Saturday, March 7, 2009

Size Matters

I like the immediacy, the instant gratification, a blog offers. I love the fact that I can sit a short spell, hash out my thoughts and share insights or my flash fiction (1000 words or less - see side bar for samples), and that within a few hours, people are reading my words. I'm getting feedback. It keeps my fire burnin', you know?

And then there's my novel writing. It's such a long process, one in which I continually get bogged down. I wonder if it's because, in part, no one is waiting nearby, ready for my next output. No one can offer a comment, to let me know how I'm doing, or if what I've written is worthwhile. The return is way off in the distance.

What's the best way to slog through? How do we forge ahead, knowing we're after something grand - even if we can't see it yet?

***

There's a fear I have with my novel-length projects. (Well, there's more than one, but this is what I'm focusing on today.) Am I capable of something so extensive? What if I can't I pull it all together, make the pieces fit smoothly, like I can with a polished blog post?

Is there a chance I succeed best with the shorter, smaller stuff, like blogs and flash, but not the heftier stuff? And how does one know?

***

And why do I put so much thought into this stuff, instead of just writing?

Curse my over-analytical tendencies.

26 comments:

Kathryn Magendie said...

I think many writers have this same thought process - I know I did. I never thought I'd become novel writer - EVER....and then, well, it happened...mostly because the story kept coming, the words kept arising, the characters kept "speaking" ... *smiling*...but yes, it is a lonely kind of thing, novel writing - or I should say, a solitary one. Even when I was in a writer's group, I quit sending chapters for critique because it just bogs one down when one needs to just get the words out! time for critique can come upon completion :)

Lori Tiron-Pandit said...

I always thought that to be a novelist you have to master well the art of delayed gratification. I have been comparing it not with blogs (which I don't do so well) but with short poetry, which is so fun, so easy, so quick.

But I always, always wanted to write only novels. Because what I like to read is novels. I would be happy and proud of myself only if I can write a good novel, maybe precisely because it is such a gargantuan task.

Janna Qualman said...

Kathryn, I have the same thoughts. I don't dare share this rough draft stuff. With as much as my premise has changed from my original ideas, which I have shared - and as much change as it still will go through - it's all something I have to keep to myself. *hug* Hope all is okay in TX.

Lori - Absolutely, "master well the art of delayed gratification." This grasps so well what I'm having trouble with. And I think your desire will go a long way toward meeting your dream. Are you working on a novel now?
PS. The doll you made your daughter is precious. You should absolutely market them!

Joanne said...

Janna, how about this? The novel I'm reading now is comprised of short stories that were first published elsewhere - magazines, literary journals. They are all linked, the characters are the same, and lined up together, they progress to form a short novel. Have you thought of writing flash in a series of linked stories/anecdotes, that together might make a novel?

Janna Qualman said...

Joanne! I don't know if it means anything, but I had a similar thought this evening during a drive (when thinking seems easiest). Thanks for the idea - maybe I should really consider it!

thedomesticfringe said...

Janna, gotta say you do analyze yourself an aweful lot. You're a great writer!!! We love your short stuff, so we're going to love your long stuff (novel).

Don't worry so much. You're a wonderful writer. ;-)

-FringeGirl

Turkey Lurkey said...

I go through this all the time. There are months when I think..."all I am good at is poetry" then other months when I am typing away at a novel, and then the months when the best commitment I can make is to a couple of short stories or PB. I think the important thing is... you are writing.

Joanne said...

Janna, I just read your comment on Barbara's blog about Blackbird House. The book I'm reading is also Alice Hoffman's, and I think you'd enjoy reading (and analyzing) it as well. The title is Local Girls, and is a coming-of-age story, very well done. Books are written in all types of ways, and since you enjoy writing flash, it's def something to consider.

Angie Ledbetter said...

Oh, the joys of the writer's life, eh? I agree on the feedback aspect being a motivator for longer works. Do you have a writer's or crit group? (Can't do without mine!) If not, maybe you could gather a few beta readers as sounding boards for your chapters. I'm pulling for you. Anybody who has small kids and lives through a remodeling and STILL write can make it through a novel length work! :)

Jessica said...

Girl, get to writing. :-) You'll do great, I bet!
I love blogs too.

WendyCinNYC said...

Let the small stuff pull you through and keep you playing with words, but if you want to write a novel you have to keep plugging along. However slowly.

I love short stories and could write them exclusively, but I want to eventually publish a novel. So plug I must. Even if it means I have to write 2 or 3 or 4 or 5 before publication. (Oh, please no.)

You can, too!

Janna Qualman said...

FringeGirl - Thank you so much. I think I needed to hear that now. *hug*

Turkey - So the doubts probably are more common than not?

Joanne - I've written her name down, and will certainly run to see if my local library has her. Thanks!

Angie - You'd think so! Thank you. :)

Jessica - You're right. I need to suck it up and just do it. 'Nuff said. ;)

Wendy - You're right, too. Novel writing is something I want to do, and if that's the case, then I have to DO.

Thanks, everyone, for the encouragement. I really needed it. :)

spyscribbler said...

Honestly, I think we get spoiled by the instant gratification. I hear you, totally. I struggle with this. I think our society and lifestyle have given us shorter attention spans.

Honestly, I have to work harder to settle in and focus on reading a novel, let alone writing one.

Terri Tiffany said...

Hmm go back and read my blog on doubt!
If you ever want me to read anything--just say the word!

Janna Qualman said...

Spy - It's so good to know I'm not alone. :)

Terri - I will absolutely be taking you up on that!

Woman in a Window said...

I feel this question exactly from the inside out and it quakes my confidence, it does. But we'll never know unless we try. So here goes-

Lori Tiron-Pandit said...

Thank you, Janna, for your comment about the doll. I think this one is indeed better than the first one I made, but still my daughter is not as crazy about it as I am. I have been thinking of making a few for sale, but there are so many other more talented and crafty people out there.

Anyway, because of your comment I realized that the links from my blog to the web site are not working so I am going to fix that now.

Janna Qualman said...

Woman in a Window - Such wise words you all have today! Absolutely. What is the Yoda saying? Something like... There is no try, only do.

Lori - Oh good! I'll try them again. :)

Heidi Ashworth said...

I'm way too lazy to read the comments and see if this has been said already--first of all, I totally agree with you about the buzz of the immediate response to the blog. My first book came out in Dec. and it was FUN but the blog is every bit as much fun. Second, it is imperative to have an audience for your novel. Either join a critique group (they have them online if there isn't a local one) or just give your work to someone you trust to read it and give you feedback. Writing into a vacuum is tough. The whole thing about writers choosing to isolate themselves while they write their books, well, those are people who have already had an audience--anticipating the response of even one person while you are creating your story is useful beyond measure.

Janna Qualman said...

Hi, Heidi! I do have several willing to critique, including those who were betas for my first novel. And I won't hesitate to approach them in the future - I just hesitate to do so now. My first draft is too rough to let anyone see just yet.

I do know what you mean about writing for "one" reader, though. Stephen King speaks of that in On Writing, and I agree with the concept.

Thanks for your input!

Janna Qualman said...

Oh, Angie! I forgot to answer your question about a writing/crit group... Our local library didn't have any information on any nearby, and I haven't checked in the closest big city. Logic says I could start one of my own, but I don't know how to go about it. Plus, I'm the shy and reserved type, who doesn't usually instigate such "public" things.

Pink Ink said...

I love the instant gratification of a blog, Janna. And I do stress over the "can I make this work?" feeling when writing a novel. The beauty of the novel format for me is fleshing out a whole world and characters that tell a story. By no means have I mastered this, but it seems to have gotten easier over the years.

Janna Qualman said...

Jewel - I've never looked at novel writing in such a conscious way. That's a great idea!

Melanie Avila said...

I think these are normal concerns all writers have (as everyone has said here) and like you said in a comment, it has to be what you want. If you think you can, then you can!

Be the train... lol.

But seriously, the instant gratification is fantastic - use that to power you through the moments of doubt on your larger projects.

Jenn Johansson said...

I have something that I always try to think whenever these kinds of questions crop into my mind. Why is it so easy to doubt ourselves and so hard to believe in ourselves? It always helps me put things in perspective. If we can just get out of our own way, we can do amazing and wonderful things. :)

Janna Qualman said...

Melanie - That last bit is excellent advice. Thanks!

Jenn - Hi! Thanks for coming by. :) And you're right; we should believe in ourselves more. I need to believe in myself.