Posted in Atlantic City books, Editing, Rewriting, Word Count, Writing

IWSG—Slowly returning to view the cheerful skies


It’s time again for The Insecure Writer’s Support Group, which meets the first Wednesday of every month to commiserate over worries, fears, doubts, and struggles. This month’s question is:

It’s the best of times; it’s the worst of times. What are your writer highs (the good times)? And what are your writer lows (the crappy times)?

Unfortunately, due to several bouts of my cyclical depression, being forced to move to an area I hate and in a house not my own, lockdown, and other factors, it’s been quite awhile since I last felt a true writing high. In the old days, it was the feeling I had when finishing a mammoth book that had been writing me more than I wrote it.

This picture I took soon after finishing the 406K first draft of The Twelfth Time, holding some of my writing soundtrack, perfectly illustrates it:

My writing mojo was pulled out of the toilet by my 12-part series on The Jazz Singer at 90 in 2017, and 2018 was my best NaNo ever, at 130,730 words. In 2019, I wrote 101,262 for NaNo, and massively overachieved in both April and July Camp NaNo.

But ever since lockdown began, my usual daily writing productivity hasn’t been the same. I know what I’m easily capable of, and barely making 50K in November, or even 10K in other months, is not it.

Near the end of April Camp, I put my alternative history about Dante and Beatrice on what hopefully won’t be a very long hiatus, and went back to the radical rewrite and restructuring of the book formerly known as The Very Last. I was inspired to return to my Atlantic City books after spending a few days doing the last proof-check of Movements in the Symphony of 1939 (formerly The Very Next).

After approving that book for a print edition, I read through The Very Last until the point I left off on the rewrite last year (though I also began rewriting chapters beyond that). I wrote almost 1,000 words on the first day back, though I ended up moving that chapter, and two other chapters, into a file of discarded chapters.

It truly was hashgacha pratit (Divine Providence) that I put the radical rewrite on hiatus in 2015. At the time, I was frustrated I couldn’t find more detailed information about the 1940 Portuguese World Exposition, and couldn’t be arsed to research and write about the 1939–40 World’s Fair in Queens only two years after I did that for Journey Through a Dark Forest. Now I realise I couldn’t have rewritten that book the way it needs to be had I continued in 2015.

As I discussed in this post, I deleted a lot of pointless, cluttery chapters and subplots. However, I wasn’t yet ready to admit to myself that the ninth item in that list not only was clutter too, but also inherently creepy. Even if Kit is aged up two years, 15-year-old Jerry still has no business dating her! She might look, talk, and act more like a 13-year-old, and I might’ve seriously toned down their relationship, but that doesn’t change her real age.

I’ll be discussing this in more detail in a future post.

I’ve been in a low place with my writing for so long, often taking weeks to write a single chapter, it’s difficult to vault back up and immediately resume my former daily average of at least 3K. As Virgil wrote over 2,000 years ago:

The gates of Hell are open night and day;
Smooth the descent, and easy is the way;
But to return, and view the cheerful skies,
In this the task and mighty labor lies.


Writer of historical fiction sagas and series, with elements of women's fiction, romance, and Bildungsroman. Born in the wrong generation on several fronts.

7 thoughts on “IWSG—Slowly returning to view the cheerful skies

  1. I am definitely not a night owl so I can’t imagine my best writing time would ever be between 11 and midnight. Sounds like you’ve written some very interesting books.


  2. A lot of people thought the pandemic would be good for writers. I think the opposite was true for a good many of us. Hope things look up for you.


  3. I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again because it’s true: Your writing output is amazing in my view and you’d have every reason to be proud about your work. But I can also relate to being in a place where you don’t feel totally happy about. Writing can be a wonderful escape so I hope you’ll find more joy in it in weeks and months to come.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I do remember the World’s Fair part in JOURNEY THROUGH A DARK FOREST.

    [it was probably near the beginning of that book in the first volume].

    I began to read you just after the Jazz Singer or in the middle of that series.

    When it comes to the Portuguese – I’d wondered if GLOBAL HISTORY DIALOGUES [a place where students research] would help you. I was looking up the French equivalent to a current event [just when in 1975 was a certain LOI legal?].

    [and I am wondering if the Portuguese destroyed archives – or maybe they’re from Brazil or some lusophonic source…]

    Thinking of the 1940 – 2020 connection. And being in the middle-80s of your life and surviving this pandemic.

    Clutter and creepy!

    Jerry is what I might have called a “grotty sex machine” in my youth.

    [and especially near a nine-year-old]. #atlanticcity


  5. We all have those low writing periods where we feel like we can’t write as well as we used to. A lot of times it’s just fatigue but then before we know it we’re firing back up again. I know for a several weeks, not too long ago, I had a writers block but fortunately that passed.


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