Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Writer's Wednesday: Beware the Lions

(Okay, so this is my chihuahua and her name is Lion. 
She kinda goes with this post... right? 
Okay. Fine. She doesn't. 
I couldn't;t find any actual lions in my neighbourhood to take pictures of. 
I can't imagine where they all went. 
I really just put this photo of my dog up cause she's cute.)

There are lions in writing. 
Yeah, I know. You thought being a writer was a safe if not sedentary pursuit involving no plane jumping, ab sailing, one handed, 360, back flips or any other display of extreme sportsmanship. Until recently I would have agreed with you, and then I reached the mid way point of my latest manuscript. Imagine my surprise when there before me was a lion. A big mother of a beast complete with snarls and claws and general don't mess-with-me attitude.

My lion also has another name. Self doubt. 
All of a sudden my story kinda... sucked. I questioned the POV I'd chosen, the MC seemed thin and cardboardish. The supporting characters seemed less supporting and more, say, jeering. Never mind that I'd spent thousands of words with these fine paper individuals, I didn't know them anymore. What were they going to do? Where were they going to do it? And what on god's white paper earth was the motivation behind what they would doing? I'd lost all track of plot, even though I'd spent time outlining. I was not longer confident that what I'd outlined was what should happen.

I am sure this has never happened to you... but I was scared. The problem if I am honest, wasn't even the writing. It was me. And my Lion.

When lions prowl.
There comes a point in most books, and I'm guessing midway is common lion fighting ground, where a writer has to confront the beast of self doubt.
The lion that stares you down and dares you to take it on.

It's not the same as the fears that existed before you began the book. You've faced them, or you wouldn't be halfway through. See, in someways it's easy to believe you'll write a great story before you've started. But half way through?
Half way through you are confronted by the reality of your own imperfections. You've had time to notice that your wrestling with words, that the plot holes has holes and time to get spooked about fixing them. You've also had time to see through your vague fantasies of this first draft being wonderful; it is living up to its name as a First Draft and will need major editing and re-writing. And you aren't even done yet!
That's when the lion prowls.

Killing this lion is all about the ability to face the uncertainty of the second half. 
"I used to hate uncertainty, but I'm learning to love it. It's an acquired taste." ~ Mark Batterson

Your book, like all books, has to end. Keep writing and it will. Let things play out in your work. See where the plot leads or what the characters whisper. Go back to the outline and consider the possibilities. Embrace the uncertainty of the second half of writing a book. So the book is not everything you thought it was going to be. So what? So you are an imperfect writer who will need to revise. Big deal. Aren't we all?

Make a choice about the direction of the second half, any choice, and write on. Accept that you will second guess yourself no matter what you chose and write anyway.

The lion wins if you don't finish the book.
Nothing will end a career sooner than 23 unfinished books by a writer who's lost all belief that he ever could. Get to the end and produce what every writer should celebrate.
A FIRST DRAFT! In all it's ugly glory. Because a first draft is the product of lion killing.

And you thought writing was for wimps?
tsk tsk.

Well... what are you doing? Don't hang around here. Go kill your lions!


  1. Hahahaa! Great post and I always face lions periodically throughout a manuscript. The last few chaps really bring out the lions because I'm paranoid about ending the story right.

  2. Oh those lions! Only, I think in my case it is more like bedbugs - smelly destructive sneaky thoughts who arrive in my literary bed because I haven't been meticulous enough. A lion would just eat me and be done with it, I think. But those bed bugs - frig man, they really wear you down.

  3. Lions. I like that.

    Someone once told me if you get stuck in the middle, where everybody usually does, just blow something up, or start a fire, or some other big fantastic catastrophe. Just to see what happens to your characters, even if it isn't part of the book.

    I think I'd rather wrestle a lion. I couldn't kill one, even metaphorically.

  4. Every word here should be cast in cement.
    I face the LION almost daily not just at mid way through.
    I fight it to go to my desk. I fight it while I'm writing. And I fight it until I write the end.
    I just didn't have the proper name for it.
    I recognize it now and perhaps just in recognition I can come to the table more ready to do battle.
    Enjoyed this immensely. Thanks.

  5. Like B. Whittington, I face lions pretty much all the time in my writing. I'm learning to stare them down.

  6. Great post, Tabitha! I'm facing a lion now, in the middle of revisions. Somehow, it seems almost worse, because of all the work I've poured into the story already, and now I have to make major changes to get that lion to go away. Grr!!

  7. Tabitha, I will read your books, lions or no lions; because you are an excellent writer. Some people just have it. Girl, you've got it all. Take a deep breath and just keep going. Big hugs.
    (I loved everyone's comments too!)

  8. Oh, yes, absolutely. I stopped, dead in my tracks halfway through Act 2 of my current play. I did push through it, and now I have a completed script and dared to share it, and now, the rest is working it's way out into the universe. Write on!

  9. I feel like doing some lion slaying today. Thanks for this post.

  10. This was exactly the kick-in-the-butt post that I needed today!

    Writing is definitely NOT for wimps! Sometimes I think those of us who are plagued by self-doubt 'lions' have a mental uphill battle that matches the likes of a triathlete's physical battle! I can be a real head case when it comes to doubts, thinking, 'I don't know what I'm doing'... 'what's the point,' etc. Your post helps me not feel so alone. Thanks. :)


    P.S. I can tell you're into photography--that is a great picture of your dog!

  11. Wonderful post Tabitha, enjoyed the read.


  12. Were you writing this post to me today?? I'm exactly halfway through with my WIP and feeling like this lion is MUCH bigger than all the others. Self-doubt abounds!!!

  13. I actually cannot believe you have a lion, the way you write. To tell you the truth, I have a pack of lions living with me!
    Your Dog is very cute too; nearly as cute as mine.

  14. Ah yes, the lions. They roam and sometimes devour my self esteem. I must kill them quickly. ;)

  15. LOL!

    Katherine Patterson said: Where else in life can spilled milk be transformed into icecream? We cannot go back and revise our lives, but being able to go back and revise what we have written comes close.

    (Says she who must now go skin her lion and get all bloody in the proscess.)

  16. My Mom used to say that self doubt was actually a slugger, so you call yours a lion LOL. Cute.

  17. I love this post! The lions are actually worst for me at the beginning. Just trapped a few today and shipped them off to a humane rehab facility. ;-)

  18. I see the lions hovering over the hills. With your encouragement I now glare at them with confidence that they may appear but will not kill my work!

  19. First things first...I love YOUR little Lion. Adorable.
    Maybe you don't have to slay the lion. Maybe you can push him back in his cage for the next book. He seems like a good motivator.

  20. Preach it, sister! I'm in the "push through it" phase on several projects right now. Just gritting my teeth and writing. Gotta get through that draft!

    Good luck with your lion-killing! :)

  21. I'm pretty sure mine have de-evolved from lions to a saber-tooth tiger's ugly, violent cousin. But I studied enough of Ancient Rome to know how the gladiator's handled it. Just need to brush up on my dodging skills.

    Glad to know I'm not the only one fighting this battle.


  22. Great post. Adorable dog. And I love the new layout!

    Couldn't agree more about the lions. They prowl after all of us. They're big, they're scary, and they're also kind of fascinating. We can't stand having them around, but too often we can't quite let them go either. They're a self-destructive safety blanket of sorts.

  23. You just described the entire manuscript I started last November. About 3/4 of the way through (which conveniently was about the 40k mark and allowed me to just "finish" it for NaNo) I realized exactly what my FMC had really wanted to do all along. I have every intention of scrapping about oh say 3/4 of the book and starting over with the new direction because I love my MC its just she wasn't being true to herself, so neither was I. School has taken over my life of late but with that settling in August I'm giving this old dusty blob of words another go.

  24. A wonderful post T.B. Those lions, deadly. Blessings to you and yours.