At 33K words, I find myself at a crossroads seeking advice

Display mode:

Edit thread Delete thread Report thread Unwatch thread

50564 words so far Winner!

I'll just come right out and say it: I feel unprepared for my current novel. In past years, I wouldn't even be thinking this. I'd plow on ahead. Even now I'm thinking I could still move forward with my current novel (working title: The Book of Rings). But I find myself having to come up with names and words for people and places and things several times in every chapter; I am still in Act I. And, worst of all, my connection to my novel is only on some of the time (I think it is because I am here with my novel and I need to get to there).

I read an interesting article today: David Foster Wallace on 'The Nature of Fun'. In this, Mr. Wallace writes

David Foster Wallace wrote:The best metaphor I know of for being a fiction writer is in Don DeLillo's Mao II, where he describes a book-in-progress as a kind of hideously damaged infant that follows the writer around, forever crawling after the writer (ie, dragging itself across the floor of restaurants where the writer's trying to eat, appearing at the foot of the bed first thing in the morning, etc), hideously defective, hydrocephalic and noseless and flipper-armed and incontinent and retarded and dribbling cerebrospinal fluid out of its mouth as it mewls and blurbles and cries out to the writer, wanting love, wanting the very thing its hideousness guarantees it'll get: the writer's complete attention.

The damaged-infant trope is perfect because it captures the mix of repulsion and love the fiction writer feels for something he's working on.

I think I am at the point where my Book of Rings could be gently put into carbonite until I am ready to work on it further.

I find myself tempted by the paths that Katherine (Squiddish) and Joe (Corrupted Flame) took, where they put aside their starting novel for the month and tried something that was more fun to write. And I have my new Noodler Ahab Flex Tip Fountain Pen:

So I spent breakfast time this morning doodling out two possibilities for alternate stories. The first comes from the group-brainstormed story about Pookas (from Tom Ostler's workshop on October 13, 2012), working-titled The Sideways People:

The second is a love story set in the world of Dreams, where one Dreamer meets someone he believes he loves; but he is unsure whether she is just a Dream or if she is also a Dreamer. And one must live ones life in the waking world, not in perptual slumber:

So I have a decision to make:

  1. Stay the course however difficult on the Book of Rings

  2. Move to YA-(light)Horror with the Sideways People

  3. Enter the world of dreams with The Darker Side of Dream Land

Thoughts? Advice?

201228 words so far Winner!

Have you tried working on your original novel using your fabulous fountain pen? Maybe your love for the pen will transfer to the novel and you'll be able to find things in it that interest you.

Or at least doodle using the pen with the Book of Rings to give that novel a fair opportunity of engaging you. I think it's the pen that has you entranced, not the other books.

And your handwriting is too beautiful to be believed.

52161 words so far Winner!

I second Katherine. Play with the story using your fancy new pen. Pens, especially fancy, fun, or otherwise favored pens, can work wonders for thinking--which is why I hand-write.

And I must also second her compliment on your handwriting.

And I'm actually in very much the same boat as you are, though a few thousand words behind. I love my story, but I usually have to FORCE myself to think about it, and I keep running into things I don't know about--things like random characters who need to exist, at least for a few chapters, and random non-existent creatures that need species names and some sort of description and typical behavior. And if I do get excited thinking about something for the world I'm actually writing in, it's probably for something that happens later in the series and very much not in the book I'm writing now.

Yesterday is a good example: I spent most of the day watching my thoughts wander through a completely unrelated story, and then sat down to write only to realize that I couldn't have my characters sit down and explain the rules to a made-up sport if I myself didn't already know the rules... So I had to stop and figure out at least some basic technicalities for this sport, when I'm sort of person who spent most of gym class either going to the nurse's office or actively trying to find the position that made me least likely to have to actually play. I had the brilliant idea to watch last night's Bears game for inspiration, but unfortunately the game wasn't exactly inspiring. This morning was devoted to figuring out how my made-up sport works, and once I had a decent handle on the rules, I finally got back to writing.

As far as I can figure, the solution is just to keep pushing. Word wars have been great for me for randomly naming people, which is NEVER my specialty. And when you get to some kind of world-building that doesn't pop right out as some random, worry-about-it-later, it-works-for-now THING... Honestly, stop and get out some scrap paper and a pen--fancy or otherwise--and figure it out in some basic form. Don't worry about perfect. I took time at a write-in earlier in the month to make a rough floor plan for a base, and I've changed my mind about some of the details for it. The rules for my sport have already changed a few times. Just get enough of an idea that you can keep writing, and then, well, keep writing. Or at least, that's what I keep telling myself.

Best of luck!

54273 words so far Winner!

If you're anything like me, putting a story on hold will guarantee it won't see the light of day again: I get too distracted with new stories and characters, people and places, plots and twists, that I just never get around to unthawing and fixing the old. So, my question for you to pose to yourself, is this:

Do you want to tell this story?

Is it something you want to share with others, or is it just something you're doing to meet your wordcount? If you answered the latter, then yes, switch stories; because, if you have 50,000 words at the end of NaNo but no intention of doing anything with them, then you haven't really accomplished your goal. However, if you chose the first answer, keep chugging away.

For what it's worth to you, I've thrown more placeholder names at people than I can shake a stick at. I've had to research a slew of random topics--kelp farming, steamer ship techology, the history of cameras, and kudzu, to name a few--since starting my novel, because I had no idea I needed to know this stuff prior to starting it. But I keep soldiering on, because I want to tell the story most of all, even if the details aren't perfect, some of the characters have dopey names, and my timelines don't match up without Burmuda Triangle-worthy time distortions.

(Having said that, I, personally, find your #3 proposal to be more intriguing than #2, but I'm still voting #1 if that's what you want to do. :) )

50230 words so far Winner!

I like the idea of number 3, it sounds like a story I would love to read. However, I agree with Anobi that if you really want to tell your original story, don't set it aside. If you start another story in its place, I can almost 95% guarantee the new story will take over, and not just from personal experience but what I've heard and seen from other writers. It's hard to go back when your last memories of the story are maybe not so good.
Take fanfictions for example. Many of us get random inspiration and get about halfway through an amazing story, and get stuck on one little scene or chapter. My worst one is the Fellowship in Six Flags. I'm not even sure why, but it killed my story. Haven't worked on it for more than about 50 words at a time since. And only once every two months or more. It died. -Was an amazing story that even I loved rereading over and over again before. D:- It's saddening to see that happening.
The best thing is to push through while you remember your plot and what's going on. If it really just repulses you at this point.........stop. If you can honestly stop and be okay with the idea of never finishing it because you're that upset with it, then stop. There's no point depressing yourself over it. Find a fun story and write that.
Whatever you decide, I would definitely read the Dreamworld story if you ever write/finish/publish it! :D

201228 words so far Winner!

By the way, if you have a bunch of stuff to research while you're writing and that is slowing you down, I have a technique that works pretty well for me. I'm always having to look up something. Today it was 'who invented email?' and 'a quote on secrecy' as well as half a dozen other things.

I do one google search of something fairly specific, click on the first good answer--give it a quick scan, if not what I need, then go to the second, but I rarely need two. I'm only looking for a line or two. I copy and paste one or maybe two paragraphs--not the whole article, just a paragraph or two into my document. Then translate the concept into my char's words--these are often used in dialogue, but could be an explanation of something. Even if I find it interesting, I don't go off and learn more about the subject. It will be there when I get to the second draft and hopefully my interest in the subject will be as well.
Oh, and I delete what I pasted in. It's just there to write my line or two incorporating the information.

Here's how I used the email one. (Note, I realize that there is debate about who invented email--that's not relevant right now.)

"I thought you Americans prided yourself on efficient email practices."

"You Americans?"

"Well, the copyright for the term EMAIL was granted to V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai in 1982 based on something he started developing when he was fourteen."

Instead of being impressed by her knowledge, Miriam looked bored. So much for trying to bond with her. "Let's find a conference room and go over the questions together."

There's a chance that the info about Ayyadurai will be cut or greatly changed in the next draft, but we're not writing the next draft. We're writing the first one.

Names and words for things are easy. When really stuck, call it 'thing-that-does-this' and move on. You'll probably think of the name as you're about to go to sleep. Or as you're driving to work tomorrow. Let your subconscious do some of the work. It's there to help.

50564 words so far Winner!

KatherineWriting wrote:
Have you tried working on your original novel using your fabulous fountain pen? Maybe your love for the pen will transfer to the novel and you'll be able to find things in it that interest you.

Or at least doodle using the pen with the Book of Rings to give that novel a fair opportunity of engaging you. I think it's the pen that has you entranced, not the other books.

And your handwriting is too beautiful to be believed.

Thank you, Katherine. I have given it a shot an finally completed the first draft of the map that I should have done back in October.

50564 words so far Winner!

Thank you all for your encouraging words of advice. I really appreciate them.

This is a difficult story for me in part because this story has haunted me from high school days so long ago. Every several years or so, I would do some world building or false starts at novel writing. I have a sheaf of various versions of maps and stories that is almost an inch thick; yet, with all of that, it has been a frustrating experience to try to write the story because there are so many different versions of the story/world. I've been partly making up new names and such and partly raiding pieces of the past, but I'm not sure if I have the whole story or if it really fits together yet. The essential story (a darker story strongly inspired by the Lion, the Witch and the wardrobe) remains, but the it has a new core (with a War of magic Rings).

So one factor in my decision now has to be with the knowledge that even if I put it aside for now, I will come back to it. I have done it before--the story has haunted me across decades. It is something I have to tell--but I want to tell it well.

That being said, if I did put it aside, based on what Phoenixica24 and anobi have written, I probably would go with story #3; but even that one would require some plotting and world building (albeit, I think I would feel freer to worldbuild here since there is no baggage).

I spent today making some black nanobots with a thought to prepare for a twist on the 18K words plot critter challenge from last year. They're not finished, but I'm hoping that they can be completed before the TGIO. I also finished the draft of a map for the story (and am realizing yet again that you can't write a fantasy story like this without having a map).

I'm still not sure which direction I am going to head. I think I might take one day to try story #3 to see if the words flow more freely; but the mapping and brainstorming I've done with story #1 today have helped with #1.

Stay tuned... (and thanks!).

54273 words so far Winner!

Since high school? You may want to start charging it rent! Ease up on the mother-hen act, let it come out into the world, and rejoice at the wonderful story it grows into. Even if it's not exactly the story you planned, it will always be your baby. ^_^

50564 words so far Winner!

Ok. I have to admit that the words flowed pretty freely in my experiment with story #3; and it felt like a very different style of writing to me (making me think of Roger's advice from workshop #3 this year: that every writer should try to stretch themselves with writing in a new genre). But I will give it another go with story #1.


I still have some bumps to think through before I can begin writing again, but I think I might have a way to get the story back on track. Thanks again for the helpful nudges in what I hope is the right direction. :-)

91896 words so far Winner!


I'm confident that by writing you'll work through whatever this challenge is for you.

Personally I think using a fountain pen is an excellent idea. There is no better way to write and I find a fountain pen lets me put emotion into my written words.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and enjoy your writing!


201228 words so far Winner!

I see a Journey meeting centered around using different pens and paper. A real tactile experience.

50564 words so far Winner!

KatherineWriting wrote:
I see a Journey meeting centered around using different pens and paper. A real tactile experience.

Post a new comment:

Who's online

There are currently 44619 users online.