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bear by san

March 2017

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bear by san

Understanding The Process

I am fortunate indeed, in that because I tend to 'feel' books in my head, as shapes, I tend to get stuck when I'm about to screw something about the plot arc up utterly. It doesn't feel like fortune, mind you, but really it is--unlike many of my friends, I rarely write for hundreds of pages in a dead end direction. I may get balance wrong, or drop plot threads, or make logical or structural errors... but the integrity of the story is generally pretty good.

I'm wedged on Worldwired, and I even know why. I'm wedged because the setup is done, and it's time for things to start changing in defined ways that involve moving the story forward to a massively complicated state that will collapse its wave-state into a satisfying conclusion when I pull the right string... and I don't know yet how the string needs to be threaded through the wave-state. I think it needs brain-time, because I need to develop the actiony part of the plot more (as opposed to the political, intellectual, and emotional conflicts, which I have going just fine, but I haven't quite established the physical threats) and I also need to understand where the antagonists are coming from, what they want, and what they're willing to do to stop the protagonists.

Brain-time always makes me feel guilty, because it's not actually writing, but it's a necessary part of the process.

So yes, I'm fortunate. Because I just physically can't write any further until this stuff has hammered itself out in my subconscious. And that's actually a good thing, although it used to make me panic before I understood my process. Because while I sometimes have to cut ten pages of my characters explaining the plot to me so that I understand it, I haven't yet had to cut two hundred pages of haring off in a direction that has nothing to do with the plot.

It's not writer's block, and it's not not being able to finish the book, and it's not that the book is failing or falling apart on me. It's just that it's time to pause and let the backbrain have at it and sort out how the actual structure of the book hangs around the shape of the story I have in my head.

My backbrain will figure it out. I have faith in my process. It hasn't let me down so far.

Comments

I think I'm still learning how to deal with something similar. I'm still at the panicking stage. When I'm actually stuck on something, I tend to want to hammer away at it from every conceivable angle. I have a terrible time letting go, when sometimes letting go for a bit is exactly what I need to do. I just need to develop a little more faith, is all. :)
If it's any comfort, it's taken me eight point two novels to get here.*g*
The backbrain is a wonderful, but slow-moving thing. Mine has been stewing over something for two whole damn years and has only just now prodded me with a possible solution :o\
Mine, alas, has a deadline. But it's far enough away that I can afford to give it some runing room.
I still tend to write myself into corners. Not a hundred pages worth anymore, thank the gods, but for a dozen or so, until my brain screams at me and I have to stop and reconsider. But if I get stuck, I've learned to realize that it's always because something's not right. I've got a POV wrong, a plot point wrong, something like.

Very handy little thing to notice.
Yeah, it is. And it's nice to be bale to gie your brain permission to percolate, too.
thanks for articulating that so nicely. I know that 62% of the time, that thing I refer to as 'writer's block' is just my backbrain doing its thing (or trying to). The trick, it seems, is trusting yourself and your own processes enough to let it do its subtle works.

also, does anyone else have a technical problem with your Comments section? I get one word per line, which makes for a very lengthy scroll. also, it feels like a beat poetry reading. hmmmm, maybe it's my browser??
hurm.
it
looks
okay
to
me.

:-P Maybe it's an s2 thing? I've checked in Mozilla and IE, and it's fine in both of those.
actually, I have a feeling it's the Mac version of IE5.1 that I'm using combined with s2. my own post looks 'normal' and I've noticed that one or two other LJers'
comments
don't
appear
one
word
per
line.

damn my love of the Mac!!

it
is
kind
of
hypnotic
though.
:)

very e.e.cummings.

You know you really want Mozilla, though. *g*
One of the most important ways my fan fiction has helped me with my original writing is that it gave me the experience in actually putting words to paper (screen) that I needed to get comfortable with my process. I, too, need to let stories and/or scenes simmer in the back brain for awhile before everything gels and I can see how to get from plot point A to plot point B.

My brother once was telling about why he never finished the novel of which he wrote something like 60,000 words. He said that he had the frame of the story in mind, but that there was a point at which he didn't know what was going to happen, in terms of details. No clue.

I just looked at him and said, "I'm always writing towards a big black hole like that. I just know that once I get there, something will come to me."

It's a matter of faith, I think. And confidence that your brain is synthesizing what has happened and what needs to happen, even if the process isn't conscious.
It's a matter of faith, I think. And confidence that your brain is synthesizing what has happened and what needs to happen, even if the process isn't conscious.

Yup. That's it exactly.
I am now the proud owner of a spinning wheel, as part of that backbrain process. And I kind of knew that's what was going on with how blocked I was in writing--enough that I broke down and bought the spinning wheel. But I didn't give myself *credit* for that two-three week period counting towards "writing time" until today.

My process (also learned through three years of writing fanfiction, as one other commenter said) is *very* similar to yours; if the story isn't working I can't go anywhere with it until I figure it out. I've not yet written myself into something out of which I can't write myself; most of my rewrites are more to distill my verbiage down to the essential prose.

So, once again, thanks for sharing your process, because it helps me! ;-) Next time the backbrain kicks in, I'll be that much more comfortable in just giving it--and myself--time.
*nod* It's like there's a point where my brain goes--screeeee insufficient conflict! and puts on the brakes. And I don't even necessarily need to know how my protags are going to solve (or punt!) their problems--but I need to know what those problems are, even if I'm not sure yet how they develop.

The spinning wheel sounds like a great trick. I just got back from a six-mile walk, and by halfway through, I was cursing myself for not bringing a pad and a pen, because plot threads and conflicts started spinning themselves out in my head, the book's structure firming up around me, and a whole bunch of plot developments that need to happen Right Now and that I've been stuck waiting to learn about came clear in my head.

I'm glad my thrashing helps! *g*
Because I just physically can't write any further until this stuff has hammered itself out in my subconscious.

I'm so glad you said this. I've had that--problem? issue? characteristic? for as long as I can remember. If I know what comes next, I can write it. If I don't know, I physically can't write.

Explaining this to someone for whom words just pour out all the time, whether they know what they're going towards or not, is frustrating as hell. Their reaction tends to be, "But you just write!"

Well, no, I don't.

One important lesson I learned from this was to never turn in a two-sentence synopsis. Even if they buy it, I'm going to be in serious trouble sooner or later.... (They bought it, and I was!)
*g*

Yes, I know exactly what you mean. It sounds like you're even a bit more structured than I am (I don't need to know what happens next, necessarly, because my characters surprise me all the time, but what I absolutely, positively must know is what changes in any given scene before I go in, and I must know who the players are, and what they fear, and what they want.

I describe it as 'needing to know what they want on their tombstones.' Because that--that hill-you-wanna-die-on drive--is what's going to motivate them through the book and set them in opposition to each other.

I refer to this as Advanced Plot Simulation, which is a term I stole from papersky, except my APS is different from her APS. Mine involves lining up a lot of people on opposite sides of a question and turning them loose on each other.

I'm in this weird position with Worldwired in that it's book three of a trilogy, and all three books have their own discrete arcs in addition to the, um, overarching arc. Um. *g* So I resolved all this stuff at the end of Scardown, and set some other balls rolling, but the balls I have rolling aren't sufficient to carry a 100K novel all by themselves, so I had to introduce some new conflicts, and it suddenly occured to me that the reason it was coming so hard was because I knew the generalities of the new conflicts but not the specifics. So I was sliding into a lot of vague Dark-Lord-Mountain-Smoking-Over-The-Horizon type threats, and...

Lame. *g*

Thank you, by the way, for talking about your process. I find that, even though we all do it differently, on some level, we also all do it the same, and it helps sometimes to see how other people manage the sleight of hand.
I'm currently in a pause as well, while I work out what happens next. I thought it was because I didn't know the main character enough to know her reaction to the scene that just finished, but just now I finally realized it was, as well, that I hadn't actually decided she is the true protagonist, and the lack of focus was finally biting me. Which means I'm off now to start the next scene.

---L.
Brain-time always makes me feel guilty, because it's not actually writing, but it's a necessary part of the process.

Yep.

Because while I sometimes have to cut ten pages of my characters explaining the plot to me so that I understand it, I haven't yet had to cut two hundred pages of haring off in a direction that has nothing to do with the plot.

And yep again.

That's all! Just validation!
Thank you!

I'll take it!