What is Your Writing Trying To Tell You? Hmm?

Photo on 2010-11-08 at 23.11 #3

I have this story I've been working on — this epically epic story of epicness that, once published, will surely take the Young-Adult/Middle-Grade/I'm-Not-Sure-Yet world by storm. I mean, it's funny (at least to me. I regularly laugh at it. I mean with it.) , unique, has a fabulous and slightly crazypants setting, and characters I really love.

But I can't finish the thing.

Actually, I can't start the thing. Can't get beyond the first couple of chapters, and a handful of middle chapters. It's not for lack of trying. I've been grinding away at this puppy since 2009. Or 8. I can't remember anymore. It's all sort of a blurrrr….

Anyhoo, I'm not sure why this little novel is eluding me. I've got it outlined to within an inch of its teeth. (Oh yes; it has teeth. It's that good.) I've got character bio's and world descriptions and conflict/resolution outlines and timelines and plot charts and a file of random information and fun scene ideas. I even had my fabulously artistic cousin Sara draw a picture of my main character for inspiration.

But I can't get to freaking chapter 4. I can't figure out how to make the plot progress. And I have begun to think that maybe I'm not a novel writer (NOTE FOR MAEGAN LANGER — BLOG PARTNER EXTRAORDINAIR, CRITIQUE GROUPER, BRILLIANT WRITER, AND FRIEND, WHO'S HEARD ME WHINE ABOUT THIS A BATRILLION TIMES: THIS IS THE PART WHERE YOU PLUG YOUR EARS AND GO LALALALALALA! I CAN'T HEAR YOU!). Maybe I'm really built to write the short stuff: articles, essays, short stories, that sort of thing.

But . . . this funny little world and goofy little character won't leave me alone. And it's sort of making me crazy. So this morning while I was running along on my treadmill at the gym, I had a conversation with myself. It went like this:

Me: Why can't you finish this book?

Self: Why can't you finish it. You don't need me. You're just wimping out here.

Me: No I'm not! I've tried and tried and TRIED to write this freaking book, for FOUR YEARS! You ought to know. You were there. It ain't happening.

Self: Why don't you ask me if I want to write this book?

Me: (Pausing to stare at self like self is a lunatic) Fine. Do you want to write this book?

Self: Darling. I'm a fast writer. I mean, not as fast as say, Sara B. Larson, but fast enough. If I wanted to write this story, don't you think I would have?

Me: (Staring at self in shock) What . . . what are you talking about? You want to write this story. You've dreamed about it. Eaten, slept and breathed it. Commissioned artwork. Giggled over funny things your main character might say. You WANT THIS.

Self: No. I want the idea of this. I can't let go of this story enough to write it. It symbolizes too much for me. It has to be successful to prove to myself that I can, in fact, have the discipline and chutzpah to finish it. To do something this big and this long. To hold it in my hands and say "I did that!" This story is the one that made me think I might actually become a writer. I can't let go of it. It'd be like giving up one of my children. (Which, by the way, I can look at each day and say "I did that," so I don't really need this book.)

Me: Ummm. So. What you're saying is . . . the writing of this book has become so symbolic of my value that I can't let it go, and maybe the reason I can't write it is because it needs to go to college for awhile and learn how to become a book, and I'm holding onto it and crying "Doooonnnnn't leeeeave meeeeee!" Is that it? 

Self: Yep. Pretty much. Step away from the First Book Idea, woman. And move on to something else. And then when this story has gotten its Master's degree you can come back to visit and see if its ready to be written.

Me: *sigh*. Okay. Can I send it emails once in awhile?

Self: *SMACK! SMACK!* Snap out of it!

Me: Okay, okay. I'm going to get some frozen yogurt and maybe look into a story I saw just starting Kindergarten the other day. We'll see if it wants to learn how to write with me.

Self: 'kay. And stop talking to me while you're on the treadmill. You look a little crazy, and you might fall off.

There you go. I think that's my answer. 

See? All we have to do is ask ourselves. We've always known all along how we need to solve our problems.

Now go get out there, get some froyo, and set yourself free, babies.

About Janiel 433 Articles
I have managed to keep the same husband for nearly three decades, and the same four children for almost that long - although one or two of them say it has been much longer. I have been writing since I learned to hold a pencil, and trying to make people laugh even longer. I hope to do some good in the world before I go the way of it. And if not, I'd better at least get to visit Ireland.


  1. This is genius. You are completely right. I’ve done that before: fallen in love with the idea of something because of how I would see myself if I achieved that greatness. Wow.

    • Well, I’d be a genius if I’d figured this out years ago. 🙂 But maybe that’s how long my psyche needed to come to terms with it. I’m not abandoning that story all together; just putting it on a shelf. And yeah, I think we need to see ourself with greatness, without any big fat visible achievements at all. Maybe then we’ll see the real things we’re achieving, you know?

  2. You always were a Carol Burnett/Phyllis Diller or better–all short stuff. Maybe you are a sprint writer at the best. Just be what you really are–and that is a very talented humorist–putting ironic spin on real life stuff.

    • Thank you very much! I appreciate the kind compliments. But, *whine* I want to write a booooook! I need to know I can do it. *sigh* Well. We’ll see what happens when I start on something else.

  3. I hope you do get back to your story. It captivated a couple of my daughters when they read your rough draft many moons ago. They are still yearning for you to finish it. So, please, don’t give up on it forever. Maybe you need some experience you haven’t had yet, in order to finish it’s epicness. Timing has so much to do with everything in life. Just don’t give up forever. You are a fabulous writer.

    • Ah, thanks for the encouragement, Kris. I think I need to learn how to write a book one sentence at a time, instead of trying to do the whole thing at once. That might be another part of what’s submarining me. Ii appreciate you!

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