...it makes life difficult.
As a writer, writing is hard. And, honestly, not writing is harder.
I've mentioned before that I've been having a rough time with writing. I struggled through Time Captives (I made it! Whew! And I'm pretty happy with the results, so that's a plus), wrote a rather bland first draft of the Cassie story (my family recently suggested Identity as the title...haven't settled on it yet, but what do you think?), breezed through Twisted Dreams and seemed to have drained all my creativity, managed to write a much better but still very messy second draft of the Cassie story, got a chapter and a half into a third draft, and...kind of quit. Not for good, certainly, I just didn't quite have the fresh perspective I needed, and there's still something wrong with it that I can't quite put my finger on.
I think half my trouble with this book is problems with the story itself, and half the trouble is just general creativity problems. Growing up, is, well, difficult, and it's affected my ability to dream big in story worlds. But I'm not here to complain, I want to share with you some of the things I've been trying in my attempt to move past this dry phase. (Anyone else read Emily's Quest by L.M. Montgomery? I totally feel like I'm in that phase of her life right after she burned A Seller of Dreams. Except for the Dean Priest thing, of course. :P)
General Book Malfunction
I've been through this before with Time Captives, I should know exactly what to do, right?
1. Evaluate the protagonist. Picked the wrong protagonist? Been there, done that, got the T-shirt. Actually, now I kind of want a T-shirt about picking the wrong protagonist. If your protagonist doesn't have a lot of growing to do, but one of your main secondary characters does, chances are, you've picked the wrong protagonist. Same goes if your protagonist doesn't have a very interesting narration style, but a secondary character does.
2. Evaluate the writing style. This one's...fun. But if you've been stuck on the writing how-to, and it's bogging you down, and your writing's just not you anymore, it's time to reevaluate the way you're writing. Deep character POV is the "in" thing right now, but if it doesn't work for you, it doesn't work for you. The harder I try to write good deep character POV, the more I get tunnel vision, which makes me feel very stuck. The other problem is, when I try too hard to write omnisciently, I get too distant. So you know what? Don't worry about your writing style. Just write however feels most natural, and fix it later. That's what editing's for.
3. Evaluate the storyline. Is it boring you? If it is, chances are, it'll bore your readers. That's how chapter two of draft three felt. I still haven't figured out how to fix the beginning, as I had to cut some interesting stuff in order to fix plot holes, but I'll figure it out eventually. Think about where it bores you, where it excites you, try to identify the holes, and talk to someone about it. It could be a parent, a sibling, a non-relative writing buddy, but it helps immensely to get someone else's perspective on it. And if you're rewriting, go back and read previous drafts as a cohesive whole. I believe failing to do so is a big part of why I failed mid-chapter two.
4. Try to remember what excited you about the project in the first place. This was my major failing in draft three. By trying to rewrite after a break of several months without rereading first, I'd forgotten who my characters were, what drove them, what their goals were, what journey they went on, and most of all, I forgot why I loved this project. Now that I'm almost done with my reread, I can not only see the problems with the story a bit more clearly, I remember how much I love these characters and why I care about their story.
5. If all else fails, take a break. Could be, the book just isn't ready to be written yet. I keep learning this again and again with the Storyless Storyboard Story...though that's probably largely because the main characters are a married couple with a baby and I'm not at that stage of life yet, so I have no experience to draw on.
General Creativity Malfunction
Yeah, still working on fixing this one. I haven't permanently emerged into the light at the end of the tunnel, so I'll let you know later how my methods work. Meanwhile, if you have any advice to offer, I'd be glad to hear it.
1. Don't stress and believe it's just a phase. I'm trying. It's really hard not to stress about your writing struggles when you're a published author and you've almost run out of books to publish. However, I have to believe it's just a phase and I'll get through it eventually.
2. Read. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, the quality and amount of my reading material seems to have an effect on my writing. What you read affects what you write, and you've got to put story in to get story out. So this year, I'm making an effort to read more and to watch the quality of my reading material a lot more carefully. I'm not going to let a significant portion of my reading material be made up of junk food books!
3. Dream about characters. This is hard to force, and in a way, I don't believe it should be forced, but when you're spending practically all of your daydreaming time thinking about real life problems, it does make you feel distanced from your writer side. But honestly, how can you write these characters, how can you get to know them, how can you care enough to make your readers care if you don't hang out with them in your head? I'm not doing a great job with this one so far, but it's better than it was. And I think it's very important.
4. Act out scenes from your book and pretend to be your character. I haven't actually tried this as a writer's block cure yet, but it's something I used to do all the time as a kid, and it definitely helped my creativity. Of course, as adults, we don't want to be pretending we're on a fantasy quest in the middle of the grocery store, but there's a time and a place for acting (alone in my bedroom when the rest of the family is asleep, perhaps?), and the different creative outlet may help get the creative juices flowing once more.
5. Pray. I don't pray for my creativity as often as I should--I've got so many other things to pray about--but it should be the first, middle, and last resort. Because the fact is, I view writing as a ministry, and just praying over my manuscript when I sit down to write isn't really enough.
So there are some things I'm trying or intend to try in order to write again. I hope it helps you, and I'll keep you posted on how it works for me!
Have you ever experienced writer's block? What did you do to cure it?