Monday, August 24, 2009

Sticky points

Kate, pick your mind back up out of the gutter! I meant points in the writing when you stick tighter than a plump gent superglued onto a toilet seat. The point at which writing at all seems futile, and what you've already done feels like a waste of effort. I have two or three of these every book, minimum.

So: how do I get away from it?

I can't afford to simply drop the book and write something else - until I reach the same point, yet again. (there are people out there who do this. Who have hard-drives full of great starts...)

It's usually my subconcious telling me that something is badly wrong. Of course sometimes my subconcious is talking a crock and should crawl back under its rock and stay there, but mostly it's saying 'something ain't right and ain't fair. According to the Goons - I was writing the left leg of Joe Louis ;-) -- but in practice for me it usually means motive is insufficient for prescribed course of action of the plot. I have 3 solutions - all working round that.

1)Go back. Elaborate on motive.

2) Add a new POV character - who will expand that motive

3) Jump ahead. Just leave it right there, and jump ahead - This is great when you really aren't yet sure what motives are -- they'll reveal themselves and you can backfill.

So I am still as sick as a... why the hell horse? A hippopotamus with double pneumonia -- so I'll leave you to tell me what you find works to deal with the sticking points.


Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Good point, Dave.

My theory is that writers block is our inner story wizard saying something is not working. You need to go back to the start and work your way through again.

If I do this, I usually find what isn't working. And it will be something to do with pacing, point of view, that sort of thing.

Dave Freer said...

Yes, the reason it isn't working varies -- for me motive is important

Amanda Green said...

Dave, thanks for this post. It came at exactly the right time for me. I've been struggling with my current WIP. I'll go back and do what you've suggested and see what happens. Well, either that or I'll just throw the computer through the window. Nah, that takes too much effort. All those cords to disconnect before it will get a good launch. Guess that means back to work.

Now, silly monkey, take care of yourself and let me know if you need anything.

Anonymous said...

My current sticky book - solid stick all the way - was helped when I realized that the story problem could only be resolved by a rather nice Bad Guy.

He was already a POV character, I just had to reframe the story (ie ditch a third of it) so he was the main character and the actions of his side emphasized.

Because _he_ could blackmail the councilman into doing the right thing, but no one else could do diddly to stop . . .

Mind you the story is still full of problems. But your third point "Add a new POV character - who will expand that motive " just handed me a clue. Duh! I just repurposed the representative of the unfeeling juggernaut. Now I need a new Bad Guy.

Thanks, Dave!


Dave Freer said...

Matapam - that's one of the reasons I struggle so much with first person. It's also why so many authors slide in omniscent (yes there ARE authors who do this well - but precious few of them) because showing the whole picture needs - as it were - another camera angle.

Dave Freer said...

Amanda -seriously - several of my books ended up more like jigsaw puzzles than linear progessions - with jumping forward - and then when that piece was clear, backfilling. I listed those in reverse order of what I try first, I realise.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

I go through phases. I used to do the jump around a lot. Sometimes my books were all pieces of books, nothing coherent.
Nowadays, mostly, when I hit the snag, I print everything I have -- outline, research, everything -- and go somewhere unusual for me. Unusual meaning a place where I don't normally write. Could be the living room, or the library downtown, or even the park -- and read over all of it. Somewhere along the line by brain snaps into the big "duh".

With me it's usually a snag in the thread stopping me. Either a character acting out of character; a plot point that simply is not convincing; or a scene that's badly out of place.

Chris McMahon said...

If something isn't working, I usually get this annoying little knot in my brain. I have to wander a away and keep thinking at it for a while. The solution usually emerges the next day.

In terms of writers block - for me its more phases where nothing I write and nothing I do seems to be working. But the thing is - there is usually nothing all that wrong - its just low creative biorhythms. When I got back to the same work with more mental energy, its usually fine.

When I am in that down phase my output drops to nigh on zero. I am still there, at the computer, but I am going over the same paragraph again and again. When I come back to those few pages as a 'renewed' writer - they can often be the best writing I have done in a while, even though at the time I can't think of it as anything else but a mess.

Kate said...

Weirdly, I get stuck before the problem. I'll write so far, but if I don't know what's supposed to happen a couple of chapters from where I am now, I can't go forward.

If I don't get anywhere on a couple of days letting it stew, I talk it out with my writing group. THat usually unknots things.

Dave Freer said...

(nod) Kate I often find explaining the story really works for me. One the advantages of co-authoring.

Dave Freer said...

Sarah, I must be badly stuck as I plan to go to another continent...

Dave Freer said...

Chris it comes back the old I am my own worst critic ethos doesn't it? I just wish I could just leave it a while