Z is for… Zenith & Zeal

Well, I made it. We made it! Well done. We have finally reached Z, the zenith, the pinnacle, the summit, the climax of this a to z blog challenge. Hazaar!

For the whole month of April, bloggers everywhere  have dedicated their time to writing a daily blog and if I’m honest, I wondered if I’d have the staying power to see it through to the end. I wondered if I’d actually find something to write about for each letter of the alphabet pertaining to my WIP ‘Prophecy of Innocence’ but it turns out actually I could. Who’d have thought heh?

I guess though, when you have spent two and a half years submersed in something, it becomes such an integrated part of you, it becomes second nature to talk/write about it.

I thought I’d reached the zenith of my work in January. I really thought I’d done with it – this time. It was as good as it was going to get, wasn’t it? But as you will know if you read my D is for depth post, I discovered a lot more work needed doing if a publisher is going to take it on.

As a result I recently re-worked the prologue and the first five chapters (originally three chapters) which the publisher had seen and then asked some people if they’d mind beta-reading it for me. Six great people volunteered and then of course as soon as I email them I think of things which could be better and find things which need altering and so now those people have one version and I have the slightly altered version, and they’ve only had it a week so they have had no chance to even give me their thoughts before I’m tweaking! I need to leave it alone and wait for feedback because I will only have to change things again based on what they might say.

Anyway, this is where we come to the zeal part of today’s post.

The one thing taking part in this blog challenge has done for me personally is help me to renew some zeal for my WIP. It has forced me to look at the whole thing through fresh eyes which is why I am forever tinkering with it. Also because writing about the different characters and places and other things related to the story reminds me of my love for what I’ve managed to create in my mind. However mad-cap it all seems. I found every time I wrote one of these blog posts I had more enthusiasm for sitting back down and editing and re-writing parts which I knew didn’t cut the mustard. I would suddenly have light-bulb moments over certain things whilst writing blog posts. Yes my zeal was real. I had a renewed passion for my story… that was until last night .

I know exactly what caused my fear and sudden lack of zeal and it goes like this.

I was reading a bedtime story to my little boy. Something I do every night, so why last night should be any different I don’t know. Anyhow, I was reading the book and doing the character voices, as one does, when it suddenly occurred to me that, as my book is for children, albeit older children, then it is possible it will be read aloud to children so I figured I should read it a loud and see how it sounds. (I have done this when drafting earlier versions for proofing but that was a while ago.)

And therein lay the problem. It (okay I’ve only done the prologue so far) sounds…well, crap for want of a better word. I couldn’t hear, out loud, what I’d written in my head.  I couldn’t hear the character’s voices. The ones I can clearly hear in my head when I’m writing. Out loud they sounded like me on a bad day and this is not because I am  a monotonous reader. It’s always been the one thing I enjoy and have always been good at in  my job teaching; reading a story to the kids. But uurggghhh. Mine sounds awful and the worst thing is I don’t know how to fix it. I really don’t. It sounded bland and flat and well to me just uuuurgghhh.

So after having a whole month of feeling fairly positive, upbeat and, yes even zealous, about my work I now, as we have drawn to the end of this blog challenge, loathe it. I don’t feel my writing is good enough for children, or anyone actually. I also now have six people who are in receipt of the first few chapters and I’m cringing. I didn’t give it them expecting rave reviews. Far from it, I  know there’s stuff wrong with it but it’s now a case of not been able to see the wood for the trees. I needed others to see it to help me see where I can improve or more importantly for me how I can improve. I’m not scared of constructive criticism. I just feel embarrassed by what I’ve given to people. Some have shown interest in it purely through this blog challenge and so I feel I have let them down as it won’t live up to their expectations.

They hear my voice on this blog and probably and rightly expect the same in my fiction. But I’ve discovered, my voice is here on my blog but not in my WIP.. This is me talking. Writing a piece of fantasy fiction and writing it well is an altogether different skill and one , it may be time for me to admit, I’m not really cut out for. At least not yet.

So the upshot is, I think I might just go and hide away under a rock, or possibly even down in the depths of Trelflande for a few months/years until, hopefully, the great people who have any version of my WIP (as there are a few versions floating around with different people) forget they have it in their possession and until such a time as I’ve learned how to craft a story properly.

Not quite the tone I was wished to end my challenge on, but there you have it. If you set about something in the unplanned spontaneous fashion I do most things (i.e this challenge, and my WIP) it’s never going to follow a straightforward path is it? (I would like to point out that this fear/self doubt, whatever you wish to term it, is all part of the writing life cycle. I cannot honestly see myself jacking it all in, even if I feel like it right at this moment, I’m just writing what I feel now.)

However, I am pleased to have taken part in the challenge. I am glad to have made it to the finish line. It does feel like an achievement. I’m also happy to have taken part for the following reasons:

1) It’s been fun to delve into my WIP and, when I’ve had a little break from it and hopefully had some feedback and done some more writing practice, I can take all these posts and listen to my own advice!

2) I’ve come across some great new blogs to follow, so that’s great. 🙂

and

3) I have mostly enjoyed a daily read over at Graham Milne’s blog : Find it here. It is awesome. Graham was actually the exact opposite to me and planned his A-Z challenge out! A true pro. It has been a total joy to read his posts, each one a song which he has linked to a story about his life. If you haven’t checked it out I highly recommend you do. His writing is sublime and real. But I’ll warn you now to take a box of tissues with you, because some of them are just beautiful and unless you are made of ice you will shed a tear or two. So go now and read if you’ve missed out. For shame.

Finally I’d like to thank all of you who have taken the time to read my ramblings, which were not at all planned. I’d particularly like to say thanks to those  of you who have commented with sound advice and  words of support and encouragement. It’s weird to think  that people actually read this stuff, so thank you.

And now I’m off to sleep.  Regular service will be resumed in due course.

Closedown.

Zzzzzzzzzzzzz .

10 Comments

Filed under Editing, General Rambliings, Proofreading, Writing

10 responses to “Z is for… Zenith & Zeal

  1. As far as I know there is only one person alive who doesn’t think his writing is terrible, and that’s Jonathan Franzen, and none of us wants to be like him, so insufferably superior about the supremacy of our talent that we annoy everyone within earshot. We have all been there, every single one of us. Having finally worked up the courage to query my novel after heaven knows how many rewrites it’s been a gutting experience whenever I get back a form rejection that tells me there wasn’t even a spark of interest on the other end. Notwithstanding the packaged caveats about “not right for me,” “too busy to take on projects I don’t fully believe in” and so on, it’s a shiv through the ribcage. These are pros who know the business and they’re essentially telling me that in their opinion I don’t have what it takes. It’s even harder when I see people I follow on Twitter who are half my age bubbling over with glee that they just secured representation for their books. It’s really, really hard to go back to the keyboard after that. Suddenly you see every single flaw, glaring at you like a giant bruise. You worry that you’re a joke and that you have no business even trying anymore.

    What you can’t do is let it make you stop. The difference between a published author and a perennial wannabe is that the published author never quit. Anyone who has read your posts can see your obvious wealth of talent and imagination, and as one of the six folks mentioned above, I’m not forgetting about the manuscript you sent me, I’m diving in with relish and I’ll provide what feedback I can, and hopefully it will be of some use. You are right, this is part of the cycle and you’ll get over it, but I agree, when you’re in the depths it feels like you’ll never be able to climb out. I want you to bookmark this post and come back to it one day when children (and adults) everywhere are gobbling up the adventures of Toddington Rainstone and company, and peering at holes in their gardens wondering if they can dig deep enough to reach Trelflande.

    Anyway, on another note, many congratulations on breaking through the tape on the A to Z challenge and thanks again for the mention and for your support this past month. Onwards!

  2. liliandruve

    Well done!

  3. 🙂 Thanks Graham, and you’re more than welcome.

    I’m sorry no-one has yet picked up your novel. But they will. It’s also galling when you read so much published crap! (and I’m talking traditionally published, especially in children’s fiction I have to say. (Haha! tell it as it is Joanne!) I am never quitting. Jeeze, I couldn’t. I just need to take stock and as I’m good at taking feedback, I’ll look forward to any advice anyone can offer me, especially from those like yourself, whose opinions I respect.
    I really hope someone does pick your novel up soon. I bet it’s great, if your blog posts are anything to go by. In all honesty, the people whose blogs I enjoy or tweets I enjoy, have a style/personality which seems to transcend into their fiction and it’s the blogs and tweets which make me explore a writer’s work further. I might just have a little rest then hop back on the proverbial horse. In the meantime I have a stack of blog posts piling up! 😉
    Onwards indeed!

  4. Hi, Joanne! Loved all your posts about Trelflande! I’ll miss reading about the underground world. Don’t hide it away too long. When it is published, and I’m sure it will be, there will be lots of young readers who’ll love it. Congratulations on making it through the A to Z Challenge! Best wishes for the future!

    • Thank you so much for reading all of this! I’m glad you enjoyed it. It’s very humbling to think anyone has followed all the way through and has some faith in what they have read. thanks so much again fr your support and kind wishes. 🙂

  5. cedrixclarke

    Jo, I won’t echo what Graham says above, but he’s absolutely right. Every word of it. I will add this. After the second or third draft, I read Lucinda’s Ghost to my eight year old (now eleven) and I felt like a fraud at first. Like you said, it wasn’t the way it sounded in my head. The fact I was doing a nine year old girl might have been part of it, but also Bob’s voice didn’t sound right and the narrator’s voice didn’t sound right. I kept reading because I had an audience and she demanded it. She liked the way I read it. When I was finished I made typo and grammatical changes and marked a few areas that needed substantive changes, but I put it aside for a couple of months. I was afraid to go back to it. But here’s the magical part. When I started the next edit, I could hear the voices I heard when I wrote it. So, I’m the guy that read my daughter almost all of Roald Dahl’s books with British accents and the voices of monsters, witches, children, etc. all included, but I can’t read my own book. It doesn’t mean that it’s terrible writing. Maybe the expectation I have and you have is too great… My point is to let those people reading the chapters give you their insights before you let go of that zeal. Maybe ask them to read some of it out loud to their children.

    You’re right that you’ve found your voice in this A to Z challenge (although it was there before). I’ve enjoyed every word. You’ve made me interested in the world you’ve created. You’ve made me laugh. I think you even made me cheer a few times. You are a great writer with a very distinctive voice, and I will miss these daily posts…

    • Thanks Ced. I am so glad to hear you have had the same problem, and having had one of my beta readers come back to me now I do feel better. I also felt better after reading some of Harry Potter aloud to myself and realising that didn’t sound great either. Perhaps it’s the genre! But I think it might be that as my beta reader said, some of the vocab sounds for an older voice, so I think I need to go back (not just yet though) and sort that out. Though I hate how it sounds aloud, it does help me to catch snags and repeats in vocab and grammar so I will need to keep on, despite the pain.
      And thanks for reading and your support as always. So much appreciated 🙂

  6. JB, congrats on finishing the challenge. Phew, don’t know how you’ve done it! I’ve come too late to these posts and read only a couple but I will be catching up because you have a fantastic voice and wisdom and make me smile. And those qualities will be in your WIP, I’m sure of it. It’s tough waiting for crit but Graham and CC are right. It’s not an easy game, but we do it because we must. A little distance might be just what you need for renewed confidence. Let your beta readers work their magic, then you can work yours x

  7. Thanks Nillu! The challenge was great fun and has really helped me get under the skin of my WIP and of writing again in general. Yes, I will await my beta readers’ responses. I had the first one back yesterday and she was amazingly helpful and constructive. Sometimes I just need a different perspective. In the meantime I’ll have a little rest. Thanks for reading and for your support. It means a lot to have fellow writers around. 🙂

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