Monday, January 09, 2006

Okay, Somebody Explain This To Me

Okay. So here I sit, staring at a blank screen, 75 pages away from typing, “The End” to my latest WIP and without a single coherent thought in my head about what I should type next. Oh, sure. I know *generally* what is supposed to happen in the scene. I even know *specifically* the number of pages the scene should have. Honestly, the problem isn’t that I don’t know what I’m supposed to write.

(I wish it could be that simple!)

Nope. My problem is the actual writing of it.

Without producing a sizeable suckage factor, I mean.

First page, middle page, last page. It doesn’t matter. I agonize over all of them. I really only do one draft of the book as a whole, although each chapter usually undergoes several rewrites before I move on to the next.

Hey. I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me. I know a lot of writers who talk about how “the book just wrote itself,” especially once they start that rapid slide toward the conclusion. Lucky them, I say. All I know is that every time that’s ever happened to me, I ended up having to delete the chapter in question and start over because of the high levels of suckage it contained.

So, here’s my question for writers on this snowy Monday: Do you find that the book gets easier to write as you go along? Or is the battle against the suckage factor just as intense for each chapter?


Milady Insanity said...

Right now? It gets easier the further it gets.

Of course, I've yet to finish writing a book, so what do I know?

Anonymous said...

Okay, I'll admit that for me, the scenes do get easier to write as I come closer to the end. But the suckage factor varies from book to book.


JoAnn Ross said...

The books are ALWAYS hardest at the end. I call them "the book that will not end." (Like you, I know exactly what's going to happen much more than I did earlier in the process, but getting it from my head to the keyboard and onto paper is like slogging through jello.)

In fact, there are times when I'm so dreading getting to this point, my subconcious, who is a temperamental adolescent (not to be confused with my cranky and often balky muse, who's in permanent PMS), will come up with all sorts of ways to stall. Like now, even checking out this blog when I have to email this current book that will not end off to Pocket this afternoon.

All I can suggest is what long time friend Kasey Michaels told me when I was having this same trouble with BLAZE. Lots of other friends were giving me all sorts of pyschological hints and tricks. All of which were valuable and worth thinking about, but which weren't really getting the job done, which was to finish the d@mn book! She simply reminded me that this was my job, that I'd done it many times before, so I should just sit my butt in the chair and do it again.

Hey, darned if that tough love didn't work like a charm! It also worked yesterday and hopefully will again today.

Meanwhile, good luck! And know that you're not alone. There's another crazed writer in East TN going through the same thing.

(Oh, I've had 9 books "write themselves." That's a little less than 10% of them over 23 years, which I suppose is better than nothing.)

Sue-Ellen Welfonder said...

Well, I can't say that the end stretch of a book is any more difficult than the beginning or the middle. But I can tell you that, for me, it is the start of each new chapter that I find excruciating.

And, yes, I do mean each and every one. No matter the book. Whenever I must face a blank screen and blinking cursor and know I must start a new chapter, I am lamed. It is so very easy to convince myself that every book, every chapter, even every line I have written before, was an entire fluke or that I simply haven't anything else to say. Even if I know exactly what I need to write, which, by the way, I always do!

Sometimes when this happens, a lovely reader e-mail will magically arrive and that reader's warm words about my books will break the dread new-chapter-curse.

But more often than not, I must simply push myself to start writing and then - lo! - somehow the 'knot' loosens and the words flow again. Until I finish that particular chapter and must start a new one.

So I think JoAnn's advice is spot on: just do it. Hard work, determination, and elbow grease, seem to be the only way to really finish a book.

Just know that you are not alone. I suspect all of us have our own writing bugbears. Good luck to you in out-tricking yours.

Sue-Ellen Welfonder

Allie Mackay said...

Hah! Ignore everything Sue-Ellen just said. Of course books write themselves. All the time, in fact. And there certainly aren't any bugbears lurking about trying to undermine our efforts. Not dread-new-chapter curses, sagging middles, or even end-of-the-book blues.

I should know, after all. The pages of my own books appear like magic at the end of each day. And I never lift a finger to write them!

Of course, please do not tell that to Sue-Ellen. If she knew how much I enjoy watching her slave away, penning my tomes, I would surely be in hot water in quick-time. E-gads! Might even have to join the rest of you in lamenting the various bugbears writers love to complain about.

So I will just wish you all the best in defeating yours and take my exit. I think Sue-Ellen's little dog is ready for a walk again ....

JoAnn Ross said...


That's partly why I never break my books into chapters until I'm finished. I couldn't do that in the olden days of smaller computer memories when files had to be saved in shorter bits. But now I just write and write (and edit and edit), then when I read the final hardcover print-out all in one -- or two -- sittings, I finally put in the chapter breaks. Which I'm now doing on the book that has to be turned in today.

Btw, I'm not sure if you're aware of it or not, but I don't believe Allie has your best interests at heart. LOL

L. Faye Hughes said...

Thanks, guys! I knew you would all understand.

JoAnn, that is great advice you got from LH. She's right. We just gotta suck it up and write the damn thing.

And you realize one of your pseudonyms was getting snarky with you? LOL.

Hey, Christie! Glad to see you. And a warm welcome to milady insanity, too. (Love that name, btw!)

Okay, gang, I'm heading back to work.

Sue-Ellen Welfonder said...

Oooh, JoAnn,

Thank you so much for posting such an excellent tip re facing down the blank screen at the beginning of a new chapter. This sounds like a splendid method and I will certainly try it.

As for Allie, yes, I'm afraid she does as she pleases. I will have to do something about how often she walks my dog, though. I do not want the little bugger to forget me.

Maybe I'll suggest Allie should spend her free time doing laundry or the dishes. Now that would be nice!

Sue-Ellen Welfonder

Teresa Bodwell said...

I'll jump in. Why do writers love to talk about the agony of writing? It is agony--it's pulling teeth, it's sweating blood--almost all of the time.

I do have a techno-tip for avoiding that blank page. I use PowerWriter. You don't have to plunge right in to writing the actual scene, but can work on things like the list of what must be accomplished, how this scene is going to move things forward. Sometimes it helps.

Allison Brennan said...

Very interesting how you all do it.

Every book is different. THE PREY I started ages ago. It sat for 2 years. I picked it up, thought the premise was cool, and deleted everything after the first chapter (I had over 300 pages.) I wouldn't say the book wrote itself, but I didn't agonize over it.

THE HUNT I jammed for the first 210 pages . . . then I was stuck. For months. Had no idea what was going to happen. I THOUGHT I knew what should happen, but every time I started the chapter, it didn't feel right. Finally, i skipped that part, LOL, and jumped ahead and the rest of the book went smoothly. Until my editor got it and I dumped 300+ pages and started over . . . but those revisions went really smoothly.

THE KILL beginning flew beautifully . . . the ending I wrote over and over and over. Unlike you, Faye, my first draft is never a final draft. I write, delete, write, delete, kill someone, unkill them. Back and forth. Ugh.

JoAnn, you're not the first person I've heard about who doesn't put in chapter breaks until the book is done. I've never thought of that. I don't think I could do it, but it's interesting!

Alfie said...

Hey Faye,

Loved your post. Been there, done that. Just in case it might help, I'll offer one of the Quick Tips from my book, Lights! Camera! Fiction: A Movie Lover's Guide to Writing A Novel.
When I'm having trouble getting started, I print out the last couple of pages I wrote and then delete them from the file. (The number of pages depends on the degree of difficulty I'm having getting started and the length of time I've been away from the manuscript. I've done from a couple of paragraphs up to 8 pages.) After I delete them, I type them back in. The act of rereading and typing gets me in back the "go" mode, back into the mood I was in when I wrote them and back into the story. Try it. It may work for you, too.

L. Faye Hughes said...

Thanks, Alfie!

I do that (sort of) now. I read through the ending of the previous scene/chapter and then pick up the thread from there.

And Allison, I think your examples illustrate how every book is a little different. Some are harder, others easier. (Well, in theory, anyway. lol.)

Thanks, guys!

Colleen Thompson said...

I can offering you nothing but the satisfaction of knowing you're not the only one currently struggling with an ending. I'm about 70 pages out, too, and can barely sleep for struggling to figure out what's once more turned into a very complicated plot. I even had a nightmare I was given birth to this creature who was ripping me apart while a furious, frustrated doctor screamed and raged at it. Either the baby was the book or I need urgent psychiatric care!

Some books are definitely tougher than others, but for me, nearly every ending is a struggle. This one's really surprised me, though, because the first 300+ pages came so easily.

Good luck with yours!