Tag Archives: experiment

When at First You Fail, Try Again, and Again, and Again…

I think I may have touched on this at some point in the past, but I wanted to expand a little bit more because I find myself in this situation, unfortunately, more than I like to admit.

Being bored with what you’re writing, stalling out, avoiding it, not being sure where to go from that point, is not near the worst feeling I get about a story, but it’s still frustrating. You stare at the screen, or you do all sorts of other work, tab out, look at other sites, instead of writing. And then you look at the clock and sigh and realize how much time you’ve wasted not writing. This is especially bad for NaNoWriMo because every minute in the day is absolutely crucial. Or, when you’ve got a deadline due.

Nothing is quite as flustering as having to make the most of your time and yet not being able to go forward.

The best advice in this situation, for me, has been a phrase about perspective, how if you change yours, then you’ll see a situation differently. It’s something used most often with fights and controversy, but it works too for writing, I’ve found.

Desiree sighed as she stared up at the large rock wall. 

The sentence makes you pause and stare and eventually you’re looking somewhere else for entertainment than your own writing. You become stuck because something put you in a corner that you’re trying to get out of, but there’s no way out that you like.

So look at it from a different angle. What was Desiree doing when she got to the rock wall? How long did it take her to get ready, what else was going on prior to this moment that maybe you could expand upon?

It took her longer than she wanted to get ready, but she could still feel the nerves and jitters about climbing the wall.

You have more of a way out here. There are other things to talk about past the first sentence and more ways to transition through to the actual task at hand that you want to write about.

Don’t let a single view throttle your ambition or your story. Experiment, look around, try to find different ways to go about it. When you limit yourself to a single path, you find yourself less satisfied than you would if you had several options, and, again, you trap yourself.

If it’s not a reflective or slow part of the story, instead fast paced, and maybe action packed, the same still applies, but let’s go with a different example.

Bernard took in a deep breath and leaned back against the wall, trying hard to keep himself quiet. 

The same happens here where you lose interest. Some may not. You might look at it and just find yourself stopped. Stuck, caught up in something else and disinterested all of a sudden. It may be what he’s doing instead of how you write it in this case, that you can’t see yourself writing him in a way that has him forcing himself to be quiet.

What can he do differently? Do you see him fighting back, reloading his blaster/rifle, or is he trying to get the emergency back up?

There are always a lot of possibilities, and ideas are everywhere. Don’t write things off immediately, give yourself a chance to try different things, to see what may or may not work. With limited time, you may not have the ability to take a break like you want, but you can still refresh your head and get back in the game if you cycle through other options.

Don’t let the story defeat you, you own the story. Show it who’s boss. 😉

– The Novice Wordsmith

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Guest Post: You and Your Genre Shadow

As the Novice Wordsmith and I start gearing up for this year’s NaNoWriMo in November, I always start playing with genre ideas. And whenever someone asks what they should write about, I always answer with this:

“Well, what’s your genre?”

Without knowing the answer to that question, your novel is going to be an orphan plot idea and a character in search of a direction. You can have a great character concept, but without knowing what genre the story they star in falls into, you’re going to be going through the motions of living without much plot potential.

(Slice of Life is actually a genre type. It’s used for sitcoms most often.)

Some genres define the universe (Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Steampunk for example), and some define the type of plot (Mystery, Drama, Crime, Romance), and others classify the expectations of how the novel is written (Journal, Young Adult, Advice). It’s a box that when someone opens the cover, they know what kind of things lie inside the pages.

It’s easy to pick your favorite genre and write in it exclusively. Your writing voice is all about comfort, because if you aren’t comfortable with what you’re writing, you won’t want to write it, usually. But as Wordsmith alluded to in a previous post, you can push the envelope of your comfort zone. Why write what you usually write, especially when you’re just getting started? The first novel or story you write is to prove that you can finish what you start. But that doesn’t have to be your genre.

Some folks like writing along similar lines. They have a favorite genre that they live in, because their writing flows naturally to that place. They fall in love with their personally crafted universe and stay there. They become a genre author without even realizing it, because they think, ‘Oh, why stop at one novel, why not a trilogy, or a series?’

The best and worst thing to be is known as a specific genre author, because you wind up writing more and more of that genre. You wind up with fans of your work and they judge your new book in the same genre (if not the same universe) by the previous ones. If you write something new in a different genre, it will be compared to your other genre and you will be measured. “Eh, so and so writes better SF books than fantasy.” This is nothing wrong, necessarily, because sometimes _readers_ prefer one genre over others, and when you, ‘their’ author, write out of their genre, they’re going to be a harder sell.

My advice to you is to push yourself. Deliberately write in different genres just to see if other ones work for you. Don’t just write in the same space of your favorite authors – go to the library or bookstore and go to a different section. Pick out a book by an author that has a lot of titles on the shelf, and flip through a few pages. See if the style and feel is alien to you, or makes sense.

Then write in that genre the next time you put pen (electronic or otherwise) to paper (ditto). See what happens.

If you want to get fancy and go for even more challenging? Do a mashup of genres. Don’t just say, ‘I’m writing a horror novel.’ Try ‘steampunk/mystery’ or ‘horror/journal’, or go out on a limb and try ‘science-fiction/advice/journal’ — that last one, by the way, is how I would classify the Zombie Survival Guide.’

The point of getting out of ‘your’ genre is not just to push you to do something different, by the way – it’s a growth experiment. If you want to be a paid author, but the market that your genre fits into is saturated, you should be able to shift gears and write in spaces where the market needs stories.

Not only that? It avoids getting into novels that are superficially similar to each other; some series authors fall into that sort of trap. Expanding your repertoire of writable genres means that you can get away from ‘home’ and find an adventure waiting to happen by the side of the proverbial author’s road, no matter how alien it may seem at first.

When I participate in the NaNoWriMo, I look at what I did last year — genre first, and say, “I am not doing that genre this year.” It’s another way of writing without looking back.