To quit or not to quit

I want to quit this story.

It’s been like pulling teeth since the beginning. And I actually sat down and wrote an outline for this one. It was supposed to be easy. Well, easiER. So. Not. True.

I got 1,097 words into a first draft and realised it wasn’t working. I scrapped them all, and the outline, and started again. I thought I had found a framing device that would make the flow of the piece more natural. 863 words into the second draft I flamed out again. I scrapped all those words and didn’t write anything for five days.

I spent the better part of that week watching endless episodes of Sex and the City and Law and Order, just so I wouldn’t have the time to write. (And let me tell you, watching Sex and the City when you’re in your mid-thirties is a WHOLE different ballgame than watching it in your early twenties. Ouch.)

I finally sat down and forced myself to work through a new outline. For each scene, I made sure I knew what the main character’s goal was and whether she achieved it (‘yes, but…’ or ‘no, and…’). I even know how it’s going to end. My previous drafts have fleshed out the world-building. You’d think I’d be ready to launch right into the meat of it.

This week, I’m watching a whole lot of Olympics.

There’s another episode of Patrick Rothfuss’ podcast, The Story Board, this one with guest Mary Robinette Kowal. It’s largely a discussion of advice for emerging writers, and they talk about craft and about good writing habits and about writers’ block. And Mary Robinette Kowal had this to say:

“What I find when I hit writers’ block is that it’s usually because I’ve taken a wrong turn in a story, and if I pay attention to a lot of my physical cues and how I feel when I’m sitting down to write, or avoiding sitting down to write, it will tell me the area I need to look at for what has gone wrong.

“If I find, when I sit down, that I am suddenly overwhelmingly drowsy, probably what I’m writing is dull and I need to pull it out. If I find myself walking up to the computer, and then suddenly I’m in the other room straightening the silverware, that means I’m avoiding whatever scene it is. And that usually means that it’s a difficult scene and that I just need to suck it up and sit down and write it.”  [begins 0:33:10, accessed Feb 12, 2014]

This story was set up to mine a particular identity crisis I experienced. I think it’s possible my subconscious doesn’t want to go back there. It may be too soon. I was hoping the turmoil would create some really visceral writing, but what it seems to be creating is no writing at all.

Last night I sat down, in the last half hour before bed, to try and put something on the page. And I stared at the screen and I wanted to quit. This story isn’t working. I don’t want to fight it anymore. I almost closed the file and switched over to write this blog post instead. But I didn’t.

I managed to force out 167 words and some notes. This morning I had to wait two hours while my car had an oil change and an emissions test, so I planted myself in a coffee shop with my laptop. I have a whole scene, now, that I’m almost happy with. I’m late for the deadline for this week’s writers’ group submission, but I may see if I can sneak it in anyway.

Although… I’m nervous about the content. Not the writing, but the subject. The crisis it’s related to is not something I have spoken about, ever. And I’m afraid of the assumptions that might be made from the text. My mind is already coming up with deflections I can use in the accompanying email.

So, I suppose, I really shouldn’t be shocked my brain is resisting this one.

I still kind of want to quit. One scene does not a short story make. And what if, after all this agonizing, the story ends up sucking? Gah. But I have this dream of being published. Even if it’s just one short story, being a published science fiction author would be a childhood dream come true. And the first step in getting published is to finish the fucking story. So I haven’t quit. Yet.

Sigh.

I guess if it was easy, everyone’d be doing it.

40 years of blogging experience in one place

Okay, the link I want to share today is to a video that is a little more than a year old. I realise that in internet terms that makes it virtually prehistoric, but it’s one of my favourites and it’s something I go back to every so often, so I thought I’d share anyway.

Patrick Rothfuss has a show on the Geek and Sundry channel of YouTube called The Story Board, and in this one particular episode, he gathers together three other very successful writers for a discussion about blogging and memoir that is hugely enjoyable and actually really informative.

The participants are all hugely well-known in the geek world. If you’re not a geek, please don’t let it put you off. There is very little geek content in the discussion. It’s very much all about the blogging and the writing.

Patrick Rothfuss is the author of the Kingkiller Chronicles (the first two books, The Name of the Wind and A Wise Man’s Fear, are out, we’re still waiting for the third) which are both fantasy and biography in terms of genre. John Scalzi is a Hugo award-winning science fiction novelist, and has been blogging at whatever.scalzi.com since 1998. Jenny Lawson is the author of Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, and is also The Bloggess. And Wil Wheaton (best known for his role on Star Trek: The Next Generation) is a self-published author and has been blogging forever. I’m not certain how long Patrick Rothfuss has had his blog, but I’m pretty sure that between them they have about 40 years worth of blogging experience.

It is on the long side, but it’s a lot of fun and doesn’t drag at all. I had it on while I was making pancakes one morning and ended up feeling like they all joined me for brunch. They talk about the balance between blogging about work and blogging about life; about whether to talk about their kids’ lives, and if so, how best to do it; about how strictly they feel the truth of a situation needs to be represented; about what NOT to blog about; and so on. And as not only a newbie blogger but an emerging writer in the creative non-fiction genre, this conversation felt like sitting down to a masterclass on the subject of memoir in general. They have been blogging so long, they’ve had a chance to make the mistakes and learn from them, they’ve struggled with the issues I’m just beginning to face.

It doesn’t hurt that they’re all funny and are clearly having a great time talking to each other.

I came to this video through, I think, Wil Wheaton’s twitter account. Maybe? But after spending the morning with them, I ended up hunting down all of their blogs and have been following them ever since.

Useful Tools – tracking spreadsheet

I have a new toy! It’s a word count tracking spreadsheet built by novelist Daryl Gregory and lovingly titled ‘The Spreadsheet of Shame.’

Tobias Buckell re-tweeted the link to the original post, which is how I stumbled across it. Mr. Gregory has very generously made the spreadsheet available to download from his website (for free). I read the blog and got curious, so I downloaded it, just intending to tinker. But I’ve found it’s kind of like an advent calendar for writers. I look forward to putting my word count in at the end of the day. And it has helped encourage me to write every day, so I have something to fill in. Even if I only manage 66 words.

You can set your own target word count as well as daily goals. It will calculate weekly totals and percentage complete, among other things. It’s not rocket science, but all the excel fields are pre-programmed, which makes it really simple to use. It also has graphing functions already set up, so you can see your progress in pictures. And Mr. Gregory provides simple, clear instructions on the website for how to input your own specific information.