Weekly Wednesday Writing Wrap-Up 14

I have a confession to make. I’m not proud of it, but I’m going to stand here with my head held high and “tell the truth” (As my 4-year-old would say).

I fell off the 100 Words Wagon.

I know, I know. I got to day 32, and then… nothing. I didn’t write anything for a day. I sat in front of the computer, stared at the screen, and thought, “I just can’t do this today.” Then I went to bed. And I did this in the knowledge that I would have to start all over again at Day 1. I felt terrible, and went through a brief bout of I’m-a-terrible-writer-itis. But then I decided to give myself permission to suck for a few days, then get over myself and start again.

But the real question here is: why did it happen at all?

I could line up reasons for you. I’ve got lots of other stuff happening in my life right now. I’ve been sick. My boys have both been sick. I’ve been averaging 2 hours sleep a night for the last 5 nights. And although all of those things are true, none of them are accurate. At least, none of them accurately represent the reason that I stopped writing every day.

I finished Chapter 2 on Friday. I was so excited. Tick, done. It was a bit longer than I’d intended (coming in at about 6500 words), but I could cut it down a bit in editing. On Saturday, I sat down to write Chapter 3. Yeah! Let’s do this thing! I sat at my computer, and…. nothing.

No problem. Sometimes long-hand is the way to go. So I grabbed my pen and notebook, found a cozy spot on the couch, and…. nothing. I managed 3 words. And they were dreadful.

It took me a couple of days to really figure out the problem. You see, Chapter 2 was wrong. At least, it didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to. My protag did things that didn’t make sense, I had a huge info-dump poorly disguised as a conversation (It was wearing a false moustache and sunglasses. I still know that’s you, info-dump!), and the conversation itself didn’t even make sense for the characters involved–it only happened so I could get them to the relevant place in the plot.

Generally, I agree with Kirsten Lamb’s recent post about editing being the novel-killer when it comes to a first draft. I really do. (Okay, I mostly do.) But in this case, I seriously couldn’t keep writing until I figured out how to fix my problems. Because anything that I wrote after that point would be inherently flawed by me not knowing what had happened earlier. So I stopped writing all together.

The good news is that I have now figured out what I did wrong. (I don’t have to delete anything – I actually need to split those 6500 words into chapters 2 and 3, and add an extra 2000 odd words to each of them.) My inspiration and excitement is back. Writing is no longer a chore. And I’m back on the 100 Word Bandwagon. It’s just that, now, I’m on Day 2. But I’m on a HAPPY and PRODUCTIVE day 2, so you’ll get no complaints from me.

(In other news, Stephen King has given me permission not to write an outline. My life is now complete.)


Filed under Writing

28 responses to “Weekly Wednesday Writing Wrap-Up 14

  1. LOL! I got to your second paragraph and started laughing, because a few days ago, I wrote a similar fell-off-the-wagon confession: http://leannebaldwin.blogspot.com/2011/07/in-which-i-admit-to-being-very-bad-girl.html

    Maybe wagons aren’t stable enough. Perhaps we should be using Jeeps or something.

    • Jeeps! What a fabulous idea. With seatbelts. 🙂

      I actually read your post on the day you made it and my first thought was, “Hey! That’s what happened to me! Thans so much for stealing my thunder!” Haha.

  2. BTW, I’m sorry to hear you and the little ones have been ill. I know how rough it is with little ones.

  3. You should give yourself a break. It is so difficult to care for sick little ones and much more difficult to do it when you are sick yourself! I am interested in this “100 words a day” plan. I have been reluctant to get started due to time issues but I may be able to do 100…thanks for the inspiration!:)

    • Thanks. 🙂 100 words a day is great. Even though I fell off the wagon (briefly), I still think it’s the best write-every-day incentive out there. Good luck with it!

  4. The 100 words a day is a good idea!

    And yes, editing is a killer. I’ve started working on a new project, and I’ll go back and reread what I just wrote to refocus myself and then start getting an urge to tweak something here, delete a word there… and before I know it half an hour is gone. Haha!

    Glad you figured out what the problem was though! It’s better to catch it sooner or later. 🙂

    • It definitely is! I’m actually really glad that I let myself take a break for a few days. Otherwise I probably would have had to discard everything else I’d written anyway. At least this way I can get back into it all full of vim and vigour.

  5. I hope you and your kids are feeling better or will be soon!

    I’m glad you figured out the problem. It’s best to identify and fix them when you can (and along the way). Sorry to hear about falling off the wagon. If I don’t get busy, I will too! I still have three and a half hours in my day to meet my 100 words goal though. 😛

    • I hope you made your 100 words!
      The best thing about falling off the wagon is that you can rest assured there’s another wagon (or jeep) nearby, you just have to leap back aboard.

  6. First of all, as others have said, if you and the kids are sick, this will have an effect. Reality is reality.

    Also, re: “But in this case, I seriously couldn’t keep writing until I figured out how to fix my problems. Because anything that I wrote after that point would be inherently flawed by me not knowing what had happened earlier.” Exactly. When I write, I think of each chapter as a brick. I’m building a building, and each brick has to be strong and well-placed, or the bricks on top of it will be unstable (no matter how solid they are). If one brick is cracked, it only makes sense to deal with that before anything else.

    • That’s so true, Anthony. I love the analogy of each chapter being a brick. I think I’m going to add pictures of bricks to my Inspiration Wall…

      • Since I post chapters as I write them, there’s also the embarrassment factor if I have to go back and fix something after it’s up. It’s like a stagehand having to go onstage during a play to move the furniture around.

        Also, “inspiration wall”? What’s that?

      • A while back, I stuck 3 pieces of blank poster cardboard on the wall behind my computer to use as an ‘Inspiration Wall’. So I write things on it, stick things on it it, attach post-it notes, etc. It’s basically a way to keep me focused and inspired to write when I’m at my computer, while giving my eyes something to look at while I’m staring into the distance working out what to write next.

        At the moment, my inspiration wall has: Pictures of bricks (thank you), 2 x quotes from Raymond Chandler, 1 x quote from Stephen King, a post-it note with a one-line description of my WIP, a post-it note with my WIP’s premise, a list of upcoming blog pots, a few post-it notes with books I want to read, a list of potential posts for my next ‘Top 5 Monday’, a list of writing tips and traps, a tracking chart for my 100 Words for 100 Days challenge, and Tamara Paulin’s ‘Writing a Novel in 14 Pragmatic Steps’.

  7. Bugger starting from day 1 again. 🙂 I just skip a day and keep going.

    But I totally know what you mean about coming to a dead halt when you’ve taken a wrong turn in the story. I can’t keep going until I’ve gone back and fixed it. So I sympathise!

    • Nothing wrong with skipping a day and continuing. I just set up the challenge for myself to write every day, with the penalty for _not_ writing being that I would have to start at Day 1 all over again. My goal is to reach the end of the 100 Words for 100 Days challenge when I’ve actually written 100 days in a row.

      I’m so pleased to have been able to isolate the problem, though, so those few days off were well worth the “penalty”.

  8. You know, I am rapidly coming to believe that we trap ourselves when we get ideas about what we “have” to do or “have” to have in order to write–and I say this as someone who is equally guilty of having such beliefs. As much as I may be a slave to thinking that I must edit first draft material in order to be in the right mindset to continue writing, I am starting to recognize that this is not so much a real need as it is a self-generated rule by which I am allowing myself to be constrained.

    I think we would all be gasping in awe at the power and depth of our own creative forces if we freed ourselves from these artificial beliefs about what we “need” in order to produce.

    • You’re probably right. It would be nice to think that one day we can let go of or magical feathers, and fly on our own. But then, if we didn’t have a magical feather to start with, we may not have even tried to get off the ground.

      • I guess what I’m getting at is that the magical feathers aren’t magical at all–that the real magic is inside ourselves and is only accessible when one stops clinging to the false magic of the feathers.

        You’re right that these beliefs probably help us to take the first steps toward flight, and I’m not saying they have no place in our lives. I just think that we tend to hold onto them long after they have ceased to be tools and instead become crutches that limit our abilities by defining imaginary and unnecessary boundaries around our work.

  9. Jo, I’ve hit a number of similar blocks in my first draft, and they’ve often taken more than a day of unproductive writing time to figure out. So kudos to you for coming to this conclusion so quickly! And I think it’s great that you stepped back from your words goal to figure out that your words weren’t leading you to the right place. Words heading in the wrong direction are such sad little things, aren’t they?

    • They really are. I guess the “unproductive writing time” falls into the ‘Sharpening the Saw’ idea that we were talking about last month, doesn’t it? It’s one of those things that feels like a cop-out at the time, but is actually incredibly beneficial in the long run.

      • Definitely! Good point. Sometimes if you hit a wall in a story, banging your head against it is slower, and more painful, than stepping away for a while, because often you can find another way around the wall with enough perspective.

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