Wednesday, February 13, 2013

What Doesn't Kill You Makes You A Stronger Writer

Sorry I'm late!  I was hung over from whatever the bartender served last night on the ship...what was that Chance?

This morning I was reading Agent Rachelle Gardner's blog post 8 Ways to Be a Happy Writer and I loved how it reminded me to just love the process. (Go read the really short post here, and then come back.)

What it made me start thinking about those are those things that get us down about our writing to begin with. Recently we talked about the day to day stress we are all under and how we can best deal with it, but what about those things particular to writing that seem to bring us down?

Is there a part in the process that kills your mojo?

For instance I KNOW that anytime I have to concentrate on writing about the surroundings or really making the place they are in come alive makes me want to bang my head against the wall. It really takes a lot to pull that out of me. The more I'm having to add that to a scene the grumpier I get and I find myself drifting away from the writing and finding other things I need to do around the house.

Is it dialogue for you? Personally I love writing dialogue, but I've heard some authors wail about putting that off until editing. Really? I can't imagine.

But today what I'm trying to get to is identifying the actual part of the writing process - not the editing process - that takes you out of your happy place.

Let's find it and then discuss some ways we can manipulate those little stinkers into submission. Let's find a way to learn to love even those parts of the process we normally want to hide from. \

So, where do you get stuck? What takes you from a writer cruising along, racking up the word count, to almost wishing you could do anything else at that moment in time? Once you identify it, how can we make it work for you - make you a better, stronger author for learning to embrace it? 

(Oh - and that pic is a lovely castle in Germany I saw this past year and it has nothing to do with this post, but it's it awesome!)


Terri Osburn said...

My biggest stumbling block is just knowing what comes next. That's why I always have to know 4 or 5 scenes ahead of where I'm writing. So long as I know where I'm going, I can keep the car rolling, so to speak.

I'm a little worried trying to promote and write at the same time will tangle up my brain and cause problems. Guess I won't know until the time comes.

That castle IS awesome! I never wanted to visit Germany until I watched a Rick Steves special last year and then saw all your pictures. Now I wanna go!

MsHellion said...

I love the tension in a novel, but it's not my gift. I tend to pull my punches because I don't like the over the top emotional stuff, but it isn't necessarily over the top. I just think it is because I'm writing it. So dialogue I love; setting I'm not so good with; but emotion can be very difficult for me. Especially layering in enough emotion to know how the characters need to carry forward to the next scene. You don't have to know everything, but in that case, you do need to know how they're feeling and reacting so you have the appropriate following scene...and that can be hard for me.

I also don't like writing the middle of a story. *LOL* You know, the meat and work of a story... *LOL* But its like eating an elephant--one bite at a time.

Sabrina Shields said...

Terri - I do like to know what's coming up and how to get from point A to point B. It seems that your plotting board really helps you with that and makes that flow well for you.

Yes, the castles along the rivers were insane! That particular castle was my favorite as it appeared to be carved out of the mountain.

Sabrina Shields said...

Hellie - from what I've read of your story I think you do tension better than you think!

Sabrina Shields said...

Personally, it's the closing of a scene that seems to make me unhappy. That balance between finding an end to the current action and yet still pushing the story forward to the next chapter.

I tend to go on and on and on....LOL!

Terri Osburn said...

Scape, I'm emailing you a cheat sheet on scenes I picked up this past weekend. I was supposed to send it to Hellie and now can't remember if I did.

Coming right up!

MsHellion said...

I don't think you did, but I got it now, Terri. Thanks!!

Terri Osburn said...

It's ever so simple (thank you Lauren Wittig!) but also clearly applicable to writing without having to be a giant plotter or knowing the whole book. It's like a walker for the writer brain. :)

P. Kirby said...

I rock at dialogue and description (setting). Sound arrogant? Well, ya know what? I'm incredibly neurotic about my writing. To the point where if someone says, "I read your book," I reply, "Thanks," and quickly change the subject lest they want to talk to me about it. So, I need a smidgen of arrogance.

For me, the trick to writing setting, btw, is to filter it through the character's opinions. So it's not just a black-and-white striped couch. It's an overstuffed, giant barcode. (Assuming the character thinks its ugly.)

I suck at plot. The road from beginning to end of my stories is pitted with giant, axle-breaking plot holes. I can get the characters talking to each other, give them vivid settings; I just can't string together a coherent, through line for the narrative. Consequently, I flounder with the middle sections.

Terri Osburn said...

Pat, I love plotting that narrative and writing the middle, but suck at descriptions. If only we could mesh our brains!

You mentioned that thing about description before in a comment and it helped me so much. Thanks for that!!

Sin said...

I hate writing dialogue. I think this comes from I'm not the greatest conversationalist myself. I also hate describing characters. I noticed that yesterday when I was trying to describe my heroine through another's eyes and found it difficult. Maybe that's because her look is always evolving. And I'm always jumping around in the writing so every time I write her she looks different.

The dialogue thing I've been working on for years; and I've improved, but not a whole lot.

Maureen said...

I was serving last night? Shit, everyone should start taking massive doses of vitamin C.

What brings me down? Momentum. It's getting started and sticking to it. Once I get that ball rolling down that hill, then I'm golden. But sometimes, just getting it started is torture. It can come at anytime in the book. The beginning, the middle, in the midst of dialogue or description...seldom action...but I'll just hit a hole and my boulder rests and has to be shoved to get moving again.

What is that scientific thing...a body in motion tends to stay in motion, a body at rest is a bitch to move? Something like that!

P. Kirby said...

"I think this comes from I'm not the greatest conversationalist myself."

Weird thing is, Sin, in person, I'm often a gibbering feeb. I'm definitely the kind of person who thinks of the perfect thing to say, like, an hour later. Which is why in arguments or conflicts, I tend to turn into a spluttering, incoherent, X-rated lunatic.

But on paper, I'm golden.

P. Kirby said...

Also, Sin, I don't know about your other stuff, but the dialogue in your fan fic was quite good. So if you struggle, it's not obvious.

Janga said...

I'm looking at the world through gray-colored glasses today, and so right now I think all I do is bounce from rut to rut with no cruising in the mix. If I drag myself away from my pity party long enough to achieve a degree of objectivity, I know external plot is my greatest weakness. Writing or reading, I'm most interested in characters and their relationships. My sister routinely accuses me of liking books where nothing happens. She's exaggerating, of course, but there's a nugget of truth in what she says. I think that's why I struggle so with what I call the stitch-together scenes. I have all these pieces that I'm pretty pleased with, but then I have to put them together to make a whole. That's when I not only lose my happiness in writing but reach the I-don't-give-a-damn moment.

quantum said...

What is that scientific thing...a body in motion tends to stay in motion, a body at rest is a bitch to move? Something like that!

Try googling 'Newton's laws of motion!
If your boulder is stuck in a pot hole you will also have to shove against gravity to lift it out.

Einstein assumed that gravitational mass was identical to inertial mass but cosmologists are now questioning this assertion. If they are right then it might just be easier to lift the boulder than otherwise thought. Also friction can not be ignored.

I like the analogy of writing with a rolling boulder. I start to feel that I can understand some of the probs a bit better.

Thanks for that insight Maureen.

When the boulder gathers sufficient momentum it should be almost impossible to stop. Do you find yourself writing through the night until exhaustion (form of friction) forces you to stop?

Also don't forget the dark matter. The boulders that defy understanding. They could be your real problem! LOL

Terri Osburn said...

I think Q might be on to something with the dark matter bit. (I'd comment on the rest of his comment but I have no idea what he's saying. *g*)

Janga - I have nothing but a HUG for you today.

Maureen said...

I have had the impossible to stop thing...and written past meals, and late into the night. You bet! I love that place!

Yeah, Q, I knew there was a law and though I didn't get it right, I got the spirit right. ;-)

Black matter boulders don't really stop me, I sorta like those. That's when the rockets strapped to my ass ignite and I fly off into the wild blue...yeeeehaaaa!

Marnee Bailey said...

I get tied up in revisions. I can get the basic idea down, but when I have to go back and make sure it's all cohesive, I get all twisted up in it. Then, if I start nattering at myself about language (is this word JUST RIGHT?) I can pause for days over a paragraph. It's painful.

But when it's done it feels good.

I have to keep repeating that to myself. When it's done, it feels good, rinse, repeat.

Maureen said...

Revisions!? AAAAAAAARGH!

But again, once I get started, I'm fine. It's getting started that sticks in the craw for me.

MsHellion said...

I think you probably have external plot, Janga, but you're so close to your writing you can't see it. I frequently complain I don't have XYZ and Terri will shoot back with how I actually have those things. Your gray-colored glasses are blinding you, I think, which is common among us writers. :)

Since you write so organically, maybe read your scenes with an eye to see what could tie them all together rather than tie one scene to another. It almost sounds more like you're missing a subplot string to tie things together rather than some big plot point. What character could you use and what subplot could you take advantage of that would tie the scenes and characters together more to make it resolve. Your plot is the romance, of a sort, of healing wounds in a second-chance romance--so it's rebuilding trust and learning each other over again, putting aside preconceived or past notions of someone and moving forward. Characters being characters are going to be stubborn and wouldn't seek this resolution themselves...but it's possible to have a catalyst that's connected to them both that makes them rethink some things. A "mentor" like person--a child or an older person to weave in and out of the plot.

I'm sorry if this is way off base and not remotely what the problem is...

Sin said...

Also, Sin, I don't know about your other stuff, but the dialogue in your fan fic was quite good. So if you struggle, it's not obvious.

Watch out Pat, I might -uh- hug you or something.

Maureen said...

Pat - Run. Now!

Sin said...

When the boulder gathers sufficient momentum it should be almost impossible to stop. Do you find yourself writing through the night until exhaustion (form of friction) forces you to stop?

I have this problem. Not as frequently as I'd like but it happens. I go weeks frustrated and aggravated with myself. Then suddenly I'm sitting at the keyboard typing like a lunatic realizing I've gotta go get ready for work. I feel like if I'm on that "roll" then I shouldn't interrupt myself.

Sabrina Shields said...

Sorry I've been MIA - work is blowing up on me today. Call me a Firefighter this week.

Yes, the getting started bit is hard...and sometimes it feels like each scene is a new start!