Wednesday, August 1, 2012

What to Write?

I'm not really one to participate in blog hops. They require more commitment than i'm inclined to put in. There has been one going around for a bit now called The Insecure Writer's Support Group. I thought about joining it this month (they run the first Wednesday of every month) as I felt moved to discuss my writing, but as I'm unlikely to ever do so again, it seems like bad etiquette to join. So instead I'll just pose this to anyone who may read it.

I've been writing since I was about 15. That was about the time I decided my hands were too clumsy to become the genius comic book artist I'd hoped was lurking inside of me. I've always been sort of practical minded when it comes to creative endeavors. I liked writing lyrics, but knew I wasn't the type to put in the hours needed to learn an instrument for a professional level. So, I didn't pursue music. What I did know is that I liked to tell stories and that writing seemed like something I could invest in and develop.

Once I started into it though, I quickly realized just how much work is involved. For starters, I'm not exactly a genius when it comes to grammar. Most of the time I can make my sentences coherent and that's good enough for me. In the old question of whether it's better to be a good writer or to tell a good story, I've always fallen on the side of story with what I personally felt were occasional glimpses of the former. My sister on the other hand, I felt, leaned in the opposite direction, which made it a natural choice to try and write together.

Generally I don't write well with others. My usual technique involves putting on some headphones with good, loud music, to block out the world, and letting my hand lead me. I prefer to write in two stages, first I hand write things, then second, revise the draft as I type it into the computer. It helps me eliminate a lot of poorly constructed sentences and paragraphs. Anyone who's read this blog long enough has undoubtedly realized by now that it does not get the same golden treatment. Most of the time I'll do a light edit, but that's it.

With my sister however, I gave it a shot. We wrote a couple short stories and then one summer, began work on a novel. The two of us, always fans of anti-heroes, transplanted elements of our personalities into two characters with less than outstanding morals. As with most things I write, it had to have humor in it. All summer (schedules permitting) we worked on it. We completed roughly a third of the book. When she moved about an hour away, it was no longer as easy to schedule time to work on it. We kept meaning to get to it, discussing plot points and gags that made us laugh, but it never happened.

I started more and more writing by myself again. I had my own novel I'd started when I was 16. Then in my 20's I was getting closer to finishing it. When my sister died I determined that I would one day finish our novel, but instead it's sat for years untouched. Half the writing team isn't here, so somehow it seems fitting that it should remain half written. I did complete my personal novel I'd been working on, but that left me a stumbling block too. My sister had always been my editor, looking over my mess, and giving me notes on what to fix. Now though, I no longer had her more technical mind.

I did write some short stories after that. Tried a website that was a peer to peer review and suggestion forum. After getting continually shredded by people over poor grammar and split infinitives, and on occasion, my style, I gave it up. A few years passed where I didn't write anything except for the occasional poem. Then one day, I felt an itch again. Even though I stopped writing, I couldn't turn off the ideas that flew through my head. I'd blogged off and on for years, but I decided to try giving it a more serious shot. The idea was to hone my skills and hopefully get the rusty wheels spinning again.

Which they did.

Ominous, those words floating out there in the void, don't you think? Thing is, the wheels are spinning, but in mud. I have so many ideas that were left on the back burner that I can't seem to settle on one. Not to mention that I still have a novel that while I feel has a lot of good to it, was written over a lot of years and as a result is very off balance.

With part of me continually tied to my book, unable to let it go, I've tried tackling a revision, and editing, but once I dive in I feel blind to it. I can see some of its mistakes but I can't figure how to begin tearing other areas apart. I know it's a mess so I haven't really wanted to ask another writer to read it. Though I have pondered the idea of posting a chapter at a time here and seeing what suggestions I get. But even as I think about fixing it, new ideas keep cropping up, whispering to me let it go, come start something new.

Because of this conflict I find myself with my first real case of writer's block. A somewhat ironic statement considering the length of this post. But blogging is different. Posts rarely take me more than 10 minutes to write up, and are generally one shot thoughts. I don't put a lot of depth into them because they don't require it. Nor would anyone want to read my lengthy ramblings on a regular basis.

So here I am, stuck, trying to find a better system than eeny meeny miny moe. I'll put it to any of you that might have actually read this, or skimmed: Do ever get stuck with too many ideas that it slows production? How do you decide which project to tackle? Any thoughts on how I should handle my mess of a book?

8 comments:

  1. Oh man do I ever. :p Do what I do, just write a list of random plot points, story ideas, snippets of scenes that flow into your head and things like that. That way at least you have everything down so you can (kind of) stop thinking about it and you won't forget it. After that I just use it as a checklist. Pick which one I feel like working on at the time and just go with it. Writing is hard when you have the attention span of a gnat. :p

    I am really sorry about your writing partner, but I do hope that you get writing again soon, especially if it's something that you want to do and that makes you happy.

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  2. I wish I had some advice for you. I suffer from some of the same type of roadblocks as you. You are an amazingly talented person and someday, it will all click on the writing front.
    For me, I'm pretty sure the answer lies in medication. My A.D.D. plays a huge role in my productivity (or lack thereof). Geez, everything I've written is in rough draft form. Some of it is so old, it's crusty...

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  3. Find some critique partners online! They can help with the mess. I put out a call for help last year and two of my critique partners are still with me - and they are awesome for bouncing ideas off of as well.
    To many ideas? What on earth is that?
    Didn't know you were a writer. You really should join us every month.

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  4. My advice:
    Give up.
    That always works wonders for me.

    Alright, obviously I am joking, because as YOU know, I did finish my novel. I'll give you what real advice I have, but before that I'd say to listen to Alex as he has written, finished, and published two books now.

    So here's my (more amateur) advice: Stop with the editing for now (there are others who can do that), and pick a new project that you feel passionate about, and that you can envision yourself seeing through to the END. And to me, that is one of the keys: Which of your many ideas do you think you could truly see yourself completing. Then schedule time specifically to work on it, and make yourself stick to that schedule no matter what. There's a bunch more I could say, from my own experience, but like I said, I yield to Alex more on this subject.

    I hope you get your groove back soon.

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  5. Tim, pick one or two ideas that really feels worthy of putting into paper...give it a deadline - one to three months of writing a fixed number of words/pages everyday and go on from there...I did it last month, took a blog break and got a novella of 32000 words down...it may even become a short novel...I have read your stories and they are good. Check up some bloggers who can critique your work and ones you are comfortable with....just give it a shot...don't live with regrets of starting afresh a little too late, like me...I am writing regularly now, because I am doing it for my bro who believes in me ...do it for your sis...self publish if you have to. Write a messy first draft and then proof read and edit the whole thing two to three times, get it beta read and critiqued later. Good Luck.

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  6. The problem seems to be writing on your own. As much as you'd like a co-writer (and so would I, for my screenwriting) I think more immediately what you're after is a sounding board, and I think you may find that online if you take part in something like NaNoWriMo. It seems to be a rollicking success for fledgling writers in similar positions as yourself.

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  7. Thank you everyone for your advice. You've given me a lot to mull over.

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