Much of the advice given to aspiring authors seems to be centered around one major thought: if you’re not actively writing at any given moment, you should be. Simple as that. Write, write, write. Write even when you feel blocked, because something might shake loose. Push through, because the glorious land of inspiration lies just beyond, and spewing out all the nonsense in your brain will undoubtedly get you there every single time.
Now, I half agree. I think there are times that you need to turn off the editor in your head and just go for it. No harm ever came from getting something down on paper, even if you’re not sure if you like where the scene is going, or you think your character is a prat. You can always cut it later.
But that’s the important bit. Remember to go back. Just because you managed to write it even though you were feeling blah about it doesn’t mean it’s good. We all get attached to what we write by virtue of the fact that we have written it. But sometimes it’s just not good, and it has to go. There’s no shame in it. Not everything you do will be genius. Practically nothing of what I do is, either. Turn off the editor, by all means. Just don’t forget to turn it back on again.
If I’m not sure about something, I mark it in red, and then return to it later and give it a critical read. Sometimes I just need to give myself a little distance from it before realizing it’s not quite as tedious and awful as I thought. Like most people, I get bored writing the necessary exposition, and the intermediate bits when no one is doing anything particularly interesting, but stuff needs to happen so the good part can come along.
I’m in that sort of lull right now, in my new story. My main girl is somewhere dull, and yeah, character development is supposed to happen that will eventually move the plot forward, but she’s spent the last three paragraphs making lunch, after spending most of her life being weepy and timid, and I want her to stop being so lame. I want the bad guys to launch a full-scale invasion of her stupid little manor house and kidnap her and make her be interesting, because she’s annoying the hell out of me. I don’t think I’m alone in feeling like that sometimes. About characters in general, not this one specifically. Please don’t hate my characters unless I ask you to.
Will I cut the lunch scene? Yeah, probably. It’s not very important. Will I find something interesting for her to do while she’s in the middle of nowhere? I certainly hope so. That’s why I sent Potential Love Interest #2 along with her in the first place. Will she find her footing and get over all the horrible things I’ve been doing to her? Of course. That’s why I’m writing her story. But right now, I’m so sick of it, that I just can’t even think about her whole world.
Could I go on and write another scene, then fill in the blanks later? Sure. I do that sometimes. I did that yesterday, and got some good stuff out of it. But I’m tired, and it’s too nice out to concentrate, and I’m so burned out with trying to figure out the nuances of who is going to betray whom and how and when that I’m starting to resent my story.
And that’s where I start to disagree with the “write all the time” theory. Knowing when to take a break is just as valuable, if not more so, than knowing when to force yourself to keep going.
My advice is more along these lines: write until you can write no more, then stop. Make yourself stop. Don’t start writing again until you’re absolutely bursting with the pent-up energy of holding it all in, and then write and write and write until the cycle repeats.
Intentional withholding reawakens that childlike anticipation and impatience in us, and it goes a long way towards refreshing your mind and rekindling whatever passion you had for your plot to begin with. I’m told that works in other areas of life, as well, but that’s something else all together.
That method might not work for you, just as the constant outpouring doesn’t always work for me. That’s okay. It’s just my opinion. And I guess technically, I’m writing this blog instead, so I’m still doing something, but I don’t really feel like it counts.
But anyway, that’s my thought for the day. I spent all afternoon at the park, soaking up the sunshine, so I’m feeling relaxed and lazy and unable to understand why everyone in my book likes fighting with each other so much when they can just go look at some pretty flowers instead.
How do you handle being frustrated with your own work?