Monday, December 7, 2015

Getting Back to my Writerly Roots

Back in 2010 when I first started writing, I was blissfully ignorant. I didn't know anything about the "rules" of certain genres or what is and isn't acceptable in romance. I had no skills when it came to dialogue, and I used cringe-worthy phrases such as "explosion of love" and "stiff manhood." Yeah, yeah, I know... It's hard to read those early novels now because all I do is cringe and giggle. None of my characters knew what contractions were. And I, as an author, had no grasp on the concept of point-of-view. Holy head hopping! 

I wrote two full length novels and one partial within a year and a half totaling over 260,000 words. I lived, breathed, ate, and slept those stories. I'd stay up into the early morning hours writing. I'd get up early to sneak in words before my family obligations took my attention. These books were the epitome of word vomit. The ideas poured out of me and onto the computer screen. I was on such a high, consumed with telling these stories. 

Of course, I've come a long way as a writer since then. I know more. Write cleaner. Now I can break the rules and not have it be from ignorance. And that's great! It's led to several publications and snagging an agent. I've accomplished a lot more since I took the steps to truly learn my craft, something I will never regret doing. It's something every author should do. 

Unfortunately, doing so has cost me. Now that I'm packing all this knowledge, I've lost that high. I've lost the rush of writing whatever pops into my mind and being mildly happy with it. I can no longer write as much or as quickly as I could before. I don't have the all-consuming drive to focus on just one story. I criticize every word I write as I write it. My characters have stopped talking to me. 

I've lost my passion, my zest for writing.

Lately, I've been doing a lot of self-reflection and soul-searching. My dream has always been to be a writer. Sure, I'd like to make a decent living wage doing so, but if I don't, that's okay, too, because when I first started on this journey, it was purely for myself. I wrote the story I wanted to read / tell. Nothing else mattered. Somewhere along the way, that tidbit of knowledge was cast aside. I began to write for the market, write for trends, write for fans, write whatever I thought had a good chance to sell. All very bad things to do, by the way. 

In an effort to get back to that point in my writing career -- the passion and excitement, not the I-know-nothing part -- I've gone back to my roots. And I can't tell you how much it has helped! I'm excited to be a writer again. I can't wait to get up and write in the morning. I can't wait until my kids go to bed at night so I can write some more.

So, how did I do it? 

1. I started by updating my website / blog. I created a spiffy Press Kit and in doing so, I had to go back and read all my blurbs, sort through reviews to include as praise. That alone was exciting. Knowing I wrote something that someone read and enjoyed -- that's why I started writing in the first place. Because it was FUN! This process made me realize something: I wanted more books to add to my website! Talk about a great motivator ;) 

2. I forced myself to go back and read those early novels. It was my Hayden Falls Saga. Book 1, Death of a Waterfall, was published back in June 2013. I picked up my print copy and read it cover-to-cover, which is something I NEVER do. Once my book is published, I don't look at it again. But I did. And you know what? It was quite good! lol. Sure, there are things I'd change now, but back then, it's what I knew and how I wrote, and I stand by that proudly. 

Then I opened up those long forgotten Word docs of books two and three. And I cringed my way through them. Laughing at myself for some of the things I did and the cheesy dialogue my characters spoke. It wasn't easy, and I'm super grateful I never rushed to publish them. What did this self-inflicted torture show me? 

My passion! As awful as those unedited manuscripts are, there is one thing they have that my recent work doesn't -- raw, undiluted, no holds barred passion. As I read them, I could vividly remember exactly where I was sitting when I wrote them and what I was feeling when I wrote certain scenes. I knew when I'd cried and when I'd laughed during the writing process. And if I can feel it, you bet your butt readers will be able to as well. At the end of the day, isn't that what I owe myself and my readers? A fun, emotionally fulfilling experience?

3. I dusted off the draft of book two and began the pain-staking process of weeding through it, keeping the scenes that are salvageable, cutting those that aren't, rewriting parts that desperately need it, and writing new parts. I'm happy to say I'm now almost 30,000 (good) words into the Death of a Waterfall sequel, and I hope to have it out sometime next year. 

Returning to this world and these characters has been liberating. I'm finding myself typing faster, spewing more and more ideas... having fun again! And now that I'm back here, I don't plan to leave or lose sight of why I do this in the first place. 

Have you ever lost your passion? What did you do to get it back?