I have a cold. I sound like I swallowed a penny whistle, and whenever I try to do housework I end up soaked with sweat. As a result I’ve been sitting at the desk quite a bit and trying to write. Unfortunately I picked today to read over the 17k words of the novel I’m working on.
Oh my god, it sucks rocks. It’s talky and boring, and none of the characters have much… character. They don’t seem to like each other and they sure don’t want to sleep with each other. All they do is travel from one place to another, have conversations that skirt the real issues, and eat. Oh, and lie to one another. Everyone is lying to someone else and the net result is that nobody is really engaging with anyone, including me.
Have I really forgotten how to write? Am I losing my mind?
I expect every writer feels that way in the process of shaping a story. It’s like being stuck at a dinner party with a lot of people who you were certain were going to be brilliant, but instead keep on nattering about the most inane things imaginable while throwing food or trying to stick forks into the other diners. You end up wondering if you shouldn’t just nuke them all from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.
So what to do? I could trash it, but with 17k+ words written that seems a lot like buying food and then letting it rot in the fridge. (Okay, yeah, I do that too. Shame on me.) However I could argue that spending more time on a story that seems to be going nowhere is good words after bad. Why waste my time if it’s not a good story?
But what if it is? What if there’s a good story in there, but it’s my attention that’s fragmented, my sense of the story that’s skewed? I could put it aside for a while and work on something else. But right now there’s nothing else that’s occupying the space in my head reserved for stories. None of the old ones are sending me write this! messages. And maybe that’s the problem. Maybe I need to spend my time cleaning out closets, scrubbing floors (I did that today.) or arranging my thousands of photographs dating back to the mid-19th century. Or I could read. That’s always worth doing, right?
But I want to be writing. I really feel like I need to be sitting here stringing words together. It’s like a physical need for me. So in the end, I think that maybe the best answer is: The damn thing isn’t finished yet. Why be so negative? I need to stop rereading my work because it always makes me want to go rewrite. The end result is that the beginning of my stories are usually overworked, the middles are good and the ends read like a rough drafts.
I’ve pretty much decided to stop being such a mope and bash on with the damn thing. There’s a story there, I’m sure of it, and some interesting characters, even if they are acting like the most boring people on the planet.
Everyone has a different writing process. I just wish mine wasn’t so weird and time-consuming.