Friday, February 27, 2015

When writing gets hard

As regular readers know, I (like all writers) struggle with writer’s block. In the past, I’ve strongly believed that it was all about fear of doing it wrong. Well, I don’t think I’m wrong about that, per se, but yesterday was a humbling writing experience.

As I said in an earlier post, I am in a critical spot in the story: building tension without giving too much away; getting my heroine personally engaged without going so far that I have nothing left to crescendo to. I sat down to write, and I did. But every word I wrote was agonizing. I was sure I was revealing too much, or being redundant, or having Cassidy make leaps of logic that were not actually intuitive... I tell you, it’s very hard to write a mystery from the point of view of someone who doesn’t know what’s going on, but is actively trying to figure it out. I feel like you try so hard not to make her seem like she knows more than she should that you trend towards not allowing her to know things that she would know. It’s hard to balance while you’re in the thick of it, and I find it very stressful because, at least for me, sometimes things get set in stone once I write them. It’s very hard to uproot a false assumption, or a “great idea” that isn’t actually so great. I didn’t want to go down the wrong path; it would be very hard to find my way back.

I’m not afraid of making mistakes; I’m just afraid of not being able to fix them.

At moments like those, if you screw up, the best possible outcome is cascading-change edits down the line. Last time I had cascading-change edits, I started writing from the beginning (which ended up being a very good idea). I’m just not sure I’m up to doing that again.

But... maybe.

</tangent> Anyway. I wrote around seven hundred words yesterday, and I spent all day doing it. I spent much of that time with my head in my hands, and another large portion just reading my story over from the beginning. I felt like I was spinning a spider web... not spider-me, just normal-me. (You try spinning a web, see how well you do.)

After I found the lifeline I’d left myself earlier in the book, I wrote myself out of the corner I was afraid I’d become trapped in. Then, exhausted, I asked Branden to read it.

His reaction:

This is really good. I really like where you’re going, I think you did a great job with building tension with derp-derp-derp, and redirecting the flow... yeah, great job.

I felt my body doing the weirdest thing... I was smiling, not in control of it at all. And this weird sound was coming out of me. It was the absolutely dorkiest “hurr hurr hurr” sound. It was surreal.

I am rarely worried about whether or not my writing will be pleasing. It’s probably because I’m a narcissist, but I’m pretty confident that the people who read my writing will not ridicule it. Anything more than that is just ego, and while I try to get it just right, I don’t labor over it too much. It’s rare that there’s a crucial moment, where you can do something actually wrong with real, lasting consequences. And it really made me realize that there are a couple of different kinds of writer’s block, as well as a couple of different kinds of writing.

Volume-writing, the kind you do during NaNoWriMo, helps me get over the first kind of writer’s block. But not all writing is created equal: without the precision-writing, you build no tension, you experience no release, you end up trapped in a post-modern existential nightmare wondering if it was supposed to be this way or if you just suck. And it’s easy to get blocked with precision-writing, because it’s not as easy to fix a mistake if you make one; it makes your fear seem justified.

I will say, though, I did almost step off the path that I wanted my story to follow, and I caught myself one word in. Maybe precision writing just takes practice, like everything else. Maybe mistakes aren’t as easy to make with precision writing.

Anyway, I’m sure I will ruminate on this more throughout my writing endeavors. Thoughts on this topic? or any other? Let me know in comments!

Word count: 27,494 (武)

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