Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Crisis of Craft

I think it happens to everyone once in a while. No matter how much we love doing something, despite any positive feedback we receive, and regardless of how long we’ve been practicing, some days everyone feels like they fail. We all stumble through it—a crisis of faith, or for me currently, a crisis of craft.

I have now written several books, sold one, and garnered a request on another. Once Bitten was my first book, and was so heavily edited that barely a word was left unchanged between the first draft and the manuscript which sold. Since then it has gone through a couple more major revisions with my editor’s input. After all that, you would think I could get through the 2nd draft of my current work in progress.

It should be a snap, right? I mean, the book is already written, I just need to make sure it says what I really think it says. And I need to further layer the world building and sensory details. And add two characters who weren’t in the first draft. And plug some major plot holes. And . . .

Yes, those bloody impressions in my forehead are in the shape of my keyboard, thank you.

Somewhere along the line, I got a little overwhelmed recently. Maybe it is just everything going on. Needless to say, I know I can get through this draft. I do. I’m just . . . struggling.

Struggling so badly I started questioning my ability to write. Had I written myself in a hole? Maybe I needed some guidance, or to dig in and learn something new about craft that I *must* be missing. So, I went to the library and picked up a bunch of craft books, and read about five of them over the last couple days. What did I learn?

That I’ve read a lot of craft books.

It is a rare book on writing that presents new information. Not that I’ve mastered everything—far from it—but most of the craft book I’ve read recently all seems to run over the same ground. Some books are a little more informative, or maybe I just read them earlier, but here is a list (in no particular order) of my favorite craft books:

Self-editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King

Goal Motivation Conflict by Debra Dixon

Don't Sabotage Your Submission by Chris Roedren

Scene and Structure by Jack Bickham

Okay, there are a few more, but that is a good list. If you are a writer, what are your favorite craft books? If you are not a writer, what kind of 'crisis of faith' type situations have you been in recently? How did you pull yourself out of them?


purpleprose 78 said...

OK....the first draft is a little kid that has gone crazy...his parents have let him drink caffinated sodas and eat lots of cotton candy....he's bouncing off the walls...there is no direction

The second draft is him throwing up. He'll feel better soon once he's gotten all the junk out of his system.

Anonymous said...

OK, this is a GREAT metaphor!

Magaly Guerrero said...

Hi Kalayna,

I have one recurrent problem: sometimes I just can’t focus on one single idea. It has gotten so bad, a time or two, that I can barely sleep thinking about what I’m going to do next. Needless to say, this makes things very difficult. I’ve tried keeping a notepad on hand and jotting up ideas as they come, in an effort to keep my head clear, but it rarely works. Most of the time I just pray the Unfocused Demon waits until Fridays to curse me, that way I have the whole weekend to let it torture me! Any advised for an unpublished writer trying to get rid of the “un”?