Zel Update: Getting Unstuck

First of all, the Mini NaNo. Yeah. Heh. Well, I didn’t get to my goal on it, so I guess that kind of failed, but I still wrote 7,000 words in one week, which is more than I was writing before, so it sort of did accomplish my goal.

During the middle of the Mini NaNo, I had a bit of writer’s block. Or maybe something else–whatever you want to call it, I just couldn’t write the scene I was working on. I couldn’t really write anything.

I’ve been stuck before in my writing, and usually I just keep writing random stuff until I get to a point where I feel unstuck again, but this time I didn’t feel like that would work.  Either that, or I didn’t want to continue slogging through this sludgy writing.

So I became unstuck. It took a little over an hour of rambling to some friends, but it was really quite simple to fix. It followed this simple formula:

  1. Find out the problem or inconsistency.
  2. Understand how to make the problem or inconsistency correct again.
  3. Go back and begin writing where the problem began, this time using the correct way you developed in step 2.

So, it seems simple, but how does one go about doing this? Well, here’s how I began. As I was rambling to my friends, I started by listing some things that seemed to be off about my writing, even if I wasn’t so sure why they were off.

Take a wild guess at who happened to be off? Yup, it was Cren. *glares fondly* is glaring fondly possible? Okay, Zel was being problematic too, I guess, but I enjoy glaring at Cren. Actually, *glares at both of them*.

Right. So after I did some glaring at my characters, I decided to ramble a bit about what I felt was wrong with them at the moment. First I talked about Zel, and then I talked about Cren for a while, exploring what I knew about their personalities and how they were acting now.

The problem was that they were both acting way too nice to each other.

I’d already decided that Cren was judgmental, so he wouldn’t suddenly start being nice to Zel, who he’s only known as a murderer. And Zel is so determined to further her own purposes that the only reason she’d be nice to Cren is if she wanted something from him.

Next, I followed step 2: how to make the problem right again. Pretty much, the answer was to express their true views of each other better by having their words, thoughts, and actions be not quite so nice, since that’s what they’d normally do.

Most of step 2 I kind of skipped until I was actually writing again, but just getting into my characters’ skins and thinking about how they think and act helped me do this.

And step 3. That was problematic, because while the problem had worsened over the last 1000 words, this odd niceness had been going on for chapters. And this was a first draft–one of those things you’re supposed to write as quickly as you can to get the story out before even thinking about making it nice.

Going back several chapters and starting writing again from there was not going to work, not if I wanted to finish by April (which is hopefully still happening, but aahahhh I’m not sure on that).

Instead, I wrote a note to myself, explaining that when I revised those past few chapters I would need to use Cren and Zel’s correct personalities, and from now on I would be. And then I tried to write, pretending I’d fixed it.

That was kind of hard for me, since I write very chronologically, and a lot of what I write in later chapters is based on or has references to earlier chapters, so just pretending that I wrote an entire section seemed difficult when it hadn’t actually happened and I had no real material to draw from when I continued writing.

So I switched a few things, though only a few. I did decide to restart the chapter I was on instead of continuing with the horrible few hundred I’d already written, and I did change from Zel’s POV to Cren’s POV, since it seemed to fit better.

But once I started writing, it worked out really, really well. Zel and Cren’s conversation (or I should say “argument”) flowed together way better than they had before, and the chapter was overall much easier to write.

I think the hour that I spent following that formula was more productive than spending two hours or more continuing to write in false personalities for my characters. Taking the time to think about who my characters really were helped me write better, and I recommend the formula for anyone who is feeling stuck in writing. It really does help.

Oh, and one more Zel update for those of you who are more romantically-minded. I was writing on my google doc, and wrote a sentence that started with, “Walking over to Cren, Zel…”

“Cren, Zel” got underlined with red. When I clicked to see what the suggestion was, it gave me “Crenzel”, but when I looked to see if there was a definition for that, there wasn’t one.

It’s meant to be…even Google wants “Crenzel” to be their ship name. 😀

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