January 8th, 2012

Stella Notecor

How Crying Over THE HUNGER GAMES Helped Me Write

I'm coming off hiatus. I apologize for my abrupt departure, but I was having major personal and writing issues.

Thankfully, my personal problems have begun to clear themselves up. Only, when I tried to get back to writing THE BET, I found myself trapped by writers block. I couldn't focus on it, couldn't even think about it. And that is because of another story I've been working on.

This story, which I'll call Project X, is the book that made me want to write original fic. It's the book that has kept me writing. It's the book that has always been just out of reach.

I don't fool myself. I know I'm not a perfect writer. My stories have issues, some which I can't see and some which I can see but which I don't have the skills to fix. There are some days where I feel like I can't write because I just don't have the technical skill. Other days I worry that I can't write because I don't have the necessary life experience.

And that is why Project X had been so difficult for me. This is a BIG BOOK. It's complex and multifaceted. The characters have in-depth growth arcs. The main plot is so big it'll take 4 books to tell it all, and even the subplots feel like they should take more than one book to tell.

I've been working on Project X since January 2008. In that time, I've started the first book of the project 3 times. The first time, I wrote about 10k words, then scrapped it. The second time, I wrote about 30k words, then scrapped it. The last time, I wrote about 5k, then scrapped it. That's 45k words, down the drain because each time I started to write, I grew in leaps and bounds as a writer. The second time, I actually wrote a scene that was so beautifully composed that I took one look at the other 28,000 words and realized they were garbage in comparison. When I realized that, I closed the file and never opened it again.

But for the past few months, Project X has been nagging at me again. The characters have come back to life in my head, and they aren't leaving me alone. It got to the point where, when one of my friends advertised they were taking commissions, I splurged and got her to draw/paint one of my characters for the future cover of the first book of Project X.

That cover has been my desktop image for the past month or so, and until last week, every time I looked at it, I got SO frustrated because I knew I wasn't ready to write the book.

What changed? I read THE HUNGER GAMES.

Now, the plot of my story isn't much like THE HUNGER GAMES, so it's not that it gave me plot ideas--though it did teach me a couple things about plot twists and foreshadowing. And while I know my writing isn't perfect, I know that with lots of editing, I could write a book nearly as good in terms of grammar/description.

What THE HUNGER GAMES did was make me cry.

You see, I've been focused on writing as a business for such a long time that I kept trying to think of all of my books as products. Blogging wasn't for fun, it was marketing. Fanfic was an advertisement of how well I wrote, not a hobby. And I no longer read to experience stories... instead I read to analyze them and decide how I could write that well.

But THE HUNGER GAMES was such a powerful book that instead of studying it to see what plot devices and sentence structures she used, I just read. And read. And read.

And then I cried.

Crying was the catalyst to a realization that books are about emotions. I am allowed to cry over a book. I'm allowed to be happy and sad for a character. I'm allowed to hate characters and love characters and be indifferent towards characters. And that includes my own book and my own characters.

And when I realized that, I realized that the reason I haven't been able to go anywhere on Project X is because I've spent too long thinking of it as a product instead of the book that made me want to write. And once I realized I was allowed to cry over my book, the ideas, sad and happy and everything in-between, came pouring out.

I've spent the last week plotting Project X. It's not anywhere near ready to be written, but I feel like I have a better handle on the story than I have in four years. It's probably going to be another year before the first book is anywhere near ready to let people read, and another year after that before I'm ready to publish it.

No, I'm not going to disappear for two years. I said I was going to publish THE BET and it's related stories, and I will. But in between working on those, I'm going to keep scribbling away at Project X.

Because Project X is the book that made me want to write. Because Project X keeps me writing.

Because Project X makes me cry.