Thesis Thursday: Why I Can’t Finish Writing My Novel

Thesis Thursdays is a weekly(ish) feature where I rant, love and talk about young adult books I’m reading because I’m conning my college into thinking this is all for academia! Find out more here!

keep-calm-and-carry-onOkay, nobody panic. I’m not saying that I will NEVER finish the novel that I started last semester. I’m going to. But the sad truth is that I promised myself that I would finish it over winter break, and I haven’t. And I can’t blame that on anything or anyone but myself.

I could blame the holidays taking up a lot of my time. I could say that I’ve been working really hard at my job while I’ve been home. I could say that having to get my wisdom teeth out didn’t really help anything either. All of this is true. But I also know that I have had time I could have spent writing that I didn’t.

I’m really close to the end. Maybe even ten chapters away, give or take what happens. I have a rough idea of what’s going to go down. I know for sure how it ends. I even have ideas for the second book. But I keep dragging my feet.

I’ve written maybe two chapters. They’re rough, and I’m not pleased with them. That’s fine, though–par for the course on a first draft. It’s not that the fervor I had during NaNoWriMo has died or anything, because I still think about this novel all the time.

I just don’t want to deal with what comes next: editing.

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I would really like to do something with this story. I think that it has a lot of potential, and I’m in love with it like I have never been in love with a story before. But I hate editing. I hate it. I like writing. Writing, however, is the easy part. And I don’t want to leave the nice and easy. So here I am, stalled out, so close to the finish line but standing at a dead stop.

I want to be writing. Writing is, for me, a physical necessity. If I haven’t written for a tumblr_m9010sxdqf1qdhag9o1_500while, then I’ll play learn to type games or doodle on multiple sheets of paper just to get the itch out of my fingers. Maybe I’ll write a blog post. Or seven. I NEED to be doing something with my fingers and words. Right now, though, I’m physically blockading myself.

This novel needs so much work–as first drafts always do. In my more naive moments, I thought that I might be excited to do that work. Of course I was wrong. Editing is that moment where you rip into everything that made you excited and you say I DID THIS BADLY. At least, that’s how it always feels to me. It feels like a figurative equivalent of stabbing myself multiple times with scissors while cutting off my fingers. I don’t like it.

bampw-bw-black-and-white-boy-favim-com-841197I also, however, don’t want to cop out and just start writing something new after this. I could write the second novel I have planned, for example. If I write about doing that a few weeks from now, then please feel free to shame me for succumbing to such weakness. That’s what it would be, and I know because that’s what I’ve always done. I write a draft, call it done after I run a spellcheck and move on to the next thing. That’s not how you get better as a writer. It’s the easy way out.

I don’t want to take the easy way out. But I really, really hate editing. So, for now, I’m at an impasse.

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My New WIP: A Mental Challenge in Not Thinking and Having Too Much Fun

Well, if you guys know anything about me, it’s that I’m always, always coming up with new ideas and writing too many books at once. (Right now, it’s four. I think. Are we counting thought processes?) Anyways, after a fifty billionth breakdown over “WHY I HAVE NO PLOT?” and “WHY THESE CHARACTERS NO WORK?” and “WHY IS THIS THE SUCK?” I finally called it quits. Not on writing, mind you. THINKING.

Yes, I’ve talked about this before, especially during NaNoWriMo. But this is a level even I’ve never reached before. As it turns out, this is the first book I’ve ever written where there is a certain time when I can write it: when I’m flat-out, drooling, giggly tired. Sound whacked out? Possibly. But I bet you’re jealous of all the fun I’m having.

If I were to read this WIP while sane awake, I would know–as I know now in the back of my head–that this book is rather plotless. In fact, the entire beginning of the book doesn’t make any a lot of sense. Best part? At the moment, I don’t care. I introduce two new characters in situations where I can’t name drop without making it sound force, and in all seriousness they go through the chapter being called “Scaly-face” and “Gandalf Guy.” My MC is actually crazy enough to make that work for me, which is awesome. I’m not even 3 chapters or 10,000 words in yet, and she’s already referenced Disney, Pocahontas, the Wizard of Oz and the Lord of the Rings. She says things that I doubt are going to be funny to anyone but me. But I DON’T CARE.

Maybe this book will never be anything. That isn’t the point here. The point is that I’m fed up with taking writing so freaking seriously. This started as fun, didn’t it? So I want to keep it that way. Sometimes you just need to break away from your real, serious WIP and write something that makes you laugh at yourself. I think of it like a writing exercise–and also somewhere to store all those jokes that I think are hilarious but no one else seems to. The greatest thing is? My short attention span is actually remaining excited about this project. So at least if I’m not writing anything that will ever get me anywhere, I’m WRITING. And that’s the important thing.

And who knows? Maybe this’ll turn into something that is better than any WIP I’ve ever tried to think about!

When your writing style begins to lose its mind…

Did you know that could HAPPEN? It’s a true fact, believe it or not. I just discovered this, roundabouts yesterday. Here I thought I was being so awesome–I was starting off the New Year the right way: writing. This short story just kept coming and coming until I’d sacrificed multiple hours and 11 pages of notebook paper to its altar. Then I went to read it. My face looked a lot like…this.

Only less yellow. Anyways…

Whether you’re really conscious of it or not, everyone has a writing style all their own. It’s something you do naturally, without thinking about it, because that’s just the way you write. You probably don’t even realize what the nuances of it are because you just do it. But let me tell you: when you depart from it, you know it.

I didn’t understand this story right after I wrote it and I still don’t understand it a day after I wrote it. It is so not me I don’t know what to do with it. It’s lack of coherency is probably another problem I have to fix… But the thing is, I know what it ISN’T: it isn’t what I normally write. And I’m not talking genre or characters or anything like that. I write fantasy all the time, my MCs tend to be girls–it was actually a story idea I started months ago but never finished. The rewrite yesterday turned into another beast entirely.

The thing about writing is that it’s a fluid craft. It changes when you change, and you change day-to-day. Your writing one day won’t be the same the next day, and it doesn’t always get better consistently either.  You probably already know that the best writing comes when you’re in that “mood” that is really hard to find but always amazing to be in, as our friends from Calvin and Hobbs by Bill Watterson understand. And sometimes that creativity is just strange. Like this story I’ve got here. I’m going to need a decryption machine in Gibberish to understand just what’s going on. But you know what the funny thing is? I like it. I like it a lot. No, not the story. What the story represents.

Sometimes you start feeling like the way you write is tired and tried, but the problem is that you think you’re stuck with it. You think that this is the way that you write and, while you can learn to write better, it’ll always have that same flare to it. You started doing them because you thought it was cool, but now it’s like you’re stuck on them. I certainly thought I was. I had seven different stories started in my notebook, and I didn’t think I could write one of them well, so I just wasn’t writing. That is probably the worst thing you can do.

You know what, maybe it will take you all seven stories to get one paragraph of amazing writing. Maybe it’ll take you all seven stories to get a sentence. That’s okay. Just let out the words that want to come out and stop thinking about it. Yes, what comes out might make absolutely no sense, but that’s okay too. That’s nonsense you wrote. And maybe it’s less nonsense than you think.

Is there a demon worse than writer’s block? Yes, yes there is.

So, usually, writers think that writer’s block is their greatest enemy. I mean, what’s a writer without the ability to write? For good reason, writer’s block has become the demon that haunts all writers’ nightmares. But did you think that’s the only thing that goes bump in the writer’s night? Did you think it was the worst thing? Because THINK AGAIN.

Now you’re laughing at me, right? Because writer’s block is the very stuff nightmares are made out of for a writer. The idea that you just can’t pick up a pencil or tap some keys and make words come out and form stories because all the sudden your imagination is barren and you’re stuck worrying for days and an weeks and months if maybe you’ve finally killed your brain and there is just no more creativity to be had. The very thought makes life a lot less worth living. But, if the past couple of weeks have taught me anything, there is most certainly something worse.

At least, with writer’s block, there are things you can do to help yourself. You take a break, curse your characters some, and swear you’ll never write them again if they don’t hurry up and behave. There are writing exercises you can do, or it just gives your fingers a well deserved break. Good things can come out of writer’s block if it doesn’t drive you to drown in despair first.

But imagine not being able to do ANYTHING. Imagine having ideas that you want to write but not being able to. Your laptop is sitting right on your desk, your notebook is resting right in your drawer—right there, all in reach. But you CAN’T WRITE.

Welcome to the nightmare that is carpal tunnel.

This had been my nightmare for the past two weeks. Luckily for me, all it took was a few weeks of resting in an arm brace for me to get right back at it again. Not going to lie, certain things still hurt like all get out, but there was only so much time I could take away from my writing before I went nuts. There are few forms of torture so agonizing as being able to touch your keyboard and smooth your notebook pages but not being able to tap the keys or curl your hand around a pen. You start wondering just what you did in a past life to deserve this, right before the laptop and notebook start laughing at you and your pain. The kicker is that carpal tunnel comes from writing and typing too much, so clearly you’ve been interrupted right in the middle of this great flow of creativity that is now being forcibly stopped up. It makes your head want to burst. All you want to do is sleep because you HURT and hopefully when you wake up enough time will have passed that you don’t hurt anymore.

Now, granted, there are some things you can do. For instance, I have speech recognition software on my computer, so there was that. I wasn’t completely dead in the water, no matter how I felt. But, for me, speaking aloud doesn’t allow me the same connection with my subconscious that produces words in the perfect conduit onto the page. It’s something, but it’s not enough. And there’s nothing you can do about it.

So there you are, my fellow writers. There’s a new nightmare for your dreams, a new scary story to tell around your campfires. I hope you sleep well tonight.

June 17th – I Didn’t Want to Write Today

Today was just one of those days when I woke up and didn’t want to write. I was editing my National Novel Writing Month Novel for two hours really late last night–and I’ve been doing that every night for a while. Frankly, I’m starting to burn myself out. So, today I saw my notebook staring at me and had that sinking feeling of ‘NO. I do NOT want to write today.’ Well, there is two choices for a writer with that feeling: They can hide the notebook, or they can pick up a pen(cil).

I Didn’t Want to Write Today

I didn’t want to write today
But I knew I should
Not in my head
Mind you
But as any writer knows
In their heart

I didn’t want to write today
But I needed to
Reach out my hand
To grasp the stories
Being told
Just out of reach in my mind

I didn’t want to write today
But I put my notebook
In front of me
And clenched the pencil
In my hand because
I wouldn’t be me without them

I didn’t want to write today
But I did
And the words rewarded me
With their secrets
And I remembered again
Just why I love to write

I didn’t want to write today
But, as always,
I’m glad I did