Thursday, February 03, 2011

The Best Advice

Okay. I'm just going to say it's a beautiful sunny day here, and quite warm. That will either inspire you to think warm thoughts and bring a smile to your face or curse me under your breath.
If you've been at this writing gig for any length of time, you've probably got quite a collection of 'how-to' books on your shelf. I do. Most of them are gathering dust, put down after a few pages in favor of a tall glass of wine and a weeks worth of wallowing. Too much information is not always a good thing.
I love to read, but I confess, non-fiction does not interest me in the slightest. It's going to have to be a pretty darn interesting topic to keep me reading. You would think books about writing would do it, no? No.
Unfortunately, I have an attention-span the size of a pea, and quite possibly undiagnosed ADD. I can't focus on the words long enough for them to make sense to me. Which is why, every so often, when I'm tearing my hair out because my story has gone completely off the rails and I've no idea how to get it back on track, I'll haul those books out and give it another go. I do have some faves.
Writing the Breakout Novel - Donald Maas
Plot and Structure - James Scott Bell - anything by JSB actually, and woe is me because I think I left my JSB books in Canada last summer!! If it gets really bad I may have to resort to the Kindle versions.
Getting Into Character - Brandilyn Collins.
Okay, that's a short list. There are more. Tons more. Did you know there is even a Writing Fiction for Dummies book? Yes, I have it. No, I have not read it.
Ah, but you say, you are soon to hold your first published novel in your hands! You must be doing something right!
Why thank, you. You're so sweet.
But the sad truth is, I have NO idea what I'm doing.
Ha. Okay, that's a lie. But it took me a LONG time to get here. And when I pick up all these wonderfully written books on how to write a wonderfully written book, I break out in a cold sweat.
Because I don't think I can do it again. The Self Doubt Monster is alive and well, and he lives under my desk.
Often, when I'm completely stuck on a manuscript, like I am today, I take him out and feed him. Play with him a while. But he bites.
He's not a fun pet to own, and I'd like to give him away, but nobody wants him.
So here I sit, three quarters of the way through a 100K novel that until yesterday I believed was my next great masterpiece, and I'm completely stumped.
I'm not giving advice today. I'm asking for it.
Where do you go when you get to this point? How do you fix your story? Do you have any specific books or authors who give great advice on getting unstuck?
Give me your best advice.
I'm listening!!
Oh and if anyone wants to brainstorm, I'm ready and willing. Just bring a pillow and a blanket, it'll be a long night.


Bonnie R. Paulson said...

Hey Cath,

A couple of things.

I'd love to brainstorm with you. Let me know how you want to do it!

I actually figured out how to get over slumps about six months ago and haven't really had one since. Most writers write their guts out. and I mean like mad! Every minute of every day that is free that's for writing.

That was me. But THEN! I had an epiphany. If God created the earth in six days and then rested for a season - Sunday - isn't that a great suggestion? If our God - the most powerful entity EVER needs a break, then by golly, I guarantee I do.

So that's what I do. Sundays - I'm not allowed to touch my writing, not read my own work, not edit, nothing! I allow myself to read others, critique others, ENJOY others writing, but I never NEVER touch my own. And since I'm refreshed from my day off, the week feels new and exciting with potential.

Just cause I don't write certainly doesn't mean I don't contemplate my story, but I don't take notes or anything. It just stews. And sometimes (you'll get this with your English background) tea just needs to steep (spelled wrong, I'm sure).

But having said that, while I don't have "slumps" with the amount I put out or whatever my project is at the time, that has nothing whatsoever to do with my own little monster - I think you and I got them from the same litter. I don't remember getting him licensed but for the life of me, I cant' get anyone to take him either. Ugh. and he is the MEANEST pet ever!

Talk soon! Bon

Angela C. said...

Hmm... as a professional writer (at this point!) take this for what it's worth... but I am a huge fan of free associatino (can you tell my background is psychology)? :) But honestly when I feel stuck in an area of my life, I journal and get out all of my self-doubt, negativity etc. and it genuinely feels like it gets out of my system. Then I am freed up to be creative, think more clearly etc. Just a thought! Oh, and I am jealous of your beautiful weather! I am ready for Spring to come! :)

Katie Ganshert said...

I REALLY hope it wasn't my red marks on your synopsis. Because Cathy, I'm not lying - your story is awesome! Awesome blossom (do you watch the Office?) And I don't blow smoke. I don't.

Where do I go? I go insane, that's where I go. And I go there quite often. You're not alone. I have my own little self-doubt pet and he's awfully bloated today.

Melissa said...

I highly recommend "The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield. When I'm going through those times of doubt, it's just what I need to get back on track. Taking breaks to do other creative things is also a great pick-me-upper. Hang in there! You're not alone! :)

Lindi said...

Like Bonnie, I'm open to brainstorming. Let me know.
And I know what you mean by being stuck. A couple of things I try. Sometimes I'll go and reread what I've written--just print it off and read. I also think back to the theme/goal of the book. I think 'what's the worst thing that could happen here' and I do it--or a version of it.
And I also like what Bonnie said about taking Sunday off. I usually don't write on Sunday simply because I don't have the time. But to have a day of rest and give God the glory--sounds good to me.