Get Over The Hump Day – Welcome Libby Fischer HellmannPosted: July 18, 2012
Ernest Hemingway said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
You may not realize how true this is for writers unless you are one. We overcome tremendous obstacles to create our stories and in the process we learn how to motivate ourselves when things look dim. Today I’m starting a feature called Get Over The Hump Day. I’m going to invite writers here each Wednesday (hump day) to tell us how they stay inspired.
My guest today is Libby Fischer Hellmann, author of eleven novels and as many short stories, most recently A Bitter Veil. You can find her here. You should also know that her book Easy Innocence is free today on Kindle.
Libby is hosting my Get Over The Hump Day post on her blog today. We call it Mutual Bloggeration.
Please welcome Libby!
When the Going Gets Tough…
Funny you should mention this, CJ. I’m in a tough place right now and —well— I’m struggling. It’s not writers’ block per se. It’s broader than that.
Over the past ten years I’ve published ten novels (depending on how you count them) and about twenty short stories. Number eleven is done, and it should come out in 2013. When I think about how far I’ve come, I’m amazed, especially since writing was never on my master plan. I was going to be a film-maker — the Lina Wertmuller of the United States. I had visions of riding off into sunset with Federico Fellini. Life had other plans, though, so here I am.
But I’ve always been a sucker for a story. The most seductive words I know are “Hey I want to tell you a story.” Say that, and I’m yours. So it finally dawned on me that I am a storyteller, whether I’m writing it, filming it, or just imagining it.
And that’s the problem. I’m just not that excited by the story I thought I’d be telling next. As some of you may know, I’ve reinvented myself in my fiction. I started with an amateur sleuth mystery series, expanded into a hard-boiled female PI series, and branched out into thrillers and stand-alones. The thriller I’m revising now is set in Cuba, and that’s usually the time when I casting around for my next story. It’s never failed. In fact, the siren song of the “next best thing” usually puts me under its spell, and I can’t wait to get started.
This time it’s different. I had written up to page 60 on a new Georgia Davis story when I left her and decided to write three stand-alone thrillers. I promised myself I’d go back when I’d finished. The story isn’t a bad one, and I’d pretty much figured it out in my head. Georgia discovers a half-sister she never knew she had, and that sister is in big trouble. I was also going to bring back a character from an earlier book — the villain who got away.
But the problem is that I’ve been avoiding jumping in. I reread the first few chapters – bear in mind I wrote them almost three years ago – and they sounded flat and boring. No problem. That’s why we do revisions. So I rewrote the first chapter, and it’s better. More exciting. Still, I’m not captivated by the story the way I should be. And I can’t figure out why.
Is it because I already know the story? Often when I’m writing I love the sense of discovery and surprise when a character does something I didn’t expect and the plot moves in an unexpected direction. But I already know most of the twists and turns in this story.
Is the story itself a little too formulaic, too “PI-driven?” It’s not exactly a new story. Few plots are. (They say there are only two plots in the world: A person goes on a journey, or a stranger comes to town.) But we write anyway, and no story turns out to be quite like another. I suspect that would happen here.
Or is it “story fatigue?” After eleven books and twice as many stories, am I just storied out? Bored with my thinking, bored with the genre, bored in general? Am I finished? All washed up? Do I have any stories left to tell? I don’t know.
Usually when I have writers’ block, I stop writing so that my brain switches from left to right, or right to left (whatever it is). I read a new book by an author I love… I go to the movies… or I talk it out with a friend. (My friend Judy Bobalik can tell you a funny story about that. Just ask her.)
This time, though, I’m not sure what to do.
Anyone have any suggestions?