Sunday, August 13, 2017

Ennui

Once again I am stalled, at a standstill, bereft of ambition, without energy, and otherwise lack the willingness to write a single word on my many, many WIPs.  This has happened before (witness my earlier posts) so I know I will eventually recover from this condition.  It isn't Writer's Block,which shuts down the creative engine, that afflicts me.  Lord knows I can still pound out glowing sentences had I the spirit to do so.  Nor is it a lack of ideas: I've never been without for more than a few days, some of which have eventually turned into a story. No, this just seems like I lack the driving energy to produce anything important .*

I wonder how many other writers have periods like this?  Do they stew over their lack of progress or choose to work on equally challenging, non-writing activities? Do they read the stories of better writers, of which there are too many, or drink themselves into oblivion, sometimes with alcohol, but more frequently coffee, while they stare at the blank white screen?

It's not that I haven't been productive.  My collection of favorite stories I have written in the last decade came out in April.  I have two stories awaiting publication at Analog and have submitted two more that I am confident will be accepted.  I've just had my story "Yesterday's Solutions" published on the X-Prize contest site. A reprint of my short-short story "Delivery" appears in the recent "Stories for the Throne" anthology, and I've got a Shardie novel coming out in the fall.

So why am I experiencing an overwhelming feeling of ennui; a disinterest in producing yet another page or two? Am I burning out? Is it a fear that continuing to produce stories will confirm my inadequacy as a writer? Is it doubt in my own ability to write something worth reading? Or is it the certain  knowledge that I live with all the time that nobody really gives a damn about me or my stories?

Are these the reasons I lack the energy to hammer away at the writing anvil?


* Turning 80 does that to a man

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Monday, August 7, 2017

Tugging the Lose Thread

The Law of Cascading Consequences states that you cannot make a simple change in a story once you've begun writing the draft.  As the story acquires words, thoughts, and scenes the smallest, least significant change will affect your entire story. Tugging at a story's tiny bothersome thread sometimes unravels the writer's initial conception.

Most writers begin with a somewhat formed idea of what they want to accomplish before they type that first word of a draft.  The writer might believe they are in control of their characters, settings, and time frames.  They also sort of know the core of what they want the piece to express as they type, type, type in an effort to reach that end and, before they know it they have a sizable chunk of text.

As they edit the first draft (which is the beginning of the second) they decide to alter the text and, taking the metaphoric pen in hand, make a small, change, only to discover as they continue to edit, that change has cascaded and requires further "adjustments."  For example, a change to a single character's response to an event early in the story colors subsequent appearances of that character because that small change requires that there be an underlying reason for their response. This can easily be handled by scribbling a line or two.

But that explanation alters the character's personality and, accordingly, affects every character that observed their response. Depending on their reaction their depiction too must change and,suddenly, without intending it, the second draft takes on an entirely different color and you realize that your well written second draft needs more revision and, in the process the writers realizes that wonderful scene they sweated blood and tears to get "right" in the initial draft has become irrelevant.

Slight changes continue to occur during the many, many attempts at achieving a "clean" draft and  each has a similar compounding effect.  Although this seems frustrating, it is a necessary part of the creative process as the writer sharpens their vision.

The cascading consequences of changes in subsequent drafts can be increasingly devastating especially when necessary in the penultimate draft (which was amusingly thought might be the final one.) This causes the writer to question why they even started writing their tangled prose and wonder at their ability to write coherently.

Not that this ever happens to me.






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