Even if you haven’t seen Groundhog Day, you’re probably familiar with the premise: a guy goes to a town. He has a day. And the next morning, he wakes up, and it’s the same day. He ends up living the same day—with variations—over and over until the end of the movie.
What do you do when writing starts to feel like that?
What do you struggle with most when it comes to writing?
My greatest flaw is simply finishing a project. I don’t mean going through a draft, rounds of revising and editing and polishing. I mean finishing that first draft. In the nearly 2 decades I’ve been writing, I have yet to finish anything longer than about 10 pages (and short stories never feel really finished). Every time, it comes down to one thing.
I rewrite the opening.
And rewrite it.
And plot how it could be more effective.
And then I rewrite it again.
It hasn’t proved very effective, because it does two things:
1) It perpetuates the state of “unfinished.”
2) It makes me grow tired of the story.
Each is problematic in its own way. The first is fairly obvious: if I constantly restart, of course I’ll never reach the finish line.
The second is what I’ve realized as I’ve been working on Camp NaNoWriMo (check out my progress). See, now that I’ve completed replotting both of my WIPs, I’ve started the process of rewriting them to update as appropriate for the characters and plot adjustments.
Unfortunately, everything is so familiar that I’m starting to bore myself and to doubt myself. It’s not a good feeling. I feel as though I’ve written and rewritten these openings a million times (though this is, at most, the third time) and that I can’t seem to blend the best of all of them together. I can’t seem to give it new flavor.
I can’t seem to make the variation interesting.
Some scenes are easier to write than others, and I’ve found that revising on a scene-by-scene basis is relatively helpful. That I can do without running into too much trouble—but it doesn’t necessarily solve the problem in the first place.
So how am I still making progress?
I’m switching projects whenever I run into trouble. If I’m struggling with Kadabra Way, I move on to Folded Red Sheet, and vice versa. The scene itself may not be appealing, per se, but the change of pace leaves my mind fresher than before. It’s a change of scenery. It puts me in a different mental state, and I’m somehow able to push through. (Sometimes, I even work on blog posts instead of Camp NaNoWriMo.)
All the word sprints. I prefer sprinting with people, because it keeps me on track and I like seeing how others are doing, but I’ll even do these on my own (as I did Thursday night). I set a timer, and write until my computer starts beeping at me. I don’t recommend this for people who don’t react well to timed pressure, but I’ve found that pressure helps me get my butt in gear just enough to get even a couple hundred words in. And that’s enough. I can even get into a rhythm, into that state of flow, and it ends up much better than expected.
More conflict! ‘Nuff said. Or not? Ratchetting up that tension—be it for external reasons, for conflict between characters, internal conflict wreaking havoc on the character’s psyche… it injects a sort of energy into the writing process. Writing arguments is (in my opinion) much more fun to write than characters getting along. I find coming up with good insults difficult, but fun.
Am I the only one who struggles with this? I hope not – and I’d love to hear any strategies you use to freshen up your writing when it starts to feel a little too much like last time.
Safe travels and happy writing!