I love the Absolute Write Water Cooler site and its fabulous forum HERE, where you can connect with writers whose interests range from nonfiction to any genre of fiction you can imagine. There are fun writerly opportunities, too; I especially enjoy chiming in on Chain Chain Chain of Haiku Fools.
The poster wrote:
Are any of you working on (or have you published) a book of such a grand scale that when writing it, it seems that the project is way too much for you to accomplish?
This writer felt overwhelmed by the breadth of his project and thought someone with “amazing literary talent” should write the book instead of him. (He named John Steinbeck, Stephen Donaldson and Stephen King as these potential people, and that started quite a debate, I’ll tell you!) He had other story ideas, he said, though they didn’t call to him like this one–the one that he had to write, the one that made him feel inadequate because the story concept itself was just so BIG! He asked for general advice and empathy, then closed with the Goethe quote I love the best. Hooked, I posted back:
Yes, I have a big story that tortures me on a regular basis.
Thing is though, these stories are gifts, at least in my opinion. You probably have a highly unique concept and if you tried to leave it to write something, uh ordinary, you’d feel the pull of that original idea anyway and tune out your new story.
I think you should try writing your big story in layers. Structure your plot scene by scene in an outline, making sure you have conflict and that each scene is progressing your story. Then get down the dialogue, some of the setting basics. Go back later to add thematic elements and color (as in descriptors relating to the five senses, quirky personality bits, humor, etc…).
Let the first draft of your singular story be crappy. Allow your idea to stretch you as a writer without giving you stretch marks. I, personally, wouldn’t give up on it. This world needs more standout stories. Just my 2 cents!
Days later now, and I’m still thinking about that post. How, I wonder, did Michelangelo feel when faced with the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel? I only dabble in art, but I know that every idea has to start with a single scratch of pencil to paper or paint to canvas, and there is always a moment (at least for me) when the work looks like someone slopped raw sewage on the page, maybe with a little blood. You have to continue through that drecky phase to find the magic. Draw everything out, add depth with more markings, add the color, layer the color, presto chango…beauty. Roses from the refuse.
Yes, there’s a wide canvas to fill when you’re working on a big story concept, and you’ll need plenty of organization and craft skills to tackle it. But if you have a story–of any size–that has you by the guts, I think you have to write it. Believe in your abilities to carry you through the rough patches. Love yourself more than your story, because otherwise you will always be lost in its shadow. And understand that no one–not Stephen King, not John Steinbeck, not Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison or Audrey Niffenegger–can write your story the way you can. If Michelangelo had turned his sketches over to someone else, do you think the final product would’ve been as extraordinary? I doubt it. I think the art needs the visionary in order to fully actualize.
We’re all learning here. We’re all on a journey. But I won’t let the white of the canvas blind me into thinking I can’t splash it up with color; I won’t let it intimidate me out of writing my story. Could my big story stink big in the end? Sure, it could. I hope it doesn’t, but it could. My goal is to tackle the canvas daily, add my pencil marks and brush strokes, continue to learn and grow as a writer, and hope that my confidence grows big and fat along with my bank of knowledge. Until then, the daily struggles continue.
Anyone else have big story issues? Issues of any size that you battle on a regular basis? What do you do to keep your confidence up?