It is daunting to be an unpublished writer amidst the stellar cast of this blog site’s regular contributors. It is even more so when in their actual presence. At the UnConference in Salem I recently had the pleasure of meeting a number of the regular blog contributors, and of hearing their insight, wisdom, and practical guidance for writing good fiction. Each of the sessions was valuable, each had a takeaway, each was enjoyable, and each was top notch. And yet, processing the sum total of all that input proved a challenge I was not quite ready for. By the middle of the conference, the sneaking thought in the back of my mind that had been plaguing me for months was becoming less sneaky. Should I give up trying to be a writer? Would I be better if I stopped?
The first days of the conference were exhilarating. I went to numerous sessions and I left each one jazzed about the new strategies for curing my ailing manuscript. I stole time in the evenings to apply the recommended literary treatments. I reworked the first page, to give it story questions and draw the reader in. I looked for the story underlying the plot as a means of better focusing the scenes. I strengthened the inciting incident in my protagonist’s past, which kept him from getting what he desired in the present. I made sure each page had microtension. I analyzed my deepest fears to find the place where my voice would come from and tried to focus that onto the page.
By the third day of this inundation I went to sleep believing that all I had to do was continue to apply the proper dosage of the various literary ‘treatments’ and my story would soon be glowing in healthiness. My manuscript would be cured. I woke up in the middle of that night and knew, with the absolute terrified certainty that only comes with three a.m., that in fact I wasn’t curing my manuscript. I was treating it, yes, but in a manner that looked only at individual symptoms and not at the bigger picture.
I had become a literary hypochondriac. [Read more…]