I’ve been seeing this topic show up repeatedly–in conversations on Facebook as well as on Reddit during my recent Ask Me Anything session: How do you deal with frustration and the feeling that what you’re writing is garbage?
I’m a big advocate of (for lack of a more sophisticated term) “fun days.” These aren’t days off from writing; instead, they’re days in which you push aside your current WIP to write something only for you. Could be anything–a poem, short story, anecdote, picture book text. But it’s short, and it’s never intended to see the light of day, and its sole purpose is entertaining you.
This technique is basically a spin on Dr. Seuss’s “Midnight Paintings”–works he created with the intention of never showing them in his lifetime. Because they wouldn’t be critiqued, he was never guilty of self-censoring, and he could let his imagination run wild.
I find “fun days” can do wonders for your outlook. It literally does bring the fun back to writing. It reminds you of why you ever thought you could make it as a professional writer.
These “fun days” can also accidentally help inform your own WIP (the one that’s currently giving you fits). This is also true of Seuss’s Midnight Paintings; now that Seuss’s late-night works are available to the public, it’s easy to recognize how they inspired or contributed to the Seuss books we’re all familiar with.
If you’d like a little more inspiration for your own “fun days” or “midnight works,” try to snag a copy of THE CAT BEHIND THE HAT (the title appears to be out of print, but I did manage to grab an affordable copy on eBay).
I’ve published books with both real settings (New York / Queens; Peculiar, Missouri; Fair Grove, Missouri; my hometown of Springfield, Missouri, Lake of the Woods, Minnesota) and fictional cities (“Willow Springs” Missouri). Even in my real settings, though, I take plenty of liberties—especially in my YA, FERAL, in which I completely fictionalized the town of Peculiar, Missouri. (I just had to use that name!)
While many authors gravitate toward setting their books in regions or cities that they’re familiar with, I’ve discovered some definite advantages to placing my work in fictional cities:
- You don’t get mired in research. As I said, many authors prefer to write about locations they’re already familiar with. But if it’s a new-to-you location, or if you’re writing about a different time period, you can get lost in learning the details—which streets intersected, which businesses were present, names of schools, etc. It can take some serious time away from actually getting your writing on the page.
- Your town becomes a character. If you aren’t relying on what already is, you have to craft your town or location just as you would a main character. This can help add a new, often metaphorical dimension to your novel as well.
- Your reader isn’t pulled out of the story. If you pick a real location, you’re bound to have readers who live in (or are well-versed with) the area where your book takes place. Bloggers and reviewers always mention the spots in which my own fictional world deviates from the real world when I pick actual cities for my novels. But if your location is fictional, your readers will be immersed in the story only, and won’t be comparing your own setting to the city they know.