Today J.R. Wagner, author of the newly released Exiled, joins us with a guest post on the emotional trails and traits of writers. I understand the self-doubt and worry J.R. mentions–I think many of us have been there. Welcome, JR!
By J. R. Wagner
A neurotic writer? Preposterous!
Please. I’ve been exposed to enough of ‘us’ to realize that I am far from the only writer who suffers from, as the dictionary so nicely puts it:
feelings of anxiety, obsessional thoughts, compulsive acts, and physical
complaints without objective evidence of disease, in various degrees and
patterns, dominate the personality
At the end I’d tack on ‘while writing’.
Think about it. Maybe it doesn’t happen during your first draft, maybe it does, but it happens. You start to second-guess yourself. Is this the right way to express what I’m trying to express? Am I really using the character’s true voice when I write this? Does this word even make sense? Does this sound too much like (insert a well-known book title here)? And so the questioning and self-doubt has begun (along with the anxiety).
Is this where it ends? Hell no. You’re just warming up.
You have a draft and you’re ready to share it with some close friends or peers. You think to yourself, (on more than one occasion) is this really worth sharing? Maybe I should do another round of edits before I show it to anyone. What if they think it’s terrible? Have I wasted my time writing this? Maybe I should change that scene in chapter twelve first. Did that dog really need to get hit by the car?
Eventually, most likely after another round of edits (or two or three or four), you ‘man up’ and share your work. You’ve been writing for a while so it isn’t as bad as the first time you shared your work with someone…is it? If you’ve published, there are expectations of higher quality. (Maybe you’d better run over it one more time.)
While they’re reading it, you have to fight the urge to check in and see how things are going. You may find yourself doing some unusual activity to keep your mind off of how far along your reader has gotten. You were really psyched about the first chapter and she blew through it without saying a word. Did she hate it? Why wouldn’t she say something –anything? You’ve put countless hours into this and she has the nerve to remain silent! Perhaps you should re-think your friendship. Maybe she won’t get a copy of your next project. Look at her…sitting there… reading …with that arrogant expression on her face. What does she know about writing anyway?
You get it back. Finally, someone else has read and commented on your work. Was it positive? Negative? Riddled with change suggestions? Maybe they didn’t say anything at all when they finished and you have to pry an opinion from them –what a nightmare that would be!
Somehow, you’ve been convinced that your work is good enough to publish. Time for another round of insecurity and doubt as the rejection letters start piling up –all based on your one page query. How do you base an opinion of someone’s work after reading just one page? You get single phrase replies like ‘Not for us’ and ‘Keep trying’ that provide no helpful insight whatsoever. You’ve spent a year writing this novel and some agent’s assistant has the nerve to say ‘Not for us’. How infuriating! Doubt and fear and doubt and doubt and fear and insecurity haunt you on a regular basis.
After a short stay at the State Mental Hospital, you return to find a letter in the mail accepting your project. Yes! Let the good times roll! Right? Now the professionals are going to have a shot at tearing apart your work. Can you handle that? Cut this, change that, move this chapter, delete this chapter –yes your favorite chapter. You need to have some more target-audience specific content.
So your manuscript has been run through the editorial meat grinder and is all shiny and pretty now. Phew. Oh, by the way, how is your author platform building coming along? Do you have any Facebook followers? Twitter? Goodreads? Are you posting on your blog regularly? Do you have a website? Do you update it often? Are you spending enough time building a following? What do you mean you aren’t working on the sequel while you’re waiting for the release? What have you been doing with your time?
After a slightly longer stay at the State Mental Hospital, your galley is ready and the reviews start to come in. Do you read them? Should you read them? Maybe a few just to make sure you’re on target. One star, WTF! She had the nerve to give you one star and provide no explanation other than it took too long to read! She shouldn’t even be allowed to review! And this one says it wasn’t well edited. No SH*&, Sherlock that’s why they call it an Advanced Reader Copy! That one totally doesn’t get my story! You think this person made an account just to give me a bad rating –they have no other activity (because you checked) on the site whatsoever. What does that mean? Is there someone out there who hates you? Do you have an enemy? Your only solace at the moment is the reviewers are not speaking for your target readers –they aren’t your target readers. Are they?
The big day comes. Release day! All your work, all your efforts…will they pay off? Check your Amazon sales rankings. How are you doing? You’re up a few slots…now you’re down a few slots. Now there is a lull in buying altogether. Maybe you should run a special price offering? Did that help with your numbers? Your exposure? Your financial goals? Perhaps some advertizing on Facebook or Goodreads or another reader-friendly site will jack up your sales. You call your publicist…every day. Have they scheduled anything for you? What’s your book tour schedule looking like? What can I do to increase sales?
And on and on it goes until you either tear yourself away from the micromanagement or you don’t. You need to get your mind somewhere else…back to writing! And so the circle begins again!
Give yourself credit. What most normal people don’t understand is that writers, with every page they put out into the world, are exposing a part of themselves –a part of their psyche. How many other careers require such things? Not many. It takes guts to put it out there for people to read and enjoy or hate and tear apart. More guts than most people have. Be proud that you’ve done it. You’re in a select group. Writing with the intent of sharing your work with the world is not for the faint of heart.
About the author:
J.R. first started writing at 10 years old with his sequel to “Return of The Jedi” – the self-proclaimed “Star Wars geek” had lofty aspirations of working with George Lucas on filming the project. In 1990 he began filming his version of “The Lord of The Rings” in his parent’s basement, but the plug was pulled after he nearly burned down the house. Since then the storyteller has also written a full-length science fiction screenplay, a thriller novel and a second screenplay.
After graduating in Kinesiology from Arizona State University, J.R. returned to Downingtown, where his creative fires were re-stoked by his two beautiful daughters.
J.R. also endearingly considers his wife Lisa his muse. It was during their trip to Maine he began writing Exiled.
Exiled is a fantasy novel written for young adults about a boy (15) who is wrongfully accused of murdering his mentor and banished to The Never, a place from which there is no chance of escape. James must first learn to survive in this inhospitable environment before finding a way to return home, where he believes he must be the one to save his kind from destroying themselves.
Full of sorcery, treachery, tragedy, adventure and excitement, Exiled is book one of The Never Chronicles, which in full, completes the story of James, The Never and the feared Epoch Terminus – the rapidly approaching date marking the end of his world.
Every other chapter follows James in The Never, while, in “Lost”-like fashion, the alternating chapters provide back-story. The story lines eventually come crashing together in dramatic fashion, tying sub-plots together and providing the reader a “wow” moment.
Watch the book trailer for Exiled.