I thought I could do it and make it work; write without a safety net. Write in a bubble.
My first three novels, a trilogy, brought me an abundance of positive responses. My characters popped off the page, or so I was told. The story was compelling. And I began to believe I had discovered all the reasons why that happened. And that I could do it again.
So when I started my blog, which I was told all published writers have to do, I needed to create content which I hoped would be unique and engaging.
But what would that be?
The blogs I like most are “internet diaries” where bloggers live soap opera sagas and publish their trauma week after week. Followers comment with suggestions about mental recovery, breaking up the marriage, getting it back together, turning to God, or going to Hell. So when it came to scribing content for my own posts, my wife suggested a few boundaries: “Don’t write about me. Don’t write about us. And don’t write about our friends.”
Okay. A tad restricted. But honestly, describing my happy marriage with no kids, no pets and no angst just wouldn’t cut it as gut-retching, page-turner American epic.
So I decided to write about other people’s drama. Crash and burn drama. Major life-changing drama. Soul-searching drama.
And I made it all up.
I went on-line in July, publishing my take about what makes us tick. The first story, in eight parts, engaged my readers. And in the comments, we discussed the implications of how my theme and characters related to real life situations. People were interested and I started attracting more followers.
“And the Lord looked at all He had made. And He said, “Yep. It’s good.” And I did too.
I quickly dashed out a second, longer story, an entire novella, and I wrote it rule by rule. What makes a likable character? Sacrifice and humility. What makes a good conflict? Wanting love but being afraid to lose it. What’s always interesting? Crazy sex. What makes a good ending? Boy gets girl. Girl gets boy. How could I lose with that formula?
I lost most of my readers by the end of the second installment! It was obvious when the comments and hits abruptly dropped, that the story wasn’t “sticky.” When my friends stopped reading it, I lost enthusiasm for writing and fell into a two-week writer’s block. Then I denied it all happened, which helped me get back into writing a third story, and I added a weekly self-contained commentary like this one. I was then invited to be a contributor to Curiosity Quills. The responses were positive, so my confidence came back.
I was then ready for a reality check.
I needed an editor’s point-of-view for that second story, the one still in series. So I asked my friend Leslie, a PhD and published educator, to read the novella from beginning to end and tell me what she thought. No one had yet done that. In three hours Leslie wrote me back.
She couldn’t finish it.
She felt nothing for the characters and didn’t care what happened to them. Okay, she DID like the first paragraph. I should have stopped there!
To my chagrin, my novella, hastily written in six weeks without a stitch of feedback, wasn’t worth salvaging when published world-wide.
How does that make me feel? Surprisingly, not as bad as I thought I would.
Yeah, I creatively failed, but I don’t feel like a failure. I will use this exercise to see where I went adrift. I know one thing already. I wasn’t PASSIONATE about the story. I was churning out content. And it wasn’t fun to write. It was an assignment with a very quick deadline.
THIS, my friends, is a big lesson!
If it ain’t fun writin’ it, it ain’t gonna be fun readin’ it.
And yet, my readers were kind to me. They could have left nasty comments about how dull and uninspiring the writing was. Nope. No one blasted me. They just stopped commenting. And they stopped dropping by.
I had become boring. Ouch!
But the fact that I can deal with this, and admit it, gives me the impression I just may be “growing up.” Problem is, novella #2 still hasn’t run its course! There are four more segments to release! Damn! I’m committed. But life goes on. Another story came through me. It’s coming up soon.
And this one I think is working.
It was fun to write.