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.


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


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