Warning: this is a no-edit zone…
When you first start writing, you experiment. You explore writing methods freely, finding your feet and which way of approaching the craft works best for you.
Some writers write a complete first draft, start to finish. Then revise or go back into the draft and layer in scene anchors, punch up dialogue, work in foreshadowing of coming major events.
Some writers write in chapter blocks. They’ll write three chapters, revise those, and then take on the next three chapters, and then yet another three, working their way through the novel until they reach the end.
Some writers write whatever scene they feel most emotionally attached to at the time they feel most emotionally attached to it. And when they have most of the scenes, then they’ll slot them into their appropriate place in the novel and then edit in transitions between them.
Some writers do an extensive outline that might be 50 or 100 pages long, detailing character, character motivation and growth, plot events–and everything else significant that occurs in the novel.
Some writers do a short–paragraph or page–idea and then expand it into a synopsis. Then they divide the synopsis into chapters and scenes, lay out the novel on a plot board or index cards or post-it notes that they stick on blank pages or the wall or a piece of vinyl attached to their wall, and then check for character, character motivation and growth and the logical development of the plot events, actions and reactions to those actions and everything else significant that occurs in the novel including the time and date and place where scenes take place. Then they write the book–either a complete first draft or chapter chunks or scenes to which they feel the most emotional attachment.
The methods are as varied as the authors themselves, and the stories they tell. And experimenting, the author finds the method of crafting a novel that works well for her.
But by the time an author has created a body of work, she has likely developed or slipped into a pattern of creation that has worked well for her previously and that’s allowed her to create efficiently–or in a way that has her neutrons firing in the brain in a way that makes sense to her.
This is normal.
It’s all normal–every type of creation, every method, every odd little ritual a writer develops to aid them in the creation process. And writers have many little rituals.
Some must have a new notebook for each book.
Some must have peacock blue ink and write an entire first draft by hand before entering word one on a computer.
Some have to have a dedicated CD–music–that inspires them and they associate with that book.
Some must have a candle burning where they create–on their desk.
Some write only at the beach, at the kitchen table, in the bath.
There are thousands of little writer rituals, and they too are as individual as the author and the stories the author tells.
So after creating a body of work, and having methods nailed down and writing rituals in place and a clear focus of what it takes to create a book and actually get it written, what happens when a writer sits down to get started on a new book and something odd happens:
1. She loves the story, but she doesn’t want to write it?
2. She can’t think of a thing to say that she wants to say badly enough to park ass to leather long enough to do it?
Let’s look at #1.
If she’s created a body of work, then its likely she’s sold the story on synopsis or proposal. And if so, then odds are also good that months have passed, if not longer, since she’s done so. So the initial burst of enthusiasm–her focus–has been on other projects. And now she’s got to try to re-ignite that enthusiasm because, well, everyone knows, you only get that initial burst once and it’s gone.
The good news is that with focus on the project, if she loved it before, she’s probably love it again. That is, provided major changes haven’t occurred that have altered the way she perceived the story. If so, shifts will likely have to take place before that magic can be recaptured. And because she’s a seasoned pro, she’ll invest the time to find that magic. Only it sustains a writer long enough to finish a book. Until she does, she’s stuck with…
No magic, no enthusiasm, no interest. And the writer’s stuck with a blank slate and no passion to fill it. So at this point, her muse takes on the role of wise mentor and whispers in that otherworldly voice, “Seek the magic….”
The writer is on deadline, has a two-page professional to-do list and an even longer one on personal matters. She doesn’t have time to seek anything. She needs that magic, front and center, and right now!
The muse shouts. “Look, you. Don’t mess with me, you know how I get. Now seek the damn magic or sit here and stare at the wall for a week. Your choice.”
And so the writer seeks a new writing ritual or a new method or responds to a new challenge. She changes something.
That this book needs something different.
That writing this book at this time, requires something different from her.
That this typical method isn’t going to work and a new method for this book is needed for her to see the something different in a way that is different.
Bottom line is the usual isn’t hacking it for this book and something’s got to change. She needs an altered approach. In her, her thinking, her methods, her attitude toward the story, her storytelling perspective toward the story. Something must be different.
And so the pro lifts her hands and says, “Okay, I’m game. What needs to be different?”
And the muse sighs. “Seek the magic.”
And so the writer stops fighting and starts listening. Reads the proposal, the synopsis, and feels compelled to write or compelled to change what is already written.
She might decide she hates what is written and comes up with something stronger. She might run it past her agent/editor and then forget the synopsis, the outline, the post-it notes and index cards and charts and everything else she typically does, and just fall into the storytelling.
And she might find herself in the unfamiliar position of not knowing what will happen next. So she must write to it to find out. Or she scribbles notes of threads not to forget to pick up, then races ahead, eager to see where all these interesting tidbits popping up out of the bowels of the story lead and what they all mean.
And she’s enthused and excited and captivated by the lives and events taking place on the page and she can’t stop writing, can’t quit because she’s so deep into the story that even when she’s away from it, she’s thinking about it. She’s free-styling.
And the muse celebrates.
If you’re stuck, in a rut, lack enthusiasm, don’t try to fake it. Do something different. Mix things up, get a different grip, fire those neutrons out of sequence. Free-style.
Understand, too, that often these challenges aren’t because of the work or about the work. Often the writer’s life and the challenges in it flow over into the work. Sometimes when this happens, authors try to escape from the work to hide, to heal. But that doesn’t typically work.
Rather than escape from the work, escape to it. Let it give you refuge for a time in a place where you can control things. At least to some degree until your characters take over. Even then you can nudge them in the direction you want them to go, and often that’s enough of a respite that you can heal enough to deal with whatever you must.
Then you and your muse will celebrate.
And that’s what’s on my mind this morning….
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