All Thinking and No Typing Makes Me Not A Writer

I had a blog post written for this week. Several actually. They’re still waiting to be re-read and polished into something coherent in Microsoft Word. But, somehow, I couldn’t muster up the will to actually re-read anything that I’ve written, let alone, clean up a draft. Lately, I’ve just been in the mood to type type type all the random (and not so random) little things that flit through my mind, and though I know this is my blog, and I can post whatever I want on it, I respect the general blogosphere enough not to throw out word vomit just for the heck of it. Believe me, no one needs to see what my unfiltered, newly awake, pre-coffee mind is capable of. (No, it’s not anything negative or controversial. I just don’t want anyone to question that English is my native language.)

Unfortunately, my type type type disease hasn’t translated to my WIP2 very well. In fact, it’s almost the exact opposite. I will re-read and tinker with the bits that I’ve already written, and yet d.r.a.g. my metaphorical feet to get to the next step in the action. It’s not procrastination. Not really. Nor is it a “what happens next?” thing. I think honestly, I over analyzed the story, and now I’m too bored (for lack of a better word) to continue.

I like my story. I know I do. But, I think that I’ve spent a little too much time thinking about The Story and writing about it via plotting methods of all sorts that I’ve lost touch with my MC, who, I admit, is the main reason why I like my story in the first place. After all this time, MC started to feel like, well, a character and not a real person. Well, I know MC isn’t real, but I started to think of the story as scenes that would lead to other scenes, and things that MC would need to do to get to those scenes, etc, that I lost sight of my recently learned lesson: story comes from the choices that the MC makes.

Random Interjection By My Brain Elves

Thinking about cardboard characters kind of reminds me of the flannelgraph stories I used to sit through during Sunday school.

The teacher would change the main elements of the story on a flannel board as she told the story. So, I would sit there, listening to her words, and yet, mostly stare at a static scene. Sure, sometimes she’d wiggle the characters if they were supposedly walking across the room, or a desert, but ultimately, the characters were lifeless, and no amount of moving by the teacher convinced me of the actions they were supposed to convey from the story. (Story time is definitely best served with an animated voice fueling a listener’s imagination, no visuals necessary. My two cents.)

Anyway, that’s how I’ve started to feel with WIP2. That I’m just pushing this cutout of MC around varying backdrops, which all amounts to a big, fat “So what?”

/End interjection.

Looking back, I can see where I’ve tripped myself up. I probably should have kept working on it privately first, before letting alpha readers give me initial feedback. After all, the Almighty Stephen King proclaimed that writers should write first with the door closed. That first drafts were a time for exploring and uncovering the story; a time to wallow in back story, adverbs, and tense shifts (oh my!). First drafts are supposed to be a free-for-all creative time, without that nagging feeling of “I hope they like this” poking at me.

And, for me, the “door closed” would also apply to reading anything to do with the publishing industry at all. It’s too discouraging to see books being sold and/or released that are too similar in concept to anything I’m working on. I know, I know, I’m supposed to read a lot and research widely, etc, and I do, believe me. But, I shouldn’t during the “door closed” phase. I know this about myself now, and I won’t waste time trying to convince myself that many books with similar concepts are published all the time, blahblahblah. It’s easier just to avoid news of that sort all together. Besides, there are plenty of non-adventure, non-science-fiction books out there to satisfy my reading addiction. (Sidenote: currently reading Kirsten Hubbard’s Wanderlove. LOVE IT. It releases March 2012. Mark your calendars!)

Another thing that I must must must remember: even though I enjoy planning and organizing my day, week, month, year, and have been encouraged to do so in my pay the bills job with extremely positive results (no surprise, running a business requires thoughtful planning and preparing for the unexpected), when it comes to writing a novel, pre-planning just doesn’t work for me. It’s hard for an uberplanner like me to admit that, but it’s scarily true. I hit my stride with my story when I just wrote it all out, no outlines or anything. I was always able to push through a “writer’s block” by thoughtfully considering next steps, and then writing them out. But, thoughtful consideration should not equate to plotting out my novel scene by scene. My muses, aka the above-mentioned brain elves, simply don’t work that way, and I have to accept that. I need to stop trying so hard to conform to a random ideal of how I should work, and instead, embrace the process that works for me. Because, this trend of barely writing a (ridiculous, word vomit-y) page during each writing session is getting really tiresome, and it’s not moving me toward my goal.

One highlight in all this self-reflection is that I re-discovered my original author role model, Dean Koontz, whose writing process and mindset resonates with me greatly. He shared this on his website:

On good days, I might wind up with five or six pages of finished work; on bad days, a third of a page. Even five or six is not a high rate of production for a 10- or 11-hour day, but there are more good days than bad. And the secret is doing it day after day, committing to it and avoiding distractions.

Because I don’t do a quick first draft and then revise it, I have plenty of time to let the subconscious work; therefore, I am led to surprise after surprise that enriches story and deepens character. I have a low boredom threshold, and in part I suspect I fell into this method of working in order to keep myself mystified about the direction of the piece–and therefore entertained.

The part I truly loved reading (apart from his tireless work ethic) is the idea of a low-boredom threshold, and keeping himself entertained by being mystified about the direction his story is going. Knowing that, was an A-HA! moment for me. I realized that I stopped looking forward to working on my story because I took away the fun factor, that motivation to keep working on it.

To that end, I have reverted to earlier versions of WIP2, and have reacquainted myself with that MC and storyline to recapture that sense of mystery again.

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11 thoughts on “All Thinking and No Typing Makes Me Not A Writer

  1. Carolina Valdez Miller says:

    Sometimes I feel the same way. I think perhaps that’s why this new book is so much harder for me to write, because I’ve already had feedback, and it’s made all twitchy, trying to adhere to that feedback, wondering if I’m screwing up everything. I feel like I’ve lost my characters a little bit in the process. Great advice, by the way, although if I go back to an earlier draft, I’ll likely have to rethink my ability to write. ha.

  2. Jen says:

    My WIP has stalled at the moment. We’re taking time away from each other. Mainly this is because I won a critique on the first we chapters, and figured it was pointless to keep going with the rest until I find out how crap the first ones are, right?

    Probably not. I probably should have kept powering through, but at the moment I’m taking a break. I tell myself I’ll take off until New Year if I must, and then try and tackle it again in January.

    Procrastination is my worst enemy.

  3. Jennifer M Eaton says:

    Liza, there is definitely something to be said for “pantsing” a novel. I don’t see the fun in sitting down and planning it all out. If I know what is going to happen, then why would I want to write it? Where’s the fun in that?

    Unfortunately, you do end up having to edit more when you write this way, but it is a lot more fun, and definitely gratifying.

    Also, though, I do agree you should finish your first draft before anyone else reads it. You don’t want your story influenced from the outside before your baby is ready.

  4. D.B. Smyth (@DB_Smyth) says:

    Oh Liza, you speak to my heart. Especially: “I need to stop trying so hard to conform to a random ideal of how I should work, and instead, embrace the process that works for me.”

    How did you know this has been my struggle?!? I will refer to this post often as I moved forward. Hopefully I can fall in love again with my WIP.

    *closes door and opens word document*

  5. amyskennedy says:

    So many times, I’ve read about a book sold, or a new book coming out that has key elements so close to mine (or perceived by me to be close to my work) that I fall into a funk and STOP writing. I’m getting better, because, like you, I know there’s a boat load of books that are similar in tone or plot or mythology, yet, it still sort of second guess everything about my idea.

    The fastest I ever wrote a book was when I had the tiniest idea and ran with it. I didn’t know “what” the hero was and there were a few huge plot holes — I let it sit for…two years and last moonth, I literally said, “Oh! I know who the guy is and how to fix the problems!” Is every book going to take me two years? Yikes.

    I don’t really think that will happen, but I do think I’ve learned, in my case, I need to plan — but I can see why you don’t. Of course, it may be too early for me to tell, because the book I’m planning isn’t anywhere near done…

    Sorry about the length, apparently I need to write my own blog post on this subject!

  6. B. Tinsley says:

    Awesome post πŸ™‚ Thinking of a first draft as “free-for-all creative time” has done wonders for my motivation today. Too often, I let that “I hope they like this” creep in.

    For my first novel (my Nano novel this year, actually), I tried the planning thing down to every last scene. I don’t think that works for me either. I didn’t start having fun until a third of the way through the book, when my main character got tired of my pre-planned plot and decided to take matters into his own hands. =D

    <— So, here's another writer who doesn't work well with pre-planning!

    Thanks for the post! ❀

    • Liza Kane says:

      Congrats on winning NaNoWriMo! Plotting REALLY helped me finish my novel last year (also a nano-fueled novel, though I didn’t reach The End till December…WAY over 50K words!), which, I needed that success-feeling of finishing a novel to keep me going. BUT, I also realized that I had a Hot Mess (my nickname for that WIP) on my hands, and lacked the motivation to revise it. Enter WIP2. I wanted to end up with a more thoughtful, a more “finished” work when I reached The End. WIP2 created such a spark in me, that I actually fell in to the whole “thoughtful” process that I’m embracing now, and discovered that I’m LOVING the results. It’s only when I got swept away by nanowrimo fever this year, that I fell back into intensive-plotty mode. Never again!
      Thanks for stopping by, and I look forward to chatting with you some more! ^_^

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