1. Welcome to the Fantasy Writing Forums. Register Now to join us.

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

    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 Istar

    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.
    DragonOfTheAerie and Malik like this.
  4. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    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.
    DragonOfTheAerie likes this.
  5. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    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.
    DragonOfTheAerie likes this.
  6. Malik

    Malik Auror

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

    Keep going. You can only get better.
    FifthView and DragonOfTheAerie like this.
  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

    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
  9. Update:

    So, this is probably a controversial course of action, but I’m quitting this WIP.

    Normally a decision like this would come with a lot of agonizing and second guessing, but I feel almost totally confident in my decision, which makes me surer that I’m doing the right thing. And normally I would never do this. But...

    I’m realizing that I don’t really have problems/discouragement about where to go with the book; rather, I just don’t care. And from the beginning, it was a concept I liked, but I never felt possessed by it or really interested in it.

    Basically, I expected the interest and passion to develop once I got past the beginning, but now I’m at 51k words, and it’s not happening. I don’t look forward to the rest of what I have planned, and my characters feel flat and cardboard. Most damningly of all, I don’t really look forward to having a finished, polished product. I don’t have this idea in my head of what it will be when it’s beautiful. I’m not frustrated by the contrast between the vision and the reality as is usual; instead, I’m just indifferent. I didn’t listen to my misgivings at the beginning and I have dragged myself unwilling through half a novel I didn’t like in the first place. I would love to do something else with the concept someday, but my attachment to it is next to nothing. That’s what keeps you going, that feeling that it could be someday the kind of book you would want to read. You keep trudging through the mud because the book in your mind is really f*cking awesome and you want to get there. Well, I’m not sure this book could *ever* be that. Not without changing a lot.

    Even when I hate writing, I love it, but that’s not true here. I don’t really care enough about this book to *hate* the difficulties I’m having.

    Now it’s possible that finishing could be more valuable to me as a writer overall, but honestly? I write because I love to do it. And I’m not enjoying this. It’s not that the book would need to be *better* for me to feel good about it, but that it would need to be *different.* I wouldn’t like this book even if it was technically and mechanically perfect. That’s my problem.

    It’s hard for me to stay sane without something to work on, so I kind of need a project to cope with existence...but that also drove me to do this.

    With Red Nights, yes, shoving through brought me to the end. I started with nothing and my interest developed. But the reason there is that I started with *nothing.* With this I had a lot more of a plan of where the story was headed, and that didn’t allow things to just happen as much. So instead of growing to love the book more, I just...never got much pleasure out of it besides just the enjoyment of seeing my world count go up and just writing.

    But now I’m getting really, really bored.

    I just don’t like it. I think my dislike, though definitely worsened by its rough state, is not caused by the fact that it’s a rough draft, but by the fact that it’s what it is. It’s a very different kind of story than I’m used to. I thought it would be interesting to dive into, but sometimes you try new things and find out you don’t like them.

    I have a couple other ideas lined up and one day I’ll try to come back to this and wring out of it a vision that I’ll really enjoy exploring. But yeah, I want to avoid burnout by forcing myself to continue something I honestly have never loved.

    This is new to me, but so is everything.
  10. Underlying, more problematic problem: The stories I really care about all scare me and I get frustrated with them easily.

    So maybe I started writing this because I thought it would be easier. That is, it intimidated me less than the prospect of f*cking up one of my babies.

    ...that makes a lot of sense actually

    To be honest, ive tried to write lots of “easy” stories “just for fun,” but they never work.
  11. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    For myself, I have to care about the characters. I have to care about the premise as well, but if it's only that and not the characters, then it turns into a slog. FWIW.

    As for easy and just for fun, I've never had that. Everything I've ever written has been work. Thinking about it, planning it, sketching it (in words), all that is easy and fun. The actual writing? It can go smoothly or rough, but it's always work.
    DragonOfTheAerie likes this.
  12. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

    Reminds me of this:

    I read the book almost three decades ago, and to this day, Csikszentmihalyi's Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience remains sharp in my memory. Or at least, the basic, root principles behind it.

    As for writing, I think any of the three sections on the right of the diagram would work fine. But for any individual author, experiencing those things on the left would not be horrible as long as they recognize what is happening; they can work out of those reactions. (Or, those three blue sections on the bottom; work up!) Heck, even for an accomplished author, any new project might begin to give those feeling on the left or bottom, and thus suggest new directions or efforts to help move them to the right and/or up!

  13. Yeah. My problem is, my ADHD governs a lot of how I approach ideas and tasks, and so I get really psyched about an idea for a few days but have to work hard to hold on in the long-term.
  14. Snikt5

    Snikt5 Scribe

    It happens to all of us. I too may be well off the mark here but my first impressions upon reading your idea we're, " wow that sounds cool," but quickly followed by, "I would get bored writing it."

    The reason I thought that was although the sisters are all experiencing different things, they are all going through the same emotion in discovering something new and dealing with it. As unique as their characters are, it appears as if you are writing the same thing three times. Is this the case? As I say I might be wrong but that is what stood out to me.

    Best of luck with it though and don't best yourself up about taking a break from it.
    DragonOfTheAerie likes this.
  15. You’re at least partially right. For a long time Briar’s POV felt redundant. They do all have different conflicts, but it still is kind of too much to keep up with and too little distinction between the POV’s.

    I think some ideas are like that. Cool to think about, but boring to write. Sometimes you realize you want to *read* a book, but you don’t want to write it. Or you just like the idea of it existing, but not the work required for that to happen.
    Malik and Snikt5 like this.

Share This Page