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Writing Progress: Week Ending January 14, 2012

January 16, 2012

Based solely on wordcount, it was a pretty good week – not spectacular, but pretty good.  However, for me it was really something of a home run:

Book of M:

  • Background Notes Wordcount: 1,446 words

Grand Total: 1,446 words

I’ve mentioned a few times over the past several weeks that I was struggling with something of an intractable plot problem.  I’d reached the start of what I plan to be the eleventh chapter of the book… and I wasn’t sure what to do next.  I wanted certain circumstances to force the protagonist and co-protagonist apart in chapter 11, but I needed to solve a world-building question in order to explain how it came about.  And I struggled for weeks to find a solution.

You could say I had writer’s block, but I don’t.  I still made progress, I just switched gears to focus on other things – the character profiles, primarily.  In the intervening time, I let my subconscious work on the problem, expecting a solution to come to me in a flash of brilliance.

At this point, I’d already discarded a couple simple half-solutions – ideas that seemed like they could be good ideas, but which didn’t feel right for the story.  But I was ready to sit down this week to continue working on my outline, and yet the real solution still hadn’t presented itself to me.  I resolved to write.

I’ve discussed before how I don’t really “believe” in writer’s block.  How it’s a convenient fiction, or an excuse: a phrase we use to describe a number of different creative challenges that writer’s often face but each of which can be solved and overcome.  If there is one great panacea to that malady we call “writer’s block”, it is this: to just sit down and write.  BICHOK, I’ve heard it called: Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard.  This, then, is what I did.

And I solved my problem!

But you saw that coming, didn’t you?  What I did, specifically, was to sit and write a dialogue with myself.  Ideally, I’d been wanting to talk this problem out with some other writerly soul, or someone who was inclined to listen and toss back ideas and questions to get me thinking in the right direction.  But I did this myself, asking myself questions: what are the possibilities?  What are the implications of these different options?  Which ones feel right?

Here’s a short sample of the dialogue (warning, some minor spoilers may ensue).  For context… Isa is the protagonist of the story, and Davin is her co-protagonist.  Isa and Davin have been thrown together by… let’s say magical circumstances.  The kind of magical circumstances that physically keep them together, whether or not they’d like to.  The question, then… if magical circumstances have bound them together… what could pull them apart?  Previously, I’d considered – and discarded – the idea that the story’s villain is responsible, somehow.  But I’d decided instead that whatever was going on was not caused by human intervention:

So what causes this involuntary but otherwise natural separation between Isa and Davin?  Let’s consider the possibilities.  A malevolent, magical  force or intelligence (i.e. another ghost) drags Davin away.  A non-sentient magical force propels Davin away.  Frankly… I like the idea of another ghost being responsible.  But who?  And why?  This would give me something to work with for this chapter.  Hmm.  It’s possible the force that draws Davin away is a ghost, but not a wholly sapient one: the ghost of a creature, or an animal.  Something that is free-ranging, unbound, and fearful.

And so on.  I kept writing, asking more questions and tossing more ideas onto the page, until an answer to the question started to form.  And then, as the answer became apparent to me, so too did the direction for the eleventh chapter.  And a new wrinkle was added to the plot of this book.  The final answer felt satisfying to me, and excited me once again to continue work on this book.

So the large majority of my wordcount for the week was in pursuit of this answer.  That answer having at last rejuvenated me, I feel great about the progress I made.  That’s why, for me, this week was a solid home-run.

How was your writing week?

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. January 17, 2012 12:42 am

    Brainstorming with myself has been my preferred plotting method for the past few years, now. Getting down in black and white the questions and possibilites (and maybe a few impossibilities, as you feel out what works and what doesn’t) is what seems to be my best-bet way to keep the ideas coming and readily available for future reference. Glad you’ve found it helpful, this week.
    As for my writing week, I finished the draft of my novel sooner than expected — *dance of joy* — and stayed up waaaay too late, last night, reading it over the phone to my beta. One area of improvement was noted early, and was happily an easy fix; a simple change in POV for the beginning of one of the chapters augmented a couple points formerly given too little attention. I’m interested to see what the others readers who’ve received the MS will have to say. …And, in the meantime, I’ve suddenly recalled that I still have to put together the story’s proper blurb and synopsis. Guess I’ve got my writing goal for the coming week, then (though I really hope it doesn’t take more than half that long).

    • January 17, 2012 11:17 am

      I’m sure it feels good to be done with the novel early! I’d say revel in that feeling for the time being – but don’t rest too long on your laurels. In my experience (which admittedly isn’t vast, yet) even a well-done, well-written and well-crafted story can stand in need of some serious work and improvement, and that can take a lot more time and attention than you would anticipate. I’ve written several stories that were good when they were done. But after some beta reads (which were generally positive) I found there was plenty of space to make them better, and that required a lot of work.

  2. January 17, 2012 11:53 am

    I do the question and answer thing as well. Sometimes I have to leave the questions for a few days, but the subconscious is a powerful thing. I’m always surprised when the answers inevitably come. 😉

    Wrote 5k last week, so it went pretty well. Still no short story time though. I might just wait until I’m done with this draft before working on short stories. That looks like it will be at the end of March.

    • January 17, 2012 12:02 pm

      Yeah, I was surprised, too. I’d been ruminating some of these questions in the back of my mind for weeks… and hadn’t consciously come up with any direct answers to most of them. And then, somehow, they find their way onto the page, albeit in a form that wasn’t particularly elegant-looking. Anyway, 5K sounds like a decent week to me. I’m holding off on short stories right now, too. I do want to write a couple this year. Right now, though, I’m just too jazzed up about my novel to switch gears for a short story.

  3. January 17, 2012 10:32 pm

    My all-time favorite post about writers block: http://bit.ly/znu02J

    Me, I had a pretty good week. Lots more words written: 52 handwritten pages (of which 3,876 words have been typed up so far), sketched out Part One and some of Part Two, plus some idea of the overall structure. Nice and concise so far. Some good possibility of tying in the MysteryThatNeverWorkedQuiteRight. Plus this will head into a genre that I’ve dabbled with around the edges but have never really tackled head on.

    • January 18, 2012 12:11 pm

      Yeah, Jo’s post was spot-on, on that particular topic. It looks like “writer’s block” certainly wasn’t a constraint for you, this week. 52 handwritten pages is a pretty impressive turn-out (varying, I suppose, on the density of your handwriting, but still).

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