Friday, January 21, 2011

What Are You Working On?

by Pat Gulley

Next blog January 21, 2010

Are you working on something?

Silly question for a writer, Right? We always seem to be working on something, whether it is a novel, sequel to our novel, a new novel, short story, article, blog, and interview or just adding something to a network site. But what I’m referring to is something you are giving full concentration to and working at for completion.

I’m presently doing a bit of all of the above and feel like I’m floating around in the ether because I’m not really working on anything as though I have any kind of deadline, or that I feel I have some major new chapter that absolutely has to go in there. I’m basically piddling. Not good.

I have a sequel in the works for Downsized To Death with another travel agent as the main character and my protagonist from DTD as the secondary character. Well, Bea goes through a bad experience and all I’ve been able to write about her is the crying jags she’s having owing to the bad choices she’s made. Both Pru (DTD’s protagonist) and I are getting a bit disgusted even though we are very sympathetic. So, put her aside for awhile so she can gather her strength and fix her problem and solve the crime with Pru and her secondary ‘hoot of a coot’ Watson helping out.

Then I have a novella in the works about Vampires on Mars, and where I am in the story has my protagonist crying with terror at being chased across the dust. DOESN’T SHE KNOW SHE CAN DROWN IN HER HELMET IF SHE KEEPS THAT UP? Well, so much for that until I can get her backbone working.

Next is a ghost story set in the 60s (ala Mad Men) but also a time I worked at an airline in their reservations department, and all that is happening is these ghosts nagging her to find their killer which just brings her to tears.

Notice a pattern developing?

And finally, a Jane Austen-secondary-character story that will be a mystery. One of the Bennet sisters is still at home and it seems Mr. Bennet is running off suitors and just about brings her to …….. Well, you’ve got the drift by now.

What’s a writer to do when she can’t get out of a rut?

Put it aside and see what happens? How long can you keep doing that? It’s several months now for me.

So, do you have situations like this? If so, HELP!!!!!!! Any suggestions?


Jennie Bentley said...

Just pick on and add words to it. Doesn't matter if they're good words, just add them. Sooner or later you'll write yourself out of the rut. Something will happen that isn't the heroine in tears. If you're a plotter, or if you have idea whatsoever what will happen a little later in story, go there and write that instead. But write something. Keep working on something. It's the only way you'll get anything finished, ever. You can always go back and fix the words if they're not the right words, but you can't fix what isn't there.

And for the record, yes, I know just what it is to have too many irons in the fire. At last count I had at least half a dozen books I've started but never finished sitting among my documents, and another half dozen or so I have ideas for but that I haven't started yet. And again I say: the only way to finish something is to pick one and then keep adding words to it until it's done.

Ramona said...

Pat, I recently took an online course and the first assignment was to list all of your story ideas. ALL. I would still be writing.

I like Jennie's comment about the way to finish is to keep adding words until it's done.

Today, sadly, I am working on taxes. No fiction allowed.

Gina said...

Pat -

I second (third?) Jennie. Just write something.

A screenwriting class I took last year had an assignment that required writing 25 pages in one fell swoop. Just sit down and start writing and keep going and going and going. Sounds hard, but I found it got me over a hump in the screenplay I was working on, such that I was able to finish the first draft (and earn an A in the class). Now I'm collaborating on a rewrite of that screenplay with two other people.

I'm also rewriting a few older pieces and, last night, sat down and spontaneously wrote a new poem.

The key thing is to write and, if the characters get bogged down in tears, just make them do stuff until they figure out on their own how to get past it. Surprising, but it works.

Patg said...

All advice gladly taken. It's that first hump we all have to get over.
Heavy sigh.

Kate Gallison said...

Vampires are over, ghosts are dreary. Get busy on the sequel to Downsized. When I used to have the hiccups, my father would sometimes jump at me and cry, "Your shirt's on fire." I quit hicupping. Set your protagonist's shirt on fire, metaphorically speaking, and give her something to think about besides her woes and falilings.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I'm with everyone else. Power through it by just writing. Finish it and then you can go back during edits and strength, delete, revise... whatever needs done to make it shine.

Rochelle Staab said...

I echo the crowd - just write (memo to self: take own advice) and keep writing. I don't know about you, but when I sit and think about writing, the task ahead feels daunting. But when I'm on the page, canoodling with words or letting a scene flow, I'm in heaven.

I love Kate's advice - "set your shirt on fire." It sounds like you need a change of emotional scenery? Laughs? Danger? A tear break?

I'm so grateful you shared from your rut. I'm stuck in a scene right now and hesitant to go back. Talking about your rut is nudging me out of mine - thank you! Now go out there and write!!