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:~: Monday, November 13, 2006 :~:

When Something Just Feels Wrong

Winter's hit the Pacific Northwest. Hard. We had a beautiful Indian summer, then November 1st, all hell broke loose. Wind, rain, more wind, more rain. It makes going outside a whole new experience.

This weekend I went on a writer's retreat to the beach. It stormed there, too, on and off, but I have to say there's something about watching a storm blow in from the ocean and pelt the house with rain that's calming. I never have this feeling at home when the rain's pounding the siding, but at the beach it can almost be . . . inspiring.

Almost.

This weekend it was inspiring for everyone but me. I went to the beach with a goal. To finish a proposal - three chapters and a synopsis. No big deal. I mean, heck, I already had the chapters basically done. They just needed tweaking. It was the synopsis (or suckopsis in my case) that needed writing. I'm the one who always meets my goal in our group. I'm the one who pushes everyone else to meet their goals, to pull out the whip and tell everyone to quit gabbing and get back to work. However, this time, something wasn't right. When I got to the beach, opened my computer and started skimming through my chapters, I realized the synopsis was the least of my worries.

For a while now I've been avoiding this proposal because something I haven't been able to put my finger on has felt off. So off in fact, I wrote the first three chapters, skipped the synopsis and moved on to a different proposal. I told myself it was because the second idea had hit me so fast I needed to get it out, but now I know that's not the case. I dove into the second proposal and finished it because it was right. It worked. But this one - the one that must come first in the connected book "plan" is no where near being done, and I'm sure it's because something about it isn't right.

I'm an instinctive writer. Pushing through doesn't usually work for me, and in this case it's true again. Instead of writing this weekend like I'd hoped, I spent the time angsting and debating and thinking about where I'd gone wrong. I stared out at the crashing waves, watched the rain douse the house, even donned my coat and hat and walked miles up the beach while I tried to work everything out in my head. I brainstormed with my friends, took my frustration out on the ping-pong table and felt like a slacker for being the only one in the house who couldn't get anything done. Then I opened the computer again and stared at the blinking cursor.

Don't get me wrong. I wrote. A lot. But everything I wrote isn't working. I know I'm going to have to trash most of those pages.

So I'm basically starting over. I like the first chapter hook, but maybe that's my problem. I've decided to change locations, alter the backstory, bring the hero in faster, take out the connection to the first book so early in the story. It's still the same plot, it's still the same characters, it's just getting a make-over in the beginning. I keep coming back to the thought that if it doesn't feel right, it means something isn't right. And I just can't ignore that feeling.

It's no secret I hate opening chapters. Knowing where to start is something I've really worked on. I still don't feel like I have it figured out yet (obviously). But I know when something's not working from the get-go, it definitely won't work later down the line. So tell me, how do you deal with that "feeling" when you know something's just not working, but you can't figure out what? Do you push through and hope it works itself out? Do you restart until you work it through? Am I the only one who has this problem??? I'd love to hear your strategies.

8Comments:

Blogger Lisa Pulliam said...

When that happens to me, all too often, I just push through. I find that after I've written past it I'll figure out what needs to be fixed. It doesn't always work, but more often than not it does for me. You need to set up your pingpong table. We can start having chapter meetings at your house ;-)

11:56 AM  
Blogger wavybrains said...

I'm having that feeling right now about the new WIP. Something isn't working. I tried to push past it this weekend and again today. But, I've got three chapters and CRAP. Crappity Crap Craptacular Crap. I think it's my heroine. Or the premise might need more tweaking. The plot that worked so well on paper . . .just isn't. So see plotters have this problem too :) :) :) You'll find your way! Even if you have get a ping pong table to do it.

2:06 PM  
Blogger wavybrains said...

Alright. My head is much balder now, but this is what just worked for me (in addition to all the hair pulling and chocolate): I opened up a new blank document. I asked myself, "What sort of scene might solve the problems I'm having with this book." I didn't try to connect it to the open document--just let the "fixer scene" develop for a few pages. A new facet of my character's motivation opened up,and now I feel better about the whole thing. Sometimes starting completely fresh helps you to tackle what you already have.

3:45 PM  
Blogger Paty Jager said...

I've never hit a road block in the beginning, but when I do later in the book, it is because I've over- manipulated the characters and not let them speak for themselves. Like pushing them into a scene I think should be there when they aren't ready or willing to go there yet, or maybe ever.

I know these are characters from another book, but maybe you just don't know them as well as you think yet and are putting them in situations that they aren't comfortable with because you don't know them well enough.

I don't care what kind of a book you write it all comes down to the characters. They are the motivation, action, and plot.

If you can, take a step back and forget you wrote the chapters and try to read it from a reader's perspective. What isn't clicking for you as a reader? Or give it to a reader - not a writer and see if they can pinpoint what it is.

7:51 AM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

Hmmm, Lisa. Maybe I will pull the ping-pong table out. It did sorta help. :)

8:37 AM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

Great ideas, Paty. I think you're right on. I think my biggest problem is my heroine is being reactive, instead of proactive, to everything in the beginning, and that's not her. I know she has to have her "call to action" but at some point she needs to take charge, otherwise it's me forcing her to do things she wouldn't normally do. Gonna spend some time thinking about that today.

8:41 AM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

ROFL, Wavy. Crappity Crap Craptacular Crap. I love it!

Glad to hear you're making positive progress. I'm going to try to do that today myself.

8:42 AM  
Blogger Joan Swan said...

Sorry about your road block, E. I've had some doosies lately, too.

First I think you have to narrow it down to character issues or plot issues. Of course there's always the possibility that the two don't match, don't work together.

For character issues, getting to know them better helps me, whether it be a character questionaire, character outline, character interview, just thinking about them, where they came from, their gmc, etc.

For plot, the outline helped me because I could see it in a linear fashion.

Hope you untie your knot soon.

3:36 PM  

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