Category Archives: writer’s block

NaNoWriMo – we are halfway done!

pen-and-paper

We have officially rounded the bend on this year’s NaNo challenge. It’s all downhill from now on. Some of you might be doing great and rushing through that word count with the finish line getting closer and closer at NASCAR speed. But for some, this is the most treacherous part of the journey, when the fatigue sets up and motivation flags down.

You have been plodding along, struggling to meet your word count for over two weeks now. Sometimes you were successful, sometimes not so much. And if you are behind on your word count for some reason, the realization that the number of days you have to catch up is limited can be extremely demotivating.

Or you could be experiencing another symptom: you suddenly feel like what you wrote is utter useless crap. Your writing is flat, your characters are not interesting, or worse, your story is not worth telling. I know that feeling. I’ve experienced it last year. I even wrote a panicked post about it.  It got so bad that I was about to toss everything into the trash and call it quits.

PanicAttack

My NaNo novel and my writing career was saved by one of my writing buddies who told me that this feeling was totally normal, and that all writers experience it at one point or another of their first draft. She also send me the link to a pep talk Neil Gaiman wrote for NaNoWriMo back in 2007 and told me to read it before I did anything drastic like pressing DELETE on my computer and tossing my writing dreams out of the window.

I read Neil’s pep talk and I found it very motivating. The words that resonated with me the most were these:

That’s how novels get written.

You write. That’s the hard bit that nobody sees. You write on the good days and you write on the lousy days. Like a shark, you have to keep moving forward or you die. Writing may or may not be your salvation; it might or might not be your destiny. But that does not matter. What matters right now are the words, one after another. Find the next word. Write it down. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

So I gritted my teeth and kept on writing, no matter how much I hated my manuscript by that point. And you know what? It got better. I wrote a few scenes I thought were rather good; I got excited about my story; the characters started speaking to me again; and I managed to get to the finish line. The result  was the first draft Of Broken Things, which is far from being perfect and still needs a ton of editing, but at least it’s finished.

Hemingway

So I want to do the same thing my writing buddy did for me last year and motivate you today. If you feel like tossing your novel into the trash and giving up – don’t. Go read through the wonderful pep talks we have on the NaNoWriMo site. Talk to your writing buddies and ask for support. Stop by the forums and share your doubts. But more importantly, stick around for a day or two more, write a few more words, start that scene you had been looking forward to write, even if it doesn’t happen until several chapters later. Or introduce a brand new character, or lead your story in a completely different direction.

I am convinced that you will get your mojo back and actually looking forward to the few days we have left before the end of November and NaNoWriMo.

And finally, let me leave you with this post by Chuck Wendig called On the Detestation of your Manuscript: an Expedition into the Dark, Tumultuous Heart of Authorial Self-Hatred. Be warned that Chuck uses a lot of naughty language, but his stuff is usually very funny and motivating.

And with that, write on, wrimos!

Character-driven narrative

I admit that I am not a seasoned writer. Heck I started writing seriously only since mid-October, and all I have to show is one finished first draft of a novel and one short story. But I have already started planning my next novel, and I have ideas for several other short stories. So I guess the person who encouraged me to start writing was right – the more you write, the more ideas come to you.

But the point of today’s post is not about my writing experience or lack of thereof, well not entirely. I have read somewhere that writing is the never-ending path of self-discovery, and I agree with that statement. Even with my very limited experience, I have already discovered one fundamental thing about my writing – it is character-driven first and foremost.

As far as I can see all my stories, even the gazillion unfinished drafts, started with one or two characters. Usually, I see them in very vivid details, sometimes even with background stories, and then I have to try and build a story around them. One of my good friends once told me, “Think about where you want your characters to get, both physically and emotionally, and then build a story to accomplish that.” That’s the best piece of advice I have ever been given.

For example, Of Broken Things was born when one of the characters literally barged into my sleep, sat down and said “Listen, you are going to write this…” The initial idea was very simple: what would happen, if a super-soldier fell in love? And if the person he cared the most about was taken from him?

So in the beginning I only had one character with his set of problems and priorities. But then I had to think about what kind of woman would a man like that fall for? She would need to be truly exceptional… And that’s how Cassie came into the picture and took the spotlight. Then I started writing my outline, and all of a sudden private investigator Aiden Stappleton came out of nowhere and highjacked the whole of Act 1. But even with all that, ultimately the story was still about the super-soldier and the consequences of his actions.

Working on Of Broken Things showed me that I like writing about characters. I like putting them in difficult situation and watching them change in order to overcome obstacles. Story and setting are important, but only as a catalyst for character change.

This realization made me take a good look at the books, movies and TV shows I like. Just as I thought, they are all character-driven. The author could have created the most beautiful world with the most complex society, thought about how the magic works and what Gods his people worship, but if the characters walking this world fail to interest me, I will probably put the book down before I reach the end. Setting and world building doesn’t interest me if they don’t influence the protagonist and make him or her evolve in some way.

I think discovering this particularity about my writing is a big help against writer’s block, because now when I feel stuck in my writing, I know that it’s probably because I lost sight of my character’s development somewhere along the way and made them do something very out of character.

Help, I feel like I’m writing utter crap!

ImageThis is week three of NaNoWriMo and I feel like nothing I wrote in the past two days is worth keeping. Now I am on track, even about 4k words ahead with my word count, and up until a few days ago I have been happily writing my story. Then I finished Act 1 and switched to Act 2 and the torture started.

I think part of the problem is that I had to switch POVs between the parts. Also the story that my new MC is telling is essential in understanding everything that happened in Act 1 and will foreshadow a lot of things that happen in Act 3. So I really want to write it “just right”, so that the readers would understand him and his motives. Plus I care very deeply for the characters in this part and I want to do them justice.

As a result, I have been paralyzed with fear ever since I started this Act. I managed maybe 1000 words in two days and every single one of them feels like it’s been written with my own blood. And I’m still not sure I am happy with how they turned out! Am I over thinking it? Do I care too much and it’s bogging me down?

Has anyone else encountered this problem before? How did you work through it? I want to hear from you.

NaNoWrimo – second week blues

ImageSo remember how a few days ago I said that I had gagged and tied my inner editor in the basement? Well, she escaped and returned with a vengeance. Or maybe it’s just the dreaded second week of NaNo blues.

I woke up yesterday absolutely hating my novel. The plot was not progressing fast enough, the characters were wandering all over the place, but most of all I had the feeling that every single word I had written up until now was absolute tripe. I sad down in front of my screen, opened Scrivener and couldn’t force myself to write. I worked through it, forced myself to put in my usual daily 1700 words, but I hated every single one of them.

So I thought I would use today’s Writing Marathon to power through this block. I even signed up for twitter to participate at the sprints at #NaNoWordSprints… It worked. Well, kinda sorta in a sideways kinda way. I manged to write 2500 words, but instead of progressing with the plot, my Main Character decided that now was the time to sit down and bare his soul and tell his back-story to the enraptured audience of one aka yours truly. I tried to nudge him towards action and getting on with the case on hand, but he just ignored me.

So I now have 2500 words of back story that might or might not make it into the final draft. But on the plus side, I think I managed to lock my inner editor in the bathroom, so onward with the story!

How is everyone doing with their novels so far?