Because it is Christmas, and because I have to run off soon to go party with my family, I’m taking the easy way out and answering some reader questions (many of which Jackie has already answered, but I’m just throwing in my two cents). So, here we go:
I like sooz’s and Leigh’s question. My problem is the first 20 pages or so are made up of “OMG this. is. awesome.” and then I get bored with the story and feel like it’s utterly see-through. I know you’re supposed to write through that boredom because you have to finish, but I have heard many authors say if you don’t even like your story, why would your readers? So where’s the line between obstinate persistence and beating a dead horse?
First, just let me say that all writers—at least, all the writers I know—have those moments where the story seems to be running out of steam, or they get bored, or feel like it’s utter crap. Actually, I think thinking our work is crap is just part of a writer’s psyche, and it’s something we all have to learn to live with. And while it’s true that if a writer doesn’t like their story, they can’t expect a reader to, it’s also true that writing is as much about determination as it is inspiration.
So what do you do when that shiny new story idea seems to come to a crashing halt? Jackie has already suggested stepping away from the project and letting time give you a fresh prospective, and I think this is a great idea. It may be that the story hasn’t got any legs or is simply the right story at the wrong time—it happens. I’ve got a ton of half started stories sitting in my files. They all seemed so great when I started them, but they sadly ran out of steam after a few chapters and refused to be rebooted. When this happens, I simply file them away. I never delete any story starts–or even cut scenes—on the off chance I might want to use them sometime in the future.
But what if the story still seems worthwhile after a step away? What if its simply a matter of not knowing where you need to go next with it? Then what do you do? For me, it usually comes down to that dreaded P word. Yes, plot. Usually I start a story without one, and I have to admit that I’ve written a ton of novels without ever having an actual outline or serious plot to follow. However, when things come to a crashing halt (and they often do), I have to step back, study what I’ve written so far, and then say, right, given what has happened up until this point, what is the worst thing that can happen to these characters, both now and in the near future? What do they want, and what sort of outcome am I looking for? Don’t limit your imagination when you’re doing this—it’s often the wildest ideas that can spark something creative. When an idea does spark, don’t immediately jump back into the story–use it to draw up a rough outline. You don’t have to follow this outline when you get back into the writing, but having it there with a story that has already stalled once gives you a good safety net.
I have a non-writing question: Are you doing anything special for the holidays? Have a festive holiday season!!
I’m intending to do nothing but eat, drink and try to not put on too much weight! 🙂 I actually just finished the first draft of my 4th Dark Angels novel a few days before Christmas, so I’m taking a couple of days breather before I jump back into the next project (which is an old novel I’m rewriting)
John asked three questions, but I’m only tackling two, as I don’t really know enough about steam punk to answer the first one:
1-When constructing writing goals, which is more important for you: word count per day or hours spent writing per day? And why; does your answer change depending on circumstance?
As Jackie has already said—words per day is more important than time, because the only thing that really matters is words on the page. You can sit at the computer all damn day, but if in the end you only have 100 or so words on the page, that book is going to take a long time to write. Remember, the reality of publishing these days is that genre publishers (and readers) want at least two books a year. That means producing a steady amount of words, week in and week out. It’s vital to not only get into the habit of writing a set amount of words per day, but to have an overall weekly target. For me, it’s a minimum of five pages a day, and thirty pages per week. Now, there’s some days when I write nothing (thanks to life getting in the way) but I always—always–make sure I hit my thirty page target. I think it’s a good habit to get into, even if you’re not yet published.
2-Since Devon’s trusty internet steed is currently a pony… what top five computer tools should a writer never be without? FOLLOW-UP Question: As A Computer Guy By Day, I personally don’t want to be included in a list of top five computer tools a writer should have (Hey mom, Today I was a writer’s tool!)… so are computer skills something a writer should have, like knowing how to format a manuscript or construct a grammatically correct sentence; or are Computer Geek Friends like first readers? (Conversely, are writers too tethered to computers/the internet?)
No writer should be without something on which to jot notes down on. Inspiration or story solutions always—ALWAYS–hits at inconvenient moments (and usually when you’re not at your computer actually writing). A good synonym finder is always useful. A basic understanding of submission requirements is handy, and every writer should have basic grammar skills. I do think it is becoming more and more necessary for writers to be internet savvy, especially as more and more readers go online. No writer should be without an up-to-date website these days, and most publishers now like their writers have a Facebook and twitter presence (and no doubt google+ when that starts firing properly). Other necessities? For me, it would be music, tea, and my crit buddies. Couldn’t survive as a writer without them.
Oh! Almost forgot! My new NAL editor sent me a lovely present just before Christmas–the cover for Darkness Devours, the third of my Dark Angels series–so here it is:
fab, isn’t it?