Friday, February 27, 2009

I'll Have a Shot of Confidence, Please!

Launching my blog in February is significant to me, as I made a decision in February a few years ago to write a teen novel. (I'm using the term "few" loosely. The honest term is SEVERAL, since this marks year FOUR.)

This week, I realized something about myself and my book project that could be grounds to go back to the shrink for. (Yes, I said GO BACK. I'm a writer. I'm supposed to be tortured, right?)

As my hubby would say, in sales you always want to "sandwich" the conversation. Start with the positive, put the negative in the middle and end on a positive note. Okay, here goes: On the positive side, I have finished one and a half drafts of my novel, 80,000 words each. That's the positive. Perseverance has always been my strength. If I want something, I will not quit until I get it. End of story (pun intended).

Here's the negative (It's a bigger part of the sandwich). I have been agonizing since November over the realization that something has been missing from my book. I have taken the story and rewritten it three times over. Correction: four times over. Change the plot. Change the characters. Reverse the order. The sister dying comes first. NO, it comes last. NO, it comes in the middle. The climax is the best place for it, no maybe the beginning is. Maybe I should take it out altogether. URGH!

In a desperate moment, when recovering from Pneumonia,I shot an e-mail off to Sara Zarr. I have read and re-read her teen novel, STORY OF A GIRL, twice. What is it that makes her book so moving, so clear, so clean, so precise, such a work of art? I asked her about training. How did she know how to write so well? How did she figure it out? She replied the next day with simple words of encouragement to me: Keep writing and get qualified immediate feedback. Join a critique group.

I have not had immediate feedback. I have chosen the difficult path to figuring out how to write a novel (is there an easy path, maybe?). This isn't surprising for me to choose the most difficult path, as I have chosen the most difficult path throughout my entire life. (Why change now?) I have now realized what's missing in my 179,000 pages (I added a few more because...I can). One word. One thing. One critical element that I THOUGHT was on every page but wasn't: Emotion.

So, these years of writing my novel, I've been reporting, commenting on a story. I've spent two drafts "reporting" my story when I thought I was putting my heart and soul onto the page. (Here's another positive: I think I'm a really good reporter-or do I?). But, if I'm writing a novel for God's sake, I haven't done my job. I'm not supposed to report, I'm supposed to tell a story! In fact, I just completed a yearly performance review on myself (once you've worked in the corporate world, you never EVER get it out of your DNA) and I realize I have to fire myself and rehire myself only on the condition that this time lady, give us some emotion. Stop doing a half-ass job. Get to the meat of your problem and yourself and write something that people can feel, that moves them that makes them laugh and makes them cry. BUT, don't tell the reader how they're supposed to feel. You have to use words that "provoke" emotion. Put yourself on the page, but don't write a story about yourself. Dig deep into the demons of your soul and put that on the page, but don't write about you. WHAT???

So, I know now, it's a character issue (regressing back to corporate lingo). It's about confidence. Is having confidence nature or nurture? What do you do when you either have either lost all your confidence or never had any to begin with?

All my life it's been a confidence issue with me. And now, here I am, faced with the reality that my writing, the thing that makes me feel alive, the thing that I know I'm put on this earth to do, the thing that keeps me sane and able to face whatever life hands me, is dependent on it. My writing will only be good and meaningful if I get over my lack of confidence and put the raw emotions on the page. Do they have confidence pills? They have pills for everything else: get rid of your anxiety, be more focused, stop your feet from falling asleep. Do they have one now to stop dating toxic men? I wouldn't know, because-you guessed it-I had to figure that one out the HARD way. I wish I could belly up to the bar and ask for a shot of confidence, straight up! Well, I used to before kids, but that's another story, which always leads to the toxic dating thing...

So, today I start confident, emotional writing and it starts here. As the title suggests (or doesn't), my life is about family and writing. My hope and plan is to provoke emotion in the readers who come here, and by revealing my raw honesty, somehow that will help others deal with their dilemmas, demons and most of all, desires. Happiness is the ultimate goal.