Tag Archives: plot

The Curse

It hasn’t been a great couple of weeks for writing. I feel like I’ve gone through the microcosm of an entire career right here, in the second third of my very first novel. I’ve felt the curse of creativity, the dark side of talent, branded into my very flesh.

First, I was doing great. I had just figured out a pressing plot issue in Part III, and I was feeling awesome. Stoked. Thrilled, even. The words were flowing as easily as they ever had in the midst of the revision process, and even if it wasn’t quite pure genius flowing out of me into the novel, it was something very nearly okay.

Then I ran into a bit of a snag. It wasn’t that sort of existential crisis of writer’s block that forced me to make the plot changes in the first place, but I just wasn’t really feeling the new stuff I was writing. The character moments were okay, but it felt like they all happened in a vacuum, like they were in another book entirely.

Then I stalled out completely. When I’m not feeling confident (which is often), there’s a very real danger in taking any sort of break. I’ll become fascinated with some other story possibility or some other ideas and coming back to my novel, which doesn’t feel nearly so great in comparison, just feels like way too much work. Man, I’ve made all these changes, it’s still not working. Maybe I should just give up.

And then, last Sunday, I stared at my computer for almost an hour and a half and wrote maybe a dozen words. My mind was elsewhere, my muse was busy, I don’t know. It was horrible. Even my dreaded inner editor was just shrugging and saying, “Don’t ask me. Part III sucks.”

So skipped ahead.

Ironically, I’m going to back up a bit here and explain some of my thoughts regarding my “writing time.” I was lamenting that I wasn’t really able to find enough time to work, and that’s still an issue, but I think I’ve found a workable solution. Some schedule reconfiguring was called for, and it’s still hit-or-miss, but it’s a start

I’ve been getting up at six to write for months now, but I’ve noticed that “get up at six” has gradually turned into “get up at 6:15-6:20.” And then I would take a shower. And take the dog outside. And make coffee. So my 6:00-8:00 writing interval was more like a 6:50-8:00 interval, and that’s obviously no good.

So, now I shower in the evenings. Try it sometime! And if it’s my morning to see to the dog, I get up at 5:45 to take him out. And it goes without saying that there’s absolutely no internet, no videos, no games, not even any reading. I either write or I sit there staring into space. I even turn the wifi off.

I figured that if I had a solid two hours, 2,000 words would be a nice solid target. Not out of the question, but I’d have to stretch myself to get there. And if I don’t write 2,000 words, then I write the balance during lunch, or when I get home from work. So, on Monday, I wrote 2,000 words in Part IV, which had been so far untouched in this revision sequence. And today, I did another 2,000 (well, slightly less).

It’s too early to tell if it’s actually going to be successful, but I’m encouraged. I feel like I’ve come out of the trials of tribulation singed, but still strong. And I’m going to banish this thrice-damned writer’s curse if I have half an opportunity.

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Remember a few days ago? When I said I was afraid that I was going to have to cut an eighth of Fugitives from Earth that I’ve already written? Because things were neither interesting nor believable? Well, one guess what I ended up doing, and no cheating.

Yeah, I cut it. Turns out that when I said writer’s block (for me, anyway) is just my inner editor telling me that I really, really shouldn’t be writing what I’m trying to write, I was totally correct. I just got utterly stalled on one scene, and each word that I tried adding to it was causing pure, 200-proof agony. Maybe some part of my brain was sending me a message, eh?

So there was no way that I was going to follow that plotline through. It was ill-conceived to begin with, frankly, and I didn’t make nearly enough changes to it when I started this revision phase. Unfortunately, even though I knew the scenes had to go, I didn’t yet have anything to replace them with. I knew where I wanted the characters to end up, and I’m reasonably satisfied with where they’re starting, but the middle chunk wasn’t obvious.

My solution for these kinds of problems is always the same: a change of scenery. I took the dog for a walk and took a shower, just thinking of what might be interesting, which other characters might help things out, etc. As I was out walking, sure enough – poof, this idea just pops into my head, and it’s so obvious that it should have been the way that I went in the first place. Just like I did with the other plotline in Part III, I cut several new characters and brought in several old ones who, ideally, were already sympathetic to the reader. Really, from there the rest of the arc just writes itself, and as a bonus I’ll probably be able to throw in some more interesting setting and backstory flavor. Is good, yes?

I’ve learned so much writing this novel, and a lot of that education has been at the hands of my favorite instructor: pain.

Some Plot Thoughts (With Specifics!)

Just finished a great weekend with the family. Relaxation, food, good conversation – I am truly fortunate to be related to such excellent folks. But of course you only care about the posts, so here we go.

I’m at the point in my discovery writing where things start to get a little more difficult. I’m looking back at what I’ve already written, and although I think it’s entirely serviceable it’s naturally getting to be more and more difficult to fit the pieces together. As I mentioned in my previous post, some characters and minor plot arcs that I expected to have at most a minor impact in the story have started to surge forward and demand a spot in the limelight, and I feel the need to accommodate these urges.

This really is my favorite part of discovery writing, even though it’s hard: watching the characters take charge. Continue reading

Discovery Writing

I am a discovery writer. Despite some interesting experiences in the last few weeks, I tend not to do well with pre-planning, extensive outlines, detailed character biographies, and most else that doesn’t involve drafting and revising.

I should qualify that a little bit. I think that there’s a continuum of writing styles, from the heavy outliners to the discovery writers. Most people will hover about the middle half of that continuum, where they like to do a little bit of planning a head of time, and a little bit of figuring it out as they go.

The “figure it out as I go” part of the scale is where I feel most at home. In 2008, I abandoned my first NaNoWriMo idea (which I had done a fair bit of planning for) and started an entirely new novel with different characters, setting, plot, and genre on November 3rd. I still won that year and not only was it a blast, but it was one of the better novels I’ve written – in fact I’m revisiting a lot of the concepts in it for this year’s NaNo novel.

On the other hand, this doesn’t always work so well.

Continue reading

Characters as Plot

So, as my last post suggested, I had a few unpleasant writing days at the end of last week, culminating in a low point on Saturday. I just felt worthless, unable to succeed, unable to even produce.

And then, yesterday (just after my last post, in fact) I had one of the most brilliant writing days in recent memory. Today, I had another one. I feel like I’m on a roller coaster and I’m my heart is plunging into my stomach as I rocket up a steep incline.* So, let me tell you exactly what has triggered this burst of production.

Well, most basically, it was just shutting up, sitting down, and writing. But that’ll always help so I’ll spare the lecture. What was really remarkable about the last couple of days was something entirely new to me in all of my experience in writing: figuring out the plot of my story all the way though by developing the characters.

Continue reading