Wednesday, February 6, 2013

IWSG - Apples & Oranges

This is my Insecure Writers Support Group post for February.  

IWSG is the brainchild of Alex J. Cavanaugh. It's a monthly bloghop that offers a safe haven for writers to express their feelings and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. It's also a venue for offering support, both in the form of comments and positive posts. Writers of all kinds are welcome. 

We 'meet' the first Wednesday of every month. If you're interested in learning more, click on the link above. And don't be intimidated by the size of the group. We're not expected to visit everyone on the list.


The last two months, my posts were encouraging and long. 
This month, it's going to be short and soul-baring. 


Mid-January, I was feeling really down. I was tired and depressed in general. No big surprise. Sometimes I get moody. But on this particular day, it was more than that.

After tweaking the opening of my WIP, I kept reading through for a polishing pass. I knew I should focus on drafting, but I didn't feel like writing. 

As I read through chapter after chapter, there were parts I liked, but the bulk of it seemed boring and blah. "Why am I wasting my time," I muttered to myself. "Who's going to want to read this? No one."

Luckily, I have a wonderful CP who encourages me when I need it. She gave me a gentle cyber shake and assured me I was wrong. And that made me think. I've had these low moods before. What caused me to doubt myself so much?

Then it hit me like a facepalm. I'd been reading nothing but paranormal and contemporary lately. I was comparing my down-to-earth historical romance to modern-day books with liberated heroines and flashy, supernatural worlds.

I might as well have been comparing apples to kiwi fruit.  

I decided what I needed was to read something in the same genre, so I did. It wasn't the best book ever written, but it wasn't the worst. And you know what? I enjoyed it. 

I may be able to count its readers on one hand should I ever get my HR published, but it's not pet cage liner.

Lesson learned. We're going to compare our work to others', that's a given. Done right, it's a good way to learn. We just need to stay in the same section of the produce department when we do.

32 comments:

  1. Lol! This post was for me ... I've been reading tons of memoirs and bios to get a feel - and the writing was "always" better than mine... I will never be published, I said.

    Then I reread some sections, watched some YouTubes of my "MC" and all is well. It IS a great story and it will be published... one day :)

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  2. It's hard not to compare, but you're right, when you do, keep it in the same genre. Inspirational is not horror, historical not sci-fi. Often times the audience isn't even the same. I need to remember this too. Thanks for the reminder :)

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  3. That wouldn't have occurred to me either, as I write in all sorts of genres. I should keep this in mind next time I'm revising. ;)

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  4. Lynda Young also talked about the dangers of comparison...a trait that we must drop, otherwise we'll never get our ms's published. Or finished. We'll continue with that "why bother" attitude.

    We are each unique in our talents...and that's what makes the world of books so delightful. I sometimes wonder how James Patterson can pump out a book a day (or seemingly so). What I think is that he has a template that he follows, substituting names and scenarios. Although he's successful, they are all the same.

    What if we all did that? Substitute names and scenarios. Pretty blah, don't you think?

    Bananas to kiwis. Actually, they're of the same family, but different. Be a banana today.

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  5. I don't believe comparisons are good, in any way. I observe, I read and I learn but I try as much as I can to not compare. It's not healthy.

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  6. I've definitely done this myself. It's tough not to, sometimes. But it's good you caught it before it snowballed and became worse.

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  7. I'm a Paranormal junkie by heart so it's rare that I venture from my genre, but on occasion I venture out into SF or Fantasy. This week I went through my worn out Dragon Riders of Pern book. It was a nice vacation from my genre.

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  8. It's a tricky balance of input and output isn't it? One of my goals for 2013 was to block out the "noise" a bit-- the voices of experts telling me how I should write or blog or market or...or.... Augh. It means cutting back on some of my input and making sure I'm following my heart. From everything I've ever read on your blog, Melissa, you are a role model in this regard. Go you.

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  9. I just had a similar realization with my WIP. I was in the doldrums with it, thought it was a dull read and that I needed to revitalize it somehow (but had no idea how). I'd been reading books with high stakes, life-and-death situations lately, and couldn't get it out of my head that the conflict in my story wasn't high enough... because I was unconsciously comparing it to these books, with which it doesn't belong.

    Great post, and I'm glad you came to this realization too. Comparisons are great, and I think you can learn a lot, but you're bang on that they have to be similar!

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  10. There is nothing worse than comparing your book to another. You are unique and amazing as who you are, don't change that!

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  11. So true, Melissa. As writers, we should spend a lot time reading books in our genre, which is why lately, you can find me butt-on-library-floor analyzing picture books. Yeah, so the kids snicker at me, but hey, I'm studying, right? :)

    Hope you get to feeling better soon!!

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  12. So glad you came upon that epiphany. It's tough comparing ourselves to other writers, but you're right that it could be awonderful learning experience.

    Nutschell
    www.thewritingnut.com

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  13. A friend of mine is struggling because she's comparing her novel to an episode of a TV show that bears similarities to her premise. It's a slippery slope, comparing your work to that of others. It's hard to read something and not see the faults or likenesses in your own work. But we can also learn from this -- and you're right -- just as long as we're comparing our work to works in the same genres. If you don't keep this in mind, it could send you into a tailspin of insecurities.

    Great post! Nice to meet you!

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  14. Great lesson here lady: Don't compare your writing to anything or anyone. Set standards for how certain stories make you feel, or relate, or--whatever. Try to get that into your own work. But as far as style goes, just tell the story the way you know how to tell it.

    Some writers are comfortable writing aggressive, over-the-top characters. Some are better with the contemplative kinds. Some writers use a lot of detail, others like breathless pacing. Have confidence in your choices and ability to tell a story in only your way. (Knowing what your way is an entirely different kind of comment, btw. :) It'll show in your work.

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  15. I so agree! Unfortunately for me, I read authors like John Hart. No way will I ever be near that good. But I aspire to be. Good luck with your WIP. Don't give up.

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  17. I love your analogy with the produce departments. I was wondering why you had the fruit pics at the top of the post LOL.
    I'm very guilty of comparing myself to others and I know it's a bad habit. Glad that you learned a good lesson though, something to remember! :)

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  18. I think I've experienced the same thing; I write light-hearted women's fiction (chick lit) but enjoy reading weightier novels. And, when I do, I usually feel discouraged and inadequate. So, I try hard to remind myself that my readers will be seeking entertainment and a bit of escapism, not the meaning of life. Of course, I'm trying not to be trivial and one-dimensional, but I don't have to write the next Shakespearean tragedy, either.
    I'll remember your apples and oranges next time I spook myself!

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  19. I totally think that comparing ourselves is not only a given, but a necessity. It is only by looking at the ones that came before us and did it better that we can learn and grow. Great philosophy!

    Good luck with your WIP

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  20. That makes perfect sense! And even within a broad genre, the sub-genres are different.

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  21. Great point! I'm glad you were able to turn around the negative comparison! :)

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  22. Great advice! It's always great to have a cheerleader in our corner to help turn those negatives into a positive. I always compare myself to what everyone else is doing and that usually puts me right into a stinky mood.

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  23. Couldn't have said it better myself. As much as we know we shouldn't we do compare ourselves to others. And the 'feel' of paranormal versus historical is vastly different.

    Plus, there comes a point during the revision process when all writers think, 'this is blah' because we've seen it so many times.

    Keep writing! I wanna read your book.

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  24. I know exactly what you mean.
    I always feel that my run-of-the-mill, non-paranormal, non-vampiric, non-fantasy, non-sci-fi writing is boring....
    Oh well, there's nothing I can do to change that... I write what I write..

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  25. One of the most important things I've learned about writing is never, never, to compare oneself with other writers!
    Whether it's the same genre, or different, or who writes faster, or who uses better words, or creates richer characters, we are all in a different place with our writing, and we all have a unique message to convey. Learning to appreciate our differences and allowing them to enrich our own work is one of the wonderful benefits of reading!

    That said, I know all about those low moods. I've learned to just let them pass, and I actually have a file of positive comments about my work from writers I respect to keep me going!

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  26. So very true! Especially because readers of certain genres expect certain things of those genres! Great post!

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  27. Sometimes all we need is a simple word of encouragement. I love your turnaround in mood during the course of this post.

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  28. Judging by your doovy meters, you can obviously write like a demon. You're miles ahead of most of the population already.

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  29. I'm glad you caught yourself in time and looked the other way around. It's the only way to do it. Proud of you!

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  30. You're absolutely right. You can't compare apples to oranges or paranormal to historical romance. And I bet a lot of writers make the same mistake. Not to mention that by the time we get to the editing phase, we sometimes get sick of re-reading our ms over and over again. Sometimes I'll read a paragraph 3 or 4 times and I still can't decide how I feel about it, lol! This is where having a good CP partner is so important. Good luck finishing it up, sounds like you're in the home stretch! (:

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  31. Great minds... ;)
    I love this post!! It's so easy to get swayed by unrealistically comparing our work to other works.

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