Many of us have those spells where we write for days on end and it’s all going amazing, right? The words flow and the feeling is good.
‘OMG, this story is amazing – I can’t wait to send this out – I’ve made a Pinterest mood board with all my main characters being played by movie stars.’ etc
We’ve all done it.
And then we crash.
Sometimes it’s 10k in, sometimes it’s 20 or 30…sometimes for me, it’s more like 40 or 50.
It’s weird – it’s like all that exciting energy from the raw idea phase, where this story could go anywhere, gets slowly sapped, the more you write.
And you start thinking more about the big picture, about the ending, but also about those sloppy chapters earlier in the story, or about how this character just isn’t working now, or there’s too many characters and you need to cut a couple…but that will involve so much editing, and completely change the direction of the whole story, and nothing makes sense and our lives will never be the same, so help me…
And this is the point, where I lull and spin in my chair and hunker down into my pit of writing doom and ask what even is the point of this and why do we write and no-one will even read my book anyway…
And I stop writing.
Fatal mistake 1.
I know it’s a mistake, too. I know I must keep going to the end, that every first draft is shit, etc etc, but I don’t.
I start turning to my trusty craft books and I read and I read, but the more I read, the more I realise what is wrong with my draft and how much I need to fix and the cycle continues…it perpetuates into this unfathomable abyss that we’re stuck in and even Wonder Woman couldn’t haul us out!
This phase can last months for me.
In some ways it’s healthy, as I hit a reset on my story and work through the problems and I’ve written enough that I know my characters a bit better and I have a general story shape to work from. The time away can be useful – it allows space for new angles on your story to develop, and new depths to be explored in your characters psyche, and widening and heightening of that character arc.
There are benefits to stopping for a bit…but you have to get going again at some point and I do struggle with this part.
Because as I write, or rewrite, I find myself being uber critical of the new stuff, or my updated old stuff.
It never matches what I picture in my head. It is never enough. It will never be enough.
I will never be satisfied…
And I suppose that’s what I have to accept, what we all have to accept as writers. We are never going to write anything that is perfect, or even the very best that we can do…simply because there isn’t the time and we also (like our characters) evolve, change and grow.
The next thing we write is better than the last and I guess the trick for me, and anyone like me, is to remember this.
It will never be enough.
It will never be perfect.
So, just write. And get it done. Do what you can, send and start writing the next one.
Simple, right? 😂
But I am such an ‘all or nothing’ person by personality. I either have to spend all my time writing or none of it.
0 or 1. Binary code. That’s my life.
Always been the same. I recently cycled 5000km in 100 days for charity. I barely cycled before that, or since. Why? Even I don’t know.
I literally plucked a big number out of the air, said I’d do it (now, that public element of accountability is a huge motivator for me) and I did it.
My writing is the same.
And as I always do, if we relate this back to story: it’s all about stakes and consequences.
My character will never be challenged or grow, unless there are stakes or consequences – I will never finish my book unless I engineer a deadline, and ask someone else to hold me accountable – I know, I am a child. 😂
Fortunately, I’m in a series of 1s. It’s all right now.
I ignore my child. My wife. And the pile-up of dishes in the kitchen – seriously, I’m culturing about 12 different moulds in there!
I even forgot second breakfast the other day!!! 😳
But for a long while before this, there was just 0000000000000001000000000000 and it was awful. But that negative cycle continued and it was hard to break.
I actually think if I ever sign with an agent, or sell a story to a publisher, that my process will speed up.
(a) it will have to regardless but also (b) that level of accountability and stakes, ie with deadlines and actual contracts etc is absolutely what I need.
So, I’ve challenged and committed myself today to do 10k of rewrites a month for the next 3 months and that should get me close to finishing this damn book!
Wish me luck!