It’s happened before, of course. Three-quarters of the way into a book, it suddenly appears to me as a huge, lifeless pile of words. The ending is not credible. The characters won’t talk to me. I should probably give up even trying to write.
The difference is, in earlier times there were constraints that forced me to go on and finish the book anyway. I usually had a contract. A delivery date. An editor who was expecting a book bearing at least a passing resemblance to the synopsis she’d signed off on.
Not to mention a nice chunk of money to be paid on delivery of the completed manuscript, and a mortgage payment that the bank was going to expect to see no matter how I felt about the matter.
Writing indie has meant flying free of all these constraints, and for the most part I’ve loved it. I’ve been writing faster and more happily than I did back when every word had to be filtered through an editor’s belief about what readers would like.
Two weeks ago I wrote about being derailed and muscling the train back onto the tracks. Then I got sick again, and stopped writing again. And now I’m looking at the manuscript that’s been just lying there limply for nearly five weeks, and I’m seeing a huge lifeless pile of words. I look at my synopsis – my map of how to get to the end – and all I can see is a heap of rocks lying across the road. And the old motivators aren’t there any more. I haven’t promised this book to anyone, nobody’s going to be peeved with me if I throw it away, there’s no guaranteed financial reward for finishing, and thank goodness the mortgage is paid off.
Freedom. If I really believe this project is hopeless, there’s absolutely nothing to stop me from dumping this book and starting a new project? Except – as soon as I think that, the voices of despair switch from “This is a terrible book” to “You don’t have any good ideas.” So evidently they will not be satisfied with anything less than my total defeat. Well, good. At least I know where I am now. I’m not looking at a dispassionate critique of this partial book; I’m looking at the personal demons that want me to stop doing anything at all.
Time to start moving rocks.
I assume you’ve read KKR blog on when ill cut yourself some slack post? If not, it’s well worth reading.
Thanks for the reminder, Ashley.
“If I really believe this project is hopeless, there’s absolutely nothing to stop me from dumping this book and starting a new project? Except – as soon as I think that, the voices of despair switch from “This is a terrible book” to “You don’t have any good ideas.” ”
Ah yes. That voice.
I killed mine. Took it out behind the barn and shot it, then set it on fire. Burned for a looong time.
Other people may tell me I suck and that all my ideas are stupid. That is their prerogative. I say that their opinions are their problem, not mine. I can’t do anything about what they say, except to tell them to cram it.
But inside my own brain? This is MY place. I rule here, not some stupid little-kid voice from the past. Screw that guy, he gets to shut up.
Periodically it comes back, so I drag it outside and shoot it again. Sometimes I have my characters do it for me. You want a monster killed, send a Valkyrie. Or, because its my brain, I can have other people’s characters do it for me. Send the Terminator. “Hasta la vista, baby.”
I have a “rich” inner life. ~:D
So… Do your characters ever need extra money? Would they like to travel…?
I have the motivation of Day Job, as in “Either I write now, or Day Job work will fill in the time.” So even when I don’t want to write because I’ve hit the wall and what I wrote is lousy and no one will want to read THAT… It’s better than compiling documents for a large packet that will then have to be printed out and taken to Ye Copie Shoppe to have more packets made for class in January.
Active procrastination = writing.
I like your previous projects, so I have a hard time believing the next one is terrible. Good luck getting back on the horse.
Thank you for sharing your frustration. As a writer who is considerably behind you in the journey, it is very valuable to know that what I feel is not just being a novice but something that is a part of the craft itself.
I was in a similar mental state not long ago, and it was a book that got me out of it. Even if you are a writer who believes strongly in outlining, I believe it would be very helpful. It is a rare book that takes the topic from the discovery style of writing’s point of view.
It’s beginnings that seem to be the hardest for me. I have an idea that seems great, I start to set it down . . . and it crumbles. But once I crack it, it usually flows for me.
I love beginnings. If I could get away with filling a book with opening chapters, and people would WANT to buy it, I would be set (Not claiming they’ll be any good, just that I enjoy writing them).
Where I usually get bogged down is the middle part. My characters get happily off on their journey…. then ??? If I could just get them through the “getting there” part, I could make such an end! Except the middle is ssssoooooo booooorrrrriiiinnngggg.
1) Start with a hook,
2) Reel the reader in with interesting characters
3) Get the characters moving where they need to go
5) PROFIT!!! (the end)
Think try-fail sequences. Or collecting people, knowledge, or things they will need later. Or that will be disastrous later. There’s all kinds of ways to f with your characters while they’re getting there. 0:)
Swain’s Techniques of the Selling Writer.
Coming up on NaNoWriMo. It’s an incredibly productive endeavor for me. That %$#@!!! graph keeps my nose to the grindstone.
And now, a month prior, I have suddenly realized I have a deadline on two almost finished shorter works! Eeep! Time to boot them out the door, and clear the decks for battle.
And here comes the perils of being raised by someone who loves geology: I look at that pile of rocks across the road and think, Ooh, neat rocks.
Getting distracted by the rocks across the road isn’t very helpful either…
I looked at it and thought, “And avalanche! Of course! Just what I need!”
Somehow “avalanche” became “forest fire” as marginally more survivable in a plausible fashion.