Tuesday, 7 August 2012

JulNoWriMo Musings - Part 3


Part 3 - Being Stuck


I'm not talking about stuck where I need to look up a street location, translate a word to latin, or think up a character name (though that can derail me for a few minutes - I hate leaving an <insert name here>). I'm talking about a full out block where I cannot see the next paragraph.

When I get stuck, it's because I've written myself to an incident, and I abruptly cannot see how to get from there to the next one. Here is what I've found usually does NOT work for me:
-"Just write". No. I'm not going to write something potentially pointless, in violation of character, or deus ex machina, merely to have something on paper.
-"Jump ahead". No. I have an extremely linear mindset, and my characters are constantly evolving. I cannot predict their mood at the next major plot point, and attempting to do so ultimately feels just as pointless.

Here's what I feel DOES work, which in retrospect seems (to me) to be completely contrary to the spirit of a NoWriMo:

1) Rereading/Editing prior scenes.
  I often give myself loose threads to work with. As an example from "Virga", at one point I was stuck for a scene with James. Looking back, I saw a gazebo I had placed in the park. I realized I could work with that. It changed the nature of the current scene, but let me move to the next incident. As an example from my web series, when I thought of "sin(x)/(x)" I found it could be tied back into an earlier conversation, and what was once a one-off comment abruptly became foreshadowing. (As I referenced in part 2, sometimes I foreshadow deliberately, but it can also be a late addition.)
  Yet a WriMo is supposed to be about writing, not rereading and tweaking what you wrote a few days ago.

2) Awaiting Inspiration
  Now, I'm not saying I sit back, awaiting divine intervention. I turn things around in my head, even force it out to a certain extent, but the process is calculated, and gradual. I've actually got a really good example from the "Virga" novel again.

 Incident - Melissa's attacked:
<<Unfortunately, with her attention being on the mirror, she was unable to defend against the long, hairy arm that reached in through the shattered glass and grabbed for her throat from behind.>>

 And I had no idea how to get to the next incident, namely Melissa and Trixie outside the car. So the process begins, and in this case I actually did write it out as part of the narrative:
<<Her mind immediately went to work sizing up the situation. She didn’t have enough force to break the grip. Her better spells required a focusing phrase, which was currently impossible. I was obviously not in a position to help, her phone was on the floor, and she wasn’t in the best position to strike back at her aggressor. Moreover, while slamming her hand down on the horn might attract the attention of someone who could help, it might also wake up Amy.>>

  I've now listed out what WON'T work, both for me and so the audience doesn't say "well why doesn't she just..." (Of course, more often I keep the thoughts in my head.) So what does Melissa do? Damned if I know. I'm stuck, and the re-reading has only given me the WON'T.


Honestly, I really LIKE being in this sort of situation, because odds are good that if the solution isn't obvious to me, it won't be obvious to most readers either. I also enjoy the challenge that I've provided to myself. In an old fanfic of mine, "What Evil Lurks", I reached the climax with NO idea how the situation could POSSIBLY be resolved. A couple weeks(?) later, I eventually worked it out (aka inspiration struck), and I was really patting myself on the back.

Obviously I worked out an action for Melissa in the above case (if you're curious, read the story :), and it only took maybe twenty minutes to half an hour to come up with it. Time which, according to a WriMo, should perhaps have been spent actually writing. Except I needed the time to think.

Now, I grant that these stuck points can also happen for the silliest of reasons. As Melissa was fighting a vampire earlier, I reasoned I needed about five minutes of fight material. I couldn't get past the first one or two. Trying to choreograph the fight held me up for more than a day. Yet I couldn't move to the next incident until this one had been completed in my mind, because I needed to know their positions when James arrived.

I also know a WriMo is not all about the writing, there are times to simply "walk away for a little while", or work on something else. (Or read the forums; it's from them that I decided to toss in zombies.) Outside of the month itself though, doing that means there's a chance I don't get back to the story at all. Even during the month of July, on Day 15 I was only past 15,000 words, wondering if my writing style was completely incompatible.

What I'm saying is, in the worst cases, my being stuck can stop a story forever. I have a number of unfinished ideas where I've written ABC, and I know E, but until I've worked out D, nothing's going anywhere. Sometimes I'm not even sure what D is, I just know SOMETHING has to be there. To those who can write E anyway, more power to you, and I hope your characters don't change their motivations during the bit you skipped over; mine always seem to.

Perhaps it's their revenge for being at the mercy of the plot.

Next: Character Revenge

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