I did it. I hit a block on my Work-In-Progress.
While not uncommon, I wasn’t expecting the two months it’s now been without writing my WIP. “You were going to plough through this whole first draft!” I hear my brain tell me. “You had it all planned out!” it cries.
Well I can plan all I like, but it doesn’t stop me from taking a step back when it just doesn’t feel right. The characters feel increasingly two-dimensional, I think there’s more bad writing than good, and the storylines feel somewhat forced together.
So me and the WIP are having a little break.
“What do I write now?” I heard my brain cry. “You have to write something!”. And so I’ve started on something new. Something less constrained, less focused, less planned, and more up my traditional fantasy street (as you may have seen me proclaiming on twitter).
And I love it. I am having SO MUCH FUN writing this story. It’s playing around with classic myths and legends, it’s drawing from my favourite traditional fantasy stories such as SABRIEL, GRACELING and THE FORGING OF THE SWORD – stories that are classic fantasy stories in my sense of the word.
It made me think what it was about this new ‘side-project’ that I am enjoying so much, and why I was preferring it to my Work-In-Progress…
1) It’s not been planned. At all.
My WIP has been planned fairly well. Given that it’s a four-part series and it wouldn’t surprise me if each part were upwards of 90k, I needed to give myself some direction. But when I write on bad days, I am acutely aware of ‘well now I need to be working towards this plot point’. And even when I was aware of this on good days, it seemed a bonus. Now it seems to have turned into something that is squashing me and my characters. I need to un-choke them from my planning, and I don’t know how to do this.
In comparison, my new side-project is doing no more than hanging off a few fun parts of some myths and legends, and even that is probably a generous description. I have, in essence, nicked the atmosphere of a few legends and mushed them together in my brain with a rather pleasing result. When I start writing, I have no idea what’s going to happen ahead of the next scene. I know there’s a few points that have to be met to dovetail with the original myths and legends, but apart from that it is my story to play with. I’m learning about the characters as I write, rather than getting to know them beforehand. The only ‘planning’ I have done for this is when I went for a long walk the other day and talked to myself from other characters’ points of view as I rambled across the hills. It padded out more than my two main characters’ perspectives and helped me when I then wrote a scene with those characters in. But that’s it. That’s the full extent of my planning.
2) I’m not thinking about it.
This may seem like a weird thing to say, but I don’t have that little voice on my shoulder watching me as I go when I’m writing my side-project. I had reached the point where my second-guesser (Not my inner editor, more like my own personal plot demon!) was getting quite seriously in the way on my WIP. This was the death knell to anything like half-competent writing on my WIP. Overthinking has killed it.
Whereas in my side-project I don’t have the plot bunnies coming to kill me! I did a bit of re-reading of the first page of it yesterday before I started writing and then the only thing I was focusing on apart from writing the story was making sure I was paragraphing in the right place and not throwing in unnecessary commas into complex sentences. Even when I think my punctuation is accurate, a few commas sneak under the radar. But it seems that after teaching conjunctions and sentence types until I’m blue in the face I’m finally starting to retain some of the information. The end result, in any case, is that I am writing without over-thinking anything more than basic punctuation and grammar, and I am relishing it.
3) I’m writing a story that teenage me would have ADORED.
This may sound like a pretty pathetic reason – after all, shouldn’t you love every book you’re writing? – but my WIP is a book I would love. But I didn’t start reading dystopian-esque fantasy YA until just before I went to uni. Recent favourites, such as Chaos Walking I didn’t read until I was a fresher. My teenage reading at school was largely my ‘classic’ fantasy such as Trudi Canavan, Alison Croggon, Garth Nix et al. So while I love Chaos Walking to the point of insanity, it wasn’t something I associate with my teenage years.
My side-project, on the other hand, is firmly in that teenage-me territory. It has magic, myths, legends, castles, knights, quests, heroes and heroines learning outlawed magic, some classic bad guys and of course a vast array of monsters and creatures I haven’t even begun to explore yet. This is everything I want in a book when I’m reading it, and so I’m writing it. And because it is purely being written for fun (I hate thinking that my WIP isn’t fun, because all writing is fun, but it has just been drained dry for me at present) it has full and unlicensed permission to be complete rubbish. It could be the worst writing in the whole world, but as long as I’m having fun, the characters are still a hoot to write, and the plot is turning itself over scene by scene, I don’t care.
I hope that very soon I reach a point where me and the WIP are reconciled and can get going again. I do love the world and the story and the characters. But I’ve learnt some valuable lessons from writing for fun, and hopefully these are lessons I can take back to the WIP.
Have you had problems with stories getting stuck? Got any other solutions? Please leave a comment!