Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Trying to write my way out

I have been unable to write anything other than pure crap for about three weeks or so. I'm not sure why, but it's driving me nuts.

Not to get too personal, but I've had some (minor) health issues during that time, including some kind of weird bug that left me exhausted with swollen glands and one hell of a headache for weeks. Then, I developed a running-related foot injury that hurts me when I sit down (at my desk, for instance). It's throbbing right now, as a matter of fact.

This has all combined into a massive bout of writer's block. Take today. I sat here for more than three hours and came up with ... 238 words.

Of pure crap.

A couple of weeks ago, I was really excited about the new WIP. I still am, but I'm having real problems getting it off the ground. No matter what I do, I stare at the screen and nothing comes.


I'm starting to get worried. I mean, I wrote The Devil You Don't Know mostly in a fog of ignorance. I was pretty much done with the manuscript when I discovered there were writers' blogs and agents online. In other words, I knew nothing about writing fiction when I wrote it. I just let 'er fly and went with my creative juices.

Then I learned all about the craft of writing. I started to read writing books, and blogs, etc. It helped me tremendously in editing and revising TDYDK.

But since then, I have started three books. And all three sit in various states of un-doneness (if I may coin a phrase) on my hard drive.

Don't get me wrong. I am not quitting. No way in hell. I will work through this.

But I can't help but wonder if I now know too much about the writing process. For instance, I am so damned aware of how important the first fifty pages are that I freeze now when writing my WIP. I just know that it's not good enough. And the more pressure I put on myself, the harder it is to sit down and just write.

Like I used to.

How do you deal with writer's block? Do you put too much pressure on yourself? Do you find that the more you know about the craft of writing, the harder it gets?


  1. This post really made me realize something, I'm pretty lucky, because I rarely get writer's block and I wonder if it's because I have never tried to understand or figure out what's important and what isn't in writing. I just do it and if people like what I've done I love it, if it fails (like many projects of mine have), I live with disappointment for a bit, dust off my jeans and start on something new. I think maybe you are thinking too much about it Terry, try to forget it all and just write for yourself. Don't worry about pleasing an editor or agent, when it happens, it'll happen. Till then, write from the gut, fast and loose (to quote Fast Eddie Felson.)

  2. A foot injury that hurts when you sit down? Hmmm...

    Yes, I think the more we learn about anything the less we are able to do it with complete freedom and abandon. Hence, Beginners Luck.

    I did the same damn thing to myself. I thought it would be a good idea to know all there is to know but the more I learn the more I find that ignorance truly is bliss. And what sucks is once you know, you can't not know.

    We'll get through it. ;)

    Word Verification: Holyging...I dunno, it sounded like something for minute there.

  3. Gina: Yep. Plantar Fasciitis. It's a strain or inflammation of the ligament that connects the heel with the rest of the foot. It hurts like hell, too! :)

    I'm wearing a brace at night and have cut back from all-out running to walking and biking to let it heal. It particularly hurts first thing in the morning and after sitting a while (the ligament tightens up).

  4. Can you function in motion? Is it possible that you could take a voice recorder and dictate rather than type for a while?

    Any other suggestion I have would require sitting at the computer, so maybe I'm not much help with this one.:-(

    I hope it heals up soon. Foot pain's one of the worst. (That brace I've mentioned before was from a faulty achilles tendon when I was a teen, so I can empathize to an extent.)

  5. Well, I email a chapter to somebody who emails me a chapter. It's like turning in homework. It works for me. And I say, "This is first draft, and I'm gonna email a revison later on," and the person out in cyberspace says fine.

    I consider all my first drafts crap. And you know what? That's okay. I compare writing to making an oil painting. You put down a sketch and then go back to develop it.

    First draft, second draft, tenth draft, that's not important.

    What's important is fun. I have to feel the magic, write what I damn well want to write, and howl with laughter over it.

    I'm rooting for you, Terry. You have another story down there in the marrow of your bones, a stay-awake-all-night kind of story.

    And I hope you feel better soon.

  6. P.S. About the craft of writing and the first 50 pages and the pressure and all that stuff that will drive you so totally, completely, utterly batshit that you can't even tie your shoes... you know what? Who cares?

    Don't write what you think you're supposed to write. Write something that makes you happy.

  7. I've been battling the same chapter for a week. Okay, technically I started it Friday, but I NEEDED and PLANNED to start it days before that. I just couldn't get myself to. I handwrote some stuff today at work and came home all hyped up to finish it, but here I am... blogging. Gonna have dinner soon. Then procrastinate some more.

  8. It may run counter to what others say, but in my opinion you should take as much time as needed to get those opening chapters nailed. Once you do that the rest of the story will follow from a solid foundation.

  9. I escape to a little place called "denial" whenever I get writer's block. Then I pretend that I'm too busy with other stuff to write. It's not a very good method of dealing with writer's block because there's so much crap out there you can distract yourself with that if you're not careful, you may never finish what you started. I'm trying to force myself to listen to that nagging voice that tells me to get back to writing when I procrastinate, but it's tough, man. It's tough.

  10. I find when I write and just concentrate on getting the plot down, I can get a first draft (maybe a hundred pages of what turns out to be a 400 page ms) on paper to work with.

    THEN I go back and say, hmm, this opening's all wrong. I need to open with this part and flesh it out a bit. Oh, and this narrative here needs to have its own scene.

    Don't worry about editing while you're writing. Time enough for that once the bones are down.

  11. Writers Block happens to all of us. When I can't come up with anything, or when everything I write is CRAP? I take a break, walk away from it. But mostly I STOP obsessing about it.

    Obsessing about it makes it worse, and I think it makes Writers Block last longer. Seriously, the minute I 'let it go' and say my words will come back when they are ready...they magically appear.

    However, NOT obsessing sounds easy. And I assure you, it's not!