Friday, May 19, 2017

Writing When You're Not Loving It by Alicia Dean

We all know that writing is often a struggle, regardless of what we're writing. But, I've found, (which really is a no-brainer), that when I'm trying to force something that I'm not enjoying, it becomes a dreaded chore. And, the results suck. For various reasons over the years, I've become involved in writing stories of a specific type or theme, due to special 'calls for submission' or a joint project with other authors, etc. 

It's difficult to write when you're not in the zone, when you're not enthused, but I always try to make myself power through. Sometimes, to my surprised delight, even the forced stories will click and I end up liking them after all.  An example is an anthology I became involved in where the stories had to be set in Africa, and had to be very short. I thought of and discarded a few plot ideas, and finally settled on one that I wasn't all that enthused about. But, I forced myself to keep writing, and I ended up with a story I don't hate. :) 

Has that ever happened with you? Do you have any tricks to making the words flow even when you're not feeling the love?

Below is a bit about the story, which should be releasing soon. (We had some glitches with a few authors in the anthology, but I believe all is just about resolved). I shared an excerpt a little while back, but this is a different excerpt, from the opening. 


After dying for the third time, unloved and unlovable Autumn Baines is running out of chances to avoid purgatory. For her latest life, she’s sent to the Serengeti, where she’ll have to perform a selfless act and find someone to love her. She sees her chance with the arrival of widowed father Logan McBride and his teen daughter.

Faced with an opportunity to make a tremendous sacrifice, she’ll have to decide…can she forego her eternal happiness to give them theirs?


The third time Autumn Baines died was the most painful, the most horrific. She’d been warned that would happen. Each of her deaths would continue to get worse. This time it had been a high speed car accident where she’d been trapped for hours, pinned beneath the steering wheel, gasping for breath, begging for help. The paramedics had arrived and performed a long, agonizing extraction, but she died in the ambulance before they reached the hospital.
She shuddered and banished the disturbing image, focusing on the now. Her guardian angel, Milo, sat across the table. The glow around him was so intense, had he not been black, he would have faded into the whiteness of the room. So much white—walls, chairs, floor, desk. The first few times she’d been in this room, the starkness had been blinding, but she was growing used to it.
He frowned disapprovingly. “Back again, I see.”
She lifted her hands, palms up. “Well, you know, dying is so much fun, I can’t resist.”
“You joke, but you know that, eventually, you’ll use up all your chances. And then…”
“I know, I know. Eternal damnation.” Her tone was light, but her heart pounded, and her stomach clenched in terror. As much as the thought horrified her, why couldn’t she do what she needed to do to avoid it? What was wrong with her?
Sympathy flashed over Milo’s face, then he schooled his expression into neutrality. Sounding like a judge handing down a sentence, he said, “Autumn Baines, after your first death, due to your selfishness and acts of unkindness, you were sentenced to eternal damnation. However, based on the—”
“Come on,” she interrupted. “It’s not like I haven’t heard this before. Twice.”
“Yes, but you know we have to go over it again. That way, you can’t claim you weren’t given all the facts.”
She smirked. “Like, I could take God to court?”
He gave her an exasperated look. “Just let me do my job, okay?”
“Fine.” She sat back in the chair and crossed her arms, waiting. It wasn’t like she was in a hurry to begin her third life anyway. So far, they hadn’t been exactly paradise. Paradise, hmmm…now that was something she could get behind. Maybe they were sending her to the Bahamas this time. She listened patiently, her hope growing that they’d give her a nice little hut on the beach with a horde of cabana boys to see to her every whim.
“However,” Milo continued, “after reviewing your life, it came to our attention that, while you had never performed a selfless act, you also had never, in your twenty-eight years, had one single person to love you.” He looked up at her, no doubt to gauge her emotions.
The words were cruel, but she knew Milo’s intentions were not. He was kind-hearted and sympathized with her plight, but he needn’t bother. So what if no one, including her own mother, had ever loved her? She’d known plenty of people who had been loved, and they were unhappy—many were even more screwed up than she was. 


Susan Coryell said...

I wrote a supposedly true story about a sniper that I dreaded--just listening to his tapes he sent me was often too gut-wrenching. When I discovered he'd lied about some parts of his story I dropped him even though a NY contract had been offered. My gut knew this was a bad venture! Your African story has an awesome premise! Loved the blurb. Good luck.

Jannine Gallant said...

What a great story idea. I can see why you ended up happy with it. I've written for a couple of concept calls back in my earlier days writing. BUT, I only chose the ones I just couldn't seem to resist. A few tempted me, but I held out because I didn't feel the same urgency. I can't imagine being told what to write. (I know some pubs do that.) I've been lucky in that Kensington just asks me for a proposal now, and I can give them whatever I want. I agree that you have to care about your story to enjoy writing it.

Maureen said...

I usually think I love the story- but am easily distracted by new stories (the shin-ey!). Perhaps if I 'loved' it more then I wouldn't stay to another story. I enjoyed the excerpt.

Rolynn Anderson said...

Hmm, can't say I ever wrote something I was 'forced' into writing (except all those dang personnel evaluations when I was a principal). Writing my first short story for the Christmas anthology was a stretch for me. Now I feel more confident. There are parts of my novels that are a slog for me. The last chapter is always a challenge...I have to wait patiently for a 'better' idea to hit me. Love your story idea, Alicia...glad you mushed through!

Alicia Dean said...

Oh wow, Susan. What an awful experience!! I don't blame you for dropping him. Terrible. Thank you!

Thanks, Jannine. Yes, I don't understand the publishers that force authors to write to THEIR demands. You have handled your career beautifully, and I'm so happy for you!

I do the same, Maureen. I don't think it's that we aren't loving the story, I think we've just gotten a little bored, like children. :D Thanks so much!

Yes, Rolynn, the Christmas stories are sort of like that for me. While I enjoy participating, and it's fun to see the different ways we all use the first lines, it can be a bit of a chore until an idea really takes hold. But it's a fun chore. :D Yes, omg, the last chapter. Eeek! I've been accused of rushing endings. I think I just want to be done. Awww, thanks so much. Glad you love the idea!

Alison Henderson said...

This story sounds fascinating. I've never "had" to write something that didn't interest me, but I've certainly experienced writer's quicksand. Usually when that happens it's because I don't know my story well enough. If I set aside enough time to brainstorm and figure out what needs to happen, I fall in love with my story again.

Pamela S Thibodeaux said...

About the only time I had a story like this is when I got edits back on In His Sight...I wrote a romance with suspense elements. The editor thought it would be stronger as a suspense with romantic elements. She was right but boy when I first received those edits I L-O-S-T it! LOL!

Great post, beautiful covers and excellent excerpt!
Good luck and God's blessings

Alina K. Field said...

Great premise for a story, Alicia! My 2016 Christmas novella, The Marquess and the Midwife, was hell for me. A friend mentioned the possibility of a boxed set (that didn't pan out) but I decided to go ahead with the novella anyway and publish it myself. When I wrote the first version I knew it was way too dark. I put it aside until my muse got out of her funk, LOL!

Margo Hoornstra said...

Love both the idea behind your story as well as the excerpt. Way to right one he** of a feisty heroine. It's never, ever fun to write when we aren't truly involved in what we're writing. Got my fill of that kind of writing for many years via the paycheck job. Best of luck with this anthology when it comes out. Good stuff.

Leah St. James said...

Love your story premise and the excerpt! I'm sold. I've struggled a bit with our Christmas stories mainly because I generally write darker...and how dark can you go with Christmas!? Or at least not for our stories. I skipped it in 2015 but I really missed it and jumped back in for 2016. It will probably be tough for me again this year, but it's good to stretch yourself, too. Good luck with the new book!

Judy Ann Davis said...

Great post, Alicia. I have the same problem at the moment with a holiday manuscript I'm working with. I think I need to stop and take the time to drum up some more clever scenes. But it's difficult in 80+ weather. Good luck with your African anthology.

Diane Burton said...

I've never had to write a story--except our Christmas story. Like the others said, the first one was scary, esp. since I hadn't written a short story since high school! Each year it gets easier. Love the blurb and excerpt. Great premise. I like reading an unlikable (unlovable) character who grows and becomes lovable to the right person.

Alicia Dean said...

Great idea, Alison. Sometimes I try to force things when I should just relax and brainstorm. Thank you!

LOL, Pamela. I'm sure you did! Glad it worked out. Aww, thanks so much!

Thanks so much, Margo. She's feisty, all right. A bit of a "B", but I'm hoping readers will stick with her and feel she redeems herself. So true. If your heart's not in it, it's really tough to be creative! :D

Thank you, Leah! Yes, we both write a little dark for the Christmas thing, but the times I've participated, I've always loved doing it. I hope to jump in this year too.

Yes, Judy. I guess if you just brainstorm some fun and unique things that might happen, you could start to like your story more. Good luck and thank you!

Right, Diane. I think once we get used to the short format and let our mind run free, it does get easier and more fun. Aww, thanks! It can be tricky writing an unlovable hero or heroine, but they have to have room to improve, right?