When the Writing Gets Tough

Once, not long ago, there were 100 days before NaNoWriMo started. Silly me, I thought, sure, I can double what I’m currently writing and crank out two novels before November, and then write this idea that is simply burning inside.

[Burning means all my “spare” notes and words are spent flopping around in this idea but I haven’t made much progress understanding it yet. It simply takes over my brain with SHINY when I am not concentrating elsewhere.]

There are 36 writing days remaining. I wrote the second book to be 65k words, and I am about 21k into the third book. If I estimated it right and I don’t quit writing, I ought to make the goal. Scary, but possible.

However, I don’t feel like the words are flowing for book 3. Book 2 dumped out in nearly the same fashion as book 1 did last November. But I am always reading things about how to improve, and I tried writing this thing backward. I had the end from last November anyway, 892 words of it, and I wrote what came before that, and what came before that, and then I wrote what came in the middle, then I tried to write what came before.

I’m still trying. It’s difficult to envision where this thing is going when I feel like I’m doing it wrong. I know it isn’t wrong, but it feels off. Sometimes I feel like the whole book is right there, but because of how I chose to write this one, it’s all wonky. Today I ended up writing what came after what I wrote yesterday, because I wasn’t sure how that would fit if I didn’t put that scene in. And tomorrow’s writing might come after today’s. Which means I’m writing forward again instead of backward.

I keep wondering that If it feels so wrong, I ought to change it up, find the beginning, and start from there – except for one thing: I’ve never been good at finding the exact beginning of the story. I write backstory, then cut it off and find where the ‘real’ beginning is in almost every novel I’ve ever written. So I’m sticking with this method for now.

What do you do when the words aren’t flowing? When you feel a bit lost within the overall structure of your novel? Do you always use the same method to attack each novel you undertake? How do you write?

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Character Introductions

How do you introduce characters? What is the important part about the introduction of a character, and what do you decide to say when to bring them in?

It’s always difficult to know. You want to introduce your protagonist among the very first, many times the very first character to show to your reader. Readers like to know what’s going on and care about someone who comes up. [Yes, there are several people who get away with doing it another way, but we’re going to stick with the mainstream for the moment. Pretend I’m not George R.R. Martin, ok?]

So if you have your protagonist firmly in mind, you want to introduce her to your reader. You choose something that shows who this is and why she is different and important and worthy of the reader’s time and attention.

Then you start the trouble and change things up for the poor protagonist until she can’t help but follow along with the plot.

But what about the others? How do you decide to put the other characters in? What about people who walk in and out for a little bit? It’s always good to think about that a while. Sometimes there’s an organic way to do it. A way to sprinkle the other characters in while the protagonist goes along with her story.

I have two characters that are giving me a little trouble. I introduce them early because they’re important. However, one of my critiquers thought I shouldn’t introduce one so early, and then another thought I should introduce the other earlier to show her importance.

I end up chewing over that kind of advance planning for the beginning. It seemed to make sense how I introduced them, but it’s possible it’s not quite in order. So I’m curious how other writers do it – do you decide to introduce them in a certain order or just when they come up? How do you decide in the rewrite if you’ve done it well enough? And does it matter if it’s a thousand words here or there to keep them flowing through?

Next time I might look closer at how they come through the story. This one is set in a fairly good order except for the two I mentioned. The two characters are important, though neither is the most important throughout the plot. It can all be put together in good time and I’ll have it figured out within the week.

It does give me a great deal to think about. There might be a million ways to introduce a few characters and I’m not sure I always give it as much thought as i could to make sure it’s done the right way and for the right reasons in the plot.

This kind of thought process has slowed my editing progress. I need to jump into a different chapter and stop worrying about those introductions for a little bit. How do you deal with it?

There Is Beauty in Words

Except, sometimes, when you get caught up in the doubts that follow during the project. Yes, all writers go through it. Some of us hit it early on and can’t get past the first word to put down on paper. Others get it mid-project. Once I even experienced it as soon as I finished the rough draft. [If you don’t know what happened that that project – it’s now The Art of Science.] 

I know that thinking about a project midway through definitely brings out the doubts more than the merits. At least when you’re finished you can pass it off to a trusted associate (or even your best friend) and say, hey, should I keep working on this? The problem with a midway project is sometimes they try to give advice about how it ought to go – whether that is the end in mind or not it can become a stumbling block. 

It’s not like i don’t have ten million other things I could be working on – believe me, I do. I’m the soon-to-be mother of two, naptime novelist, and I always think I can manage more than can be done in a day. So just one more thing never scares me, and the really important stuff does get done in time. Or it doesn’t – that happens often enough. 

Current mid-draft novel is sitting at 36k. It lacks direction and I’m not sure how my protagonist is going to get to the desired end. I’m still attacking it here and there. I mix it up with other projects so I don’t get too burnt on one thing – the holidays are near and there’s supposed to be a lot to do. Yesterday I wrapped gifts, which inspired my two year old to have fits. Today I’m hoping to mail the package, but we’ll see how the time runs with the little girl. 

I’m sure it doesn’t help that I keep thinking this novel might be better than the last one – which is currently sitting in the middle of a rewrite of the teen romance subplot. I don’t think I’m good at writing romance, but I know that’s what the protagonist needs right now. More tension! More drama! So I got to break him up with his girlfriend and let him focus on trying to ask out the new girl. 

The more I torture my characters, the more they know I love them, right? At least, that’s the fun of being the author. Then I can enjoy the drama-free parts of my days when the toddler isn’t being stubborn (like now when she’s not napping). Better luck tomorrow.