My Writing Turning Point (I hope)

It’s been a while, hasn’t it?  So what have I been doing all this time?  I’d like to say that I’ve been writing furiously and have lots of finished novels to show for it.  Alas, that isn’t the case.  I’ve been having a writing crisis. 

The problem is that the structure of this book has undermined itself at every turn since around 80,000 words.  I knew it wasn’t working, but I thought I could just keep going and deal with the mess later.  Your first draft is like that.  The second draft can do it as well, right?  Wrong. 

The fact is, you as a writer know when you’re flogging a dead horse, so to speak, and no matter how hard you try to deceive yourself, your artistic heart just isn’t in what isn’t working.  There comes a time when you’ve got to be honest with yourself and cut something loose.  If you’re feeling the bottom drop out of your stomach every time you sit down at your desk, it’s probably a good sign something has to end.

I’m not saying this project is a dud.  In fact, I still have a lot of faith in it.  I just need some distance to get some perspective on it and work out what to do.  Since making this decision a month ago, I’ve already started getting some ideas on where things went wrong and how to move things again.  The problem is, I’m too attached to what I’ve written so far and I’m reluctant to cut the scenes out that have derailed the whole thing.  I’m not going to rush back to it, though, because I’m not ready to be ruthless with it.  This has been my baby for so long, and I’ve thought about little else. 

No, definitely a new project is needed.  I’ve got a few ideas, and I’ll learn a lot from writing something different.  My aim now is to build my skills, to learn how to get rid of what doesn’t fit into the big picture, no matter how good the writing is or how interested I am in what the characters are doing.  It’s daunting starting something new, but I feel I have to do it.  I just have to have faith that when I come back and work on this one, it’ll be better than it was before.


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Graham Storrs
    Oct 02, 2011 @ 09:10:55

    Brave words! Thankfully, I’ve never reached 80K words before I lost the will to go on – but I’ve got a LOT of projects that stalled at 20K words! It seems to be quite a common problem among writers, and I’ve heard from several people who have worked on a book – off and on – for as much as ten years before finally finding the key that makes it work. I hope it doesn’t take you that long with this one. Meanwhile, have fun with all the new projects.


  2. Karen Collins
    Jan 04, 2012 @ 17:04:35

    Glad the break has reinvigorated you. I’ve just picked up my children’s novel again, after abouty 8 months (yes the same one!!!). I wonder if I’ll ever finish it. Too much doubt I think, especially when I read the work of others and I start comparing. Anyway, onward and upwards.


    • J-A Brocke
      Jan 22, 2012 @ 17:43:18

      It’s funny what doubt can do, isn’t it? I think I let too much of the doubt crowd in on me, which didn’t help. With my current story I’m working hard to silence those doubts, and it’s amazing how much I’m enjoying writing without them! So glad you’ve gone back to your story – good luck with it!


  3. S Catherine Criss
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 08:29:26

    I kind of have the opposite problem. I have too many ideas for plot, characters, etc, and they don’t all fit into one story. I’ve started writing them into separate stories, and now I have not one, not two, but five stories that I feel obligated to finish. My main story is still going strong, but not as much as I’d like, because I so often get sidetracked by the others. Any suggestions?
    PS I just started reading your blog, and it is an amazing help! Thank you!!


    • J-A Brocke
      Jan 22, 2012 @ 17:39:56

      Timely post – I’ve been having this issue lately too! I’ve got a few ideas for stories now, so many that I’m having trouble focussing on one. I’ve got about 3 research books on the go, but none of them match the story I’m currently writing. I’ve decided I need to focus on one and get it finished first, then move on to the next thing. This is frustrating (the call of the other stories is so strong!), but necessary for me. I’m watching myself get bogged down otherwise. I think I’ll get a notebook and when I get an idea relating to a particular story that I’m not writing yet, I’ll jot it down in as much detail as I can so I can come back to it later.

      If it’s too strong, another possibility would be to ‘quarantine’ time for your other stories and only work on them during that time (eg one night a week). That might get the story out of your system if it’s nagging you, while ensuring your main story is still going. Out of interest, do you find your main story changes if you’re writing the others?

      But the good news is – we’ve got story ideas! In multiples!!


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