You’ve slaved over your brilliant masterpiece for months–or even years–and finally, by some chance of fate, it ends up in my eager, avid-reader hands. So, what are the chances I’m going to make it to the end?
Without going into the usual discussion about interesting plot, compelling characters, and good worldbuilding… there are a few readerly irritations that seem to pop up again and again for me. Since I hate the phrase “pet peeves” (I might actually call it one, if I didn’t hate the phrase so much), here are some things that drive me (as a reader) up the wall, in no particular order:
My second draft of Chaos is complete at 163,020 words. This is actually the first time I’ve had a complete, consecutive manuscript with no holes and nothing missing–everything would make sense read front to back.
My husband was thrilled. This was the birthday present he’d specifically asked for, and I managed it 2 days early. My kids did a little happy dance around me in the kitchen, and my youngest (who was only a year and a half old when I began this project) offered me a celebratory sip of his juice in honor of the momentous occasion.
I recently listened to an older episode of the (brilliant) podcast Writing Excuses on the subject of Character Quirks. About halfway through the podcast, there was a bit of confusion when the contributors realized that they all had different interpretations of what a character quirk actually is.
CJ Jessop, a beta reader for Chaos, and one of my bestest writing buddies (whose contract-signing party I’m sure I’ll be vicariously attending very soon) has tagged me with a Q&A for my novel-in-progress. I suspect she did it because I sent her my most recent chapter two months ago and haven’t made any noises since.
The subject of villains came up between me and another writer friend who is plotting an arc for a very virtuous, idealistic, squeaky-clean sort of fellow who eventually turns entirely batsh*t-crazy-evil. How does one go about this? How do you convincingly portray the loss of respect for life that is necessary in this kind of Villain With a Capital V?
That is one hefty stack of paper. I’ve heard some writers say they prefer editing a hard copy of their manuscript, so on a whim I thought I’d give it a try.
Wow, did I underestimate what that would entail.
After blowing through one brand new ink cartridge on my printer, and draining most of a second, I chickened out and settled for just printing out Chapters 5-15.Yeah, that’s not the whole thing. It’s roughly 65,000 words–less than half of the total length. And I’m not even finished yet! I still have a few holes to plug, and I’m guessing I’ll have around 170,000 words once I’ve done.
In my last post, I regaled you with my multi-year misadventures in writer’s block. I like to think I’ve learned a bit from that, and how to avoid running into anything similar in the future. Hence… my thoughts on how to get unstuck.
Getting the motor running will probably require different things depending on how far you are in your project. We’ll start with the idea phase, the easiest thing to unstick. At the idea phase, you have some details nailed down, maybe a setting and a few characters, but you haven’t really firmed up a plot yet.
This is good! You’re not chained to anything, and you’re not paralyzed with fear that the thousands, tens of thousands, or (heaven forbid) hundreds of thousands of words you’ve already written might have been entirely in vain.
I began my current novel four years ago. I know, that sounds like forever. I wrote feverishly for two months, and at the end of that time I had about 70k words. Not too bad!
But oh, what’s this, now? An inconsistency in the plot?
It wasn’t really anything major, but I couldn’t let it sit. I couldn’t help but tug on it, like a loose sweater thread, and suddenly my entire story started to unravel. Now it wasn’t just one inconsistency that needed fixing, but by association the rest of the plot was cast into doubt. No matter which way I looked at it, I couldn’t figure my way out of the mess I’d created.