Friday, 7 November 2014

I Want to Hug Francine Rivers

Fact: Most of the time I struggle to write.

I started writing fairly late in life by most people’s standards (it was the year I turned 50) and because of that I always felt I had a lot of catching up to do. Because I had loads of ideas in my head - characters, conversations and conflict galore - I thought this writing thing would be a snack.

At first it was. Writing the first draft for A Simple Mistake was fantastic, the gift that kept on giving! It just flowed and flowed. The second one? Let’s not go there. And this third one isn't exactly racing along either although it’s getting a little easier as I get into it. 

I went to the Romance Writers of New Zealand conference back in August where I heard from two highly successful authors. One writes a 100,000 word novel every six months. The other writes FOUR that size a year and has three series on the go. Apparently, that’s the key to success. Writing fabulous novels very fast. I think my jaw is still on the floor of Waipuna Lodge where the conference was held.

So why haven’t the floodgates opened if I've got so many ideas? Some of the answers are obvious:
1.      I dream too much.
2.      I plot too much.
3.      I go off on tangents while researching.
4.      I get distracted by social media.

Those are easy to deal with in comparison to my bigger problem, one I’m sure many writers suffer from. 

Fear.

Fear that my ideas won’t look as good on the page as they appear in my head; that I’ll be the only one who loves my characters; that my sense of humour won’t translate well. Fear my dialogue won’t be as good this time around. Fear of writers’ block. Fear I’ll never finish the next book because of … well, fear!

I’ve been a Christian a looooong time. I know which scriptures to confess. I know how to pray. I know I can refer back to emails and Facebook messages and phone a friend when I need reassurance.

I got it in truck loads one morning when I read a link posted by Charis Joy Jackson on Facebook. (Consider yourself hugged too, Charis J)

If you would like to read the whole thing, here it is:
http://francinerivers.com/blog/creative-minds-are-seldom-tidy

These two quotes from Francine were a balm to my soul.

·          ‘The past two projects are showing me that writing does not get easier.  Not that I ever had any illusions that it would.  I just didn’t expect it to become more and more difficult.’ 

·          ‘During limbo times, the niggling fears come whispering.  Whatever gave you the idea you could be a writer?’ 

What? Francine Rivers has self-doubt?

Once my initial shock had morphed into a perverse delight (I mean that in the nicest possible way) I took a deep breath and made some decisions.
1.       I will do whatever it takes to become as good a writer as I can be. Hopefully that includes becoming faster.
2.      I will continue to write what I believe God is nudging me to write. (Oh, how I love those nudges!)
3.      I will not let fear cripple me.
4.      I will stop punishing myself and make it a habit to give my writing worries to God. (I John 4:18a – ‘There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.’)

So there it is; a confession straight from the heart.  I know I’m not alone - God knows when I need encouragement, like in Francine's blog post. And not only is He with me, but so are you, my fellow readers and writers. I take great comfort in that. 


Now, if you'll excuse me, I'll get back to my manuscript …

About Andrea Grigg
Andrea writes contemporary romance. Her second novel Too Pretty was released on August 1 by Rhiza Press. Her first book A Simple Mistake was a finalist in the CALEB Awards 2012

Andrea would love to hear from you via her website or Facebook page:
http://www.andreagrigg.com/
https://www.facebook.com/author.andreagrigg


35 comments:

  1. Thanks, Andrea, for an excellent and encouraging post. I can share your perverse delight in the idea that even Francine Rivers suffers from self-doubt—it makes it normal, which is encouraging. In a perverse sort of way.

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    1. Clearly, we're perversely normal, Iola. Love how you 'get' me :)

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  2. I also share your perverse delight as I suffer from self doubt too. So glad to hear that I'm "normal" :)

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    1. I suspect it is a very common affliction, Melissa! You've made me feel better too :)

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  3. A really honest and entertaining post, Andrea--thanks! I think one reason writing doesn't get any easier with subsequent books is that each book is different, with different characters to explore, if writing novels, and different challenges, whatever sort of book you are writing. Also, it depends what else is happening in our lives at the time. I know my eighth book I am still checking through has been one of the hardest for me to write, partly because I have had a back op this year--and lots of speaking engagements--and grandkids to mind! It's all about persevering--and close our ears to those taunts we hear in our heads that we can't write.

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    1. Thanks for your insightful comments, Jo-Anne.

      Great point about each book having different characters to explore, Jo-Anne. We have to know them inside out and back to front to make them come alive on the page. While that's my favourite part of writing I think it's also my greatest concern. Have I made them real enough for my readers to want to know them? You're spot on about the need to persevere too.

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  4. Oh Andrea, I laughed... and squirmed a little, too. I raise my hand and join those sometimes crippled with fear.
    I love your reminder to focus on scripture and our overcoming strategies.

    Hugs to YOU for your honesty. I'm sure you won't be surprised how many of us stand beside you. :-)

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    1. Glad there was some laughter along with the squirming, Dotti! Thank you for the hugs too :)

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  5. For me the reason writing gets harder each time is that I am trying to write in a way that requires less editing. I have had to rewrite my first (and, as yet, unpublished) book so many times that now when I write I know many of the mistakes to avoid. However it means I spend more time trying to get it right the first time.

    Thanks for the encouraging post, Andrea.

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    1. Totally understand what you mean about the editing, Susan. It's a good thing, but it can become all-consuming - it's hard to know when to draw the line, isn't it? Mind you, that's where a critique partner can help out.

      Thanks for stopping by :)

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  6. A great post Andrea. It's great to know that published authors still have those fears and it's not just us novel-newbies. Though I think there's a balance to the speed thing. I'm the world's worst procrastinator, so there are certainly times when I need to be more disciplined and get the writing done faster. Sometimes barriers like fear can stop that, though I know I sometimes just lack discipline. But I think a story also needs to percolate so that it can be the best it can be.

    I can think of one Christian author who writes several books a year but I really feel the quality has gone down and that sometimes she stretches things out in a series long way too long (i.e,, saying something in five books that could have been said in two). I've just finished reading Anthony Doerr's "All the Light We Cannot See" and it is one of the most beautiful books I have ever read. I heard it took him 10 years to write and I can see why. An intricate plot that would have taken a lot of research and exquisite imagery. It's destined to be a classic. I think there has to be a balance between writing fast and producing the best product that we can. But fear is certainly a barrier. My novel needs to get off the procrastination wagon for sure :)

    Thanks for sharing Andrea and good luck with Novel 3 :)

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    1. Pretty sure I have a PhD in procrastination, Nola!

      Totally agree about allowing time for a story to percolate, Nola. Once I've been thinking about it for several weeks (months are even better) those 'aha' moments swim to the surface and things start to tie in and make sense. I'm such a plotter!!!

      Love your sentence: 'I think there has to be a balance between writing fast and producing the best product we can.' Amen!

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  7. Amen to that, Andrea.

    I think there are more in your camp than the 100K every 6 months authors. One of the benefits of having produced much like Francine is that when the fear hits she has a history that she can lean back on. Most likely Francine has a formula like many of the prolific authors have.

    Or as the soldier under enemy attack says when terrified: "I always revert back to my training."

    The enemy will always go after our achilles heel and for many of us fear is one of those that services to distract and sometimes even cripple. Keep handing it over to God who'll zap it quick smart.

    Thanks for being so honest with us, Andrea. Trust the MS is coming along well.

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    1. Ian, it would be interesting to find out the stats on Christian writers who produce 100k books that fast, wouldn't it? I have a feeling there's an expectation for established writers to have one new book annually, but not so much for two.

      And yes, I'm very aware the enemy does NOT want us to succeed. Makes me even more determined to keep on writing. Thanks for your encouragement, Ian.

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  8. You are not alone! We writers all suffer with fear, but we're here cheering one another on. Can you hear me? I'm cheering for you now Andrea because I know you have nothing to worry about - you're a very talented lady :)

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    1. What would I do without you, Cat? You've kept me sane and helped me laugh my fears away. Love the sound of trans-Tasman cheers ... going both ways!

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  9. Hi Andrea it was your opening line that grabbed my attention. Surely you can't be past 50? That gives me hope because here I am, very much a novice, and a little over 50! You are my inspiration!

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    1. Well, they say the opening line is supposed to grab the reader, Susanne, LOL. Very much over 50 (nearer 60 in fact, ) and quite happy to have started writing in the second half of my life. Lots of story fodder to draw on, you might say! I'm flattered and happy to be an inspiration. Thank you for the encouragement :)

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  10. Thank you for your honesty. Awesome post. Bless you. Xxx

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  11. Andrea, great post! There is a point in every book I've written where I've feared my writing is terrible, and I've come to the conclusion that I'm going to massively disappoint God, my editor and my readers. I've learned to embrace the fear as part of my process and see it as a positive thing. It means I'm striving to write the best book I can deliver and I'm not being complacent. I'm working toward an A rather than settling for a C, and I'm writing the book for God's glory, not my own.

    I signed a contract where I agreed to deliver between 270k-300k words (6 books) in 15 months. I had a head start with two completed mss that needed substantial revisions, a third ms with a completed first draft, and three proposals (first three chapters and synopsis). It's not easy to write fast and I worried that the quality of my books would suffer due to the tight deadlines.

    If your main writing goal is to make lots of money, then producing a large number of books as quickly as possible is a great plan for a whole bunch of reasons. Each of us have our own path, or own writing process, and I believe we need to embrace our unique journey rather than comparing ourselves to others. That frees us up to be happy for other people's success and not fall victim to professional jealousy.

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    1. I'm in awe of what you've done, Narelle! Embracing fear is definitely a positive thing - it helps you to analyse and then strategise, doesn't it? And you're right; we also need to embrace our own writing journey. Thank you for your insightful comments :)

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  12. Great post Andrea. So true about fear being the enemy - paralyzing, undermining and causing us to doubt. It is an interesting idea it can get harder not easier as we write more. I found my first three WIPs relatively easy to write but am struggling with the fourth, partly because it is the third in a trilogy so that there are so many threads to bring together. Also, my characters had lives long before I tried to shape them into neat novel-sized and structured packages that sometimes it feels more like writing history or biography than fantasy fiction. Anyhow, thanks for a timely and inspiring post.

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  13. I empathise with the struggles, Jeanette. All the best as you complete your trilogy :)

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  14. Aawwwww! I feel so honored to know I was even the slightest help. I know that article really encouraged me too. I'm glad it encouraged you as well. It's so nice to know others in the same boat. And fear! It needs to go. How much do we let it hold us back?! I know it's one of the things I struggle with the most. But hey, knowing is half the fight, right? ;) Thanks for the mention and HUGS back!

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    1. I agree, Charis - it's good to know so many of us feel the same way. And what great community we have so we can encourage and support one another. Thanks again xo

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  15. I think in my case it is fear that I will succeed. Silly really... great post Andrea...great to get some insight into how a writer's mind works.

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    1. The fear of success is an interesting one and no less real. If we succeed in writing then so many unknown 'things' may take place. Fear is a sneaky thing! Still, if we're open about it then God can help us face and deal with it. Thanks for dropping by, Julia :)

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  16. I think one of the problems is that we compare ourselves with others like the author who writes four novels a year. I wish! But at least you could be encouraged by someone like Francine Rivers and know all writers have those fears and doubts. Lovely post Amanda.

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    1. Thanks Dale. I've definitely been encouraged :)

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  17. Don't fear! You're a fabulous writer. Keep churning them out, as I'll keep buying them.
    I share your problem with getting distracted though...That's a tricky one to fix.

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    1. Thanks so much Meredith. And I'm still working on the distraction issue. Getting there!

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  18. I've printed this out. I need it right here in front of my computer screen because I'm completely lost right now. What an encouragement you are! I love how God works, because I had even thought of contacting you and asking you advice about writers' block and how to improve my writing because I have a vague recollection of you talking about it at a conference years ago. And then here is this post. Thanks God! 'Old' post, but the words are still relevant because truth never dies - and today they are more relevant to me than they were back then. May God continue to use you and may you know His blessing on your writing today!

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    1. Wow Jenny! LOVE how God knows exactly what we need when we need it. I totally empathise with you. I'll be contacting you soon about a book which has helped immensely in regards to writers' block. God bless you too, lovely lady :)

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