Monday, June 05, 2006

Reinforced Nylons (aka Why Support is so great)

I'm a writer. By definition, that means I'm okay with lots of alone time.

No, more than okay. I thrive on alone time. If I have to go to a party, I'm totally drained by the time I get home. My husband is a social giant, and the more interaction he gets to do, the more fired up he is.

Not me. I recharge by being alone.

But in some ways, I'm even more extreme than lots of other writers in that I don't have a critique group. Lots of authors, pubbed and unpubbed, have a small group of trusted peers who read each other's work and help them brainstorm through problems. They support each other, they cheer each other on, and they pull each other out of tough spots.

Sounds great in theory, but it's not my thing. Don't get me wrong, I have lots of friends, but when it comes to writing, I actually find it easier to work through problems on my own instead of trying to incorporate someone else's vision into my own work.

But every once in a while, things get so tough that even someone like me needs reinforced nylons.

I have book due July 1st, the third in my paranormal series for Warner, and it has been absolutely torture to write. By the time I got to page 150, I was on my twelfth iteration, and I could tell it still wasn't right.

And I'll admit it. I fell apart. I absolutely could not see how to fix the book. I couldn't write another word. I was certain my writing career was over. I was finished. Kaput. Done.

Then my agent got wind of my predicament (could it have had anything to do with the email I sent her telling her that I was about to throw myself and my computer off a very high bridge? Hmm... maybe) and offered to read it for me to see if she could offer insight.

At first, I balked, because I generally find that when someone else reads my book (except my editor), their suggestions often frustrate me because their vision is different than mine and I can't mesh them. But then I realized I simply couldn't do it alone this time. I needed help. So I sent it off to her and waited.

Less than twelve hours later, my brilliant, wonderful speed-reading agent got back to me with some brilliant and spot-on insights as to what was wrong with the book. She was completely right, and I knew it the moment I read her email. So I took the rest of the day to brainstorm, and then I got back to work the next day... and things finally started to come together.

And then, in a moment of cosmic connection, a discussion started that same day one of my published author loops about books that are hell to write. I couldn't believe how many authors came forward with stories about about books that were so hard to write they'd actually truly believed it was time to give their advance check back. I realized I wasn't alone. And I realized that my struggles didn't mean I couldn't write or that I was washed up as a writer, or that my book would end up a mess. I had company in my pit of hell, and that it would all be okay in the end.

I don't know if I would have pulled myself out of this mire if it hadn't been for my agent and for my friends all sharing their stories of their struggles. It's a good lesson to me not to be afraid to reach out and grab a hand or two for support. That's what they're there for, and it really, really helps.

Stephanie Rowe


Lori Wilde said...

Omigosh, Stephanie,

Thank you so much for posting this! I'm at the end of my rope right now, with a book that just keeps going wrong and wrong and wrong. I acutally went on careerbuilders and started filling out job applications for my old profession, that's how lost I feel. I so needed to hear this. Thank you, thank you!

Elizabeth Hoyt said...

Some days writing is like slogging through hip-deep mud. Truth.

Diane Perkins said...

You poor thing. The one thing I am most in awe of in this Romance Writing World is the abundance of support it offers (and I lived in a world of a helping profession that never came close to this level of support).
But when us loners are having trouble, we still don't think that support is meant for "us".
I'm glad you reached out to your agent and glad she was astute enough to know what helped.
Diane (back to struggling with the end of the book that is a week late!)