Writing process

I’m starting to learn that my writing process needs to include scheduled breaks for existential crises. *g*

More specifically, I seem to hit a point in every project longer than about 10K words when I have no idea where it’s going next and have halfway decided that the story I’m telling is not the story I want to tell. This is true even if I have a detailed outline to work from. There seem to be two major places where this happens — at about the 1/3 point, and at about the halfway point (or a little past it).

This doesn’t happen to me when I write fanfic. But it happens almost every time when I’m working on original fiction. I think it’s a side effect of getting to know the characters as I write the book. I might start off with a clear idea of where I’m headed, but as I work my way through the first 20K or 30K words and get a better feeling for who the characters are, there’s a growing sense that where I’m going might not be where I need to go. So I have to stop and reassess it, sometimes going so far as to write an in-depth summary of what I’ve written so far, sometimes just letting it sit for a little while and going back to it with new eyes.

The current major project is an m/m novel that I’m hoping to be able to submit early next year. But now I’m getting that familiar sinking feeling that the project might be curving on a tangent that’s taking it increasingly far away from where it actually needs to go, and maybe I should back off a bit, look at it from a distance, and see if I can figure out if it needs to change direction.

The interesting thing is that, even though it usually feels like EVERYTHING HAS TO CHANGE!, I generally end up going back to something pretty close to the original plan. I’ll spend a day or two absolutely convinced that my characters need to switch from baristas in Illinois to butterfly hunters in the Amazon (or, you know, whatever) in order to do justice to their story, and then I’ll realize that, no, all I have to do is shift around these two minor scenes and hey, back on track again! It’s not usually a major direction change that I need, more like a minor course correction.

I'm a writer and artist living in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Posted in Writing
4 comments on “Writing process
  1. I can relate. I know those feelings. πŸ˜€

  2. slhuang says:

    You mean I’m not the only person who does that??? *g*

    The most frustrating part of this for me is that it’s not something I can push. If the plot is being gnarly, it usually just needs time to sit and gel and unsnarl itself in my head, and I just want to push on and WRITE GODDAMMIT, but it takes its own good sweet time to figure itself out. Argh!

    For me it’s most likely to happen about halfway through and then again at the climax. Probably because I usually don’t have more than a vague idea of how the climax is going to happen, and I arrive there with all these dangling threads and have to piece together how they all tie up to get to the end (I usually know what the end is). I live in fear that one of these days I’ll end up with a climax that just refuses to work and I’ll have a CLIMAX-LESS BOOK, and who wants to read that???

    • Layla Lawlor says:

      Yes! It takes its own time and it can’t be rushed. I’ve found that long solo car drives are wonderful for sorting out plot problems, especially if I don’t give in to temptation to listen to the radio. After sitting there for a couple of hours with nothing to do but stare at the white line, my brain eventually starts coughing up possible plot solutions and scenarios.

      On both of the Gatekeeper novels I ended up stopping when I was about 10-20K short of the end to let things sort out in my head. In those cases it was less of a “AAAAA MY BOOK IS FUNDAMENTALLY BROKEN” feeling and more that I wanted the climax to kick ass but I was having trouble coming up with good ideas for the big battle scenes, so I needed to do a bit more brainstorming and, er … block out the action with Legos. (Which is helpful! I keep telling people that my toys are necessary writing aids. I don’t think they believe me, though …)

      I know what you mean about feeling worried that the ending is going to fail. I fret terribly about that. And then usually it ends up coming together and I’m very happy with it. πŸ˜›

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