There are three really tough parts to any writing project.
– The beginning
– The middle
– The end
Monday we covered the beginning. So here we are today, Wednesday, the middle of the week, so let’s get on with “The Middle”. The middle is where you find all the juicy bits, the fun parts that get you from “Oh no, I just lost my job” to “Why yes, I am Lord of all I see”. Or something like that.
The hard part about the middle is just continuing to write. Remember that part about beginning when the shiny new idea had gotten it’s first bump? Yeah, well here your are going to bang that idea until it isn’t shiny anymore. You are going to find all the faults and gaps and holes in that idea. Ultimately this is a good thing. Finding all those problems is the first step to fixing them. Even before we find them though, we have to write them. The problem is that writing them can be hard on the motivation. Many a project is abandoned over the fixable plot problems. So what are you going to do about it? That depends on what the problem is.
Abandon the Project – I hesitate to include this one, but it is something that needs to be examined. There are times when it turns out that the shiny idea was more fluff than stuff. When you get into it and discover that there just isn’t a story there. That’s when you put it away. Sometimes permanently. Sometimes, you’ll find another piece to it and be able to make a story of it. There are also times when an idea hits too close to home; when it pings a trauma in your own life that you aren’t ready to process. Don’t make yourself sick for a story. If you aren’t ready you aren’t ready – put it away.
Now then, assuming there is a story there and it isn’t going to make you suicidal or homicidal, what’s the problem?
I Have No Idea Where It’s Going – Stories don’t always pop out of their writer’s heads the way Athena came from Zeus (which – is one of the more disgusting myths in my opinion, but it’s such a useful allusion in these kinds of discussions). Sometimes we need to write all the boring parts to find the interesting bits. That can be a bit wearing on the author and make them start to doubt the story. There are two ways around this one. 1) keep writing, eventually you’ll figure it out and then you can edit out the bits that don’t advance the plot. It’s not always easy to do this, but it will get your through. 2) Ask the characters. Open a new document and ask the characters what they think – write out your questions and their answers. They’ll tell you what they think of the story, and it could be that what you thought was the goal and what they think is the goal are two different things. Which leads nicely into our next problem.
The Characters Don’t Want to Do What I Want Them To Do – Believe it or not, this is actually a sign that you are becoming a better writer. I struggled with this one for about a year and nearly gave up writing over it until a friend told me to just back off and let the characters tell the story. Writing became a whole lot easier after that. What had happened was that my subconscious was creating fully formed characters and wouldn’t let me shoe horn them into a plot that was wrong for them. A story really has to come from the truth of the characters. Now there are lots of ways to get there, but if you are struggling to get your characters to go in the direction you want them to go, it means that you’ve created a plot that doesn’t fit your characters – or characters that don’t fit your plot. That means that it’s time to toss one or the other of them out. It’s usually easier to toss the plot (in my experience anyway). As long as your characters agree on the ultimate goal, let them get there the way they want to. You can tweak it later if you still don’t like what they’ve done.
I Don’t Like This Story Anymore – This is a tough one because it isn’t just one reason. There are all kinds of reasons you might not like a story anymore. It is a indication that something is wrong and you need to figure out what it is. Allowing yourself to accept this excuse will deprive you of the opportunity to learn more about yourself as a writer. Even if you are going to abandon the story, at least do yourself the favor of discovering the real reason.
I Don’t Have Time For This/It’s Taking Too Long – Writing is a process and it takes time. One thing that most people don’t realize is that you will NEVER FIND time to write. You have to make it. You have to choose not to do other things in order to write. I choose not to watch TV. Not entirely, my Sweetie would probably divorce me if that were the case. I have picked a few shows that I will watch and let the rest go by. It means that I can’t fully participate in the off topic conversations at work, but that’s not such a bad thing. I choose to write when other people are picking up the remote and flipping channels. You may choose differently than I do. What you have to do is decide what is less important to you than writing and limit that thing. Maybe you compromise and choose to pull your time from several activities that you can cut back on. Maybe you pick one thing an completely eliminate it from your schedule and replace it with writing. However you do it, if you want to write you will have to make the time. At the same time, cut yourself some slack. Writing is a process and it’s different for each writer out there. Don’t compare yourself to anyone. Each story is it’s own process too, so it’s going to take as long as it takes. Don’t worry about that, just do it. The more you do, the easier it will become.
The most important thing is to keep going. It’s going to get tough, but you can do it. And when you do, you can get on with the end, which we’ll talk about on Friday.