Thursday, March 07, 2013

I Don't Know What I'm Doing... Seriously.

So An Act of Persuasion is out now in stores. Let me take some time to promote…Please buy it... Only if you want to...  There I’m done.
This is my fifteenth book for Harlequin if I’m counting a novella I did and as I’m reading the reviews, some really good, others not so good, it occurs to me that I really don’t know what I’m doing.

Some folks on Goodreads have said nice things like my characters are multifaceted. Some have said they simply can’t connect with them.
And as I’m writing my next book (the final book in the Tyler Group series) I told myself to take in that criticism and try to work on it. Leave the good parts, fix the bad parts and maybe I’ll have a book EVERYONE loves. Which I know isn’t possible. There is no such book that can fit everyone’s taste.

But still I do believe in trying to improve. Better writing, better story, better characters. Except honestly truly, I really don’t know how. Which I know is the lamest thing ever. I could read books on craft. I could attend more workshops at RWA. I could think about my art and edit more.
After doing this for so many years though I have to say it just comes out. I think getting feedback from critique partners has made a tremendous difference. I think working out plot issues with people has helped rather than rely solely on my decisions. But at the end of the day, the book is the book. The characters are the characters. Sometimes people are going to love them and sometimes they are not.

I wrote the Doctor’s Deadly Affair and like all my books I really liked it at the time I was writing it, but there wasn’t anything I felt that set it apart other than maybe I took a little more risk. But that book got nominated for a RITA! How did I do that? I want to be that good again.
Molly recently read my last WIP for my book out this October. She said it was the best thing I’ve ever done for Harlequin. How is that possible! I didn’t change anything, or do anything different than any time I’ve done it before. In fact going through what was the worst time in my life, I have no idea how I managed to produce anything.

Now I’m on to another book, and I’m struggling, and I’m behind. And I think it’s dreck. In my head I think, make these people more relatable! Do a better job! Improve! But I’ve given my heroine freaking amnesia. Who the heck can relate to amnesia? And I know in my heart that I could read a hundred books on craft and maybe it will help a little… but in the end… the book will be the book.
I feel slightly guilty confessing this on a blog that’s aimed at breaking down the craft of storytelling. But if someone asked me how it was that I wrote a book that got nominated for a RITA and a book that at least two people have said they couldn’t even finish it… and what makes them different… not a clue.

Because I have no idea what I’m doing.


Karen Whiddon said...

Steph, I don't know what I'm doing either. And my 25th book for HQ, 35th published, comes out this year. Reviews tend to paralyze me, so I've been trying not to read them.

I loved your Doctor book!

I think as writers, we just keep on keeping on. That's all we can do.

Eileen said...

Mazel tov on the new book, Steph!

I so know what you mean, but I do think we internalize what we learn and it does come out in our writing.

Rogenna Brewer said...

Stephanie, I know EXACTLY how you feel. I often wonder how I've managed to hang on for so long when I don't know what I'm doing.

Maureen McGowan said...

Congrats on the new book, Steph!!! And I don't know if any of us know what we're doing.

And FWIW (you're way more experienced than I am) I've concluded that it's better not to write a book that everyone loves. Or maybe it's just impossible.

I'm struck by the polar opposites I get in reviews. "Great character development" "No character development" etc. And really, we sometimes here that from editors when a book goes out on submission too. So even the pros can't agree.

Reading is a subjective/interactive thing and so we can't control how people read our books or whether or not they enjoy it.

Super excited about your new book!!!!

Maureen McGowan said...

Um, hear that from editors. D'oh.

Stephanie Doyle said...

Isn't it funny how we can all feel the same way sometimes... like this whole idea of writing is completely foreign to us - even though we keep doing it.

I keep thinking at some point I'll have "the answer" but with each new book it feels like I'm starting over.

Molly O'Keefe said...

I was just having this moment the other day and I have some thoughts. I think it's a good thing that every book is a challenge and our "we don't know what we're doing" has more to do with where we are in the book, than where we are in our book writing lives.

I had thought this whole writing/learning thing would be cumulative, and that each book would sort of be a test on what I learned in the last book. But that just hasn't been the case. Instead every book feels like something new and the lessons I have to learn are specific to that book.

And writing is hard.

Eileen said...

Yes, but isn't that part of what we like about it? We keep challenging ourselves We keep growing. We try new things. Sometimes we succeed. Sometimes, well, not so much.

Oh, my goodness, listen to me! Little Miss Eileenanna. The drugs must really be working . . .

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