May 09, 2009

Out of order

I've talked before about the fact that I'm generally a pantser and a little bit about the fact that I can write out of order (aka when I'm stuck on a scene the easiest remedy for me is generally to jump ahead to the next part I "know" in the book). When it comes to writing, everyone does it differently and while your process will morph a little over time and yes, vary from book to book, I tend to be in the camp of you've got to learn to work with the hand you're given. Which means trying to accept your process whatever it is and also working with the stories/themes/ideas that your brain is going to want you to write (I have a perfect genius for coming up with plot elements that involve complicated stuff I know nothing about).

The last six months or so have hardly been a gushing well of productivity, writing wise for me. More than the writing of scenes has been out of order. I have written nothing like my usual output and what I have written, apart from the odd random burst, has been completely painful and felt lame and flat and boring with every word. I've kept trying to write but it was hard. And it's not something that's easy to talk about. Saying "the words won't co-operate" feels lame. After all, aren't they just words? How hard is it to sit in front of a keyboard and wriggle your fingers? And also feels like you're tempting fate for more of the same. But not talking about it doesn't help. It just makes you think that you're the only one with the problem. I've done a few classes that deal with keeping creativity flowing (most with Barbara-the-goddess) and I know that sharing with others this stuff is a good thing. So maybe someone will read this and feel better.

I know some of the reasons for being blocked. I don't know all of it. And I don't know why this was the week that I was finally able to push through and put my foot down and start making progress again. Because I'm not published, I've had the luxury of being able to pull back a little and sew and do other things to try and refill the well. I'm well aware that if I was facing deadlines, I would've had to suck it up and crack the whip on myself long before this point and fill the pages with writing that felt as comfortable as walking over broken glass. In a way, I'm lucky this has happened before then, so if it happens again I can try some of the stuff that's helped this time. I know my process well enough now to know that I always have a bit of a slow patch after I finish a book and another in December/January. I know how to work with those. Working my way through a longer spell when I couldn't really pinpoint why has been hard. I know I feel better when I write. The books were talking in bits and snippets in my head but I just couldn't get it down on paper consistently. Which makes me cranky and makes me feel guilty and stressed and that's hardly a recipe for happy writing or happy Mel.

Because I have been writing in snippets and bursts, a lot of the work I've done this week on Witch 2 has been stitching those snippets I'd managed to put together. Inevitably when I leap ahead, I'll write something in the scene that changes something or tells me something that lets me go back and fill in the gaps. Sometimes it's not in the scene itself, it's just that the girls finally let me in on the secret when I'm not trying to force them to give up the info I need. It's a handy technique but I'm not sure it's any faster in the end. Amongst my crit buddies there are plotter and pantsers and those like me who grudgingly write down very vague snippets of outlines when they get stuck after pantsing for a bit. Some of us write fast messy first drafts and then spend a lot of time revising and really changing the story around. Some of us can't move on to the next bit until they've got the piece they're working on right and get to the end of the book more slowly but with something pretty clean. Some of us write first drafts where the story structure is there but there's a lot of laying and tweaking needed. We all get there in the end and we all whine equally about our individual processes. We all forget that our way is our way and try and fight it or forget how to work with our processes at times.

Like I said, I'm a jump around all over the place kind of writer (even though when I'm motoring things become more linear, then again, when I'm motoring that means the girls are co-operating and I'm not getting stuck). But even though I'm used to this, I still don't get it right all the time. Like today when I sat down and re-read a little of what I'd written yesterday, I realised that I'd added something to an earlier scene where my heroine finds out something that another characters has done which confuses her and somewhat pisses her off. Yesterday I'd worked on the scene where she next sees that other character (with a gap of maybe two hours) and yet had completely failed to work in anything that dealt with with her anger and confusion. *head desk*. I think that a lot people think that writers just sit down and brilliance flows from their fingertips over a couple of days and a book is born. As a writer I know this isn't the case but it's still hard not to think that this is how it works for everyone else for me when I'm struggling. There is a point somewhere in this long rambling post. Writing is hard work. It can drive you a little nutty. But even in the bad times it's still what I spend hours thinking about and doing and what I need and what brings me more pleasure than most other things in the world. Writing is hard. That's why God invented chocolate. (Which is a whole 'nother post about balance and how out of whack my exercise and eating routine is right now.....)

2 comments:

Karen Mahoney said...

Hi there, I just wanted to say I read this post (better late than never, right? *g*) and I can totally relate to this. Well, I'm more of a linear writer, but still... Yes, writing IS tough. Very, very tough. But we get there in the end, the best way we know how. :)

I meant to introduce myself before now, but I'll do it now! I'm a fellow Miriam client, and met the awesome Keri Arthur at RT last month. I flew out there from the UK - it was my first ever con and it was a total blast.

Cheers,
Kaz

Mel said...

Hi Kaz
Always good to hear froman agency buddy : ). Even though I'm officially jealous you got to go to RT! Keri insists I don't fit in her suitcase lol.