Disclaimer: It’s ridiculous how often I find myself equating writing with dating. But just when I think I’ve exhausted every clichéd romantic analogy, another one rolls up in an Oldsmobile Cutlass and camps outside my window, hoisting a boom box. (Sigh…) It’s futile, you guys. Writing and romance are inextricably linked. We’re just gonna have to GET OVER it.
So you’ve had a falling out with your WIP. Maybe it’s you, maybe it isn’t. Maybe the honeymoon period is finally over, and you’re both having a hard time adjusting to the cruel realities of day-to-day revisions. Maybe the timing is off, or maybe there are deeper issues that you simply refuse to acknowledge.
It doesn’t matter why it happened. The important fact is, you’re stuck in a rut.
Your nicest writer friends will tell you, it’s just a rough patch. It doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s over, over. You could try some form of WIP/writer counseling. You could grit your teeth and try to muscle your way through it, thus killing whatever tender affections might have remained in your heart towards this dwindling romance. But when all else fails, you’ll realize that it’s just not working, at least not at this point in time.
At this point, you have a choice. You can a) Moan pitifully about the falling out with your muse (that fickle bitch), b) Wait an undetermined–and potentially infinite–amount of time until inspiration strikes again. Or, c) you could heed the counsel of my slightly promiscuous college roommate, who used to cheerfully trill, “The best way to get over someone, is to get UNDER someone else!”
For me Option C has become TRIED and TRUE doctrine. (Not in the dating sense. God, no! I mean in the WRITING sense.)
Let me explain. (Before my husband has a heart attack.) When I’m starting a story, I usually feel like I’m on some kind of high. But, as with most temporary bouts of insanity, this “outliner’s high” doesn’t usually last. At some point, I will inevitably hit a wall. A place in my plot where something (or, God forbid, everything) just doesn’t make sense to me anymore. I used to rant and rave about this problem (I call it the ‘Curse of the 60k’, since it tends to happen around that mark), brainstorming myself into a frenzy until I had no idea which way was up, let alone what I was going for with my original plot progression.
So, a few attempts ago, I started doing this thing where I cheat on my WIP. Before giving up on it completely, I set it aside, and I pull another outline from my “Playground for Brain Children” (which is what I call my outline archive) and put it to work. When I do this, one of two things happens.
Either a) the excitement of playing around with something so new and unspoiled gives me the inspiration I need to dive into my old WIP with renewed passion, or b) I gain perspective on why my other WIP is bothering me so much. Sometimes I’ll get lucky, and both of these things happen at the same time. In which case, EUREKA! All of my problems are solved!
Some people might consider this practice to be a form of literary infidelity, but I like to think of it as “survival of the fittest.”
(Disclaimer #2: Be careful not to do this with more than 2 stories at a time, otherwise you’re encroaching on the territory of “literary sluttiness,” which I will describe in a later post.)
Anyway, that’s what I think about that. What do YOU think, dear readers?
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