Attack on Writing

About the best physical representation of obstacles a writer faces.

About the best physical representation of obstacles a writer faces.

Writing success for me tends to come either in waves of glorious inspiration, or spurts of occasional brilliance peppered by an otherwise lackluster attempt. I’ve been a victim of the latter these past few days, which is nothing but frustrating. I’ve got a solid outline to go from, I know what has to happen to get me to the end. But sometimes the words don’t come, and what words do show up to the party are just phoning it in. Some days, I just didn’t bother writing. I knew whatever I came up with wouldn’t satisfy me anyway. Other times, I stumbled my way through scenes, all in the desperate hope that eventually I’d overcome the difficulties. Success came to me last night, so I feel confident with my future endeavors.

Before NaNoWriMo, I used to fret over things like this. I mean, I’d go over every little detail. Finding the root of the problem became more relevant to me than pushing forward. This typically stalled the story, and sometimes even my desire to continue working on it. I’ve abandoned entire projects in favor of rewrites because I felt the underlying problem spelled doom. At times this turned out to be true- switching up main characters, for example, provided me better means to telling the story- but mostly, it was because of my personal desire to make everything awesome the first time around. Back in high school, I never wrote a rough draft. It was always the final draft. I didn’t accept the concept of a first draft until writing became less a hobby and more a career, or even side career. While I was annoyed with my recent problems, it didn’t sound the death knell. It’s a first draft. This is the time to make all the mistakes, to throw words at the screen no matter how well or poorly they stick together. The story must always come first. Second, third, fourth drafts, etc. will be the time to fatten the story up. Make those bland scenes stand out like the rest of the narrative. I’m content with that.

Another acceptable error in first drafts is errors resulting from little to no research. Case in point: one of my characters confided in another that he can count cards, and this skill helped him win money to fund his honeymoon. Now, for the sake of finishing the scene, I said he did it by playing poker. I brought it up during a casual conversation with my boyfriend, who proceeded to look at me and say, ‘Poker is a game of chance. You don’t count cards in it.’ He proved this further when we sat down to watch 21. I made a mental note to go back into the scene to make the necessary change to blackjack. Yet another reason why I love research. It gives you knowledge you may not have had in the beginning. I mean, who doesn’t love learning?

RESEARCH, DEAN

RESEARCH, DEAN

Well, Dean Winchester may not like combing through books like Sam, but you get my drift.

Banging your head against the wall over your current project? Don’t panic if scenes are clumsy or characters are veering into OOC territory. The first draft is all about the story. Revisions (and rejections, for that matter) are a natural part of a manuscript’s life. I can guarantee your favorite book by your favorite author has underwent countless ones, in both avenues. Keep writing, everyone!

 

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One comment on “Attack on Writing

  1. I can very much relate to that malaise that can set in, particularly while working on a bigger project.

    My personal strategy is to fetishize. That may sound odd, but I don’t mean sexually, simply to pick a subject I momentarily find interesting and twist the scene, which I already have planned out, making my present interest the focus. The plot stays on track and I gain a new perspective on the events.

    An example might be a conversation, the subject of which being a core plot crux, now taking place over dinner. The food becomes the focus, maintaining a character perspective on that food. One might hate it while another loves it, and it makes me think of here-to-fore hidden elements of character back-story.

    As to the editing/revision pass that comes later, the secondary focus, dinner in my example, will almost always be deemphasized, but I drive forward through my first draft, fueled by my momentary interest.

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