Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Always do what you are afraid to do

Confession time: I've been suffering from a little bout of writer's block. It is really very, very annoying. And the funny thing is, I don't really believe in writer's block, I subscribe to the B.I.C. philosophy of writing, i.e. Butt in Chair concept of just get it done. Put the words on the page and no more sniveling about it, you big cry baby.

But anyway, here I am not writing very much. FINDING PONY is being submitted to editors right now, and in the meantime, my agent and I decided that the next project I should begin on is a companion title, tentatively titled AURORA BEGINS. Aurora is an important character in my first novel and her backstory is so interesting that I just knew it should be the next book. I actually even told my agent, "This will be easy--I already know her character. I can whip this book out really quickly."


Aurora is seventeen years old, a tough Latina girl who grew up in East L.A. Her whole family is somewhat involved in the gang lifestyle and her boyfriend Manuel is the head of their gang. Okay, so...I'm white. And yes, I've been a social worker for some time, I've worked with kids in gangs and a little in L.A. even, and I've been doing research---lots of it--to make sure that my MC's voice will be authentic as it can be, to the best of my ability. I also know that there are so many writers out there who have written their MC's who are different races than they are, different genders, even different sexual orientations, and have done it well, very well.

But it's still scary. Really, really scary. Because, more than anything, I don't want to get it wrong. I want to do justice to my character, and to the people who will eventually read my book.

"Always do what you are afraid to do." This quote shows up on Twitter periodically, mostly I think because it resonates with us writers so much. I know that there can be greatness in doing something that terrifies you with the possibility of failure, but still, there's that niggling part of me, sitting on my shoulder this whole time whispering: it's crap, it's garbage. The cognitive side of me knows that every writer (at least I hope) goes through this--it is something we must all endure.

Here's a couple questions for anyone who may be reading: How much research do you do before you are comfortable writing your story? Are you ever, truly comfortable? Would you feel confident writing a MC with a different race than you? Gender? Sexual orientation?

Hope you guys have a great Wednesday.


amber said...

Don't feel like you're alone. My main characters are all white girls roughly 18-30 years old ... but the variances in their backgrounds are enough to make them very unlike me. I tend to lean more towards the 'write what you know' mentality ... It's a daunting task to take on the challenge of writing such a VERY different character. Just be careful of not spinning into Stereotype Land. I hear the natives there aren't very forgiving.

kara said...

Yes--I cringe when I read stereotypical stuff--it's very condescending, I would think. It IS daunting writing so many different characters, and giving them all their own voice, but exciting, too. Are you working on something new, Amber?

Lora R. Rivera said...

Oh I *so* understand this fear. It took me nearly a month to write a critical scene in my current WIP, but when I finally wrote it, my critique grp said I'd gotten it bang-on.

I usually have to stew a bit, brainstorm with people, and by that I mean usually tell them my ideas and before they can even open their mouths, shoot it down and start in on another. And I research during this afraid time too. But you're right. Eventually it'll have to be BIC time. Good luck! I know you'll do a great job. The fact that you're having this fear says so :)

(*waves hi to Amber*)

amber said...

*wave back!*

I actually am writing something new! It's not a paranormal (I'm burned out on those for a while) ... actually, now that I think about it, ghosts and the ability to see them qualifies as 'paranormal,' doesn't it? Crap... Oh well :) Here's the summary I'm going with now:

'Alana Wendell, a newly discovered and highly-resistant psychic, takes delivery of a trunk found in shipwreck off Ireland for her museum's new exhibit. But the case isn't just an antiquity – it belongs to Annie and Lizzie, a pair of teenaged ghosts with no memory of their human lives who've been forced to roam a cemetery until the mystery behind their deaths is solved. What they don't realize is that time is running out – rumblings are growing of the girls and their spirit friend, Jordan, being 'forgotten.' Alana must open herself up to her new gifts and uncover the truth to free Lizzie and Annie and solve a 150-year-old kidnapping and murder on the high seas.'

Thoughts? It's lightly based on a true story about how my family came to be in America by way of Germany. I'm kinda enamoured with it at the moment. ... But then again, the MC is a white anthropologist ... which is what I am, too. So, 'write what you know!'

amber said...

PS -- Don't ever call it 'Writer's Block.' It just feeds the concept and makes it real. Call it instead 'Recharging Your Creative Battery.' :) You've still got the talent in you -- you're just taking a break to power up!

kara said...

*hi girls!* (Anyone seen HP yet? I'm hopefully going today...)
Amber~totally agree. Writer's Block is bull-crap. Doesn't exist.But it is so frustrating when the words don't flow when normally, they can.

Anyhoo, Amber--love LOVE your new story concept. I love anything to do with historical fiction and ghosts are my absolute fave. Do it! I want to hear more about it--this is something I would totally read. :)

Lora R. Rivera said...

I haven't seen Harry Potter yet!! Wanted to, but turns out most of my friends are out of town, hubs deployed, and I don't wanna go by myself.

Amber, YES. Sounds spectacular, and unique, which is saying something what with ghost stories being so prevalent nowadays. Do it! And keep us posted ;)

Sarah Skilton said...

This post struck a chord with me. I'm currently writing from a teenage boy's POV, and I'm hoping my husband won't laugh his *ss off when he reads it. I'm also writing in a very particular style, which required lots of research beforehand -- and sometimes I'm tempted to procrastinate by doing more research instead of writing -- but for now I'm committed to finishing the first draft, no matter how rough.

Then I'll take a month off before tackling revisions, filling in the blanks, and trying (gulp) to make the prose shine.

As for writer's block existing or not existing, I think there are times in life when the desire to write simply blinks out -- when very difficult personal matters crop up, for instance, and the creative spark dies. It's not so much a block as a removal of desire. That's been my experience, anyway. But the spark always comes back.

Good luck with your WIP! I'm sure you'll figure it all out.

kara said...

Sarah, that's soo cool--my MS on sub is from a teen boy's pov! It was fun to write, but I had to have my teen son read it to make sure my voice was okay. (He edited me a few times--"Uh, Mom--that's lame, kids don't say that." "Oh. Okay." lol!)There's NOTHING worse than reading a YA where the mc sounds like a 30 something woman writing what she THINKS teens sound like, yeah?

I'm glad you mentioned that sometimes you feel the spark just goes away, and then comes back. It always does come back doesn't it?

Last night I wanted to delete each and everything I wrote this past week. This morning I read through and decided to keep polwing through. First drafts are demonic.

LisaAnn said...

Hi Kara! Just wandered over from Lora's blog, and your post totally hits home for me. I just started the sequel to the book I'm currently shopping to agents, and this time, I'm writing from the point of view of the male love interest. I've never written as a dude before, and I'm totally intimidated I'm going to add way too much description and fluffy stuff...

My fingers are crossed for you as you work your way through yours... It sounds like your background is fantastic, and I'm sure the manuscript will flow really smoothly once you tackle the tricky stuff at the beginning. Best of luck to you!

kara said...

Hi LisaAnn! Thanks for your comments. Good luck @ writing your dude :), I'm sure you'll do great. A writer once told me, you aren't writing the pov of all men, just one--your character's. :)