Sunday, June 15, 2008

Chaos And Creativity versus Expectations

Now there's a heading for ya!!!

Before I get started I better get some business out of the way... I'm over at The Pink Heart Society on Monday with a gorgeous lump of hero inspiration emailed to me for the Hero Database by Sally - so THANKS SALLY for sharing!!! What a GIFT of a guy! My muse is having a field day with him!

What I want to know from my so called friends across the pond is - WHY WAS HE NEVER POINTED OUT TO ME BEFORE??? Huh? I tell ya - you think you have friends...

Next up my very very good friend Donna Alward has been driving clean across Canada with her family as they relocate to a new home and a new life so I'm hosting a cyber House Warming Party for them over at Donna's Blog - PLEASE STOP BY and join us in making them all feel welcome and wishing them well! I've moved house more times than I care to admit in my life but I've never done it clean across a continent or with two children in tow so I'm HUGELY in awe of their achievement and I'm sending them a gazillion hugs and kisses and best wishes for their brand new life - HOW EXCITING!

And last but not least for those of you who've been patiently waiting to see who won a copy of Gabe's book Claimed By The Billionaire Bad Boy over at Tote's, Bags N Blogs... drumroll please... It's Cheri2628!!! I'm posting this over at Totes too - so just drop me an email with your addy through my Website Cheri and I'll get the book in the post... I hope you enjoy it!

Now... about the title of this blog... and having waited this long to do this post I should warn you - it's gonna be War And Peace... But if you've read the posts I did at both Totes and The Pink Heart Society (links in the two posts beneath this one) then you'll know this year hasn't been the easiest in the world for me. The very fact this blog has been so quiet pretty much says it all if you're a regular visitor! The bottom line is, I think, that this year writing became much more of a job for me than it ever was before. Now don't get me wrong I still LOVE what I do and I wouldn't change it for the WORLD!!! B-U-T this year I've had to step up my game a tad and learn to cope with a million other things I hadn't had to do before.

It's made me feel distinctly like a shadow of my former self... and honestly? A little lost and unsure at times... SO I've been a little low... There. Brutal honesty. Well - it's what we agreed on, right???

So here's how it's gone so far in my experience. First step you go through is that glorious first sale. It's the MOST THRILLING experience ever!!! And then you get to struggle through your first pineapple and see your first book on the shelf and hit a high again and then start doing things online so that your poor brain gets tied up in knots over things like HTML code and rights and how much promotion to pay for/do and updates and yada yada yada...

This blog has followed most of those stages. The good and the bad. Some days with humour... some days? Not so much.

But THIS YEAR I hit a slump like no other in my writing while trying to step into the public eye at the same time as part of the Mills And Boon Centenary celebrations. Now don't get me wrong - the latter I've had a BLAST with and I still have plenty of it to go - BELIEVE ME. But there were times when I felt like a complete fraud. Here I am standing handing out advice and tips to people while back in the cave I'm struggling to write ANYTHING that isn't complete and utter twaddle.

I really genuinely did think I'd burnt out and I was DEVASTATED by that thought. Cos having wanted this to be my life for so long, the thought of losing it was horrific. (I'd be one of those better never to have had the dream than to have it and lose it gals) There's never been a time I haven't written or been imagining stories or daydreaming or fantasizing. It's kinda like breathing in and out for me. I guess that's why becoming a writer some day always felt like such a certainty to me. And I'm one of the luckier ones - I know that - there are people out there who have to study and learn and refine for YEARS to master their craft and I always feel like I kinda fell into it. Therein possibly lies one of my problems.... I'm constantly waiting for the luck to run out/the other foot to fall/the moment when everyone discovers what a fraud I've been by not serving my time...?!

So this year started out GREAT. I'd handed in what I consider to be one of the best things I've ever written in the form of The Millionaire's Proposal , I had my fairy dust book His Mistress: His Terms out on the shelf and strong books to come in February, May and September and I was scheduled to have not one but TWO Modern Heats go to the States as Presents titles. I was flying high. All my hard work from the year before was starting to come together I thought. PLUS I'd had my proposal for my new Romance line book approved and was all set to get going with all my usual background work done. Not a problem.

Now... I've known for a long time that when it comes to writing a book I do my best work when I lock myself away and write it by taking a run at it. It's why word count wars and tight deadlines work for me. That way I keep going when the words are there - I can get up to eight or nine thousands words done if I go without sleep - yes, SERIOUSLY. I'm convinced what does it is that for that period of time I'm completely absorbed in the world I've created and the people that live there. I AM them. The next thing they do and say comes pretty fluidly cos I'm literally living it. And the only time I'm NOT living it is when I can't stay awake anymore... This does mean that while I'm writing I'm a recluse and the rest of my world goes to crap but everyone eventually finds what works for them and flies with it, right? Right.

Then came the public appearances stuff. And again - I'm not saying I don't love this cos I do! BUT when it came mid-book it lifted me out of the world I was living in. And it's not even the one day that it lifts you out I've found... there's the days to go get your hair done in preparation... the clearing the decks with animal chores... the choosing clothes... the traveling back and forth... the phone calls and interviews over the phone... the scheduling of it all... AND the twenty-four to forty eight hours of nervous energy before you do what you're going to do and all the hours afterwards when you cringe at the things you said or did that you think you could have done better. THEN you need at least a day to get back into the imaginary world you were in... At this point I should maybe point out that in February (which was a short month to begin with) I had the only flipping Valentine title on the shelf in Centenary year which made me PR gold apparently ;) So on top of what I was already doing I had - wait for it - preparation for my first ever workshop in Dublin, the short story for The Sun newspaper, four newspaper interviews, three radio interviews, a trip to London for the launch party, a piece on camera for the BBC and a LIVE TV appearance... oh and my usual guest blogs all over the place...ALL while trying to write a book...

It was an AMAZING MONTH. I did things I could only have DREAMED OF when I was thinking about life as a full time writer. I was meeting INCREDIBLE PEOPLE. A great many struggling writers in the world would have chewed off an arm for all that free promotion and I knew that. I considered myself VERY FORTUNATE. But...

I discovered it was creative suicide.

You see I had naively thought during my writing journey that all that kind of work was something that didn't happen in the UK as much as it does in the States. In fact if you had asked me about it in November or December of last year I would have STILL said that. BUT this year is soooooooo important - it's the kind of milestone I'll never see again and I'm very very blessed to be part of that history and the legacy left behind by generation after generation of writers. And like I've said a few times I LOVE what I do - so to be able to share that with people and get the message out there that we're not writing formulaic trash with heroes capable of raping heroines was way way way too good an opportunity to miss!!! I will continue to do it for as long as humanly possible. I'll drag that good old soap box of mine out at the drop of a hat - you guys KNOW that. I will NEVER EVER not speak to someone who has been kind enough to come say hello to me - it's just not in me. And when it comes to encouraging people to read more and to never give up on their writing... well... I'll do it with my last breath quite frankly. So there.

BUT there comes a point when you do have to strike a balance between your writing and everything else. And bottom line - the writing has to come first. Without it - nothing else exists to begin with, right? And having talked to other writers about it this year I can tell you I'm not the only one who has been coming to this conclusion...

All I know is - had I been locked away in the cave with the book I was working on I would probably have still had problems. I'd been working and working and working for months on end as it was. And pushing myself more and trying to learn more and do more when it came to my writing. I think that's a very natural thing. We ALL experience it after we have a few books under our belt. We WANT to get better - for our readers as much as for ourselves. So I guess I had been heading for a melt down for a while. All the other stuff, well, it just kinda magnified the problem when I couldn't settle myself back into my imaginary world.

So for a couple of months, particularly the last few weeks - I suffered like I had NEVER suffered before. I wept over my keyboard on a daily basis. I slept to Olympic standards and we all know that not only is that not me; it's also a clear indicator of depression. By the time I finished the damn book I HATED IT. I didn't CARE if they lived happily ever after and that broke my heart, cos I LOVED these two and the premise of their story... It could have been sooooo much fun. And it WASN'T.

That's when the meltdown went nuclear my friends. Thats when I backed out of not only guest blogs, but this blog and pretty much ANYTHING ELSE that would take me away from my writing. And even when it was over and the book was done and dusted I not only had to accept the fact that it's not my best work ever and just let it go at that... I also had to drag myself out of the pit of despair and come up with ANOTHER ONE. On a SHORT DEADLINE cos the one before it took so much longer than it should have done. Yuh huh - welcome to life as a professional writer...

I can tell myself if it was easy everyone would be doing it... but I won't. Cos to me that's a cop out. See I think we all have to face what I've faced this year at some point. There are probably hundreds of writers out there who can pop in and tell me this won't be the last time I go through this. (please feel free not to do that btw) And I can tell you I'm stronger for the fact that after the book from HELL I had one that was HEAVEN and so HOT it overheated my laptop on a daily basis... But thanks to you guys and your support I can now tell you that the whole smiling from the wrist thing online? REALLY DOESN'T WORK FOR ME.

So get thee out of the wood work and share the angst!!! If I hadn't gone public with this and talked it through with writing buddies then I honestly think there was a point where I would have thrown in the towel and quit. I'd have HATED myself for doing it but I know me and I've always been a walker. I'm also a life's too short gal you see. So when things got particularly bad in jobs I had before and I couldn't cope I walked. Does mean I have a knack for rebuilding my life and I have plenty of life experience for someone my age but there does come a point where I think you have to slug it out. And luckily for me and the rest of us the romance writing community is THE MOST SUPPORTIVE on the web!!! So there's no reason to be locked in a garret suffering alone the way generations of writers did before us. And I do think new writers starting out and people trying to get into the writing game should be aware that as fantastic and wonderful and magical as this world is - it can also be soul destroying at times. There'll be days when you just can't see the light at the end of the tunnel, when words won't come no matter how hard you try to force them, when you look at what everyone else is doing and feel completely inferior, when you worry about being dropped and unable to pay for basic things like food...

You're not alone!

So if you've been having a tough time then I hearby declare this blog OPEN HOUSE for angst. Whether you're published or unpublished or just someone with stuff thats getting you down in real life then come on in and pull up a chair. I'll even bully some of my online friends into handing out any tips or advice they have from going through similar experiences - how's that sound??? Cos let's be honest here - I'm not the fountain of all knowledge - I'm still learning myself. But if we all share what we know then we're STRONGER FOR IT - right?!

Plus sharing means I know I'm not losing it...

Next time I'll tell you about the book that renewed my enthusiasm... and the hero that makes Gabe look like a PUSSYCAT. I jest you not...


Michelle Styles said...

Sending you a hug back!!!

I understand exactly what you are saying about PR, particularly PR that means actually dealing with the media.

But you will get over this hump...

Biddy said...

Big hugs!

I am wrestling with revisions at the moment because I am doing them piecemeal. I have an hour here and there to do them and never get into the world or lose the thread of continuity. All very frustrating when I want to get this book back in front of an editor pronto!

Natalie Anderson said...

You're definitely not alone Trish :) The whole angst/self-doubt thing that comes with this gig is just hideous. I try to ignore it most of the time but sometimes it swallows me whole for a while... but then I kick enough for it to spit me out again ;)
Forgetting that I'm writing for anyone but myself is the trick - I write for ME. Then, later, I hope that other people might like it - that's when the angst comes back!
Anyway, I wanna meet this hot hero who brought your sparkle back!!!

Janet said...

Some thoughts:

I often wonder if all the effort authors put into marketing their books actually pays off.

Writers' most valuable commodity is time. Would it be better spent on writing? Does promo actually brings a jump in sales?

Maybe writing first rate books is the only control we have.

Anonymous said...

Big hugs.
Thank you for being courageous enough to express your pain and depression so eloquently in this post.
Just in case you were in any doubt, this honesty serves as an example to those of us who are yet to be published, that the life of a professional writer of commercial fiction, is just as much hard work and broken nights as the most demanding of jobs - because we care.
And that it what makes us who we are.
Thinking of you, Ray-Anne

Joanne Cleary said...

I just wanted to say how incredibly brave you are sharing and well done for working yourself through it!

And congratulations on your new hot hero, can't wait to "meet" him!


Liz Fielding said...


I've been in the same boat this year. Found myself doing anything but writing because the writing was so hard and I know several other long time writers who been in the same boat.

I have discovered that going on holiday in the middle of writing a book is not the greatest idea, but when you have tight schedules there really isn't much option -- other than to stay at home and just write but in the end that kills you, too. That it is far too easy to get sucked into spending too much time on PR, writing blogs instead of books.

I've also learned that writing the wrong book is hardest thing in the world and that these days I need more that a first line and a following wind.

Thanks for sharing how tough it can be so we don't feel alone. I hope the rest of the year is a breeze for you.

Trish said...

Thanks Michelle! Hopefully on the way out of it now ;)

Thanks Bidster! And yeah, it really does take us to sit down *properly* with it, doesn't it?! And that I'm told involves discipline... darnnit! You'll get there hun - keep plugging away at it!

Natalie - good to know hun! Yeah, I write for me too but I think some of the problem I've developed this last year or so is I've become fussier for me too - if that makes sense??? Now I look at what I've done once I have the initial story there and I just want MORE. Darnnit again!!! And one hot hero coming up in next blog... ;)

Hi Janet! And GOOD POINT! I have a few opinions on this subject - me being me - so will add it to my list of things to blog about...

Ray- Anne THANKYOU. I HOPE SO. All I know is that there are things I'm discovering along the way that I wish I'd known, you know? Forewarned an all that... so as long as you guys keep reading my rants I guess I'll just keep on doin em... that way I have someone to blame lol!

THANKS JOANNE! Honestly its talking about these things and getting feedback from folks that helps ME too - so it has benefits all round hopefully ;) And as I said to Nat - one hot hero coming your way in next post...

Hi Liz! See now - there ya go - if YOU can run into the odd bump in the road then we're DEFINITELY not alone! And I TOTALLY agree on the holiday in the in-between, it's part of the reason I'm now pushing to get this next book away before I head to the States. I just can't guarantee I'll hit my deadline if I try writing while traveling and having been late so much this year already...

Right... now... off to find suitable pics of aforementioned hot hero... oh the CHORE!