Thursday, July 09, 2009

Excuses, Excuses Part 2

by Joyce

I'm taking Annette up on her suggestion to continue her theme from yesterday. As I mentioned in my comment yesterday, my progress on my book was interrupted by computer nasties. Since they're all taken care of, I have no excuse to not sit down and write. Right?

Um. Maybe.

I've been suffering from the "this book really sucks" syndrome. My manuscripts usually total somewhere around 300 pages (Times New Roman, 12 pt, 1 inch margins, etc.) and end up anywhere between 73,000 and 80,000 words depending on how much dialogue there is. Right now, I'm just past the 100 page mark in my still untitled book. Maybe the problem is that I don't have a title. In the past, I've always had a title before I finished the first chapter, which always seems to reflect the theme, even if I don't know what that theme is until I finish the first draft. For instance, in my first book (unpublished), Lost Summer, the theme is loss and redemption. In Buried Lies (also unpublished, but agents are reading), the theme is how things are not always what they seem to be.

Anyway, I'm at the point where SOMETHING needs to happen to propel Irma Jean (my protagonist) forward. She's already investigating against the orders of the mayor, so I'm trying to figure out what major thing needs to happen to make her HAVE to keep at it. (And Nancy M., if you're reading this, yes, I do have an outline. Sort of. I keep tossing it out.) Even though it's a funny book, I see a theme developing and I want to take advantage of it. So, that's where I'm at. If anyone has any suggestions, I'd appreciate hearing them.

Fortunately, after being away from it for a couple of weeks (we went to Gettysburg, and my computer issues), I'm ready to tackle it again. Deep down, I know it doesn't really suck. (But then, I could be delusional. ) I just have to keep focused.

Here's my plan:

1. Put my butt in the chair.
2. Write even if it sucks.
That's it. My plan for success.

Anyone else have any ideas? How do you get past that "this book really sucks" feeling? How do you keep focused?


Annette said...

After the conference, I had no focus and I didn't know if my manuscript sucked or not because I mostly had forgotten what I'd written.

I printed it out and went someplace quiet to read it. I had a pen and a pile of sticky notes with me. I jotted comments to myself in the margins, circled stuff that needed changed, and flagged pages that needed flagged. For WHATEVER reason.

I didn't go back and FIX any of it, but I have that marked-up hard copy put aside for I start revising.

It re-focused me and put me back into my story.

As for "what happens next?" Make a list of ten different possibilities. Bad ideas are welcome. Sometimes they stir up good ideas in their wake. Within that list of ten, something workable should present itself.

Joyce said...

Maybe I need to print it out and read the whole thing over again. That might spark something. I'll try to fight the temptation to fix things right away.

As for what happens next, I'm thinking another body might be good, unless I come up with something better. I'll try the list.

PatR said...

Sometimes when I'm in the ... this manuscript really sucks mode... I think about books I've read recently that made me scratch my head and say ... how did THAT ever get published? Then I think, hey, maybe I can write a mediocre book, too... and maybe even better than mediocre. So maybe it's all about perspective??

Wilfred Bereswill said...

I've only written one full manuscript to date and never had a break in the writing. I had thought about it for almost 2 years before writing and the process seemed easy.

On book two, I had a really good idea of what to write. BTW, I don't use formal outlines, my left-brain dominance does a fine job of organizing my thoughts. And I still think the 85% complete manuscript rocks. In fact it starts out much faster than my first book.

My problem with this WIP is that the ending doesn't seem as spectacular now as it did when I first started writing. I want to close it with the same BANG that I started it with and I'm not satisfied with what's in my mind's eye right now. Any moment, some day soon, I'll have that "AHA" moment and I'll have another novel I'm proud of.

With all that said, I'm making a commitment to forge forward with the current ending and see if re-writng doesn't yield a better result.

Jennie Bentley said...

Joyce, I always get stuck around the 100 page mark, too. I don't outline, and that's how far the introduction and setup usually take me. In other words, it's the point where the middle, the 'real' story, begins, that I get stuck for a while.

I like Annette's idea of ten different possibilities. Another body is always good. Or a man with a gun. When in doubt, a man with a gun usually works.

Basically, you have to give your protag a compelling enough reason to keep going. She (or someone she cares about) can be the suspect, so she has to investigate to clear herself (or someone she cares about), or you'll have to kill someone who's important enough to her that she goes against orders and investigates anyway. What would make this particular character do that? It's different for every character, of course; some wouldn't feel compelled to clear themselves, because they believe in the system. Some would.

Will: "my left-brain dominance does a fine job of organizing my thoughts," LOL.

Alan Orloff said...


Here's a suggestion: Go with the flow. Embrace your ms's stinkiness. That way, you can finish it up without worrying about the quality.

Remember, everything can be fixed in the revision process!

[FYI, I blogged about this recently: What's That Smell? ]

Joyce said...

Will, do you mean you don't have any of those manuscripts in a box under the bed (or in a closet, on a disc, etc) that'll never see the light of day? Lucky you!

And neither side of my brain is very organized. I have to keep notes to remind me to look at my notes!

Joyce said...

Pat, I've read more than a few of those mediocre books.

Joyce said...

Thanks for the tips, Jennie.

I started reading through a hard copy and have come up with a few new ideas already, especially of where I can add things to what I've written already. The trouble is that I want to fix them now. (One of my problems is that I love revising.) I'll try to keep resisting the urge!

Joyce said...

Alan, I read your post. Wonderful! That's exactly how I feel. Glad to know I'm not alone!

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Oh, we all have days like that! I'd just finish the thing and worry about the suckiness in revision.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Wilfred Bereswill said...

Joyce. No. A Reason For Dying was my first attempt at writing. Yes, against the advice of everyone I knew, my first writing (other than technical reports and business communication) was a novel.

Since then I have one short story that will probably never see the light of day, but that's all for now.

Annette said...

Will, and to think I USED to like you.

queenofmean said...

I've used Annette's suggestion, too, about making a list of possibilities & then I kind of map out what will happen with each. At some point, some get tossed because I don't like where they lead. But then I'm a list-maker. Laying it out on paper usually works for me.
I'm having trouble getting focused myself right now. I do sometimes feel like the whole thing sucks & I'm wasting my time. I have a rough outline (in my mind only) of how I want it to proceed from here, but I can't seem to force myself to just put it on paper (so to speak). I need a kick in the butt.

Joyce said...

QoM, that's the situation I was in. When I printed it out and began reading it over yesterday, I got excited about it again. Sure, there are some spots I need to fix, and I need to add some more clues and suspects, but I realized it DOESN'T suck!

So, print it out, read it over, make your list, and get moving! This is your official kick in the butt.

queenofmean said...

Ouch! You sure can kick!
I did take your advise & printed out part of my manuscript to work on in the waiting room at the doctor's office. It made the time go much faster & I did get back to work on my story.