Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Full of ideas, but all out of words

Well, after more than a week of upheaval, Diva and Blue each have a beautifully clean and tidy bedroom. We've thrown away enough rubbish to build a recycled replica of Buckingham Palace and I now have a dozen black bags of clothes in my hallway waiting to be donated to charity. Yesterday we visited the local library and handed over as many books as the three of us could carry up the hill, and any week now someone from the council will come and remove the sofa-bed from my driveway.

The only trouble is that somehow every single room, apart from the girls' rooms, is now a complete mess and full of things that don't belong there. The garage is overflowing with stuff (it's a good job we no longer have a car!) that nobody seems to want but we absolutely have to keep and, now that they have perfect rooms, Diva and Blue have lost interest in helping me. I don't blame them. They've worked really hard, they deserve the time to relax. Just like everything else round here, it'll get done. Eventually.

You would think that all this physical activity would really put a dent in my writing time wouldn't you? Well, you'd be wrong. The truth is, even before we started the house beautiful project, my writing had trickled down to almost nothing. I've been wrestling with trying to revise Looking for Lola (my one and only full length first draft) for weeks but I can't seem to make the story do what I want it to do. I think there's one of three reasons for this. The first could be that I'm just not a good enough writer yet to fix what I think is broken. The second could be that I just need to give it even more time before I go back to it – in which case, this week will have done me good – or the third reason (and the one I'm most worried about) is that the story itself just isn't good enough. I'm not sure which it is, but I'm not ready to give up on it just yet.

I did start to write another story, but a few thousand words in I wasn't sure the idea I had was strong enough to sustain a whole book. I haven't given up on that one either though, I mulled it over and made the odd note in my head as I threw furniture and moved rubbish. Then yesterday, something Diva said on the way home from the library gave me the germ of an entirely new idea. I jotted down a few thoughts and tried to file it away but it keeps coming back to me. There's not enough there yet to sustain a whole novel but it's coming, I can feel it. I'm a bit nervous about this latest one because it has to be set in an American high school and all I know about American high schools is what I read in books. Still, the internet is my friend, so it needn't be a deal-breaker. Whatever I decide, I need to do it soon. It's been a long time since I've gone so many days without writing anything, and just as I thought I was getting better too!

So, come on guys, what are you all up to? Has anyone else been through a slump like this? Am I wrong to try and force some words out, however bad they are, or do you think the act of writing itself is enough to get creativity kick started again?


  1. I think writing (even if it's crap) breeds creativity. When you write, and it turns out to be awful, the creative part of you will say to the awful part, step aside, I have work to do here. SO, basically, in a weird way of saying it, I'm for writing down the bad until the good comes.

    From your newest follower :)

    Oh, and I know what you mean about cleanliness in one room breeding clutter in others. It's a chronic occurrence for me.

  2. I'm with Kelly. Definitely keep writing. Don't give up on the story or yourself. If you've gotten this far, you're a good enough writer to make it work and the story is good enough to hold together. Just give it a bit more time and it will come.

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)

  3. Sarah - I've gone through slumps like that, too. It's not unusual, and quite frankly, I think you did the write thing to take a break. And hey, you were quite productive, too. I've put work away for a while and come back to it, and been glad I did.

    That said, though, I do think there is much to be said for the discipline of daily writing. That's one reason I keep a blog. It keeps me thinking about crime fiction, which is my sub-genre, even when my own fiction needs a break.

  4. sometimes I write when I'm cranky and it shows thru... lately when I haven't had my happy mind on - I write poetry ...
    I do think its important to write even if you delete it all later ... sometimes the right phrases come when you least expect them. x

  5. 'I did start to write another story, but a few thousand words in I wasn't sure the idea I had was strong enough to sustain a whole book'.

    I know that feeling well. I wonder if you need to just research it more or if it's your internal editor blocking the flow? I found that because i didn't plot my stories that had alot to do with it. JKRowling spent ages plotting hers before writing which gave me food for thought :O)

  6. I've been there! The thing is to just keep writing. When I know I can't work on my WIP, I go to a cafe or pub and pick out a customer. While I eat, I do a full character sketch of that person and his day. It helps because 1) it keeps me in the daily habit of writing and 2) those random people sometimes become characters many months down the road.

  7. You have at least written the blog and that has to count for something. I'm sure the important thing is to write and keep writing. A while back Julie Cohen posted a picture of some of the Post-its she has on her desk. One said "Write Crap" I think that is a different version of "Don't get it right, get it written."
    Trying to find out who said that (James Thurber comes top, but I've always thought it was Beaverbrook - he probably stole it). I came across some other useful quotes
    "Only a mediocre writer is always at his best.”
    ~Somerset Maugham
    I found that rather encouraging.

  8. I'm not doing much actual writing myself at the moment. I'm doing writing related stuff and a bit of editing but it's been a while since I wrote anything new. Not too bothered - I seem to write in bursts and then stop to catch up with other tasks. I expect I'll be writing again soon.

  9. I don't think any writing you do is wasted. So what if you don't use it or it's bad. It's all practice and practice, as they say, makes perfect. That's what journaling is all about, or using writing prompts.

    At the moment I'm not doing much actual writing either. My space is a terrible mess and that will HAVE to be straightened out first.

  10. Oh my gosh, yes. I've definitely been through a slump. In fact, it was just a few months ago. The WIP I was working on, just wasn't flowing. I just couldn't bring myself to work on it.
    So I worked on something else for a while and it was the best thing I could have done.
    If you're having a hard time, walk away for a few weeks and come back to it. You may see it with different eyes. And if it still isn't working, put it away for longer and work on something else. :) Good luck! :D

  11. The good thing is, you're still getting ideas, so you know you're creativity hasn't gone into hiding. I think I've been in a slump for most of this year, because other than blog posts and editing, I haven't done much of anything. I have several stories that need writing and others that need editing, but for me it's a matter of prioritizing and doing the stuff that needs doing now. I don't think you have much to worry about. Write what comes naturally to you now. Better that, than to write nothing at all. Everything will fall into place eventually.

  12. I'm with Kelley. Writing breeds creativity. If you're temporarily writing crap...well, crap is a good fertilizer, and it's amazing what kind of creative ideas will sprout if you spread enough of it on the page. :)

  13. Your situation sounds exactly like mine. :P I couldn't get through rewrites of one novel so I started another, and now 7k or so in I'm beginning to wonder if it'll work as a novel.

    I usually find that writing, even if it's really difficult, helps push things along until there's new inspiration.

  14. When I feel like I'm forcing words out I stop and take a walk, or do laundry. Usually it's better when I come back to it.

    Good luck!

  15. Taking a break always pays off. And it's best, in my opinion, to start another project (like you did) during said break. This helps you come back with newer eyes because you will most likely not have been obsessing over the one your trying to get away from for a bit. (That felt like an obnoxiously long sentence. Sorry.) Also, there's nothing like diving into a well-written book, or watching a super cool movie to get the writer juices flowing in the right direction. You're gonna get past this hurdle and come back stronger than ever! I can feel it. BTW, went to American HS. Shoot me a line any time you have a question. :)

  16. Yup, I think we've all gone through this at some time or other. The way i get out of it is just to write. I tell myself it doesn't have to be great. It doesn't even have to be ok. Just write.

  17. Like everyone else has said, slumps are a common issue. I think it's got something to do with passion for the story you're telling. When it's new and fresh, that's all you can think about. For me, even the 2nd and 3rd drafts are still exciting. After that, you know the story so well, I think maybe you can lose sight of how another person would read it.

    Have the break will definitely help. Hope it goes well!

  18. I haven't had a slump yet, but I understand the part about American High Schools. I live in Canada (though I went to junior high for two years in the states). There are similiarities between the two countries, but also some differences. I've had to do a lot of research on the internet, like you.

    Good luck with your projects. I have a few I put aside because I knew they weren't good enough. And I still have to tear apart.

  19. I go through so many slumps it's like a rollercoaster ride.

    As for not knowing enough about American High schools, it can be done. I met an author at the Crime Writing Festival who is published and the book is set in American. He lives here in the UK. It's a great book. Have faith in yourself and give yourself room to move about if you need it.

  20. I've totally been through this, and writing isn't always the answer. Sometimes you have to hype yourself up by getting to know your characters and setting achievable goals.

    BTW, I read your little blurb on Krista's blog and LOVED it! Hilarious ending :)

  21. We've all been there!!! I say let it sit and move on with your other ideas until you can look again with fresh eyes!!

  22. Hey Sarah! I gave you an award on my blog today! Go check it out when you have a chance. :)

  23. Kelley - Welcome to you and thank you. I'm glad I'm not the only one who can mess up one room as fast as she tidies another :)

    Sarah - thank you so much for the encouragement, it's very much appreciated.

    Margot - I honestly don't know how you have the time to write fiction as well as those incredibly informative blog posts of yours :)

    Michelle - very true , bad writing might have a grain of good. No writing definitely won't :)

    Madeleine - Yes, I suspect it was because I didn't plot enough. I've tried pantsing before and I just came to a full stop!

    The East Coaster - welcome to you, and thank you. I adapted your idea and sat at the window and wrote about a suspicious looking character across the road this morning (I think he may have been a parcel delivery guy, but you never know...) it was fun, and there was no pressure.

    Rod - I love that Somerset Maugham quote, thank you. I wrote it on a post it :)

    Patsy - I like that you're doing related stuff and not beating yourself up over not writing. I think I just needs to learn what works for me.

    Bish - you've just reminded me of a site I visit which has wonderful photos as writing prompts. Maybe I should actually try it instead of just admiring the pictures :)

    Chantele - I definitely think I'll start something new and come back to the others. One of the joys of having no deadline :)

    J. L Campbell - I know you haven't been idle, you're filling yourself up with knowledge right now, definitely important!

    Linda G - 'crap is good fertilizer'. I love that, thank you :)

    Golden Eagle - in a funny way your comment gives me hope. You always seem so together :)

    Aubrie - welcome to you. Agreed, the only time we welcome household chores :)

    Kimberly - If I go ahead with my new idea I'll take you up on that offer and email you if you don't mind.

    Lynda - I think that's the only answer. Just do it.

    Annalisa - Agreed - it's definitely possible to be too close to a story!

    Stina - we love the internet :) Canada is on Techno's emigration wish list btw - although I'm holding out for New England!

    Rebecca - that's really interesting. I wonder how many others I've read that I've assumed were American and weren't.

    Jen - Thank you so much :) Flash fiction is something I'm dipping my toe into, it's fun.

    Christina - I think I'm inclined to agree after reading the comments :)

    Abby - awww, thanks. On my way!

  24. New to the site. 2 things I've found that help, (1) Allowing myself to be entertained-by books, movies, music or my kids. This seems to help spark the creativity. (2) letting someone take a look at it.

  25. Jenny - welcome to you. The idea of sparking creativity is a great one. My girls are great helpers with that! As for showing my work to someone, I intend to as soon as it makes sense again after I've fixed the mess I made in my first revision :)

  26. I'm just trying to relax prior a hard week! Enjoy the weekend!

  27. I've currently been in high school for 9 weeks. I might know a thing or two. -winks-

  28. If I decide to go back to that story, I hope you'll be my go-to gal :-)


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