A Novel in Three Months (week 10) – getting stuck

Watching: Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs
On the iPod: Where Do You Go by Sister Hazel

For the last three days I’ve been in Sydney, spending some time with my boy during school holidays.  We visited all the places he loves – Taronga Zoo, Sydney Aquarium and Sydney Museum (twice!).  And even though I wasn’t writing per se, I was thinking about my current story.  To be specific, all the bits I’m worried about.

Writers can be a bunch of pessimists.   For some, all that doubt, all those thoughts of “this story sucks,” and “what the hell am I thinking?”  can be debilitating.  But the trick is knowing what to do or think when those doubt demons come calling.  I know they’re there in the back of my mind but I don’t allow them to take over my thoughts.  I might panic about my deadline and lack of pages but that also gives me the focus I need to keep writing.  I might think that my characters need better motivation so I reassess their pasts and what their goals are.   If I think I’m doing too much telling, I add a note to that paragraph and come back to it later.  And if I feel that I’ve come up against a brick wall, or am writing a scene that doesn’t grab me, I go to a scene that I really want to write and come back to the other one when I have more story down.

Because I plan my story and write a synopsis, I’ve never really come across the “what happens now?” as so many others do.  My ‘getting stuck’ mainly consists of:

  • lacking the right words for that particular scene – in which case I type in “and then X finds out X.” or “love scene and afterwards, X emotionally withdraws.”  I then keep writing.  But still, that problem scene is in my head, waiting for me to fix it.  I find if I read, watch or listen to something, my creative brain will eventually trigger an idea that will lead to a solution.  For example, I’ve been thinking about one scene in my WIP where my hero and heroine go and inspect the hero’s just-built billion-dollar apartment complex.   I was trying to figure out just who would be involved in that meeting… interior designers, some engineering rep… who else?  I found AllExperts where you can ask experts in various fields questions for free.  I did get an answer but there were still gaps.  And as luck would have it, while I was in Sydney, a high-end apartment complex was going up on the next block.  And there, on the side of the construction chip board, was a list of  names and positions involved in the project.  Karma, definitely 😀
  • lacking enthusiasm for the story – aka Writer’s Block.  And the reason I get this is because I’ve written the synopsis and now I know the story and I know what will happen, so my brain is already off thinking of other exciting stories yet-to-be-written.   But this one has to be written – I’ve received an advance, I’ve got a scheduled date and people are expecting me to be a professional.  So I acknowledge that yes, I’m at “that stage” of the story, but for Heaven’s sakes, pull yourself together and just write the damn thing!  I write all the scenes I’m dying to write, the fun ones, the love scenes, the bits of snappy dialogue or the confrontation scenes.  And after I do that, my word count increases, thereby releasing all those feel-good endorphins and giving me a renewed sense of achievement.  I liken this to the Seven Stages of Grief, but I call it “The seven stages of a deadline”.  It goes like this:
    Shock and denial – “OMG, I can’t do this.  There’s no way I can write 25K in four weeks.  I just can’t.”
    Pain and guilt –  “Every word is like blood from a stone.”  “But people are depending on me to fulfill this contract/sell this book.”  “My partner and I agreed I should take two years off to write but I’m not even doing that.”  “I’m letting my family/my fans/myself down.”
    Anger and bargaining – “Why the hell did I say yes to three books in a year?” “Please just get me through this first deadline, then I’ll (insert fanciful promise here).”  “I promise next time I’ll plan a lot better.”
    Depression, reflection, loneliness – “No-one understands just how difficult this writing gig is.”  “I won’t get it done and then I’ll have to pay back that advance.”  “Maybe I should have gone back to my full-time job…”
    The upward turn – “I’ll reschedule all my appointments until after my deadline.”  “Okay,  I’ll just reread this problem chapter and figure out what I need to do to get back on track.”
    Reconstruction and working through – “I managed to write for three hours today without interruption.”  “I read up on GMC and worked my way around that problem.”  “I brainstormed with my editor/crit partner and reworked that scene into something better.”
    Acceptance and hope – “Only 20 pages to go!”  “I think I nailed that black moment scene.”  “I’ll make that deadline with a couple of days/hours to spare.”
  • outside influences stopping me from writing – parents, a child, phone calls, school, appointments… you name it.  Sometimes, all in one day!  But I’ve gotten pretty good at juggling stuff.  I make a couple of appointments for one day, instead of a bunch spread out over a few days.  I close my office door to minimize interruptions.   I say no to a lot of school-based organizing committees (they always get enough people without me anyway).  And the land line is attached to an answering machine (most of the time).  Hardly anyone rings the mobile.

Are you finding one particular area you always stall at?  Or does it vary with each and every story?

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