I was just talking with a lovely, talented author about a novel she’s working on. She’s having doubts and we were brainstorming how the story could unfold. I started suggesting solutions, rattling them off…..as I tend to do. And she laughed and said, “But this is so practical.”
“Well, yes. I am practical. Sometimes solutions aren’t that complicated. Sometimes it’s a structural problem or the story needs a quirky, fun character to lighten it.”
And that’s the truth. Story problems and writing doubts and even writing paralysis aren’t always the end of things. Often aren’t even terribly complicated. (more on this in a later post) And often they’re the beginning of something better.
If you’re struggling it doesn’t mean you’re too old, or too young, or too hardened or too fragile or broken down. It doesn’t mean you need to wrestle with a story that’s not working for the next five years. It means you need to search for a practical way to dig out where you’re stuck. Do you know why your characters think/believe as they do? Do you know what’s screwing up your characters? Do you know how your story will end? Or what you like about your characters?
Take writing seriously, take your career seriously, but don’t turn it into a tragic exercise in self -flagellation. Don’t spend too much time worrying about why you’re writing. Write.
Here’s what I told this author who has already had four books published: When you’re choosing/beginning a story it’s like adopting a family. Choose a family you can live with for a year or so. Choose a family so that when you sit down at your computer, you’re inspired to share their secrets and fears and joys. You’re going to have lots of intimate contact with them. You’ll be driving the same car, using the same bathroom, sleeping on the same pillow. So choose wisely and make sure some fun is involved along with the conflict and pain necessary for storytelling.
Keep writing, keep dreaming, have heart