Sunday, October 23, 2011

What Gives Me the Writing Heebie Jeebies




heebie-jeebies |ˈhēbē ˈjēbēz|, pl. n., a state of nervous fear or anxiety



I love almost everything about writing fiction.

Getting the idea is the most fun. I can come up with concepts all day long. Ideas constantly pop into my head, or I'll see something on the street that gets me asking, "What if . . . ?" I write these down put them in an electronic file. Every so often I go over the ideas and cut-and-paste the best ones into a document called "Front Burner Concepts."

Eventually one of these grabs hold and says, "I'm the one, Dude." And then I'm totally jazzed. Because starting a book with a killer idea is like falling in love. The writing of a first draft is the first year of marriage. You're committed. You've still got glow. It's young love and that keeps you going, keeps you bringing flowers to the project all the way through.

Then comes the editing process. This is like marriage counseling. Now you've got to work to keep you and your story together. There are problems to address. And if you've received an advance, divorce is out of the question. But with time and patience and some give-and-take, you've got your final draft done.

And then . . .

I just received the page proofs from my publisher for the next book in my Mallory Caine, Zombie-at-Law series. The title is The Year of Eating Dangerously and it takes Mallory through a full year of dealing with her brain-consuming ways while defending the downtrodden in the courtrooms of Los Angeles.

This is where I get the heebie jeebies. This is the last time I'll get a crack at the book before it goes to the bookstores and readers.

Which is why I never read any of my books once they're in print. I'm too afraid I'll find a mistake, or something I wish I'd phrased differently. At least with digital self-publishing one can make changes fairly easily. But in the traditional world, usually it's one-and-out.

So, dear reader, send up a good thought for your humble correspondent as he takes pencil to page . . . and trembles.

What part of the writing process do you dearly love . . . or dread? 

21 comments:

  1. The Year of Eating Dangerously. LOL!!!!!!!

    Sometimes the entire process of writing gives me the heebie-jeebies but I can't seem to stop. It's like watching a car-wreck in the making--you wanna close your eyes but you just can't.

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  2. I agree that the worst case of Hebbie Jeebies comes when the thing is published. I don't read my published work, either, since an editor has invariably messed with it and it doesn't really belong to me anymore.

    Hope you are still making people laugh.
    Cheers!
    Dee

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  3. I love the analogy of the idea/concept, writing it and then editing it to marriage.

    I just worry that people will like it enough to tell other people about it. I actually don't mind any of the work on the book. I seem to fall in love over and over again with it--even when I find that (in a second go thru), I've messed up and realize what I should have done was THIS! Then, I go and fix it and it's even better than before.

    Have a good one and hope all your books do well. I've always enjoyed your writing.

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  4. I laughed when I read your next title AND that you don't read the printed book. I don't either for the same reason.*eye roll*

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  5. Love the title of your next one, Jim. Very clever. What gives me the Heebie Jeebies? That my last idea was my last idea. Of course, it never is, but the fear of a dry well is always there.

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  6. The Year of Eating Dangerously. :) I think that's every year for me when trying to lose weight. :) Love the title.

    Heebie Jeebies? I've got them today. The last day to work on my novel before it goes to my editor for the last time. When the galleys come back is not as nail bitingly agonizing as this is because it's the last time I can make any big changes.

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  7. And we all thought getting published was the be all and end all, that we'd be happily traipsing through the tulips from that point on, the only tough part being fielding all the interview requests...

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  8. Love the title!

    Love the analogies as well. Lately, for me, writing has been more like a blind date that I've been prodded into by a well-meaning friend who keeps telling me that I'll have a great time and will love every minute.

    I anticipate and dread the knock on the door - not sure if it will be fun and relaxing or if we will have a single solitary thing to say to each other.

    I'm reworking a short right now for submission. That's like reconnecting with an old friend. It's a bit awkward, no one has a good reason for why it's been so long, but you still like each other enough to give it a go.

    As always, thanks for the pep talk! I sincerely appreciate it.

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  9. Like you, Jim, I never read my books after they're published. And for the same reason. I'm 100% positive major mistakes are in there, awaiting discovery, and ready to embarrass me beyond all comprehension.

    My heebie-jeebies come at the beginning. When I sit down to write a new novel, I'm staring at a blank screen, usually with no ideas whatsoever, or at best, a flimsy thread of an idea. Maybe just a couple of lines from a song. I've done two novels like that.

    But I'm absolutely terrified every time I sit down and look at that blank screen. I stay terrified until I'm past 100 pages, because (in my case, anyway) that's when the novel really takes flight. If I can make it past 100 pages (or "Act I", as you say in PLOT & STRUCTURE), then I know I've got something.

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  10. I hate beginnings. Bringing characters and settings to the stage for the first time is slow going for me. Once I'm in the second half, the story takes off. That's bliss when the tale seemingly writes itself. I understand your concerns, though. No matter how many times I read through my work, there's always something I've missed or can change.

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  11. All so interesting, and different, e.g., Nancy, I LOVE openings.

    And Mike, remember what Sidney Sheldon said: "A blank page is God's way of telling us how hard it is to be God."

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  12. My biggest fear is that no matter how great the idea, no matter how much passion I put into it, no matter how well developed and loved my characters are to me and even, no matter how well I write it...my story could be rejected and my dream trounced just because "it just didn't do it for me" filtered into some slush pile reader's brain the day it got read for the first time, if ever at all.

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  13. Such a great post, as always.

    I love your ability to connect, and to humanize your process for me. It's like John's post yesterday. Very reassuring I may be doing this writing thing the way it's supposed to be done.

    For me, lately, the Writing Heebie Jeebies are showing up at about 30,000 words. It's like you say in Plot & Structure, I hit this wall and think: Just what the hell have you done here, girl?

    As a painter, the HBJ's come for me when I'm staring at a blank canvas. I've found myself sitting there, actually terrified when I look at all that white space staring back at me from the easel.

    I think, no brushstroke I know will ever solve this dilemma.

    One professional artist I read frequently says, "Throw that first color on fast! Cover up all that white space. Then, carve your canvas out from there with additional brushstrokes."

    He's right.

    Once that first layer goes on, like the first words on page one of my word processor, it seems to all work itself out from there.

    You just have to be willing to commit to that first brushstroke, or keystroke, and dive into the abyss from there.

    And on another note, that finished work you spoke about never reading, when your book's out in print...

    Whenever I view my paintings there's always another brushstroke that's needed, another thing I could have fixed, though other folks that look on the thing never saw the flaw I pointed out.

    Must be that dastardly Muse messing with my head again. I seriously don't know what I'm going to do about this guy.

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  14. Diane, welcome to the world of us. One rejection, 10, 20, 100--innumerable writers of the past have hit these marks and gone on to success. The Help had, what, 60 rejections?

    Keep writing.

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  15. Paula, yes, the 30k wall. Amazing how many writers talk about this. You must be on the right track!

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  16. The part I love is that rare moment when I type something, read it, and think, "Yeah, that's good enough to share."

    The part I hate is that nanosecond after I hit "Send" and it's too late to take it back.

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  17. I share Diane Carlisle's fear of my work being deemed 'not for me' after having already experienced the crushing disappointment of rejection. The experience brings 'improvise, adapt, overcome' to a different level.

    My own version of the Heebie Jeebies fear is that I will be so completely absorbed in my second novel as to threaten my oxygen supply.

    The Help got approx. 60 rejections?? That little tidbit of information has just made my night - thank you!

    Oh - and love the title for your next book.

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  18. I can identify directly with your title, having just returned this evening from a three day camp with with my Boy Scout troop, sleeping in the wood and eating food prepared by a group of 12-15 year old boys...in the woods...in Alaska....were there might be zombies. Can moose, bears, or porcupines become zombies? Can you become a zombie by eating said zombified critters? I ask because I couldn't readily identify the meat in the spaghetti we had for yesterday's evening chow...that and the boy that kept playing with the lighter fluid I am certain was a zombie.

    On writing heebie jeebies, one thing that got me recently was that I received my first ever one-star review.

    In spite of the fact that the surrounding ratings for 65 Below were rather good.

    "Sexist racist homophobic junk that insults the seals and rangers by a guy who ran the base 'food court'. . .god this is awful "

    Sigh....she didn't even read my bio right...I ran the NSA Mess Hall not the PX food court...sheesh!

    Part of me wants to re-read to make sure I didn't really insult the SEALs & Rangers, cuz that's not a good thing to do.

    The other part says "Yeah! That's what I was aiming for lady!"

    The other other part wishes I stayed in the woods with the pyromaniac zombie Boy Scouts and became a arctic zombie fighting monk.

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  19. Basil - there's nothing quite like a review that say, "you suck because (rambling diatribe about their own perceived expertise)."

    A friend of mine has a VERY successful trilogy where the MC is a drug user. Kicks ass and takes names in a dystopian world where drugs are like candy.

    The reviewer obviously is either a recovering addict, an enabler of a practicing addict, or a self-righteous do-gooder, because she went on and on about how a dystopian fantasy didn't correctly portray drug addiction. What part of "fantasy" and "dystopian" where so hard?

    Meh . . .

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  20. Dread . . . someone finding fault with my research. My latest proposal is tricky w/law facts and I'm starting to itch just thinking about getting the information right.

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