Q & A One: What do you do when you get stuck?

  asked:


Okay, so. I often see friends talking about stories they’re working on and how they’re just stuck. They know where they’re going but they can’t seem to figure out how to get there. Your writing seems to hit you hard and fast and it almost seems like your fingers can’t move fast enough to get it all out, but does their situation ever happen to you? And if it does, what do you do to fix it?

Ah. I used to have that. The magic bullet for me was to stop thinking I knew where I was going.

It sounds cute and trite and like it should come from a twelve-step handbook or something, but it’s really true. Usually when I fuck myself up the most it’s because I decided I knew what was best. It’s no necessarily so, either, that when I let the story drive everything happens smoothly and wonderfully. I spent most of the first draft of Special Delivery in all its incarnations wailing endlessly to my husband, "But it doesn’t MAKE ANY SENSE!!!!!" And he had no pity. He just told me to keep writing. The first draft really was a heinous mess, too.

If I have a fix, it’s that I just keep writing. I yell and scream and get stuck just like everyone else, but I just keep writing. Relentlessly. Stupidly. Sometimes with a mad scientist laugh. There are times too when I have to let the story gel and cool. It took me a long time to figure out the rhythm and the flow of my own method, and I’m still not entirely comfortable with it. I also fear every time that it is absolutely a mess and won’t make any sense to anyone anywhere in the world ever.

I feel like I just said that I don’t plot. I don’t, and I do. Like, right now in the Twelve Days of Randy, I know where I’m going. Ish. But it’s more that I see the horizon and I just keep aiming at it.

The best metaphor I can give is very obscure, but here goes: we got a Wii Fit for Christmas, and there’s this balance game where my Mii is in a bubble and I have to navigate her down the river. If she hits anything at all, her bubble pops and she dies. I’ve found that if I focus on where she is, I do nothing but die. If I keep my eyes fixed on the next trouble and don’t look at her current state of stickiness at all, I do fine. I think I write something like that. I try not to look at what I’m actually doing because that usually makes me freak out and fuck up. I try to look ahead at where I’m going and just get there by…well, getting there. It’s somewhere between fool’s logic and Zen.

I don’t know if I really answered the question at all. Oh well.

6 Comments on “Q & A One: What do you do when you get stuck?

  1. Nope, it made perfect sense to me, because I’ve also said to just keep writing. Keep writing and not everything that you write is going to make sense, but you also don’t have to keep all of it. Write until you’ve found the character’s voice that you’ve lost (or that lost you) and then ride the wave. But I think that they sort of thought it wasn’t really ~writing~ if you do that, so it seemed like they gave me the side eye, thanked me politely for my advice and continued wailing.
    But that you’ve said this and explained your way makes me feel infinitely better about giving that advice in the past. I knew it worked for me but didn’t know about anyone else’s experience. Thank you, Heidi!

  2. Nope, it made perfect sense to me, because I’ve also said to just keep writing. Keep writing and not everything that you write is going to make sense, but you also don’t have to keep all of it. Write until you’ve found the character’s voice that you’ve lost (or that lost you) and then ride the wave. But I think that they sort of thought it wasn’t really ~writing~ if you do that, so it seemed like they gave me the side eye, thanked me politely for my advice and continued wailing.
    But that you’ve said this and explained your way makes me feel infinitely better about giving that advice in the past. I knew it worked for me but didn’t know about anyone else’s experience. Thank you, Heidi!

  3. I think your method makes perfect sense. If you create strong characters they’ll drive the story, and if you let them they might take you places you haven’t expected.
    Raymond Chandler said about the writing process: “The more you reason the less you create.”

  4. I think your method makes perfect sense. If you create strong characters they’ll drive the story, and if you let them they might take you places you haven’t expected.
    Raymond Chandler said about the writing process: “The more you reason the less you create.”

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