Thursday, March 22, 2012

Embracing Failure

This week the Crows of Doubt have come out in force. I'm smack dab in the middle of my current work-in-progress, sitting at the 40,000 mark. Usually I'm wrapping up a story at this point, and moving into the last chapter or two. Not so this time, because I'm writing something that is bigger than anything I've ever written before.

It's unfamiliar territory. My footing isn't so sure. And right from the start I knew I was going to have to embrace the "write crap" attitude and just get to the end so I can see what I've got. If I worry about things being perfect as I go, I'll never reach the end. I need to reach the end first and then see the work as a whole.

The whole problem in a nutshell is that I'm writing more external plot, more subplots, a bigger cast and about more than just the romantic relationship. Which is exciting and yes, I'm loving exploring the different bits that normally I have to forego in a 50,000 word book that is focused on the romance specifically. The problem for me is cohesiveness, making sure that scenes happen for a reason, that they all tie together in a certain way, in a correctly paced way, so that it all comes together in the end.

Enter crows.

A few nights ago I tweeted the following: The crows of doubt are circling, ya'll. The "why did I ever think I could do this" variety. Sigh.

And it can be tempting to go back to what I'm good at. It's easier. It's COMFORTABLE. But I can't. For a few reasons. First of all, I want to do this. Really, really want it. If I give up, I'll always regret it. I KNOW THIS.

Secondly, I know that the only way through writing difficult books is to just get through them. It's not like each and every Harlequin Romance has been a breeze either.

Then there's the fact that I KNOW I've been keeping an insane pace for several months now and I may just need a day or two off to refill the well.

And perhaps most importantly of all, I know that I'm taking a risk. This book may never ever see store shelves even after I've invested a LOT of time into it. I remind myself that in the "old days" before publication, none of my writing was wasted. I tell this to unpublished writers all the time.  Why should I be any different? If this book doesn't cut it, does that mean it was wasted? Of COURSE not. Because I will have learned something - probably a lot - by writing it. And like before, I just have to try again and keep trying until I get it right. Yes, it's scary because writing a book this size means taking time away from work that guarantees me pay. This is when I have to remind myself that it's OK to embrace failure. It's okay to accept that I might fail at this because that is where the most growth happens.

Oddly enough, and in a rather serendipitous way, my friend Barb Wallace posted on her group blog The Moody Muses that very day. Her post was about the best advice she ever got and it was "Don't compare your journey to anyone else's." SO timely for me. I see huge successes happening all around me and here I am struggling through a book that I am not at all sure about. But they have their journey and I have mine. I tell people all the time that things happen when the time is right. Doctor, heal thyself, right? (In other words, take your own advice, Donna!)

Then yesterday Katy, one of the other Muses, posted this about Failing to Succeed and how we have to be willing to suck in order to get better.

I needed to read those posts pretty badly. And in fact, I felt so much better after that I wrote a LOT of words yesterday. Because the important thing is to just DO IT and not let the fear cripple me into second-guessing every word I put on the page.

In the end, it'll work or it won't. But I KNOW I'll be glad I've done it.

What risk are you taking these days?


  1. Good for you, Donna. Trying something new is always scary...and exciting!

    My biggest risk....I'm entering the Harlequin Romance fast track. It'll be my first submission in quite a while. I'm doing a lot of what you're doing right now...focusing on just getting the words on the page and nothing more. The polish will come later.

  2. Yay Marcy! Good you know I'm rather partial to Harlequin Romance! :-)

  3. Hi Donna:

    Have you already written your ‘stand up and cheer I can’t wait to buy your next book’ ending?

    If you know you have this great ending that if you can just work your way to that you will have a wonderful book, then it makes the dark days along the lonely trail much more hopeful and endurable. There’s nothing like looking up to the top of the mountain and seeing that shining city awaiting you at trail’s end.

    However, if you look up and just see clouds and the ending is a mystery, then you just won’t know if the game is worth the candle. That is not much of a motivator.

    Good luck because I want to see what you do with a longer format.


  4. But I don't know the ending yet! It's the curse of the pantser, I suppose. But I'm okay with that. It's part of my process, and after this many books I've learned to respect that process.

    The good news is I clued in to a key part of my heroine today that is helping a lot.

    I really admire people who can plot and work things out beforehand. There are definitely times I wish I could, but every single time I try I realize I'm horribly, horribly wrong. So I let the story take me where it will!