Tuesday, November 22, 2011

When You're Down on Your Writing

In case you missed my article yesterday, I won Nano and finished the rough draft of my book, Fierce. Wihoo!

I’ve mentioned already that I’m doubtful of its salability (not its quality, mind you). While writing the rough draft, this killed my desire to continue.

With the help of my readers, I keep reminding myself that if I believe this strongly in the story, it deserves to be written. If I drop this project, no matter what happens, I’ll regret it.

I had this problem with Sacred Fire. It wasn’t as bad, though, because I always believed Sacred Fire would be my debut novel. I was in two large critique groups in college, and I got overwhelming negative criticism. Mostly we haggled over historical accuracy. 

“Surely the Romans didn’t care that much about their gods,” they would say, or “The gods were so flawed, the Romans couldn’t have respected them.” (This comment was in reference to Greek religion.)

And, of course, “The Romans were immoral. Their culture was based on sex, violence, and corruption. This book doesn’t depict them as they actually were.” I wanted to say, What’s the source of your research? Gladiator? HBO?

One comment stands out to me as the most hurtful and frustrating of all:

In the first draft, Tuccia (my main character) was bitter and rebellious. In the end she made peace with her doubt in the gods and became faithful and dedicated. Readers hated this. Everyone wanted her to be rebellious to the end. Click here to see why that’s a terrible idea.

A girl spoke up and said, “I can see how this could work. The story could be a tragedy that ends with her being brainwashed.”

My jaw dropped. Could no one relate to a Roman who cared about her religion?

My greatest driving force was the purpose of the book. I’ve mentioned before that when you start a novel, it’s helpful to write a few pages on why you want to write it. I wanted to be the first person in literature to stand up for the Romans. Their culture had a lot of good in it and they deserve to be represented the way I feel they were. Billions of human beings have had their memory soiled, and it isn’t fair to them.

I would actually visualize myself going to heaven and being applauded by the Romans. It’s silly, I know, but it kept me going. I tried to write a book a Roman would like and I can’t help hoping some of them are up there reading it.

The purpose of my Amazon book is to write a commentary on the gender wars we experience today. The legend of the Amazons is more or less an analogy. I have three main characters; one demonstrates the consequences of male hostility, another demonstrates the consequences of female hostility, and the other represents the benefits of the two genders getting along.

Another thing that kept me going while I worked on Sacred Fire was the book itself. When I felt down, I would look at what I’d already written. I loved reading it, and I believed if I loved it so much, someone else would too.

What should I do now that I’m done with the rough draft of Fierce?

I could start researching for my next historical novel – the voodoo one, or Joan of Arc? I guess while I’m doing research, I can work on revising one of my Nano books – the ghost story, or the Amazon book? I just don’t know.

There’s not enough time in the day.


  1. Your own candor about your struggles is inspirational. It is so easy for us to get down on ourselves and our work, especially when there's always more to be done.

  2. My research has shown that the Romans were an intensely religious people. They were also very tolerant of other religions provided they were ancient enough, which was why they tolerated the religions of the Hebrews and Egyptians. Anyone who doesn't understand this should stroll through the Pantheon in Rome, the only intact building left from Imperial days. This structure was dedicated to the gods of all religions. Ironically, the only religion I've found that the Romans wouldn't tolerate was that of the Druids because the Romans abhorred human sacrifice.

    I'm certain your creative muse will point you in the right direction for your next project.

  3. You're right...there's not enough time a day...just keep plugging along, doing what you love. :)

  4. I'm curious to read Sacred Fire now.

    I have always felt frustrated that it seems like every book is about someone wising up and leaving religion and only dumb people stay with it.

    I've been waiting for a book where the character's journey leads them deeper into religion instead of away from it.

    There's all kinds of people in the world and some find important parts of life in the spiritual, regardless of what religion it is.

    1. Amen! I have the same reaction. And I honestly believe there are a lot of people out there with a similar view, people who recognize the complexities of faith and would like to read stories that reflect that complexity without rejecting the faith.

  5. That's a huge compliment, Ruth! I hope you get the chance to read it soon.

  6. I don't think you should limit what you do on what might happen. Do what you love until you don't love it anymore.

    If you love your story, work on it.

    If (when, I should say) you get Sacred Fire published, and if you still love your other stories that aren't historical fiction, keep at it.

    I doubt, and this may be conjecture, that if you write a non-genre story that is amazing that it would hurt you.

  7. Hi, my name's Katie. I'm a fairly new blogger, and came across yours. It's great! Good for you--an historical novel? I give you props. That is very difficult stuff.

    I liked this post, because I think all writers can identify. I'm working through a third revision of my novel now, and on a daily basis I ask myself if it's worth it to continue. I always conclude, that yes, it is. But it's an awful long journey, isn't it?

    Again, great blog. I'll be sure to keep coming back!



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