The Under Ground Writing Project

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Writer's Blah

Posted by Ali on January 23, 2013 at 6:30 PM

In the past year or so, I've been focused on a lot of things - moving, a new job, non-fiction, revising a novel, etc. etc. What I have been slacking on is drafting brand new stuff, and especially short stories.

 

Recently, I've been trying to exercise those neglected muscles. My success has been less than overwhelming. I have realized that, thanks to neglect, I have fallen back to my pattern from when I first started playing around with this writing stuff. I figure out an idea I like, jot out the first few pages easily, then stall out. Part of me feels like all the practice, all the years I've spent figuring out how to see a project through to the end, has escaped me. It's like I've forgotten how a story works.

 

Needless to say, this frustration doesn't lend itself to motivation. Currently, I've got the following stories brewing/stalled:

 

Duchess of Bathory inspired story: 2.5 pages drafted. Stall = Overthinking the plot. How realistic would it be if the hero does that? Would it fit with the world-building I've developed, or would readers feel like it's a cheat?

 

Zombie story: 5+ pages drafted. Stall = The ending I want and the beginning I've got feel out of sync. How am I going to match them up? And/or should I abandon one to hold true to the other?

 

Girl with no face story: 0 pages drafted. Stall = I have a plot/conflict, but is that really the best pay off for the character concept? How do I write it without it feeling cheesy?

 

Transvestite prince story: 8 ish pages drafted. Stall = Okay, I'm having fun with the characters, but do I really have a conflict/plot here?

 

I'm working on some solutions to the blahs, and I'll write more about that later, but I'm hoping some of you might have some brilliant ideas on how to get over the sticking point. Also, I'm hoping y'all can give me something beyond, "Just write it out," because, while that is absolutely good advice, I think you guys might have some other, more creative, solutions.

Categories: Writing Process, Endings, psychology

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5 Comments

Reply Jenny Maloney
12:39 PM on January 24, 2013 
Got a couple ideas on this:

1. Set yourself some constraints on your story -- something arbitrary like a certain word count, or you have to use a certain set of words (like carpet, diary, and cow). It sounds crazy but sometimes being stuck means you haven't set enough constraints around your work. Once you're focused on the constraints, the story kind of works itself out and you can switch up what you're doing.

2. Set a time limit: you can only work on this piece for five minutes and your pen has to keep moving. You can, of course, make this time limit as long or as short as you want. Kinda goes with the constraints -- if you're stuck to a time, then you're committed. Also good to have people to race with.

3. Write backward. Or start in the middle. Whatever, just write out of order. Write the parts you want to write. You wanna write a bloodbath? Then write the bloodbath part. Sometimes if you write the scene you want to write, the rest comes into focus around it.

4. Just keep dancing between pieces. You've been out of practice, so you might just need to figure out that writing is fun again. Whatever strikes your fancy, just do it. I think the stories will sort themselves out as you fiddle with them.

My four cents. =)
Reply Ali
12:47 PM on January 24, 2013 
Jenny - brilliant suggestions, all. I knew I could count on you ;)
Reply John Ridge
12:45 PM on January 25, 2013 
STOP THINKING SO MUCH!!!

Everything has fundamentals. You've stated you feel like you've forgotten how a story works. When was the last time you reviewed the fundamentals of storytelling? There's nothing wrong with going back to basics. I don't know how long it's been since you tried writing new material, but to carry on the muscle metaphor, you'd be damn crazy to hit your maximum weight on a lift that you hadn't performed in six months to a year. Take some time to allow for muscles to come back.

I will respectfully disagree with dancing between pieces. I think you're dividing your focus too much to successfully work through any of them. Pick one. Finish it. Move on to the next. Finish that one. Pick the next one. Finish it. Or, start on something completely new. Perhaps the issue is you don't find the subject matter interesting enough in any of these stories.

Deadlines are very useful to produce a completed story. While doing the sprint thing is helpful, you sound like you want to get something completed. Set a definite time limit that makes you tighten your gut because it's so close. Force yourself to seek a solution rather than marinate in the problem (I say this because I've marinated many times before, and it got me nowhere).

You know what? I'll do that for you. You have until 3 p.m. this Sunday to have a story written. I don't have one written now, but I will have one written then.

Consider the gauntlet thrown.
Reply Jenny Maloney
3:17 PM on January 25, 2013 
John Ridge says...
Set a definite time limit that makes you tighten your gut because it's so close. Force yourself to seek a solution rather than marinate in the problem (I say this because I've marinated many times before, and it got me nowhere).

You know what? I'll do that for you. You have until 3 p.m. this Sunday to have a story written. I don't have one written now, but I will have one written then.

Consider the gauntlet thrown.


Uh-oh. Gauntlet throwing.
Reply Ali
3:22 PM on January 25, 2013 
0_o

You know, part of my plan for getting past the blahs was to submit this month. Now it's just gotten upgraded from something I "should" do to something I "must" do.

John - Consider the gauntlet picked up.

Jenny Maloney says...
Uh-oh. Gauntlet throwing.

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