Positive Energy

Sunday, August 30, 2009
I'm discovering more every day how much easier it is to review a book than write one. Stories are subjective. Either you like it or you don't. So, there's no training needed to review. You simply list everything you loved or hated about the plot, characters, emotions, word choices, etc...and TA DA! You reviewed a book. Reviews aren't wrong, either. It's all a matter of opinion. Whatever you say is okay because that's how you feel about the story.

Writing is a whole different ball park. First, you learn the trade, take classes, get advice, join groups, attend conferences, study the craft until your eyes want to fall out, and practice, practice, practice. Then it's on to writing.

In the rough draft, you pour your heart and soul into a manuscript, ignoring friends and family, to say what you've always wanted to say. Then you go back to it with revisions, checking grammar and word choice, sometimes obsessing over one phrase for hours to express it it just the right way. Then, you go back again and again, adding scenes, deleting scenes, and revising some more to insure a durable plot or believable and likable characters with actual character to them. Then you revise (yeah, again!) to make sure the soul and emotions shine through. Revise a couple more times to turn all the telling into showing, once again strengthen the weak points, and check grammar and word choice a few more times. Layer upon layer, days/weeks/months/years of work and yet, there will always be something that could be better. And there will always be someone more than willing to point out your weaknesses.

Doesn't matter what step you've reached in your writing career.

  • In the middle of crafting your first manuscript? Critique partners will deflate your excited balloon of joy within five minutes.
  • Submitting to a publisher or agent? Rejection, rejection, rejection.
  • Entering a contest in the hopes of getting your name out there? Your results come back and your score is the last on the list. Ouch. Then all the judges bleed your entry to death with ghoulish red ink.
  • Finally selling stories? Reviews, bad reviews, worse reviews.
  • Made the best seller list? Fans complain this story wasn't as good as that other you wrote and suggest it's time you should retire.

And it's not that most of these people are deliberately trying to be cruel. I'm sure many merely want to be helpful, give advice, correct every possible thing they can find wrong so your story will be the best it can be. Or maybe they have to feel better about themselves by showing you how smart they are. Who knows. The point is, all the critiquing, correcting, and negative reviews can sometimes bring you down, possibly even make you question why you're even bothering, make you think you have no business trying to share your stupid, worthless story with the world.

So, how do we drag ourselves out of this painful funk? Dude, I don't know. Honestly. But I'll try to suggest some ideas to help pump up our esteem and bring positive energy back into the force.

I'd like to say, "Just ignore those mean bullies ripping your story to shreds. They don't know what they're talking about." But, sometimes their suggestions really are useful and can make the story ten times better. So, you can't completely discount them off hand. Maybe just set their critiques off to the side for now, and go back a little at a time. Don't overdose on negativity.

Maybe you could come up with a mission statement to remind you WHY you like to write. Me, my mission statement is the movie Romancing the Stone when Joan Wilder finishes her manuscript in the beginning of the movie and burst into tears with, "Oh, God, that's good!" To me, the moment I finish the last word of my story is the best moment of writing. The elation, joy, and satisfaction of completion...it's very consuming. Fulfilling. I actually did it. I wrote a story... a real story with a beginning, middle, and end and characters that I created and love. Wow.

So, remember that: Mission statement. Repeat it when things get bad.

OR... you could make up a happy box. Jot down things people say about your story that are good and positive and bright. Published authors could print out all their good reviews. Put each exciting comment on a piece of paper, fold it up, and slip it in the happy box. Linda, I had no idea you could write like that. It made me cry. I got emotional when stories never make me emotional. Dialogue is obviously your strong point. I really loved your strong and endearing characters and your sassy writing style. Your concept is really good....it moves well and is cute and funny and sexy. So, whenever you get overwhelmed with negativity, start pulling out a piece of paper and read those lovely comments made by other people until you begin to feel better.

Okay, after the happy box idea, I'm out of ideas other than to take a break and get away from whatever is depressing you for a while. Spend time with loved ones. I heard once that you could make yourself happy by making someone else happy. So, maybe you could do something special for a friend or family member to make their day, then bask in the joy radiating off them.

What do you guys do when you're getting sucked into the vortex of negativity?


  1. I personally love the happy box idea! I have my happy folder. :-) Compliments def. lift up my mood. Great suggestions. You're very right about there always being a negative no matter what stage we're in.
    Good post!

  2. Wonderful post, Linda, and so true on all counts! I loved Romancing the Stone. My favorite scene is when the pirate type guy opens the door and she tells him her name.

  3. I'm definately not the right person to ask. When I get there, I take a break from writing and get all irritated at myself. I know there was a stage when I asked myself "What do you think you are doing? Did you actually think you could do this? That peopel would actually like your world and ideas?" Then I go on a long drive for work and my head goes into one of my storys and I'm itching to write it all down.

    Eventually, I picked up my laptop and got back to it. The RWA groups really helped. There is something about those women that just pump you up when we are all together.

    But honestly, you can depend on whatever you want, but it all comes down to yourself. Society has trained us to care about what others think. My new thought on this?

    F them all. This is my story. And while sometimes, truthfully more often than not, critique partners are right, sometimes, it's just not where you are going with it. Decide what you want to stick to your guns to and do it. To hell with everyone else.

    Sounds rude, but it's true.

    Also, I'm more of the "I'll show you" type. I've decided to hang onto all my rejections and once I get published? I'm going to have a bon fire party. Pass out a rejection to everyone, have them read it, and BURN IT!

    Again, childish, but sometimes you have to give yourself permission to be so. Especially if it gives you something to keep you motivated.

    Btw, when are you coming to KC again? It sounds like you and I need to get together and have some fun!!!

  4. Jessica -- Ooh! I happy folder. I like it. Thank you.

    Linda -- That IS a great scene in Romancing the Stone! "Okay, Joan Wilder, write us out of this one." "Joan Wilder? Zee novelist, Joan Wilder?" Love it. I think I could quote the whole movie.

    Erin -- Wow, thanks for all the input. I like your line, "it all comes down to yourself." Perfect. And I have no idea when I'll get up to KC again. Hopefull for the September meeting (fingers crossed).

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  6. Writing can be tough. Reading reviews and comments can be tougher. There have been times I wonder why I put myself through it. But I sometimes get that giddy feeling Joan Wilder says, too, and I know it's totally worthwhile.

    I love your idea of a happy box.