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My Two Cents on Re-Inspiration

Updated: Jul 10, 2022

Hello Lovelies! It’s that time again… Time for you to get my unrequested, probably unwanted, likely unhelpful Two Cents on something. So, to paint the scene, it’s Sunday, early afternoon, and I’m sitting in a hotel lobby waiting for my middle child to finish yet another weekend-long competition. As I was packing up this morning, my thoughts turned to what this blog should be about and I was reminded of how uninspired I’ve been for the past couple of weeks. So that’s what I’m writing about... Today’s post is My Two Cents on Re-Inspiration.

As always, and you’re probably tired of hearing, my expertise in this area is based solely on my personal experience… and if you’ve read my posts before, you know each one takes a roundabout way of getting there, but trust me, if you stick with me, you’ll likely get something out of it. I almost promise.

If you’ve read my blog before–which trust me, I know doesn’t have a ton of consistent readers, if any–you may know that I’ve already done a post on inspiration. So if this one turns out to be similar, I’m sorry. I honestly don’t plan very much and these things tend to take on a somewhat freeform, stream-of-consciousness model. You’re just lucky I edit them and exclude some of the crazy trail of thoughts that seem to enter my mind and make it out onto the page, because this girl’s thoughts are weird and don’t nobody want to be in my crazy mind.

Anyway, back to my point… Today, I’m talking about re-inspiration. Because if you’re a writer, you likely struggle like I do with inspiration. Staying inspired is a constant, ongoing battle. Don’t let anyone convince you you’re alone, because you’re not. Whether you’re still working on your first manuscript, you’ve written one unpublished book or you’ve published ten or more, you will doubt yourself, and you will struggle to get back on track. It’s inevitable. Don’t fret, we’ve all been there.

Inspiration to write isn’t really what I’m talking about today, though. Sure, do I struggle to find the time and energy to write? Absolutely. If you read last week’s post you know that I am a maniac and I overschedule and overcommit like a dumba$$. I often find myself having trouble choosing to write instead of sitting and staring off into space and letting my mind wander because I’m exhausted, but that’s not exactly what I’m talking about. Today I’m talking about the internal battle to just keep at it, to not doubt yourself, to continue to trust in your characters to tell you who they are, to keep searching for the diamond in the rough, raw material.

So here’s the scenario. Again, if you’ve poked around my website at all, you probably know I have not been published. I have, however, already completed a four book stand-alone series. Well… Completed may be a strong word. The first book is in really good shape. It’s been edited, and beta read, edited again, and edited some more. It's in good enough shape that it’s currently seeking representation. Do I think it’s one hundred percent ready for the market? Absolutely not. Do I think it’s heads and tails above where it was a year ago? Absolutely. It took a lot of painstaking hours, sad days where I thought I might throw it out and walk away completely, some seriously harsh criticism from early readers that left me with hurt feelings and a lot of sleepless nights where I tried to figure out how to make it better. And now it is better. At least, I think it is.

The point is, I feel pretty good about book one, but it wasn’t without its struggles. I’ve since moved on to editing book two and over the past couple weeks I’ve seriously considered throwing it out and starting all over. Again, if you’re a writer, you know what I mean. I’m sure this happens to most, if not all of us. Ultimately, I love my characters. I love their story but as I was reading it, I thought to myself, who wrote this book? The writing was nothing like I wanted it to be and really not that much like book one. I could barely hear a whisper of my own voice in it and the characters weren't who I meant them to be. I was mad at myself for not doing my characters justice, and their story sounded nothing like I wanted it to. Even my husband (who by the way reads everything I write) said this was his least favorite book of the series. He’s not a writer, and he rarely ever offers any ultra helpful feedback because he loves me and he doesn’t want to add to any kind of self-doubt I may have, so he usually just says he likes it and that’s about it, unless I ask him specific questions. The point is, it’s probably not just my opinion, there is an issue. And I’m not happy.

So I wondered to myself, what should I do? Should I actually just throw the book in the trash and start over? I felt like that may be the easiest solution, because as I was reading it, I couldn’t seem to find what exactly the problem was or how to fix it. I just knew I wasn’t happy. I think I’ve shared my process for editing before, but I’ll say it again just in case because it’s kind of important. Usually I read one to two chapters at a time. It generally takes me several hours to edit one chapter (obviously depending on the length and my circumstance). I usually read the chapter through just as if I’m reading it like a consumer once. Then I read it again and edit as I go along and when I’ve made edits, I’ll go back to the beginning and read it again. If I get interrupted (which obviously based on my life happens all the time), I’ll go back to the beginning and read it again. If I have to stop because again… life, I’ll go back to the beginning. If I make more changes as I go through, I go back to the beginning. So you get the point, it takes me several hours because I read the chapter over and over and over.

Ok, so by this point you’re probably yelling at me that I’ve gone off on another crazy tangent, but trust me this is important. I followed this same editing regiment with my first book and I had a similar moment where I was just so unhappy I wanted to chuck it and couldn’t figure out exactly why. The elements of my story were all as they should be, the character’s dialogue seemed to be saying most everything I wanted them to say, but my early readers weren’t understanding the true nature of characters the way I wanted them to.

So this is where the inspiration comes in. I have an author I absolutely love. I won’t name her here, but suffice it to say, she’s who I aspire to be. I’ve read all her books and there isn’t a dud in the bunch, in my opinion. I’m not saying I want to write the same stories as her obviously, but her voice speaks to me. The way her characters come out on the page is how my own thoughts are organized, and ultimately how I want my characters to be. Because let's face it, aren’t we as writers all kind of just writing different aspects of ourselves over and over again?

Anyway, the point is, I think mine and this author’s voices are very similar. The voice is due in large part to how the character’s personality is developed. It usually has everything to do with the juxtaposition between their internal personality vs the external persona they display to the world. Sometimes I find that when I’m initially writing, I can lose my character’s internal voice which is what makes them unique. My books are all written in first person POV, which means the narration is coming from within the characters' heads. So when I’m initially writing the story, I often get so wrapped up in the dialogue, and plot, I forget to add those all important internal moments that portray the true nature of the character. And when I’m reading it back, because I know the characters so well, sometimes I have trouble identifying when those moments should be happening but they aren’t.

So what did I do to fix that you might be wondering? First of all, I listened to my early readers. You have to not just listen to them, but also interpret what they’re actually saying. If they are telling you they don’t like this character for XYZ reason, and you’re arguing back to them that said character doesn’t mean that, because of ABC, then you probably haven’t portrayed ABC well enough for the reader to interpret. Obviously you never know what your reader is doing while they’re reading, they could have just missed ABC, but you need to internalize those kinds of things instead of arguing with the reader. I’ve written a whole post on this, so if you want to know more about how to interpret beta-reader’s advice, go back to that

Again, I’ve gotten slightly off track from the re-inspiration aspect of this post, but I’m getting back to it, I promise. In addition to listening to early readers, THE MOST HELPFUL thing I did to get re-inspired was I took a break from editing/writing. If you aren’t feeling inspired, which you aren’t if you’re considering throwing your book away, or upset because you don’t know how to fix it, take a break. It’s sometimes really hard to do, especially if you feel like you’re right on the cusp of figuring out what’s wrong, or you’re on some kind of deadline but trust me it helps. I don’t mean you have to completely stop writing or even stop for a long time. Maybe move on to a different project, write a blog, write a short story, write a diary entry, whatever you want. What helped me was going back and reading my favorite author’s books. It helped me get re-inspired as I edited book one and it’s not a fluke, because it also helped me when I got stuck on book two. Not that I was copying her in any way, but after reading her book and then going back to mine, I could see the places that I wasn’t doing what I intended when I originally wrote it. I could see where I was able to expound on the character’s internal dialogue in order to make them more rounded characters.

So the entire point of this is to find what works for you. For me, I got re-inspired by reading. I think reading is as important a part of writing as anything else. If you aren’t reading, you should be because how can you know what you like, if you aren’t seeing what’s already out there? Reading will help you find the inspiration to move your work forward. It often helps you determine what you don’t want to do every bit as much as what you do. Let’s face it, not every book that’s been published is a masterpiece and as a reader, I often put books down and don’t finish because I can’t get past the writing. Does that mean I applaud the authors any less for their efforts? Absolutely not. I know it’s hard to put your writing out into the world. But I have read a lot and I can tell you I don’t love everything I read. That’s perfectly ok. Opinions are like a$$holes–everyone has one and sometimes they stink. But I also know, when I do finally publish, I don’t want readers to put my book down, so I want my work to be as strong as it can be. Again, that doesn’t mean everyone will love it, but I want my readers to love it and not take issue with things that could have been fixed.

I am going to give an example of something that happened recently, that may end up in a tangent, but again, I feel it applies. I was an early reader for an author who has self-published multiple books. Initially, it was my intention to write a review on this blog for her newest book, but I didn’t even finish reading it. I actually only made it through the first few chapters, and I wanted to put it down much sooner. Again, I won’t name her here because it isn’t my goal to embarrass, or put anyone down and it is obviously just my opinion. This author didn’t seem like she took my advice into consideration, which is completely her prerogative, but I told her and now I’m going to say it here, I am the epitome of her reader. I loved the story line, the premise of the book was what made me want to read it, so that means her blurb was good, and I wanted to like her characters. My problem was the writing. To me it was choppy, the dialogue wasn’t natural, and there were a lot of scenes that weren’t explored deeply enough. Even in a slow burn book (which is what she argued with me hers was), there has to be reasons why you’re dropping breadcrumbs. You have to make it clear to the reader that they will find out why you said that, or why the character did this otherwise there’s no reason for it to be there. She said I would find out later, and then didn’t really take that comment into consideration. Also, I get that I didn’t read it all, so there was bound to be things that were explained later, but there has to be a happy medium between giving away too much and not explaining why it was there at all. Ultimately, I still wish this author the best of luck, but I hope she takes even some of my words to heart in the future, because I wanted to love her book, I just didn’t.

Anyway, you're probably wondering what this has to do with inspiration and I'll tell you… Reading this book inspired me to know what I didn’t want to do. It also helped me identify things I told her I didn’t like about her book in my own writing. I will get off my soapbox and suffice it to say, this book was inspiring to me in the opposite way as my favorite author’s book. She made me understand what I didn't want to do, and honestly that's likely every bit as important.

Ultimately, no one can tell you what's going to inspire you. It's likely different for everyone and it probably depends on the genre you write. The whole point is, if you're struggling with self-doubt, motivation or figuring out how to fix what you can tell is a problem, you need to go out and find something that inspires you.

So I guess that's it folks. Every writer needs inspiration and often that is an ever-moving target so make sure you find out what works for you and get re-inspired from time to time. Don't be afraid to take a step back, or several if that's what you need. And always remember, if you're writing you should also be reading… That's it, that's all I got. May my words re-inspire you that you got this, you are worthy and you can achieve your dreams! Don't give up and keep moving forward. Have a good week Lovies!

-Rose Rayne Rivers

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