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That elusive Spark...

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by DragonOfTheAerie, Jun 10, 2019.

  1. What do you do with a WIP that isn't really...doing it for you?

    As a few of you know (my only posts for a while have been in writers work) I'm about 40k words into a WIP that revolves around three sisters who are part of a family cursed to turn into monstrous wolves by night. The story basically deals with what starts to happen when the youngest sister starts to dabble in her gifts of being able to see and talk to ghosts, the middle sister starts to lose control of her wolfy alter ego, and the oldest sister becomes curious about the world beyond which is forbidden to her.

    So on the surface this is a pretty cool concept, and writing it is at least somewhat enjoyable. But this project feels different than all the others that have made it this far. It doesn't really possess me like the others did. I get really mired in the slow parts and have difficulty moving forward. I keep thinking about starting something different or writing other things, but I also feel like I want to finish this. There's no real passion for the thing I guess that is driving me forward though, nor a burning desire to see a finished product someday, just...wanting to get it done with.

    I know that a few years ago I probably would have just abandoned something like this early on, and moved on, and he fact that i haven't done that speaks to how I've become more diligent about writing and deliberate about pursuing a finished product. Is that even good though?

    Sometimes I feel like it's first-draft anxiety, that i'm getting discouraged because i'm in the Sucky Stage. But usually my love of the potential I see keeps me going through that.

    I also feel that maybe it's just not...me, maybe? Most things i've written that have been very good and enjoyable have had some humor and satire. I've never written something that played itself so straight. I've always thought of myself as aspiring to be a Tolkien, but everything I've written in the past few years makes me feel that maybe I'm cut out to be a little more of a Douglas Adams. Stories that are a little bit ludicrous, and that seem somewhat aware of it, are what I really enjoy writing. This story is a very distinguished, folkloric type yarn and...idk.

    I really don't want to quit. (Of course I would go back to it later if I did, but still.) And yet, I don't look forward to my writing sessions anymore. It's not that I HATE the story and I often end up pleased with what I've written by the end, but I've been increasingly thinking more about a rewrite of Red Nights and I think more about that at this point than my actual current WIP. Which I'm kind of taking as a sign that maybe I should just do that. But then I don't get the sweet sweet validation of having another finished product.

    I'm at 40k something words. Thats a lot of words. If this feeling hasn't passed by now, will it?
     
  2. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    All feelings pass, so don't worry about that.

    What's wrong with just keeping on? Seems like it could be a good thing to have different emotions about different pieces of work. I've heard stories of authors who loathed a work, yet it was successful. And there could be a benefit to pushing through to the end, if nothing else so you know you can.

    As for straight or serious writing, imho that's more difficult. It's easy to be snarky, to play for laughs (much harder to be truly comedic). All one need do is mock. But to take it all seriously, and to make the reader care, that's risky.

    Anyway, I'm not offering any advice here, just personal reaction. You're not alone in what you're feeling.
     
    DragonOfTheAerie and Malik like this.
  3. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Auror

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    40k words is a lot, and at the same time, it’s not. So don’t marry them.

    Dull parts? Don’t write them. If it’s dull to you, the odds seem higher it’s going to be dull to a reader without the investment you have. Make sure every scene changes the story in some way, the more important the change the better, within reason. 40k kind of puts you in the soggy middle, the second act blues. Nothing unusual about that. Hell, that’s expected for a great many writers, the younger the more common the disease. From screenwriting, the tendency is that people don’t really “know” their story when they hit the second act blues, and this can happen to pantsers and outliners alike, LOL.

    Now me? What I try to remember is that the story doesn’t need to be written in order. I skip chapters at a time and head for what I do know, and I later connect the dots, and the drama and interest just bubble up. But, I never write anything I find boring... If I’m bored writing it, I look for a match to give it some fire, and if the wood is too wet, I ax it, heh heh.

    That’s one short answer... lots has been written about second act troubles, and it sounds suspiciously like you hit them.
     
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  4. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

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    You said it yourself - almost: you are mired in the 'muddy middle,' that point at around 30-40,000 words where you are slogging through a swamp of words with no end in sight. Only way through is to put one word after the other and try not to wince too much at inconsistent characters and plot holes.
     
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  5. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    I may be off the mark here, but the dragon didn't sound stuck, but simply lacking in enthusiasm. The elusive spark.

    Now, that can come out of being stuck, or mired and lost, which is common enough. But it can come for other reasons as well. For me, it has happened with every project. The early stages are fun and exciting; everything seems possible and everything appears to make sense. I usually have some sense that there are dark corners lurking, but they are distant, ill-defined, and do not threaten.

    As the work progresses, the places where characters are shapeless or listless, where plot problems exist, or where the setting is not so clear as I'd thought it would be, these and other dark corners loom large. The work starts to feel more like ... work. There's a transition period where I can dance around them for a time, casting light into at least a few of those corners, but that doesn't last. Eventually, I'm not so much mired as I am ... sparkless. It really is just work. This is when the doubts crowd in--doubts about whether a character is really all that interesting, where the plot problems might be catastrophes that cannot be reconciled, doubts indeed about whether I'm up to the task.

    So far, I don't ever recover the spark. I get moments when I think the work may be good after all, but by the time I'm well into the second and third draft (that's when this sort of thing hits), I move forward by resolution more than inspiration.

    I don't know any of that does you any good. Just another voice from the wilderness.
     
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  6. Malik

    Malik Archmage

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    Which draft is this, Dragon? I ask because my first few drafts are pedestrian bullshit.

    Keep going. You can only get better.
     
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  7. It is a first draft, and I think a lot of my problems stem from the fact that my last book formed a shockingly coherent and even, the way I remember it, pretty good first draft, like, good in the way that is usually typical of a second draft at least. There were a lot of continuity issues and some holes, but otherwise? It was weirdly good quality. And now I am returning to the reality of what first drafts are like 99.99% of the time.

    It’s like that one Really Good first draft is the universe mocking me, giving me a very high bar that I will have to cope with knowing it’s never going to come that easy again.

    So there’s that.

    The first 20k or so words of this were a directionless slog. I had plot worked out, but it took me forever to get through the minutiae of it and I took some extremely long pathways linking some events. This is to say that I’m probably feeling that I should be in the “middle” but in a story sense I’m not there yet because the beginning took so damn long.

    The “spark” never shows up immediately. There’s the initial burst of energy of starting a new project, but that’s different and won’t carry me far. I develop the passion and interest in the story from working with it and spending time with the characters.

    And I may just not be there yet either. Partly because it took me forever to really get into the story.

    I guess a complete first draft will be much easier to wrestle with a few years down the road than a partial one...
     
  8. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    This almost describes me, heh.

    For the last 2-3 years I keep telling myself in moments of doubt that I probably/really want to write light, humorous and/or satirical and/or silly stories, but although I've loved reading that type of story I've also loved the more serious, epic sort and I feel I should be writing the latter rather than the former.

    Sounds to me like you've not figured out where you want to go. The Ending. Either that, or you've been tackling too many things or too much complexity and these have required that long winding path. Or, both. You're stuck in the weeds. Perhaps you need to prune things, simplify the story, which could mostly include dropping some of your more complex perambulations, and pick a handful of features that you can tie more clearly into where you want to go.

    (As a side note, yeah, I think I want to resurrect that word, perambulations, even though it was never truly dead but only too often overlooked, heh.)
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2019
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