Saturday, June 25, 2011

Ebbing Enthusiasm: When Excitement Begins to Fade

                You have it. The perfect story. An idea that makes your heart sing, plot threads that come together like the ones in a beautiful hand-woven blanket, and characters that seem to say, “Hey, you’ve been working hard. Why not let me take over the keyboard for a while? Sit back and relax.”

                Your new novel is on track to be the best you’ve ever written. You’re excited enough to blab about it to anyone who will listen.

                And then things start to slow down.

                You’re past the superb beginning that caught your attention in the first place, and are fast approaching the expansive, sprawling middle regions. You notice a few tangles in your plot threads, and wonder if your first few pages were as brilliant as you thought. Your characters get bored, push the keyboard back into your hands, and make a run for the TV.

You’re tempted to join them.

All writers hit this stage at some point, and it’s one of the largest obstacles to finishing that rough draft we all want to hold in our hands. It’s the stage where a story turns from play to work, and the stage when you’re most likely to let the story slide. There’s always another idea, or activity, or TV show to get excited about.

We all struggle with it. So what can we do?

In my last post I talked about the writers’ conference that had just ended, and how I was all excited and refreshed and eager to get writing.

And then I went to camp for a week, where there were no laptops or internet.

I brought notebooks and a plethora of pens, but there wasn’t a ton of free time. They kept us busy, and while I came up with an idea for a short story/novel and maybe found a few little insights into one of my main characters, I didn’t get a whole lot of writing done.

I got home, checked Facebook, email, blogger, Young Writers Society, and all the other websites I look at from day to day. And then I stared at the screen thinking “What do I work on now?”

Not, “Oh, my word, I have so many ideas bubbling up that I don’t know which one to begin with!”

Just… “Hm. I should write. Ideas, ideas… I should come up with a few of those.”

I was so excited about writing when I left, and I yearned to write all throughout camp, but I could feel the fervor dwindling more and more each day. Before I even had the chance to start something, the enthusiasm began to shrivel.

I’m still going to write, of course. But I might not be as happy about doing it as I would’ve been, had I started earlier.

Which brings us back to that question: What do we do to combat waning interest in a story?

·         Write a little every day. Even if it’s just for fifteen minutes, don’t let yourself stop. Once one day slips past with no changes to your document, it won’t be long before the next slips past. And then the next, and then the next… And your story will slowly become submerged in a pile of expired ideas.

·         Take breaks. This oft-repeated tip also applies to combatting writers’ block. Watch some TV, read a good book, maybe even hop on the treadmill and let the ideas roll around as you combat Couch Potato Syndrome. Remember the first tip, and don’t let your ‘break’ turn into a four-year hiatus, but avoid making your writing time into a chore. If your words are forced, the reader will notice. Take some time out every once in a while to lift some weights, munch some junk food, or go watch some TV with your characters. Maybe it’ll spark a new idea in regards to your story, or maybe just temporarily restraining yourself will be enough to bring back some of the enthusiasm you began with, back when you couldn’t wait to sit down at the computer and write.

·         Look for things to get excited about. Maybe you’ve already finished the section that you’d been planning from the very beginning, but that doesn’t mean your story is over. Whether it’s a new plot twist or the discovery that the villain is allergic to one of the side character’s pets, new revelations about your story will pop up all over the place. Every time you find out something new about your story, get excited about it! Use the small ideas as springboards, launching you closer and closer to the finish line.

·         Spend some time with other writers. Join a website for writers, or read an author’s blog, or – if you have the opportunity – sign up for a conference. Talking with other writers about writing always makes me feel more like a writer myself, and it makes me crave my stories more than ever.

Obviously, this is still something I struggle with, too, but hopefully these tips can help you next time the enthusiasm starts to fade.
Is this something you struggle with? What do you do when excitement dwindles?

Keep writing, guys. I’ll be trying to regain some enthusiasm, and figuring out what more I can do with this blog, and maybe sitting down with some characters to watch some cartoons for a while.

No comments:

Post a Comment