Thursday, August 12, 2010

No Rules. Just Write.

This poor blog has been sadly neglected of late. As have my other blogs, my website, and even my WIPs. The amount of books I read annually has shrunk considerably as well.


One part is busyness. Working full time for most of the past two and a half years cut deeply into my writing time.

One part is laziness. Or I could be kinder to myself and say a myriad of distractions. From games on Facebook to TV shows on Hulu, I've wanted to spend my downtime relaxing.

And the third, and I believe most significant, part is ruliness. (Yes, I know that's not a word.) I have received so much ongoing instruction on how to write I think I've given my creative side a stroke.

I wrote my first two novels on instinct alone. I'd read so many books I just knew how a story should go. No, they weren't great, but they were pretty good, and most importantly, I finished them.

My third novel has been stalled for years. Every once in a while I'll manage to eek out a scene or two, but it mostly lays there, paralyzed.

I've always been an "edit as I go" writer. I had to go back and correct the mistakes as they appeared on the page, because if I didn't, my words would harden like cement and I'd have a painful time chiseling later on.

Now, as I write, I have a huge chorus of rules clamoring for attention with every sentence. Am I telling when I should be showing? Is this MRU correct? And some of the rules conflict, so I have to consciously choose which rule to follow and then correct my writing. Others focus more on paragraphs or scenes, so I'm constantly going back and reevaluating.

Since I've read so much about writing, I know the effort to turn off the internal editor is shared by many writers. And I know I can easily find an artificial cure to get used to switching said editor off - like changing my screen so I can only see the last few sentences or writing with pen on notebook paper.

It's my internal editor's evil cousin that I'm having the hardest time with: the internal prewriter. I'm a SOTP writer, except for quick one-page outlines to give me a rough guideline of where I'm going. But now, no matter how much preparation I do, it's never enough. And it's rarely correct in my internal prewriter's eyes. Where does this scene fall in the LOCK system? In the three-act structure? Is this the right inciting incident? Should the characters really meet here? It's been done before. Would my character really do this if she's an ISFJ? Is my hero an enneagram 2 or 7? Is this the right story goal for her? Do I have too many events in his past to make the hero afraid to love? Or not enough? How can I lead up to the black moment when I don't even know what it is yet?

So I close my WIP and start doing more research. Or read another book or article on how to write, thinking maybe this one will cure things. Or I wander over to Facebook because I'm sick of the whole mess. And sometimes, I remember how it used to be, when I loved writing.

There still comes those rare moments when the joy of creating beats back both the internal editor and the internal prewriter. It gives me hope. But mostly, I let my WIPs sit. Because after working all day, who needs more frustration?

The same frustrations have spilled to my blogging. Am I building my brand right with this post? Which blog should this post go on? How can I write about writing fiction when I'm not?

And my reading sometimes just kicks the internal cousins into high gear. They did this right, why can't I? Other times it just brings a sense of wistfulness.

The one writing area I still have to call my own is poetry - likely because I haven't read much about it. I just set pen to paper and let my emotions flow.

The title of this post (which is also the title of a writer friend's abandoned blog, which seemed fitting) expresses my wish for the future. Maybe someday I can chuck all these rules from my mind and just write.


Valerie Comer said...

Oh, Katie. Hugs! I hope you can rediscover the joy of spilling words and stories out. Haven't talked to you in ages. How are things?

Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

Ah, Katie, I understand, I really do. It's almost a matter of a lot of knowledge being a dangerous thing.

I don't know if you wanted to express all this just to express it or to see if any of your visitors had suggestions. Part of my personality is being a "fixer," so I'll offer a few ideas (but I won't feel slighted if you stop reading because you really only wanted to set down what you're feeling—heheh, in fact, I'll never KNOW if you stopped reading). Of course some of what I'm suggesting, you may already be doing, so you can ignore those too.

First, pray. Pray about being paralyzed, about writing instruction that clashes with other writing instruction, about having lost the joy of writing, about being too tired to face a second job when you get home. Specifically ask God what He wants you to do. Ask Him to help you discern how to move forward, what time would be best to use for writing, how you should get to know your characters, where you should start your story, what should happen next, ... you get the idea. Every time you need to make a decision, ask God, then trust that He hears and answers prayer and go with what you think is right. That doesn't mean you won't change that thing later. You might. But for that moment, whatever you think is right, is. And you'll know it is because it will get you writing again.

Second, I recently heard of a way for a novelist to get to know her characters better, and I think it might also work as a writing exercise to free a writer up. Here's how it works.

Write a scene showing what your character did five hours before the story started, five days before, five months before, five years before. You can make as many time divisions as you want and you can make them as big as you want (ten minutes before, 10 weeks before, etc.)

Anyway, I'll be praying for you. God has something in mind for you with your writing, and I'm sure He'll show it to you in His good timing.


Vikk @ Down the Writer's Path said...

I remember going through such a phase with that devilish chorus chiming in my ears. I'm sure it will pass as things settle.

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