Boy, we haven’t done one of these in a long while.
Those of you who stuck around (got stuck) with me for a while might know that this here blog started, not as the MMA ramble-store (with seemingly random cultural commentary) it is now, but as a place for me, to flesh out my writing process, to air my dirty writing laundry and make some forward progress on that front.
With time, things have significantly shifted from the beautiful craft of writing, to the celebration of the art of mixed martial arts. I’m like that, I find beauty in the exquisite wordsmithery of Ursula Le Guin on the one hand, and the devastating accuracy of a prime Anderson Silva right cross.
With that been said, let us leave the sports, respectfully aside, and talk about the writerly side a little. I think a status report is overdue by a couple of years, and I do believe I have some things to say, that may or may not be of some value to those of you, who may or may not share my affliction.
Those of you who just got on board, might be surprised to hear that I have finished writing three novels. Well, ‘Finished’ is a big word, so let me be a little more specific. I finished a first draft of a science fictiony book. This one, serving mostly as practice, is currently sitting collecting some dust, until such time I decide what to do with it next. The third one, is a draft for a thriller I need to get back to at some point in order to decide whether it needs more polishing or re-writing. The second one is done! Oh yes, by that I mean that it was written, rewritten a couple of times, professionally edited, copy-righted, designed, edited for print and pending only one technical issue to be resolved before it gets published! I invite you to get excited for me, as there’s so much of this I can do by myself.
So in the macro, I guess I can say it’s all good. Can’t complain. But then again, what is a writer but a guy who just has to keep asking questions? (See what I did there? [and here?]).
See, people who’d written novels before, warn you all the time, that having done so once, doesn’t mean you cracked some ancient puzzle and all you’d need, in order to repeat that feat, is to go through the motions again and shazzam! No, it is quite obvious it is far more complicated than that. I wrote three of ’em bad boys, and I believe that it is the experience of having written them, that – quite ironically – put me in a state.
You hear a lot about the infamous “writer block”, and no, I don’t think I have one. I write pretty often, on different topics in different platforms, so I know I am not blocked. Yet, I have not made further progress on my creative writing endeavor in a while and I admit, it is starting to frustrate me.
I have all the reasons lined up. My day job is very demanding, leaving very little time for family, let alone other things that one does for his soul, and all that jazz. But in reality, that is not what’s stopping me.
Let me contradict myself a little before we continue. I do have a method to this madness, and this method took me through the aforementioned three novels. I’ve written about the 60 scenes method in the past, and wouldn’t have said a word about it, unless it actually worked for me – not just in theory, in practice – and I feel I can continue to use it for any future work.
So what is stopping me? I know all the questions a writer should ask himself. Or do I? And believe you me, I ask them. I spend smoke breaks, bedtime, showers, and other opportune moments to ask them. But I guess that I am not just asking questions, I am applying increasingly growing pressure on my poor brain. Who is your antagonist? What is the actual premise? What does your hero want? Is this your main plot? or is it a sub plot? Does this make sense? Why would he do that? Who is even going to care? Are the stakes high enough?
One thing I am really struggling with is really an ironic, fundamental conflict between my personal journey in life, and my journey as a writer. It seems that the better I do in my personal development, the worse I do in writing. To wit, as I learn to resolve and diffuse conflict in my own existence, I find it harder to create it in my stories.
In most cases, I am able to separate person from writer, from character, but I find myself sitting in front of the paper thinking “Meh… this isn’t conflict. It’s tepid.” Then I create some conflict and after some reflection “Whoa… that’s not conflict. That’s world war 3 you moron. People don’t work like that!” and the internal critic (perhaps the least forgiving one) berates me to paralysis.
As my friend Christina Ranallo, rightfully says – If there’s no conflict, there’s no story. And so far, there is no story. There are many things happening to and around my character, all impacting him, and his goals, moving him along a path, but at this moment I am sorry to report that the path is going nowhere. At least nowhere you, as a reader might care about.
The most frustrating part of it all is, that – as you can see – I am aware of the problem, yet unable to get out of this loop… yet.
So what to do? I guess I can ask you that (and will be happy to hear about it here in the comments section).
Here are a couple of things I am already doing:
Reading – Always a good idea. catching up on some “Discworld” books, as well as some long-awaited Brandon Sanderson novels. Oh, also read Ursula Le Guin’s “The word for world is forest”, and Emma Newman’s “Planetfall” series… all very much recommended.
Writing posts like this one… Part of what’s stopping me is the fact that this discussion is going on inside my head. I find that putting things down “on paper” helps me look at it from a different perspective. Not to mention that it is writing about writing.
Writing – while nothing creative (in the artistic sense of the word), the action of writing is, in itself, a mechanism to keep this habit going, providing some outlet so my head doesn’t explode with thoughts, and hopefully, giving someone something to read and – who knows – maybe derive something worthwhile out of it.
perhaps something that doesn’t sound intuitive to this predicament – not committing to a timeline. I will do everything necessary to write this story (and the next), and will not cut corners, but I will take the time. No one is holding a gun to my head, is one? I’d rather come up with something worth writing, something that I can enjoy writing, than inflicting unnecessary, and unproductive pressure on myself. I do believe that there are a whole lot of writers there, to release read-worthy books while the world awaits my next piece of work… not to mention that I am about to release one very soon.
That’s it from me – for the time being. I have to wonder, what is stopping you? and what works for you in situations like this? I sure would appreciate your tips, tricks and pieces of magic.