Writer Is Fed Up, Overcomes Block

Lifeblogging, Process, Writing

[picture of the planner banner] 

I am out of patience with this trend of not getting any work done.

I wrote an okay YA SFF romance in 2016… and found myself completely unable to handle the overwhelming volume of revisions.

I set it aside to work on an erotic romance the next spring, as a low-stakes palette cleanser, but that one ended up with some Problematic elements, and I couldn’t even open the file without being suffocated with shame. After that, I couldn’t write anything. Feeling so awful, and guilty, and ashamed of something I’d really enjoyed writing was paralyzing. I carried my notebooks around, the edges of the pages getting dirty in my backpack without anything touching the inside. I barely even opened my files until this year.

I have had enough. This is ridiculous. Some of the stuff I wrote in that first draft was, ah, certainly Problematic, but it was not bad enough to justify putting myself on hold for two years.

I am cancelling feeling guilty about anything I write. It’s not helpful to anybody and it is extremely harmful to me.

To that end, I’ve put to myself a challenge.

So, to add context, I’ve made a lot of challenges for myself. I’ve failed most of them. I really, really want to do awesome stuff, so I try to do thinks like “Make a finished drawing every day using a dip pen (which I’ve never used before) for Inktober!” or “Use advent-calendar-style prompts to write a complete short story every day in the runup to your birthday!”

“Finished” is my downfall. “Complete” is a pipe dream. The very first day I do part of a drawing, part of a story, I’ve already failed my entire goal and am thus too discouraged to finish the challenge.

So uh… maybe don’t do that to myself, this time? Maybe construct a challenge with small goals, forgiving milestones, and catchup opportunities?

So I did.

Do you think 200,000 words before my next birthday is a reasonable goal? It comes out to about 550 words per day, which, if I remember my NaNoWriMo experiences correctly, is perfectly manageable.

(1667 is not, by the way. NaNoWriMo is grueling for me.)

It’d be neat if I finished something, but I’m not really focusing on that; small goals and all.
Instead, I’ve got twice-monthly check-ins and big-text Quarterly Goals that I get to fill in with pretty colors, and a nice space to put the titles of everything that I worked on.

(That part’s not really a piece of the challenge. I just really like lists.)

End of the Writing Break

Process, Revision, Writing

That was a good experiment.

And now we are DONE.

In the end, the fiddle-around-with-random-stuff experiment was a colossal failure. Instead of being free to play and take risks, I ended up doing a grand total of nothing in the last three months. We’re chalking it up to a recovery period and refusing to feel bad about it.

Painful though it may be, I think my best bet here is to suffer through Draft 3 of the thing I was working on earlier this year. Writing it was a six-week whirlwind thrill ride and revising it has been torture. It’s a shamefully indulgent erotic drama that I love to pieces and the idea of people not liking it is paralyzing.

Which particularly sucks because, it’s an indulgent erotic drama, which means most people will not like it. This is a quality of niche genres.

Draft 3 is due by Halloween. It’s only 50,000 words, so that shouldn’t be a problem, right?

Right?

Writing Break

Process, Writing

I finished a novel a few weeks ago, and I’ve barely been able to write anything since.

It’s frustrating. I want to write, I’ve got dozens of stories waiting to get worked on, but I open one up and start typing and just immediately get bored.

Is this choice paralysis? Is this “I’m intimidating myself b/c I just finished a really solid second draft and now everything else looks like garbage”? Is this “I have real-life Things happening that are about to change my core themes in a pretty major way”? Is this just how I always feel at the beginning, and it’s been so long since I started something new that I forgot?

I don’t think it’s possible to figure it out. Most likely, all of these things are happening all at once, and I can’t really do anything about it.

I mean, I could just push through it. Lay down a wordcount goal, pick a story, and hammer out words until I’ve got more story. I’ve done that before. I ended up with word soup.

So, I don’t know.

I know you can’t wait for inspiration to come to you. It never will. That’s not how inspiration works. But I’ve tried writing without inspiration before, and… it kinda sucks? I don’t really want to.

I know I’ll get through this. I’m a writer; “not writing” is not an option. It’s really more a question of how to get through this faster.

I have a ghost of a plan. That plan consists entirely of consume as much media as humanly possible.

Fiction.

Non-fiction.

Fanfiction.

Cartoons.

Film.

Paintings.

Everything.

I don’t know where inspiration is hiding, but i’m going to find it and I’m going to catch it and I’m going to take it home.

And I’m not going to beat myself up about stagnant writing in the meantime.

I tried editing while writing and… it worked?

Driving Interest, Process, Writing

This is one of the most ubiquitous pieces of writing advice, but I’m starting to think it’s not entirely helpful. Not for all of us.

See, I have a really, really hard time with first drafts. I’ve scrapped almost all of the novels I’ve ever written, because by the time I’m done with the “first draft”, they’re such a mess I can’t fix them. Maybe 10% is actually usable. Maybe someone else could whip them into shape, but I can’t. It’s too much. It’s overwhelming. It’s exhausting. It’s discouraging, too, to look at something you thought was a coherent novel and see four or five different novels in there, and have to tease out which one you actually wanted to write, knowing full well that the re-write is just going to end with an entirely different set of unrelated books tangled together and you’re going to have to do it again and you don’t know if it’s possible to ever actually stick to one storyline all the way to the end.

Sticking to one thing is a problem for me, okay?

But I did something crazy recently. I started re-working an old piece this February, planning on a ~25,000 word piece with a very simple, single-thread plot that was driven entirely by angst.

I ended up with 40,000 words of solid novel with multiple plot threads and a very strong subplot that doesn’t really tie into the plot very much, but supports the theme so strongly that the entire story falls apart without it. When I hit 40k, I thought I’d gotten in over my head, but when I read it, it… actually made sense. Sure, it had weak spots, and some inconsistencies, and the conclusion was a total fabrication and needed serious support work, but it made sense. It was all the same story. Not five different ideas loosely wrapped around the same setting. Just one. After a beta read that kicked my ass, it bumped up to 50,000 words, and I’m pretty sure Draft 3 will be even longer.

I’ve never made it to Draft 3 before. I’ve never made it past Draft 1.

I did a lot of things differently on this one. For one, I didn’t force plot. I let the characters carry the story, and dropped plot twists on their heads when things got boring. For two, I added a whole lot of side characters, so that emotion could be carried through conversation instead of endless angsty monologues. For three, I went back and edited in the middle of the writing process.

What?? my writing teachers are all saying. You’re going to derail yourself! You’ll never move forward that way! You’ll get caught up in minutiae!

Yeah, well… I didn’t?

When I hit a character moment that completely contradicted the main character’s personality in the first half of the book, I went back and fixed the character’s personality immediately. Same events, but I took my cringing coward and turned him into a terrified but obstinate fool. It blew up my wordcount. He created conflict, instead of just getting pushed around by the plot, and entirely new scenes emerged to deal with the backlash. But the book didn’t get derailed. Once I was done fixing his “coward” scenes, I went right back to where I’d left off and kept going.

The setting started out with wagons. Halfway through, I decided cars would be cooler, and went back and eliminated all the wagons. Some characters gained dimension because of the kinds of cars they had, or whether or not they hired a driver. The story didn’t get derailed.

There was an attempted-seduction scene that started causing problems, because later on, some characterization happened that made it really clear that this attempted seduction? Can’t be attempted. If the MC attempted to seduce this person, sex would happen. And it was really, really important that it didn’t. Reworking that took a while. But I had to figure out what actually happened before I continued, because “doesn’t attempt seduction” isn’t good enough. I had to know what process he went through to decide not to. And yeah, it turned out really, really important later on. If I hadn’t known those motivations? That “later on” would have been an unfixable mess. Not to mention a total waste of time.

By the end of that 40,000 word first draft, I could have immediately sent it to my beta reader. No edits. I mean, he wouldn’t have been super impressed with me if I’d done that, but it would have been readable. I’ve never had that before.