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Beth Wodzinski Hi, I'm Beth. I create: words and art. I do yoga. I cook tasty food. I publish Shimmer magazine. Now 37% more purple.

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When The Novel Is Terrible

Published November 6, 2012 - 2 Comments

I’m not gonna lie: my novel is a mess.

I think I figured out why, the other day. Usually, the stories I write have a sort of introspective core (Jerkbrain: I believe you meant to say “maudlin and mopey,” there.), and an element that cracks me up (yes, Jerkbrain, I’m not saying it’s funny to anyone else, just that it has to crack me up). This novel? Not so much. It’s historical, and my lack of knowledge of the period keeps tripping me up. As if that wasn’t enough, it’s a fairly straightforward action story with lots of monster-fighting, and action’s never been my strong point.

So it’s hard. My characters lurch woodenly from one stupid infodump to another, occasionally pausing to pontificate about the injustices they face. Then they go muddle through an incoherent and probably impossible action scene.  There’s no glee in this for me, just struggle.

The Jerkbrain, always helpful, has an easy solution for the struggle:quit.

In the pain of the moment, I tend to listen. I tend to get caught up in the energy of despair. And I forget that there are other solutions besides the one the Jerkbrain proposes.

Dance of Shiva makes it easier to interrupt the pattern, and spot other solutions. It’s also practice in staying with things even when they’re too hard and you’re fucking it all up.

There are lots of solutions the Jerkbrain just isn’t seeing.

I could, for example, add the humorous element that I’m missing.

I could add the introspective element that I’m longing for.

Or I could take this as a challenge to write in a different mode. Hell, I used to be a technical writer, so I know that writing without humor or maudlin moping introspection is not fatal.

I could just make shit up instead of getting hung up on historical accuracy. Or I could take this as an opportunity to learn more about my period, and learn how to smoothly incorporate it into the novel.

And I could remember that this month is almost more about learning how I write novels, than it is about having something tolerable at the end. It’s the journey, not the destination. Already I’ve learned a lot about what kind of stories I feel most comfortable writing, and where I feel out of my depth. I’ve also learned that it’s really really hard for me to do anything later than early evening, so I need to get my words in early, and work on strategies to have more energy and focus later in the day. I’ve learned that it’s really hard for me to get going again after long interruptions — so I need to get my words done in one big burst, and work hard on strategies to get rebooted.

I’m learning more about my ideal conditions, but also learning ways to expand my ideal, so that I’m not such a delicate fucking flower.

So how’s it going for you, Gentle Readers? What obstacles are you encountering? How many ways around them can you find?


mrmarkey - November 6, 2012 Reply

Nice post!

I like the idea of the journey, however frustrating it is not to have a sparkling, amazing manuscript at the end (because surely mine will not be).

For me, it is an exercise in discipline, and I find that it is having positive effects on other areas of my life.

Also, <3 writing! 🙂

silviamg - November 6, 2012 Reply

I can’t write action scenes if you killed me. Apparently I can’t do description, either (reviewers always talk about my lean, to-the-point prose). I can do dialogue. And more dialogue. And dialogue.

If my novels were all dialogue, I’d have a novel.

As it is right now I have dick squat.

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