cut and haste

One of the dangers of writing the way I do–with no advance plot knowledge or planning at all–is that inevitable, I will follow an instinct and write down a path that doesn’t work. Such a thing happened last week and it only took me six frigging days to figure it out.

I was having a bout of writer’s laziness but there seemed to be something more going on with it. Sometimes I wanted to write but I couldn’t so I just kepts turning out pages until I was almost to the 60K word count again but then it stalled. The problem was I needed somewhere to go with the story. Since this is all stuff that’s leading up to the climax and final resolution I can’t just continue throwing in twists and plot facts and new characters which is what I normally do when the plot bogs down.

So what I did was go back to an outline I’d written during the early revision process and noticed almost the entire section I was getting ready to write was left blank. I had no idea how I was going to end my story or how I was going to get there. So I took a day to go through that outline and sketch in some vague plot points that should at least help me get through a big chunk of this section before I have to stop and think more about how to tie it all together.

This problem seems to be at the root of every single bout of writer’s block I get. I took a turn down the wrong path. But can this happen to those of you who outline as well? Do you run into messes when you’re in the actual writing of the book that don’t work as well in practice as they did in the outline?

9 thoughts on “cut and haste

  1. Do you run into messes when you’re in the actual writing of the book that don’t work as well in practice as they did in the outline?All the damn time. Hey, if it was easy, we wouldn’t be getting all this money, would we.

  2. This is why I write short stories. It’s easier to extricate yourself from 5000 words than 50,000. And in a short story, mood can paper over a thin plot. Sometimes. And of course, the money in short story writing is great.

  3. This is also a danger in other fields, like programming. Figuring out how to do something is fun. Actually doing it is a chore.

  4. Yeah, I think it can happen to us all. I did the most obscenely detailed plan for the last book imaginable, and I still had a couple of points where I wasn’t getting anywhere at all and finally realised, “Hey! The problem is, this is fucking stupid!”

  5. “…it only took me six frigging days to figure it out.”Come on. Who are you kidding? I find it hard to believe you’ve ever figured anything out in six days…

  6. Yes, been there and done that. I usually can’t resist the story and plunge in too soon, thinking the rest will come to me. Console yourself with the fact that a lot of highly successful authors work the same way.And I remember John’s plotting with innumerable charts and bits of papers and something manic about the whole process. I felt so inadequate at the time.

  7. I don’t outline. I’ve written ten novels varying in length from 50,000 words to 225,000 words. Most of them come in around 70,000-80,000 words.No matter how hard it is to write, no matter how badly I think a novel is going, I write it. Most of the time when I’m in a scene that just isn’t going anywhere, that feels as thick as mud and I’m convinced no one in this business will ever read it and think that it’s worth publishing, I just force myself to write. And usually, months later (or even years later in some cases) those are the chapters or scenes that I like the most.Mind you, I hate them at the time.But it really does work itself out, if you write it, if you get it done, and then give it several months after you’ve completed it.But do not stop a novel in the middle and say, “Oh, if I give it a month or two, I’ll come back to it fresh. I’ll figure out where I want to go with it.” In my case, if I let more than a week go by, I’ll forget characters, clothes they were wearing, actions they did in a previous chapter, things they said or observed — and if that happens, then a novel loses its steam. It loses its cohesion.No matter how bad it seems, write it from beginning to end, get it done, and keep moving forward.My attitude is that I’ll learn through the process of writing 10, 15, 20, or 40 novels how to write a novel better and better each time. In all of a novel’s aspects: pacing, character, plot, emotion, description, dialogue, markets, genres, etc.You can spend time with a book, but you have to know when you’ve spent enough time and when to move on.For me, if I don’t complete two novels per year, then I’m doing something wrong.It’s like a train. You’ve got to keep it moving forward. Stare too long at the rolling wheels that seem to be squeaking and you’ll fall off the damn side.

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