Thursday, October 23, 2008

Halloween Monsters visit the Writer

Writers block – I has it.

Work on my novel has come to a complete standstill as I try to figure out where this story is going and what approach I might take to get there. One thing my writing workshop has done, for better or for worse, is bring me face to face with my deepest fears in writing – the fear that if I read something better than I’m writing I’ll become completely discouraged and stop writing, the fear that if I plan my story out in advance I’ll have done all the fun work and won’t enjoy writing after that, and the fear that being around other writers who are working on more serious subjects will tempt me to abandon my work and switch over to a more literary story. After a month of classes it seems – my monsters are real! Because I’m feeling, today, like the well is completely dry.

How does one keep writing, even with the growing suspicion that the thing she is writing is total crap? Is it possible to do good work without feeling excited about it? I think I see a few tactics for getting out, but they’re strategies I’ve used before and the projects I used them on are still unfinished. How do I know whether to trust the strategies and hope this book is stronger than the previous ones, or to distrust the strategies and find some other way out? These are the options I’m considering:

1. Operation: Rewrite – start over from the beginning and rewrite it all with a stronger focus on the science aspects. Keep to the original Michael Crichton-esque thriller tone and build a tight, fast moving plot around that. My concern with this one is that I might not know enough science to make it interesting and the story could get dull.

2. Operation: Mrowsky – completely reshape the story to include a detective (who sooner or later invades everything I write). Throw in new locales, new characters, new themes, and the kitchen sink to make it more of a literary genre piece. I worry these are all distractions that are keeping me from writing the story I started with and this book will keep on morphing and never end.

3. Operation: EditorKill – kill my internal editor and just keep writing without any heed to what I’ve already written. Just push through until I reach the end of the story and then go back to edit later. This one will be tough in the workshop because how will I bring in anything for people to look at?

Whatever approach I decide to take, I need to do it soon, because my homework for class is a chapter by chapter outline of the whole book AND I have to bring in something for people to read on Monday. Much as I struggle with the assignments, I’m committed to giving this class the benefit of the doubt and trying out every assignment. And, I can see that ultimately this is the time when I should finally figure out what I’m writing about. 20k words is a hefty chunk of book to write without any end in mind.

What I want for this novel is above all else for it to be fun to read. So what's the fastest way for me to get back to having fun writing it?

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