Aug 21: Writer’s Woe
I’m back to worrying about my book again. Multiple layers of worry, from what to do about cover art (there’s an ancient pot that would be perfect, if only I had a royalty-free photo of it) and how to go about breaking the book up into two pieces to the most pressing and worrying issue of all.
Namely, that I’m afraid it sucks.
Rather, I was so worried about writing a true-to-the-myth account of the entire Trojan War that I ended up writing something with no soul. What makes the Iliad so powerful isn’t its accuracy to the myth (which it wasn’t, as most scholars believe that the story went differently prior to the composition of that epic) but the intensity of the characters and the emotional battle between them. That’s what I think I’m lacking, but with my lack of life experience (despite my age) I don’t think it’s possible for me to add that accurately.
Some of the chapters in my book are pretty good, I think, really getting at the heart of what the character is going through at that given moment, but mostly those are chapters focusing on issues a little closer to my own, namely stagnation, being unloved, and stuff like that. So, the chapter where Achilles is just about to go insane from spending six years disguised as a girl on Scyros, that one works well. The parts of their chapters where Briseis and Iphis are suffering through the knowledge that their lovers/owners don’t really love them, those feel fairly real. (Though my own experience is the can’t-get-a-lover stage of being unloved, but the anguish at the center of the soul isn’t too different. It’s just less focused.) But the battles? Nope. The brutal clash between the two biggest egos in Greek myths? Practically copied and pasted out of the Iliad, only with a hefty dose of lame added. The searing agony of loss? Pretty mild. But you know the old adage about how a writer can only write what she knows. I’m glad to say that I’ve never been in any kind of battle (especially a spear and chariot battle!), I don’t have a big ego, and I’ve never really had anyone to lose.
In this case, it’s not too big a deal. Since the whole idea was to stick to the myth (though I still had to invent a few things, due to lack of detail and whatnot )I don’t have to depend on myself for the story, so the story is all right, even if the narrative fails at times.
Where I’m really worried is in the “original fiction” category. Because I’ve been working on a series of novels (initially envisioned as kinda-sorta Young Adult because the leads are 16 and 20 in the first book, and 19 and 23 in the final book) and I feel like they’re really…I don’t know quite how to describe it. I feel like the basic set-up, and most of the really big things (the set-pieces, if they were movies) are really pretty cool, but I worry that everything surrounding them is so amateurish that no one will want to give them enough of a look to ever get there. But I spent all last semester writing the first drafts, and I think there’s a lot of good material there, so I don’t want to give up on them.
I just don’t know quite how to fix them. (The same thing, of course, applies to this Trojan War novel.) If I knew anyone socially, maybe I could get someone to act as a beta reader, and help me figure out how to re-work them and improve them until they meet everyone else’s standards, but I don’t. (And I’ve learned my lesson about never using my family as beta readers. That has every time turned into an unqualified disaster, and led to me abandoning the project. That’s why they’re not touching this series.)
It’s an irritating dilemma for which most people would have numerous avenues towards a solution, and I have none.
Yet another reason that it totally sucks to be me.