Monday, June 13, 2011

When the Victim is ... Me

I’m at one of those stages where I want to murder something. I care nothing for society’s rules or my natural aversion to anything illegal. I am as possessed as one of the rabid psychotic killers in crime books. I want to pick up a viciously sharpened weapon and stab away my frustration and anger and hate.

No, it isn’t in response to the automated helpline for my internet provider, the horrific discovery my favourite clothes shop no longer stocks my size of jeans, or even the fact I can’t book my summer holiday by credit card without having to pay an extra 2% charge.

*breathes deeply*

It’s my own problem: *I* am the victim. Or rather, my current WIP is.

I’ve hit one of those anguished and frustrating times when The Writer’s Block has hit. I’ve going through some fairly stressful family times, plus a period of considering where my writing sits in among the rest of my life and career. That is, everything’s been thrown up in the air and is coming down again in painful hailstones! But one of the casualties of this confusion is my current WIP.

I’m bored with it. Uninspired. The characters are bland, the plot pathetic, the conflict tenuous. In fact, I hate it. I hate its deadline hanging over my head, its expectations glaring at me every time I power up the laptop. Like I said, I want to murder it!

Anyway, this blog post isn’t about whining, and I dare you to find *any* author who doesn’t go through this now and then. Instead, I just wanted to share some great advice a fellow author recently gave me. I’m not saying I’m taking all of it – I’m poor at that, according to my parents LOL – but some of it definitely kickstarted me.

Idea 1: change something in your writing environment (use a different word processing program, or dictate the story, or hand-write it, or even change your font face and color so it looks different on your screen.)

This can have an astonishing effect. If I change font, it’s like looking at a whole new story – and one that looks like it’s been written by someone else entirely LOL. Seriously, I start to look at it as a Reader, not the Author. It both spurs my interest and gives me a much-needed, new view.

Idea 2: change a plot point or re-cast a character.

I find this often happens organically: if a story’s flagging, I (petulantly) push one of the characters in an unexpected way and the whole dynamic changes. Sometimes it’s a disaster – like the time my Hero suddenly started talking rather too much like my Villain – but often it’s enough to “re-birth” the main characters.

Idea 3: Aim for 90% effort rather than 100% effort. A study done on runners showed that runners who were coached to aim for 90% effort did better than runners who were told to give it their all.

This makes me shiver with fear. I usually aim for 110%, you know? LOL. But the advice provokes thought. Try too hard, and it starts to show in the text. Sometimes I should step back and seek a simpler, more realistic path through the story. Complexity can always be added in. But if the pressure is eased, I can start to feel the flow and the “taste” of the story again.

Plus, a 90% effort means you always have something else in reserve!


Idea 4: Find Quick Wins!

It’s tremendously satisfying to mark off something on a To Do list. I often get bogged down by The Whole Story, but this advice tells me to chip away at pieces as I go – a few more words today; the hop to the next plot point; development at my leisure of a subsidiary character etc.

If I can make a Big Tick at the end of the day – well, I feel I’ve achieved *something*!


So now, Clare … you can step away from the Lead pipe in the Conservatory and return to your typing LOL.

With great thanks to my friend and superb m/m author Jordan Castillo Price :).

13 comments:

Katt said...

Great Post.... I am so there!

Yesterday I gave up and decided to completely toss the current wip of45,000 words aside and start something new.

It may be the wrong thing to do but by discovering a new set of characters waiting in the wings, AND writing long-hand for a few hours, it took the pressure off.

Today I almost have a fresh set of eyes to go back to the stalled story using your ideas. Methinks the hero needs a couple of bumps in his road. He's altogether too understanding.

Rita said...

When I get to this point I know there is something wrong with my story. One of my characters has gone astray. The plot has taken a wrong turn. Your suggestions for correcting the problem are spot on. The- only giving it 90% does seem odd. I’ll have to think about that one. I find that if I write for myself and have fun I give it everything. On some occasions stepping away from the actual writing for a few days helps me. During that time, I am constantly having conversations with my characters. Yeaph! Now you know how crazy I am.

Rita said...

OMG Katt! Your post gave me chills. I hope you can save it.

Wynter Daniels said...

I've recently gone through this. I stopped and revisited a few writing craft books. It's usually a sagging middle that gets me so I have to regroup and fix it. Then I can give the book my 90%;-)

Toni Anderson said...

I'm at this point with my official WIP. I've edited 3 books, written 2 category novels and 5 partials so the WIP has been malingering for a year now. I've dabbled but now I want to get stuck in and --I HATE THE STORY :) But, I'll keep at it--90% effort :)

Marcelle Dubé said...

Oh Clare--I have *so* been there. The best writing dictum I've ever heard is: the writer is the worst judge of her own work. And it's true. Some stories that I thought were dreck received the best reviews, while others that I thought were my best writing... well, we won't go there.

Here's hoping you work your way out of this without having to eat a pound of chocolate.

Elise Warner said...

Particularly liked number two, Clare.I wouldn't dare try number one-lately anything that even smells technical takes me forever. Sometimes thinking about my characters before going to sleep helps me and then there's walking, walking and walking.

Anne Marie Becker said...

Clare, it's as if you're speaking directly to me. LOL

Yes, definitely been there. I'm there now with my WIP. A WIP I've been eager to get back to for months (since I wrote half of it in November and then had to set it aside to edit other projects). I was so, so excited to get to it because I thought it was a great premise, but after working on it this past week, I'm stuck. Ugh. But I will keep at it. And I figure going to conference for a week will recharge me and maybe I'll gain perspective.

Kathy Ivan said...

Are you sure you weren't inside my head when you wrote this post? That's exactly how I've been feeling lately. Stuck and frustrated. Nothing wants to go the way I think it should. It's nice to know that I'm not alone in this phenomenon. :-)

Great post.

Shirley Wells said...

Great post, and I know exactly how you feel. When that happens to me, I take a day off, waste time with the dogs and try to figure out what's wrong. Characters or story? Usually, with me, it's character. Those blighters are misbehaving. I spend the day chatting, or fighting, with my characters and all comes good in the end.

Good luck with it!

Bryce Daniels said...

Thank you for this! Your post couldn't have come at a more opportune time for me.
Changing fonts. Great idea.
I am at that point with my WIP that I feel like just chugging it.
My muse has her own ideas, though, so back I go for more punishment.

Great blog!Glad I found you!

Beverly said...

Hey - so glad you stopped by! I really enjoyed the book! I have not read the first one and hope to remedy that soon. I am backlogged until part way through July with review books and so I am planning to read more of your stuff after that! Can't wait.

Clare London said...

Hi everyone and sorry for late replies, I've just got back from a week's holiday with little net access! Lovely, but I'm suffering withdrawal LOL.

What great and supportive comments, too. I've suffered recently in giving up a 30k+ WIP which was just floundering, despite all these suggestions. But I've also found so much of it useful for other work - especially hopping on to another scene to reinvigorate myself :).