On Writing Fiction

23 Mar

Let’s begin with the assumption that I am a fairly talented wordsmith.

Before I say anything especially important, I have a few small digressions to make:

Digression the first – why wordsmith? Why not wordwright, like playwright or shipwright? Wordsmith makes me think of blacksmiths hammering out cold, dead things like horseshoes and nails and old-fashioned hinges. Shipwrights make boats, the best of which have delicate wooden ribs, can slice through the cold saltwater like knives, and creak and groan like living things.

Maybe bookwright is the word I want. Think we could get that into the OED?

Digression the second – I say “assumption” because, of course, talent is subjective. For instance, reading Wally Lamb’s She’s Come Undone made me want to claw my own eyes out, but I know a lot of smart, well-read people who sincerely enjoyed it.

No, but seriously, that book is terrible. It was so bad that it went past good and then all the way back to bad again.

Digression the third – I also say “assumption” because even after all the positive attention, all the accolades and kind words, I still don’t really know that it’s fact. And yes, I Am Not Your Wife was reposted to the The Believer‘s tumblr, Thought Catalog, The Frisky, and Huffington Post, and yes, those things are huge, but I still don’t feel especially talented. Maybe the problem is that those things are too huge, and it’s overwhelming.

Like, fuck. The Believer. Are you fucking kidding me right now? Their contributor’s list is basically a list of ALL OF MY FAVOURITE LIVING AUTHORS EVER. Being published in The Believer is a writer’s wet dream. And I somehow managed to get on their tumblr without even trying?

And for sure there’s a part of me that thinks that all this recognition is fantastic, and it’s only going to lead to better things, and blah blah optimism blah, but there’s another part of me, and admittedly much larger part of me, that thinks that this is all a fluke. That I’ll never write anything as smart or interesting or touching as I Am Not Your Wife, and now, at the age of 30, I’ve reached my peak of greatness, and now I’ll begin my slow decline.

In the future everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes, etc.

But enough digressing. What I really want to talk about is my love-hate relationship with writing fiction.


Let’s begin with the assumption that I am a fairly talented wordsmith.

I am also someone who likes to write fiction.

And I guess that for a long time I thought that talent was all it took to write a good short story, or poem, or novel. I didn’t really think about writing being something that you would have to study or practice or learn. I thought that you were either talented, or you weren’t, and that determined whether or not you were going to succeed.

Then, in the summer of 2007, I took a creative writing class at the Humber School for Writers with Miriam Toews and she was fucking amazing. She had so many nice things to say about my writing, and even recommended me to the Humber School for Writers’ in-house literary agent, and I left that program feeling like a fucking rockstar.

Anyway, on one of the last days of the program, Miriam and I were having a serious writer-to-writer talk (because I was sure that I was a serious, for-real, grown-up writer) and she told me to forget taking classes and workshops, forget trying to learn the craft of writing, and to just go home and write. And this seemed like excellent advice, because she’d never taken a creative writing class in her life and she’d won the Governor General’s Award for English Fiction. So clearly, she knew what she was talking about.

I took her advice, and I went home, and I wrote. I wrote like a motherfucker (digression the fourth: how does a motherfucker write?) and ended up producing a folder full of short stories and a novel.

And I couldn’t get a damn thing published. I mean, I came pretty close, but still. No cigar.

(Digression the fifth: when I was a kid my mother would always say “close, but no cigar.” This made me think that cigars were fantastic and wonderful and  possibly delicious, which, in turn, made me believe that if I could just get something right for a damn change, she would give me one and my life would be perfect)

After querying and re-querying every damn agent and publisher and literary magazine on the continent, I quit. I was done. I just couldn’t take the heartbreak anymore.

Now, when I say heartbreak, a lot of people think that I mean the pain of rejection – and that’s fair, because that’s part of what breaks my heart.

But the truth is that the bulk of my heartbreak comes from the thought that I’ve somehow failed my stories. Because it’s not the stories themselves that are the problem – in theory, they’re sound enough – it’s the wording, the structure, the believable setting and the fleshed out characters. In the hands of a better writer, these stories would have lived. But mine didn’t.

All my poor, innocent stories were all stillborn. I’d tried my damnedest to get them to live, but I couldn’t. I didn’t know how.

I fell in love with each one, and each time I had my stupid heart broken and my foolish hopes dashed.

And I get that it’s about practice. I get that you have to hone your craft, and that suffering for your art doesn’t mean starving somewhere in a cold garrett but instead the grim misery of grinding away at your craft day after day after day. I get that no one is successful right away.

But what happens to all of those stories that I wrote and loved? Are they just collateral damage in the fight to become a good writer? Do I forget about them? Pretend that they never existed? Delete from from my hard drive?

How can I keep giving my heart away, over and over again, to stories that will never see the light of day?

But I want to write fiction. And (perhaps more importantly) I feel happier when I’m writing fiction. So I’ve started that up again, and sometimes it feels amazing, and sometimes it feels terrifying, and mostly it feels like both things at once.

But the thought of trying to get my stuff published again, the thought of going through all that rejection again, scares me shitless.

It doesn’t help that I feel like I’m running out of time. Most of the people my age have Serious Grownup Careers that they’ve been building since their mid-20s, and meanwhile here I am without a single published (fictional) word to my name. How do I ever catch up?

And, I mean, never mind catching up, how on earth do I ever compete with everyone else, all the amazing writers and wannabe writers on the internet? What sets me apart from them? Most of the time, I think that the answer is “nothing” – I’m just another faceless, nameless word-o-phile floating in a sea of fellow literary junkies.

These past few years have been rough. I’ve had a few friends and acquaintances, all people my age, die within the last year or two. There was Artem, of course, who was only 27 when he died of cancer. Then, a few months ago, there was Ryan, who I’d gone to university with; he died in his sleep of unknown causes. Most recently there was a friend-of-a-friend who died of a massive heart attack at the age of 32.

I think I might be running out of time.

So with that in mind, I’m going to try to find a good writing class. I’m going to find someone who can help me iron out the plot and pacing issues that plague all of my writing. I’m going to grind away at this like I should’ve been doing all along. I’m going to do this. Because as much as I love Miriam and think that what she said was right for her, I’m not sure that it was right for me.

In light of that, if anyone has any recommendations for good creative writing programs, preferably in the GTA, but I’m willing to travel, I would love to hear about them.

And to anyone who writes fiction – I would love to hear about your experiences, be they failures, successes, or something in between. I would love your commiseration. I would love to hear how you keep yourself going.

Most of all, though, I want someone to tell me to keep going, that this is worth it, and that I’ll get somewhere eventually. Because right now it feels like I’m driving round and round in circles, and I’m in danger of running out of gas.

Anne Sexton, at her typewriter

Anne Sexton, at her typewriter

67 Responses to “On Writing Fiction”

  1. Pattie Mulderig March 23, 2013 at 2:49 am #

    Please keep going. It’s worth it.

  2. annesquared March 23, 2013 at 2:56 am #

    Do not panic. All things in time. You have a gift, so keep with it. You are worth it and we need writers like you!

    • bellejarblog March 23, 2013 at 3:13 am #

      Thank you. I needed that 🙂

      • annesquared March 23, 2013 at 3:16 am #

        I have been following your blog since I started on this site. 🙂

  3. AmazingSusan March 23, 2013 at 3:09 am #

    Re: “… at the age of 30, I’ve reached my peak of greatness, and now I’ll begin my slow decline. In the future everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes, etc.”

    Watch: http://amazingwomenrock.com/elizabeth-gilbert-on-nurturing-creativity

    #justasuggestion 😉

  4. sweeneybird62 March 23, 2013 at 3:09 am #

    It’s very hard not to compare yourself to others in terms of self-imposed accomplishment deadlines, and I urge you not to do it. You’re on your own journey and the mile markers are yours, not anyone else’s. I’ve just had my first art exhibition at age 51 after working for nearly 30 years in financial services – I just started painting 7 months ago. My point is that so many people of all ages struggle to find something that they care deeply about – you’ve conquered that particular challenge, so don’t do yourself the disservice of shying away from your dreams.

    You might want to check out Nancy Werlin’s blog (nancywerlin.com) – she talks a bit there about how long it took her to get published. You might also look at John Scalzi’s blog Whatever (http://whatever.scalzi.com) – he’s a sci fi writer who has loads of interesting and useful advice for writers.

    I wish you the best, and I hope that you keep on writing. Also, I completely agree about She’s Come Undone, but if you tell me you didn’t like A Confederacy of Dunces or Geek Love I may have to unfollow you 😉

    • bellejarblog March 23, 2013 at 3:16 am #

      Oh, that’s fantastic about your art exhibition. Congratulations!

      And you’re right, about everything. Especially Geek Love. I haven’t read A Confederacy of Dunces, though :/ Does that equal an unfollow? Or just a forced trip to the library?

      I will definitely check out those links. Thank you, for all of this.

      • wildcowsofboont March 25, 2013 at 3:03 am #

        Forced trip to the library! Confederacy of Dunces is a can’t-miss of an awesome read. And THANK YOU, people. I haaaaated She’s Come Undone, claw-my-eyes out style too… And felt somehow vaguely guilty and hard-pressed to admit this to the friends who said I hadtohadtohadto read it. Yuck.

        And yay to everything about this post. Full of very familiar feelings. Thank you, yes, please keep on writing

  5. kristinmh March 23, 2013 at 3:30 am #

    Many DEEP FEELS about this post. I too had a big career break in 2008, and I too never saw any lasting rewards from it.

    I think it’s important to bear in mind that if we as artists try to get stuff from institutions we have to meet their needs. And institutions do have needs. They’re pathetically needy, come to think of it. Your book might be amazing, just not the kind of thing that a Canadian publisher needs right now. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t take classes or work on honing your skills, just that every rejection isn’t a referendum on your worth as a human being.

    I basically stopped doing auditions because I can’t wrap my brain around that (that plus pregnancy), so I’m not one to judge. You are the one who gets to decide what success and happiness mean for you, what you want to do with your writing and your life. You don’t have to publish a book to SHOW THEM. You can write an amazing book and say “you know, trying to get this published is like trying to thread a needle with a salmon” and stick it in a drawer and still be a success. You are fantastic and don’t let any rejection letter tell you otherwise.

    Anyway. I should go to sleep, as my kid will likely be up in a few hours.

    • bellejarblog March 26, 2013 at 2:49 am #

      Oh man, that sucks. Especially since I think you are SUPER TALENTED. There’s a student at my yoga studio who sings opera, and I dropped your name into the conversation and she seemed to think you were a BIG DEAL.

      Also, thank you for this: ” Your book might be amazing, just not the kind of thing that a Canadian publisher needs right now. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t take classes or work on honing your skills, just that every rejection isn’t a referendum on your worth as a human being.”

      And also? It took me a year and a half after Theo’s birth to even think about doing anything writer-y again. And yet, you were already back on stage last summer. I think that is phenomenal, and I think you are phenomenal ❤

  6. Rainey March 23, 2013 at 3:32 am #

    This may not be the most uplifting article in some respects, but I think it may help calm your fears about you failing your stories. Many times, rejections have nothing to do with the value of your work. Just keep writing. 🙂 http://www.thereviewreview.net/publishing-tips/new-yorker-rejects-itself-quasi-scientific-a

    • bellejarblog March 26, 2013 at 2:53 am #

      OH! That is fantastic! I actually DO find it kind of uplifting, in a “well, it’s not that my work sucks, it’s that this is a thing that happens to a LOT of people.”

      Thank you!

  7. Dee Kane March 23, 2013 at 3:56 am #

    Keep writing. I just found your blog and I am enjoying your voice. Write for yourself, of course, and I hope you find the courage to keep trying to get published. Rejection is not failure. Giving up altogether would be the failer. Then again, Harper Lee was content to write and not publish after To Kill A Mockingbird…J.D. Salinger…who knows…what do I know?…just keep writing…because someone has to and right now, it’s not me!

    • bellejarblog March 26, 2013 at 3:10 am #

      Thank you.

      And yes, I totally thought of Salinger while writing this! Especially this quote:

      “There’s a marvelous peace in not publishing, there’s a stillness. When you publish, the world thinks you owe something. If you don’t publish, they don’t know what you’re doing. You can keep it for yourself.”

  8. suzi March 23, 2013 at 4:48 am #

    You are so worth it. You inspire me.

  9. Abigail March 23, 2013 at 4:55 am #

    OH MY GOD, can I relate to what you’ve written. I turn 30 this year, and sometimes I’m like, “Oh, I’m still young, I have time,” and other times I’m like, “OH MY GOD MY LIFE IS OVER ALREADY AND I HAVEN’T DONE SHIT.” Like you, it’s the fiction writing that really plagues me. I’ve had success publishing academic stuff; I have my first (and probably only) academic book coming out later this year, and I honestly could care less — not only because maybe only 13 people will ever read that book, but mainly because that’s just not where my heart is. But let me try to make you feel better about yourself: 1) AT LEAST YOU FINISHED YOUR NOVEL. Mine is still half-finished. So if we continue the birthing metaphor, the head is out, but I’ve stopped pushing, which is just really weird and uncomfortable for all involved. Your work isn’t stillborn; you have brought those stories into being; you’ve given them life. You haven’t failed them. 2) I just found your blog a couple of days ago, and already I WANT TO BE LIKE YOU. I want to have the success you’ve had with your blog. I want you to read my shit, because I admire your writing. I’m some random stranger on the internet in another country, and I’m here because I love to read what you write. That’s pretty amazing. And I’m hardly the only one.

    So, in conclusion, you can keep your self-worth tied to your work (that’s inevitable, I think), but try to not to keep it tied to the fickle, market-driven publishing machine. Separate out your writer identity, with its fragile soul, from a calloused, relentless, door-to-door salesman identity, who will keep knocking on doors despite having the first several slammed in her face. Keep writing, keep knocking, keep writing, keep knocking.

    • bellejarblog March 26, 2013 at 3:14 am #

      Thanks 🙂 And also: HUGE CONGRATS on having an academic book published – that is a BIG DEAL. I am actually pretty jealous!

      And thank you for all the kind stuff you said – I will OF COURSE read your blog!

      I am trying to answer all of the comments before going to bed (it’s been a long day/weekend/week) so this is much too brief, but, again, thank you ❤

  10. hypatiaofvermont March 23, 2013 at 5:15 am #

    First- I regularly think about your two fiction pieces that I was lucky enough to read. Almost a month later and they’ve stuck in my mind. I’ve read plenty this year that hasn’t lasted a day, let alone almost a month, in the maelstrom that is my mind.

    Second- There are some great writing programs in the Valley (Amherst, Smith, etc.) If you need cheap child care while you’re in the area I’ve got one or two ideas regarding who you could hire. (Seriously re: quality of writing programs and me being cheap labor.)

    • bellejarblog March 26, 2013 at 3:17 am #

      I am writing a fanfic about us in my head where I go down to Amherst to write and you are my hilarious and adorably nanny.

  11. Peggy Ganong March 23, 2013 at 6:49 am #

    There’s more to life and writing than being A Writer. Just sayin’, etc.

    • bellejarblog March 26, 2013 at 3:26 am #

      True! But writing is something that I really miss when I’m NOT doing it, you know?

  12. Writer / Mummy March 23, 2013 at 7:13 am #

    Have you considered self-publishing? I was against it from the beginning (and I still want an agent because I’d like someone to hold my hand in this difficult writer’s world!) but it is a way to get your stories out in the world to live and breathe and make friends. Also it has been suggested that self-published ebooks are the new slushpile – that agents and publishers look at who is doing it properly with social media back up and proper formatting and marketing and realise that is someone they can work with. Writers are brands – showing that you know how to do it (as you are with your fab blog) will make you stand out.

    Oh and thirty? That’s young. That’s just starting in life. Don’t stress.

    • bellejarblog March 26, 2013 at 3:30 am #

      I’ve thought about self-publishing! A friend of mine did it and felt good about the process. I just feel like I really, really need an editor, and I know that with a good publisher I would have one, you know?

      And thanks – I feel old, but I guess I’m not past my prime yet 😛

      • Writer / Mummy March 26, 2013 at 7:21 am #

        I’m feeling the same about the editor – I also need an agent too! I feel like I’m swimming in a sea of the unknown and there are a zillion things I should be doing if only I knew what. That said, I have learned a lot about my writing and about the publishing process by self publishing and I know my manuscript looks better for it if nothing else! 🙂

  13. violetwisp March 23, 2013 at 11:58 am #

    You’re a fantastic writer. I’ve just started following your blog and everything is effortless, witty, interesting and leaves me wanting to read more. I haven’t read any of your fiction but I have a feeling it will be excellent too. My observation of the world of publishing is that these days they want the writer to have a ‘hook’ – a personal angle they can focus on in promoting the book. Something that makes the writer stand out from the crowd, a quirky detail or major life event that grabs the public’s attention, gets picked up by the press and makes people want to read the book. It’s all about sales and often little do with how good the book is. You probably know that anyway. So, my other comment would be, just be patient and enjoy what you’re doing – ‘careers’ are seriously over-rated, life’s for living.

    • bellejarblog March 26, 2013 at 3:31 am #

      Thanks. I think I’ve been in Toronto too long, because “career” has become waaaayyy too important to me. If I was still in Halifax I would probably feel much more relaxed about this 🙂

  14. K.R. Brorman March 23, 2013 at 1:19 pm #

    HIGHLY recommend Writer’s Digest as a source for crafting fiction, Kristen Lamb and others from MyWANA for honing your craft. The wealth of expertise is amazing and these authors, editors, agents want to help. I only just discovered your blog and look forward to your books.

    • bellejarblog March 26, 2013 at 3:32 am #

      OH thank you! I will check those out for sure!

      And thank you for your kind words 🙂

  15. Rosie March 23, 2013 at 3:38 pm #

    I just want to let you know that although you think you’ve been traveling the wrong road and are now looking for the right one, you’ve been on the road you were meant to travel all along. You are an excellent writer and all of your stories were worth writing. And you have been honing your craft all this time. Now you will add more tools to your toolbox, and then you can go back and look at those stories and determine whether there’s something you’d like to do differently, or that they’re perfect just the way they are.

    • bellejarblog March 26, 2013 at 3:34 am #

      xoxoxoxo you have been such an invaluable help to me on this road. I seriously cannot emphasize that enough. Thank you ❤

  16. B.H. DeBerry March 23, 2013 at 5:54 pm #

    I was sailing along just fine through this piece until I slammed head on into “I’m running out of time . . . most of the writers my age. . .” Didn’t you say you were 30!?!?!? You haven’t a clue how much time you have . . . just make sure you don’t run out of ideas and you’ll be fine. “I am Not Your Wife” was great . . . it’s what put you on my radar . . . but chances are you’ve written several things better than it that you’ve already forgotten about. Just keep writing and forget about being “serious” and keep being “interesting.”

    • bellejarblog March 26, 2013 at 3:35 am #

      Thank you. I definitely need to stop worrying about being “serious” – that is an excellent point 🙂

  17. Diane Ferguson March 24, 2013 at 12:07 am #

    I’ve really enjoyed your blog, and I see others have too, so you definitely need to be writing. I’ve been working on a novel for a loonnnngggg time. It’s finished but the editing is killing me, or it, or both. So, I can’t say it’s worth it at this point, but is somehow part of the journey. Sarah Selecky has an interesting online course you can do at your own pace. I’ve found it good for going deeper. Maybe you want to think about paying someone to critically read your work and help with pacing. That’s what I’m looking towards if I can finish editing this last bit!

    • bellejarblog March 26, 2013 at 3:40 am #

      I’m at the point now where I’m just wondering if I should abandon my novel (which I wrote, like, five years ago now, whoa, crazy) and keep moving forward. I’m not even sure if it’s salvageable, you know?

      But the fact that I can even think or say that means I’ve come a long way in the last year.

      Best of luck with your writing! And thank you for your kind comment!

  18. wmp3x3 March 24, 2013 at 12:33 am #

    think “solidarity” & keep writing!

  19. Jasmine March 24, 2013 at 6:19 pm #

    Please continue your writing, and don’t ever stop. I, myself hope to one day write something that holds value in someone else’s life, and seeing how easily a love for writing can be crippled dampens the hope I hold to ever do so. Don’t give up, you are talented and your success will inspire plenty of aspiring writers like myself.

  20. lisajaynecraig March 25, 2013 at 6:17 am #

    Keep going. Not because it’s worth it. Because you are worth it.

  21. Honore March 25, 2013 at 2:25 pm #

    I was brought to your blog because of your “I’m not your wife” piece. I then proceeded to read a slew of your posts that were tagged as “depression” and do some silent weeping in my cubical. You beautifully expressed so many things that I have been feeling through out my 20’s. Write, please. I know that myself and many other people will be reading and experience so much joy, knowing that you are persevering and pursuing your passion

    • bellejarblog March 26, 2013 at 3:47 am #

      Thank you. Thank you. xoxoxoxoxo

      I hope things are better for you now, or at least get better for you soon ❤

  22. writerdotmom March 25, 2013 at 10:55 pm #

    Thank you for saying these things. I think them nearly every day, if not in such gorgeous prose. Writing has led me through countless long, dark nights of the soul. It’s so strange to think about how with almost any other career, you can say, “I want to be a [firefighter, doctor, chef, belly dancer, etc.],” and then you go learn to do it and you do it. Making a career out of writing feels Herculean by comparison. So many things aside from our own hard work and mental anguish are involved. But you’ve articulated these things so beautifully that I suspect we’ll be hearing more of your fiction.

    • bellejarblog March 26, 2013 at 3:44 am #

      “It’s so strange to think about how with almost any other career, you can say, “I want to be a [firefighter, doctor, chef, belly dancer, etc.],” and then you go learn to do it and you do it.”

      Yes, exactly! That is exactly how it feels!

      And thank you. I suspect I’ll be reading your fiction soon too – the above was too perfect for me to think otherwise.

      • writerdotmom March 27, 2013 at 12:51 am #

        Thank you. You just made my day. 🙂

  23. Honza Stehlík March 26, 2013 at 10:08 am #

    I’m one of those wanna-be writers; let me share my own fear with you. Whenever I feel an ennui coming over me I switch off and ponder on the worth of my little secretive hobby:

    I have these thoughts in my head – are they going to help anyone? Probably not. Not that anybody will read them anyway if I jot them down. But does it make me feel good when I type in the last dot in a paragraph? It sure does. And how about when I write down a train of thought that ends up twisting into a little plot of its own, with people in it seemingly more alive than those blurred automatons I meet on the bus? Oh, the bliss.
    Now here’s the thing. If I stop writing, that fantastic world in my head will never actually be created. Sooner or later I will forget what it looks like myself. All those people will perish like *snap*. Then nothing. Darkness and silence; no, less than that; the bleak ignorance, this time without the often overrated bliss. Just nothingness.

    Sometimes I think I’m crazy. Anyway, time for tea.

  24. Ari March 26, 2013 at 5:28 pm #

    Oh, you are good enough for me to subscribe to your blog, if that’s some consolation. I used to think I have some stories to tell, but everything kinda dried up and I gave up trying. Not to fret here, really, because you are still writing and haven’t yet hit a roadblock. I guess when it has to happen, it will.

    You are a brilliant wordsmith with a promising bookwright hidden inside, btw 🙂

  25. charmerci March 30, 2013 at 5:15 am #

    Having spent years of trying to write and being self-discouraged, I started going to the weekly Spoken Word in Paris. I met several established and unknown writers (I mean that in the sense of those who love to write.)

    What I learned was – write. You don’t need a justification or a rationalization. Write because you love or need to write. No excuses or reasons. Write crap. Write good stuff. Do it all the time, some times or any time.

    If you have to stop doing something like errands or housework – then do it. Any time, day or night.

  26. Necia Phoenix March 30, 2013 at 9:12 pm #


    I drifted here from facebook, am skimming over your posts and thought I’d mention. #1 don’t give up. Write, write what you love, write because you can’t not, there are many options towards publications in this new world of publishing.

    #2 There are a few writer communities out there which can help you; Forward motion for writers is one (my personal favorite :P) fmwriters.com/zoomfm/ the forum has critique areas, information for both the traditional pubbing and indi/self pubbing. I personally love the people (I’ve been a member there since ’03 and I love the community)

    There is also Absolute Write forums which has a wealth of information, from cheking out the reputations of agents & publishers to helping with the nitty gritty of writing. Although I AM a member there, I’m not all that active over there; http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/index.php

    I do believe there are a couple other writer communities but I’m not familiar with them and have no links.

    #3 You have an established readership here, and there are editors you could find who have gone freelance. It is not unimaginable that were you to go the self-pub route you could be very successful. It’s just a thought 😉

    #4 Don’t give up. The publishing road, whichever direction you take, can be a very tough one. It’s a lonely business at times. Feel free to drop by FMChat, I’m often over there and am more than willing to cheer people on.

    #5 for real, don’t give up.

  27. Necia Phoenix March 30, 2013 at 9:14 pm #

    ok the link didn’t seem to show up, try http://www.fmwriters.com/zoomfm/ For forward motion for writers.

  28. reneejohnsonwrites March 31, 2013 at 11:23 am #

    I love the analogy of wordsmith to blacksmith. Writers are hammering their heads against the wall if not the keys on the keyboard. And I think we all feel your pain. I’ll be following along and wish you the best.

  29. Spectator327 March 31, 2013 at 10:09 pm #

    Don’t take a writing class. Sure, it’s possible that a class would iron out your pacing or whatever other problems you think you have (I’m afraid I’ve forgotten in the minute or so since I read your piece), but it would do so by teaching you to use the same techniques and devices as someone else (probably the teacher) would use.

    You’ll end up sounding the same as everybody else.

    Find your own solutions. Keep your own voice.

    And think about this. Plot and pacing (I went back and checked). They’re pretty fundamental to a story. A problem with the plot is a problem with what the story is about. If you let somebody else tell you how to fix a problem with what your story is about, then you’re letting someone else tell you what your story should be, and it won’t be your story any more.

    Surely you can tell yourself if there’s a problem with the plot of your novel, or your short stories? If you can see that there’s a problem then you should be able to see one of two things: either an adjustment you can make to fix it, or that the problem is really rather fundamental and that you really need to think about the whole thing again. The latter may be unpleasant to contemplate but it may in fact be the case.

    Pacing? I.e., your writing is boring, or sketchy, or jerky. Don’t ask someone else to tell you which. Ask yourself.

    You start with the assumption that you’re a fairly talented wordsmith. True. You can string words together very well and argue a case very well too. But it doesn’t follow that you can write fiction. Not fiction that is any good, or that anyone wants to read, anyway. I suspect you probably can, but you certainly won’t learn how to do it in a creative writing class.

    Good luck, anyway.

  30. AmazingSusan April 2, 2013 at 1:34 pm #

    Reblogged this on A Crazy Work In Progress.

  31. Eleanor Beaton April 10, 2013 at 8:44 pm #

    Hey Ms Belle Jar.


    Seriously. My sister sent me your blog tonight and I started reading, reading, loving and then I saw this. I too am a fairly talented wordsmith – it’s what I do for a freakin’ living. I started writing six years ago and have done it daily. I thought it would be easier for me than for most, because I was a fairly talented wordsmith.

    And we know how that story works out.

    I’ve been writing my ass off, working through several drafts of a novel, felt like giving up, signed on for the Humber program and am now working with David Bergen. Still writing my ass off, have good days and bad days and go through periods of being: “Seriously? Is it seriously going to be this damn hard?” And of course it is.

    Writer friends told me just to write but I decided I needed community and guidance. I start the UBC optional residency program this summer.

    I’ve got to end this because I have stuff to do so I can get to bed early and wake up early to write. Something that will hopefully see the light of publication.

    Reading this post made me feel better.

    Keep going, honey. I’ll come to your launch party with bells on if you’ll come to mine. Seriously.


  32. scotsman April 11, 2013 at 3:01 pm #

    Please don’t stop trying!!!

    I’m in the same boat, and I’m a hell of a lot older than you … like you, I have the talent … like you, I have the creativity, sensitivity, et-so-on-and-cetera …

    It’s pretty much killing me.

    Please keep writing – it gives the rest of us courage to keep trying.


  33. Pink Woods May 26, 2013 at 1:59 pm #

    “But the truth is that the bulk of my heartbreak comes from the thought that I’ve somehow failed my stories. Because it’s not the stories themselves that are the problem – in theory, they’re sound enough – it’s the wording, the structure, the believable setting and the fleshed out characters. In the hands of a better writer, these stories would have lived. But mine didn’t.”

    This is also so true in my case! But let’s just keep on writing… because who else will be breathing life to those characters and scenes in our head? No one will ever know that they exist (even if it’s only in our minds) if we don’t write them. And I guess, that’s more heartbreaking.

  34. Mets2006.wordpress.com July 29, 2013 at 9:39 pm #

    Very good article! We will be linking to this particularly great article on our website.
    Keep up the good writing.

  35. Chrissy June 19, 2015 at 4:16 pm #

    You are so right.


  1. Review: She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb | Books in the Burbs - April 4, 2013

    […] On Writing Fiction (bellejarblog.wordpress.com) […]

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