My Online Literary Experiment: Emotions Run Amuck

I’m an emotional writer.

What that means is I “feel” a book into existence. That’s not to say logic doesn’t have a place at the table (I wouldn’t have realistic motives, character sketches, or even an outline without Mr. Logic), it’s just that he is not at the front of the table. He is somewhere in the back of the room and if he raises his hand he might not be seen.

Yes, logic has to shout to get my attention a lot when I write.

It’s just for me to accomplish writing something I consider “true” I have to experience it emotionally as the reader will, maybe even more. If you read something that makes you cry, chances are I wailed before you. If I make you laugh, chances are I laughed as well (maybe even out loud with a slight loss of breath).

However, there is one important problem with being an emotional writer, it is that a work while in progress is more than simply words on paper, it is emotional dynamite for me, and it can affect my mood and my perception while working in the book or even while thinking of it outside of it. It is always there, like a powder keg ready to be lit.

So why am I bringing this up here? Well, Permanent Spring Showers is easily becoming the most emotional book I have ever written and I think a lot of that is because of this “online literary experiment” aspect of it. To make each chapter that goes up each Friday work, I need to always be “on.” Every chapter, every moment, I have to feel as intensely as I would when I write a normal book for me (in other words, one written out of order and in spurts of energy). Basically, what I am trying to say is that this book is exhausting for me emotionally, and every week I feel it.

There are times when I hate everything I am doing and curse my name. There are moments I love the book.

Everything is high and low. Yes, it’s turning me into a bi-polar writer… Okay, that is a joke, but you get the gist of what I mean. In other words, this is all new territory for me and that is exciting and terrifying… Argh! See, bi-polar.

Was this a good idea?

So let’s get to the heart of the issue. Was deciding to write a book in this style a good idea for me? Here are the arguments:

GOOD:

  • I’m writing and creating every day. I have never felt more on my game as a writer (at least in a while).
  • I’m feeling the result of my work each week, and every “like,” every e-mail, every comment, and every share, is inspiring to me. It’s like having an audience cheering you on while you write (and most writing is done solo in a quiet room, so the change is positively electric).
  • It’s building my name as an author online. I can see the numbers are growing each week and that can never be bad thing.

BAD:

  • Since I am only working forward and never back, the final product could suffer in the end. That is an honest point.  Consider for example the voice in the book. Who is to say that the first chapter will sound/read like the last chapter? The change from point A to point B might be too extreme.
  • If the work fails in the long run it can not only affect my own creativity and inspiration, but also my name as an author.
  • My blog could suffer and my other books awaiting possible future publication (which includes work I am very proud of) could suffer as well.
  • There is always the possibility of writer’s block.

It is the last point that scares me the most.

Writer’s block is like pulling a muscle in your brain. You have pushed your creativity too hard and strained it. Only rarely have I experienced writer’s block and mainly that was because before with those books I was writing/creating only when inspiration was overwhelming. I was working towards my brain/creativity not the other way around, in other words. So this is new for me and my brain and there is a chance it could cause some problems.

And let’s say I did wake up one day and realize I can’t think of what to do and I am lost, who is to say what having my writer’s block so public could do to my sense of a writer’s ego? (And a writer needs an ego. Period.) Yes, this could grow from a writer’s block to something more problematic and more long term.

I do think scary thoughts like this sometimes. Let’s move on, please.

One Growing Issue: Characters

As those who have been following this creative process know, the original seed for the work comes from a screenplay I wrote over ten years ago. That means, aspects of the plot and most of the characters have existed in one form or another. Of course, I have not opened that script in over a month since,  as I have noted in other essays like this, these are two very different products now.

But here is the rub: while a character may make enough sense for 10 to 20 minutes on a screen, that does not mean they make sense in a 300+ page book.

Let me give you the example of Jenn vs. Jenn Gane

Jenn in the screenplay was a nice 22-year old who loved Vince. She was normal, dressed normal, acted normal.  She was a love interest for his character, the heart behind Vince that he doesn’t realize is there. Basically, picture a young Meg Ryan and you have the character. (I don’t want you to assume she ended up happy because of the comparison, but she was likeable)

Here in the book, Jenn Gane is a ruthless artist/author who has no problem manipulating people for her own creation. She has abandoned her old life for her new one.

Yes there is a stark difference between the two. (As a writer I love the new one a lot more) But how can I justifiably argue to myself that Jenn Gane deserves the same ending as Jenn?  And what would that new ending be, and would it work with all of the others characters now? They are two different people on two different paths, and I feel that difference each week.

You see the problem now?

And, Jenn is not the only one with this issue, and sadly, others have it worse.  Now that is not to say that a reader (if I am doing my job right) would notice these issues, but they are on my mind as each week I move a step closer to the end.

So how do I do all that needs to be done without feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, or, worse, experience that dreaded writer’s block? Mainly, I focus my attention each week on that one chapter due, with a knowledge of what I need to do in the next week’s chapter. AND while doing that, trying my best to trust my creativity that it will work out in the long run. Oh, yes, there is a lot of trust going on here.

Permanent Spring Showers could either end up something I am very proud of or something I want to hide away in some dark little hole some place.

Deep breath, Scott, you have 15 more chapters to go…

Chapter 11 is up on Friday.

If you liked reading my article (and maybe my book in process, Permanent Spring Showers), why not check out some of my published books? I had two novels published in the last few years, My Problem With Doors and Megan. You can find them via my amazon.com author page here, or as an eBook on Google eBooks here.  Thanks for reading!

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5 responses

  1. The merit contrast between share-as-you-go and write-at-once methods has always intrigued me, going back to early novels originally serialized in newspapers and magazines, or just comparing television shows vs. movies. Always a toss-up, and hard to know whether the added momentum of more frequent/regular engagement of the audience trumps the ability to re-tailor the beginning to better fit the end. And there’s also the possibility of audience reaction shaping future elements of the work to consider. I guess it probably depends on the particular author/creator and their grasp of the particular story at the onset, but I often wonder how differently or not those that were done one way would have ended up if done the other.

    • That is a great point because many of Charles Dickens’ work that were serialized suffered for it. For example, Great Expectations and his first book The Pickwick papers (which no one reads anymore really) both suffered for it. Yes, Great Expectations is a classic but it would have been so much more rich if he was able to write it as a complete whole (Like a Tale of Two Cities), I mean just looked at how thrown together the ending of GE is because of it.

      I believe, like those authors, I have characters, an outline and an idea of where I am going, but the end product is the weekly process. But my reaction is mixed to the experience. I love that I am forcing myself to complete a new work (and my mind races through screenplays wondering which one I can do next), while the other part of me is frustrating by the stress and pressure of it.

  2. Pingback: My Online Literary Experiment: Half of the Writing Hurdles « The Musings & Artful Blunders of Scott D. Southard

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