for you is one necessarily of growth, and you will continue to grow. You are learning such wisdom at such a young age, though. It leaves me in amazement to think what you will be five, ten years from now. I had to learn this too. And really rather recently. Over the last two years, I’ve had to completely rewrite and re-vision both of my completed MSS. I’m reluctant to think I may have to do it with the third, hoping I’ve matured enough that it won’t require it. But it might. And if it does, I know now I can do it. You’re such an amazing talent, and I appreciate your honesty. Your fans and your friends find it inspiring.

    Press forward.

    Like

    • Aw, thanks Val : ) I always loved working with you when we were working on TRC. I think that was the toughest toughest toughest time that you helped me get through. Now I’m pretty stable with where I’m at as a writer and with TRC because of that phase. I remember I’d flood your inbox with emails of self-doubt lol. But I know I’ve grown and I know it’s time to update the story now.

      Ahhhh I’m really so excited to start reading The Cry of the Peacock. I don’t even know which MSS it’s a rewrite of. Of M&B? Or is it a totally new story? Or maybe I should just email this question to you haha. But yah. Man. When you were going through this discovery where was I?!!?! Studying. Ugh. But I wish I’d been able to follow you in real-time this growth you went through.

      You were an awesome writer when I first began reading your work. I’m curious to read CotP and see what has changed in your writing or in the way you execute a story.

      Like

      • ok i just visited your website. so CotP is NOT an M$B rewrite haha. My bad!

        Like

      • No, it’s not M&B, but I only knew what I needed to do to it because I had rewritten Of Moths and Butterflies, which rewrite you read. So there’ll probably be some similarities. At least I’m told I have a recognizable plot structure. It was Kentridge Hall. I renamed it, and all the characters, and started pretty much from scratch. The opening scene is nearly the same as what I had when it was up on authonomy, but from there, it changes a lot.

        For me it was about learning to focus, to really understand how to drive a character through motivation. Not my motivation, but there’s, which is scary because then you open the door to allowing them to make decisions and have feelings you hadn’t planned on.

        The frustrating thing about having so many books, is that by the time I’ve gotten through one revision, I’ve grown so much as a writer, I doubt (and often with good reason) that the others are up to par. So now I’m getting ready to go back through Moths again. *sigh*

        Like

  2. Aww, you had a rough semester *nods* so I completely understand. But this is one amazing post though, and I’m so happy for you! ❤
    (Now I'm tempted to do a whole blog entry on this.)

    At the moment, I'm just excited to be writing. It was not until I really started reworking "The Highwaymen" and starting "Night Star" that I got so excited I decided – I want to keep doing this. Especially "the Highwaymen" – like you, I also grew up with it, and now I'm reworking the problems I had in the past. I've learned to scrap certain plot irrelevances, to flesh out characters, and focus on effective prose that actually tell a story (as opposed to just sounding "smart"). The biggest thing for me now is making connections – playing with character dynamics and plot complications to drive the story forward. I've always known I loved writing, but this year I've realized even more *why* I love writing so much. It transforms and gives things meaning.

    Like

    • it’s kinda sad i find that while the first manuscript may be our first love it isn’t always the first book to get published.

      i know you don’t write in chronological order and so i wonder if that somehow contributes to the character dynamic mainly. Because writing chronologically allows you to grow with the character emotionally and mentally. to write a linear growth i guess? do you find it possible to still develop the character while not writing chronologically? i’ve always been wondering…. because you’re not the only writer who writes in this style

      Like

      • That’s n interesting question…I’ve never had a full-length critique (like you with Kerrie) so I don’t really have an outsider’s view on how well my characters develop. I like to plan out my characters in my head, usually with the end first, because only then can I know how they progress towards *that* end. I find that helps me stay on track with character development.

        Usually, I start with the beginning, the end, and then work somewhat chronologically towards the end. (I think) my characters grow through a mix of pre-planning and loosely chronological development.

        Like

      • Ah hah, I see I see. That sounds like a good technique to go by. It’s like creating a map for the character development. And then you can edit chronologically when you finish the first draft so I guess it’s actually not that big of an issue. Rough draft is just to get the story down in the first place, after all.

        Like

  3. I totally hear you about growing pains (in any field) — they’re inevitable. Being able to recognize them as such and let them take their course ot make us better at what we do is the beginning. Good luck with the changes to TRC, June!

    As for writing about history, my stories are all set in history, too. So, I know exactly what you mean :).

    Like

    • I was able to relax a bit realizing just what you mentioned–recognizing the growth and to allow that growth to take its course. It’s natural. And yet at first I tried so hard to repress the growth. Change is intimidating, but it must be embraced *sigh*

      Like

  4. Cristina

    … indeed you have been growing, my little sister. i, too, am reminded of this about you. sometimes, i see you as a little girl still. and then, i realize how beautifully you’ve blossomed. there’s more to come, my dear friend. and, i’m excited to see where you’ll be in the next five years…

    Like

  5. June! I hear you. I so hear you. It’s one of the most rewarding but most difficult things–knowing you’ve grown past what you thought you were capable of. And then rethinking what that means for you as a writer…and for what you’ve written and will write. You know what the crazy thing is? I bet you never outgrow growth pains. I bet you just keep growing and it never gets any easier–and you know? That’s actually pretty fantastic!

    Hope you’re doing well!!

    Like

  6. Caroline

    Those are some hilarious tweets, June.
    You’ve pretty much captured why I love modern literature as well. Whatever you read, you’ll probably get a sense of historical context in the work whether it be from a single story’s plot development or as a development in the literary canon… but when I studied Canadian literature (and Am lit), I strongly got a sense of narrative and its interaction with Canadian historical context and its emphasis on issues of identity, multiculturalism, etc. I really suggest you take a Can lit course! Especially as it’s our native literature, the historical aspects and relation to Canadian identity is really explored thoroughly.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s