Author On The Ledge!

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Your humble host

 

You’ll know it when you see it.

An author friend has started the downward spiral of doubt.

Here’s an example from a blog post of an obviously dismayed author friend, followed by my reply:

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…it seems as if I’ve just wasted the last (fill in your number here of the weeks, months or years) of my life writing a story no one will ever be interested in EVER. It should be printed off only to be burned in a barrel and then bombed with a nuclear warhead. I have THREE chapters left to write. THREE. At the end of the summer, in September, I had FIVE.

 This week I sat down to write and . . . nothing happened. I stared at a blinking cursor for six hours. Well, that’s not entirely true. I checked my email. I went to town on Twitter. I cleaned the house and did two loads of laundry. I watched a few cat videos on Facebook.

 AND I deleted two thousand words from my latest draft

This is what we call the ledge.

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Is this you?

Occasionally I’ll see a writer out there and talk them back in through a window. Just as often they let me know they’re out on the ledge and I talk them down. But on rare occasions they get out there and start deleting thousands of words and then it’s more a matter of getting them to hit the net when they jump.

Or if they slip.

You don’t strike me as a jumper so we’ll say slip. Yeah, that’s it. The ledge needed cleaning and next thing you know you were out there on it. It happens.

In fact, it can happen to any of us. You’re chugging along thinking positive thoughts about yourself and your writing, and then you reread the latest chapter of your GAM (Great American Novel) it and you’re like whaaat? Or a trusted CP (Critique Partner) starts asking if you wrote you latest submission while under the influence of prescription cough medicine.

Okay, so what do we know, and what do we do about it? Cos if you think I’m gonna hold your hand, you might have shot me a Facebook message (I have messenger now, too; it rocks) BEFORE you deleted thousands of words – and managed to write a thousand on your blog lamenting… your inability to write? Do I have that correct?

Well, I love irony as much as the next guy. Heck, maybe more. I even have sympathy for anybody buried under a foot of snow while I contemplate whether I’ll wear a sweatshirt with my shorts as I go buy chlorine for the pool. (I decided yes on the sweatshirt, but only because it was a little windy.)

Okay, sister, time for the tough love.

If you think this is the hard part, you are wrong. This writing stuff? This is the easy part. Even when it’s hard, it’s easy. The hard part – the part we refer to as the abyss – that’s when you press the “publish” button and a few weeks go by and nothing really happens. Or you get three or four bad reviews in a row. Or your sales drop for some unknown reason. Or you have no sales and you suddenly realize it’s been quite a while since you did have some.

We talked about the emotional roller coaster that is authordom, HERE.

You’ll want to crawl under a rock and question your right to exist because nobody anywhere wants to read your story. Or review it. Or recommend it to friends. Or any one of a thousand other ways your shiny new manuscript will bring harm to your delicate little writer psyche.

But there’s good news! I can help you avoid the abyss!

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This does not have to be you!

And I could have helped you avoid the freaking ledge! Do you not know how to get ahold of me? Facebook, Twitter, the Contact Me button on the blog, Instagram, Pinterest… You can call. I’m in the book, for pete’s sake. There’s like two guys with my name in the whole United States and I’m not the radical priest in Texas.

Okay, okay, here’s the deal:

  1. You have probably written a pretty good book. You may still f*ck it up, but more than likely it’s completely readable and interesting. (Amazeballs in Jennyspeak.) How can I say this? You’re here on my site, which means you have a clue and you give a damn, and you know the difference. I don’t say that to everybody – check the array of carcasses in my critique group that got a “better luck next time” card from me. My readers have, almost without exception, been good writers. (I say almost because nobody bats .1000)
  1. If it was easy, everybody would write a book. 80% of US Americans want to and the vast majority don’t.
  1. Of those who attempt to write a book, MOST SUCK. Your book probably does not suck. (See #1)
  1. You have a LOT of people who want to help you in whatever way is needed. Don’t be afraid to ask for that help when you’re blocked. (And I don’t mean constipated, but I’m sure you know somebody to call about that, too. It’s not me. I wanna get on the record about that right now.)
  1. You are beautiful, funny, interesting, and a nice person. And your family loves you. Probably friends, too; I only know you online. But let’s give you that one, too.
  1. You have a LOT of people who want to help you in whatever way is needed. Sometimes that means goofing off with them for an hour on Facebook chat (now messenger; I upgraded and it’s totally addictive) until they prod you to get creative and clear the logjam. After all, you managed to put down tens of thousands of words in a mostly cohesive string so far. Odds are a few more thousand are in you. Here’s proof, click HERE.
  1. This was not going to be a list but what the hell, it is now.
  1. As a list, it needed to stop at three or five, but once we sailed past those, ten seemed to be the magic number.
  1. Have a drink. (Like I need to tell you that.) Try writing drunk, like Hemingway said – write drunk, edit sober. It’s worth a shot (get it? Shot?) You may come up with something really interesting. You may not. But at least you’ll be drunk. And cut back on the cat videos. They obviously aren’t helping.
  1. You have a LOT of people who want to help you in whatever way is needed.

Whatever way is needed.

WHAT EVER way is needed.

You have a LOT of people who want to help you in whatever way is needed.

Get it?

Let them.

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Your humble host

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Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the amazingly great upcoming sci fi action thriller “The Navigators.” Click HERE to check out his other works.

25 thoughts on “Author On The Ledge!

  1. Yep, writing is the easy bit. If the writing isn’t flowing as it should (and it really should, you know) then I tend to find that it’s because there is something, somewhere that isn’t quite right. What isn’t quite right about the storyline / character / paragraph? Scrub that… and you’re off again! Easy-pie 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thank you for posting this, I’m going to end up reading it many times because I’ve felt like that so often, especially the part about is my writing good enough for anything besides the trash bin. I look at it and sometimes I hate it, sometimes it’s OK and a minority of the time I think it’s good. I’m going to take your advice about the drink, but not now because it’s 4 am and I’m at work!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks as always for the advice & support Dan! This is great timing for me, since I’m currently going through that phase where I hate my novel and think it’s total crap and oh god what was I thinking?

    What I find really useful is reminding myself that this is a TOTALLY NORMAL phase that most writers go through, on the way to finishing their novel and liking it again.

    It’s like we used to say to each other as graduate students (and what I later said to my graduate students) about dissertations: Do you totally hate it and think it’s the stupidest thing ever and it will never work and you should have done something completely different and come to think of it, maybe you should ditch those three years of work and start over now? Great, that means you’re in the home stretch. Put it aside for a week, go relax with your friends, come back next Monday and we’ll talk it over again.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Sometimes we just put ourselves under too much pressure. Some people thrive in that situation, some don’t – authors usually don’t, and tend to make bad decisions when they’re stressed – but rarely do we realize we have friends to hold our hand until we can regain perspective. We don’t have to go it alone.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Every good writer has quit days no matter where they are in the process. The bad writers just assume no one “gets them or their art” and never question their own brilliance. The fact that we have quit days shows that we keep it real. Does our writing suck? Sometimes. Will people hate it? Yes, some will. Is that a reason to quit? F*ck no.

    We got into this for a reason, and I bet the reason was something like “I had this cool story to tell.” That alone should bring us back from the ledge, but good writer buddies certainly help.

    Quit days suck. For reals. But the good news is they don’t last forever. They could be a sign that a short break is needed. Writing and editing and marketing especially are hard work and you have to be tenacious as hell to succeed at any of it. That’s tiring. So I’d take the occasional quit day as a sign you’re doing it right, have a drink, talk with a friend, wait it out, and then get back to work.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I’m having one of those days trying to do my ‘Monday Write Up’ and have basically said ‘sod it’ no one is going to get hurt if I don’t post one today, next week, next month, if ever. BUT I do know that there are some folk who want to read my book in progress and that is plenty motivation for me to keep the STORY going, albeit too slowly. So I’ve given myself the reality check I need by resuming it’s weekly diablog posts FORCING me to keep the words flowing, maybe not the best words, but good enough, that’ll do for me. And on a REALLY bad day there is always poetry…a quick fix of words and always it seems a forgiving audience for them!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Ok, Dan. THANKS SO MUCH again for the advice, especially that one about drinking 😛
    I´ve not been drinking alcohol for five years. Maybe I´m writing so bad for that reason, haha. There´s sth in my country called “Fernet” that we love (from Italy). I´m stuck on the second turn point (on my novel). I´ll try with Fernet, let´s see what happens (all the characters drunk?).
    Thanks, as always!
    Big creative hug from “here” 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Perhaps it’s the post-Holiday trend, but it seems that many writers are bummed around this time – including myself. I’m just winding my way back up after a downward spiral consisting of little writing, little editing, and vicious f*ck-tons of self-loathing.

    Thanks for the encouragement!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Does writing student-related reports count? (I’m on my 6th since Saturday.) I plan to re-read it when I’m a bit less fried–what I was able to process on report-fried-brain was helpful and entertaining. Glad to know it ain’t just me feeling this way, too often these days. Thanks, Dan!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Luckily there are no ledges where I live, believe me, I’ve searched for them!

    What about people who are too ashamed to raise their head and admit to how they feel? That’s a pretty difficult place to be in for them.

    I find my hardest days come from whatever else is going on around me rather than the writing itself, not that my writing is great at the best of times, but ‘something’ can be edited, ‘nothing’ can’t.

    I’ve just had a massively productive weekend, managing to finish the first draft of LA2, but now feeling pretty emotional, so yeah it’s definitely not the writing, it’s external stuff and what comes next.

    I’m probably feeling rough because I’m on a train, on my way into central London… I hate trains, and London’s no picnic either!! Pah!!! Oh but London has ledges….

    Liked by 1 person

    • Right – the people who just can’t ask for help are really the hardest to reach, so we have to let them know we’re here and we have to keep our eyes open for them. One thing I used to do in Facebook group I adminned was to occasionally nametag somebody just to make sure they were still doing okay. Here, we’ll occasionally post something fun and see people reply who haven’t spoken up in a while.

      Like

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