Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Back in the Saddle Again

by Robison Wells

I mentioned last week that I've started writing again. And, man, I forgot what a pain in the neck it is.

For those of you who have arrived late to the party, here's the situation: I've published three novels, and I've written a handful of other, unpublished (crappy) books. Then, sometime last year, I decided to go back to school--I'm at BYU getting an MBA in marketing. (And, if you're not familiar with a fulltime MBA, it's a little like the MTC: you don't get out of your chair, let alone leave the room, for fourteen hours a day. When you finally leave, you go somewhere to study. Then, you sleep for three hours, and then you have a breakfast of Coke and toast, and start it all over again.) (Ok, so you don’t drink Coke in the MTC. And, in business school we have yet to ride a mattress down the stairs like a sled.) Anyway, I talked to my publisher and told them that I was taking a hiatus.

But, school is out and I don’t leave for Minnesota until May 28th, so I’ve been writing again. And it’s a beautiful blend of awesome and awful.

When I sit down to write, no matter where I am in the story, it usually takes me about an hour of crappy lousiness before I get in the groove. If you translate that to the big scale, and realize that I haven’t been writing anything fictional (except for accounting papers) for a year, the last three weeks have produced some absolutely terrible writing.

And on top of being out of the writing habit, I’m trying something entirely new with this book: it’s in third person, whereas all my other books have been in first—and I don’t know how to write in third person. Also: the main character is a girl, and I don’t know how to write girls. Also: third person doesn’t lend itself to humor as much as first person, so there’s not as much of that in there. In other words, I’m writing a detached, unfunny, girl book.

One nice thing, however, is that I am once again in a writing group. So, now when I don’t know what I’m doing, people tell me in no uncertain terms. For example, when I presented a chapter from this book wherein the female lead was accosted by a devious villain, my writing group replied with: “Man, this sucks.” Of course, they were right, and their comments were helpful. (And I got my revenge when I told Annette Lyon that her chapter was not only unfunny, but egregiously unfunny.)

One thing about the writing group surprises me, though: it scares me to death. Here I am a member of the LDS-writing glitterati, thrice published, and recipient of multitudes of fan mail. And yet, whenever I’m sitting around that kitchen table, reading my new chapter out loud, it freaks me right the heck out. This is not because my writing group is mean and awful. It’s because, despite writing credits, I’m terrified that what I’ve written is bad. Yesterday, Jeff mentioned how most authors grew up as shy kids, and that deep down we’re all still afraid of rejection.

Here’s a quote, which is taken from my personal blog, written on July 5, 2005:

As advertised, I write books. Not only have I written books in the past, but I write books in the present, as well. It's an important distinction, because I've spent the last year and a half wondering whether I am simply a has-been. This recent project has taken at least twice as long as any of the others, and has undergone something like eleven complete rewrites -- many of them voluntary, and one of them due to a crashed hard-drive.

I honestly got to the point with this thing where I began to question my ability to even complete a book, let alone make it good.

That’s exactly how I feel right now. That blog was two and a half years ago, and was referring to me sending The Counterfeit in to my editor. And that book sold well and was, I think, my best so far. But I’m still feeling that same sense of dread: what if I just can’t do it again? What if it’s been too long and I just can’t figure it all out anymore? What if that was all I had in me?

Well, this blog certainly got a little more introspective than I originally intended. With any luck, I’ll quote this post a year or two from now when I’m starting the next book and this one is just a pleasant memory.

And, no matter what happens, at least my book won’t be as egregiously unfunny as Annette’s. I mean, holy lame.


At 5/13/2008 6:42 PM, Blogger Annette Lyon said...

First off, you're forgetting the order of things. Tearing your chapter apart was revenge for calling my scene egregiously unfunny the week efore. (Okay, fine. You were right; it was pathetic. Dangit.)

Second, I can't imagine what it would be like to have ever had an hour to warm up with writing. Maybe some day when all the kids are in school I'll have the luxury to find out.

Third, whatever. You're freakin talented and couldn't write drivel if you tried. And if I'm being honest, having you join the group was a bit intimidating for ME.

Glad you're in the saddle again. Stop questioning yourself and get crackin' on that book or I'll have Jeff dump a bunch of water balloons on YOUR head. :D

At 5/13/2008 8:16 PM, Blogger Matthew Buckley said...

"a detached, unfunny, girl book." Dude, you nailed the blurb for the back of the book.

After witnessing your writers group at the LDStorymakers conference, I would kill to get in that group. Really, who don't you want there, I'll 'take them out' and take their place. Really, that group is awesome.

But I'm right there with you. I've never had any formal training in writing past English 101 in college. I know that deep down, somewhere, somebody is going to stand up and yell at me, "no-talent poser!".

Good luck with the book, I'm excited to read it.

At 5/14/2008 12:32 PM, Blogger J Scott Savage said...

Yep. They are a great group. They have definitely helped me a lot. But they scared the heck out of me when I first started coming.

Rob, your writing is great. I think it's like starting running after stopping for the winter. It takes a while to get into the groove again. But once you do it's much smoother sailing.

At 5/15/2008 1:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good news indeed!
I read two of your books this month and have the third waiting in the wings - I am so glad to know there will be more! ...It's about time!

At 5/15/2008 11:46 AM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

Rob, please paste this quote from Robert Hughes on your laptop:


Having worked with dozens and dozens (and dozens) of people as an editor and ghostwriter, I can assure you that this does indeed appear to be the case. No worries, Buddy. You have the force. Use it.

At 5/15/2008 12:58 PM, Blogger Don said...

I like the post, Rob (and great quote, Kerry).

It's good to know that those who's work I appreciate and enjoy have some of the same problems I do - namely reading my stuff aloud and finding it "freaks me right the heck out."

Thank heaven for writers groups. I'm going to my first group meeting tonight, praying I'll have the courage to make it past the door. If they're half as supportive as your group, I'm sure I'll wonder why I was so apprehensive.

At 5/16/2008 3:58 PM, Blogger Heather B. Moore said...

Rob, stop being a whiner and get to work!


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