Too much reading, not enough writing!

It’s important for a writer to do a lot of reading; however, I wonder if I’ve taken that to the extreme. The other day I realized I was using my stack of library books as an excuse not to work on my novel.

Most of my writing the last couple of years was for my blog. I aspire to be a novelist. For that to happen, I have to put in the time that first book requires.

“H” is for Historical Fiction

If you’ve followed my blog since April 10, 2017 [https://janetswritingblog.com/2017/04/10/h-is-for-historical-fiction/ ] you know that I had finished the first draft of a historical novel when I discovered a fact that prompted me to make major changes in that 96,000-word manuscript. In fact, I concluded that I had to start over.

I hit a brick wall!
(Photo by Janet Morrison)

Here are three key paragraphs from my April 10, 2017 blog post:

“One of my dreams is to write a historical novel. The historian in me struggles with the fiction in historical fiction. The writer in me wishes I could run fast and loose with the facts.

“Over the weekend, I did a lot of reading on the subject in preparation for writing today’s blog post. In the process, I found some information that shed more light on the historical event that serves as the basis for the novel manuscript I’ve been working on for the last decade or so.

“The combination of the new information I found about that event when paired with some of the reading I did yesterday about the craft of writing historical fiction made my head spin. The combination of the two, in fact, has convinced me that I must start over writing my novel. Yes, you read that correctly. I must start over.”

Where I went from there

I changed the location, the year, and the characters from the original story. Although much of the plot could remain intact, the necessity of starting over and getting my head around a new location when I thought I was getting close to trying to get the novel published took the wind out of my sails.

I tried to see it as an opportunity. The reality was two years of procrastination.

Common sense told me it would be a challenge to start writing “page 1” again, but I didn’t fully grasp how difficult the rewrite would be until I found myself unable to sit down to do the work. What I’ve learned over the last 24 months is – at least for me – writing is fun/enjoyable work but the idea of rewriting a full-length novel is gut wrenching.

In terms of production, my journey as a fiction writer has been abysmal the last two years. I continued to study the art and craft of writing, and I know I benefited from those studies. I benefit from reading good fiction, but it is time for me to stop writing about writing and get back to the actual work of writing.

The following words from my April 10, 2017 blog post haunt me today, since I have not had the grit I needed in order to follow through:

“I’m certainly not the first writer who never got her first novel published. There are numerous stories about first manuscripts being lost. Some succumbed to fire, while others were mistakenly left on a train and were never seen again. Many first manuscripts get rejected so many times by publishers that the writer eventually puts it away and moves on to another novel. Most writers have had to start over. That is what I will do, and I believe the end product will be better than The Spanish Coin manuscript.”

My April 10, 2017 blog post was a pep talk for myself, but it didn’t work.

Since my last blog post

I’m weary of making excuses – and maybe that’s what it took for me to finally start rewriting The Spanish Coin in earnest last week. I wasn’t satisfied with the new location for the rewrite. I threw caution to the wind on Thursday and took the story back to its original location. I’m familiar enough with The Waxhaws section in present-day Lancaster County, South Carolina, that I think I can make it work.

The true story that inspired my original manuscript is my inspiration for the new story. The year is probably 1767 instead of 1771. There is still a mysterious murder, but the victim is now a fictitious character.

I changed the working title from The Spanish Coin to The Doubloon. New title, new story.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Since Thursday, I’ve written 14,000 words. The monkey is off my back! I’ll report my progress in my blog posts on Mondays, so you can hold me accountable.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I just finished listening to The Island of Sea Women, by Lisa See. It’s a historical novel about an island off Korea where the women have an incredible ability to dive in the ocean and harvest specific fish and other sea life. I’m eager to start reading Tomorrow’s Bread, by Anna Jean Mayhew as soon as it is released tomorrow!

If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time. If you, too, are facing a novel rewrite, I wish you the stamina it takes to see the job through.

Thank you for reading my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to read my blog.

Look for my #TwoForTuesday blog post tomorrow:  My Two Favorite Unsung Female Heroes.

Let’s continue the conversation

I always welcome your comments. I appreciate your moral support and constructive criticism.

Janet

7 thoughts on “Too much reading, not enough writing!

  1. Thank you for your honesty, Janet. I can relate. When I published my memoir in 2014 I took a breather, thinking my next book would emerge naturally and grab me, much as my memoir had. Going on hubs years and I’m still waiting. My writing time is taken up with the weekly blog and some sporadic freelance gigs. I want to get my next memoir going —- A “prequel” to the Peace Corps one. It will take self discipline that I’m not certain I have. Or maybe a hiatus from the blog? I hope not; I would miss it so. Btw, I would be very very interested to know what that inconvenient fact was that set your WIP aside. Care to share?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for your comments, Janet. I hate to learn that you haven’t been able to write your prequel. I don’t know what the answer is. I think I just got tired making excuses. Realizing that the new local just wasn’t working for me was key last Thursday. Once I decided to go back to the original location in present-day Lancaster County, SC, it was as if I could breathe again.

    My inspiration for the novel was what I thought was an entirely true story out of that county. The pastor died in his study “in an attitude of prayer with a horse collar around his neck.” His wife was accused of his murder. She was tried, but her innocence or guilt couldn’t be proven. It was decided that she would be subjected to a bierricht — an old Scottish custom used to prove if a woman was a witch. They decided that the pastor’s body would be exhumed. His wife was forced to stick her finger in his skull. Upon being pulled out her bloody finger would prove she was the killer. Her clean finger would prove she was not guilty. Great story, huh? It was true right up to the bierricht. It has been repeated and repeated.

    I did my research but I could not find proof of the bierricht. At the time, the nearest court in SC was many miles away in Camden. I had decided to go with it. After all, my book would be fiction. I had tentatively hired an editor, but something kept holding me back. It didn’t feel right. The inconvenient fact I discovered was that the bierricht wasn’t held. I didn’t want to include it in my book and perpetuate the myth, so I stopped everything and announced on my blog that I was going to have to rewrite the book. Once I decided to move the story back a few years, change all the names, and move the story to another part of SC, I thought the rewrite would be relatively simple. HA! I wrote a few pages, but I couldn’t get it to work even after I changed the murdered man into a tradesman.

    What a roller coaster I’ve been on with this story for more than 10 years! I think I’m back in business now and it feels great! I’m back to WANTING to work on it every day after literally not touching it for 20 or 22 months. The story will now be total fiction, which I think will free me to do some things in the story that I wouldn’t have felt comfortable doing when I was writing a fictionalized story about real people.

    I hope you will soon recover your inspiration and energy to write that prequel. It’s a book I would love to read!

    Like

  3. I can’t even imagine being so close and then having to start over (that Hemingway story is a tough one). I’m so happy to hear you’re off high center though. Good for you. Hey, guess what book I’m supposed to read for book club? Crawdads. Ha!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you, Alison. I’m (finally!) having fun doing the rewrite. It feel great to be upbeat about my writing again. Thanks for your encouragement. Oh my – Crawdads. I think I’m the only person on the planet to say anything negative about it. LOL! It is a good story, though. I hope you’ll enjoy it. Let me know what you think of it.

    Liked by 1 person

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