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Why did I ever commit to this piece of garbage?

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This is number thirty-seven in the blog series, “My Life in Erotica.” I encourage you to join my Patreon community so I can afford to keep writing.

AS YOU KNOW BY NOW, I write my blog posts weeks in advance so my editor can have a crack at telling me how I need to improve them. So, this post was originally penned in mid-October for release on the third Sunday of November.

How could I possibly know, a month in advance, my NaNoWriMo novel would be garbage and I’d regret committing to it?

It happens every year on every project I start.

I spent twenty years researching and planning the Nathan Everett book, The Gutenberg Rubric. I decided this book would be carefully constructed. I would write slowly and meticulously. For a symbolic start, I wrote the first words on January 1, 2009. By August 10th, I had just 42,000 words.

And I hated them all!

I was despondent. This was the book I had been planning for twenty years. Why was it so terrible?
Well, I’ve told the story of my brilliant editor, Jason Black, reading and commenting on the work, giving me direction over the things I couldn’t see. I put the manuscript away for three months and began again on November 1, 2009. Yes, from scratch. I wrote the first words on a blank page.

The book won awards and sold several hundred copies. Not a “best seller” by NYT standards, but certainly my best seller.

Chris Batey, founder of NaNoWriMo, described the point where an author hates it all as ‘the wall.’ In the compressed timeframe of November, it comes crashing in all at once—usually in the third week. I’ve dedicated hours and hours of writing time in the first three weeks of the month, posting rough drafts for my Sausage Grinder patrons to read and comment on. As my fingers drag across the keyboard, I think, “Why did I ever commit to this piece of garbage?”

I have written pieces during NaNoWriMo that never got finished. I hit the 50,000-word goal, but I never finished writing the story. For example, in 2020, I started a story called “It Ain’t Immortality, But…” The premise was that a man with a heart condition nearly dies and is told he is terminally ill. He is recruited by a doctor to participate in an experimental restoration treatment that will return him to the health he would normally enjoy as a thirty-year-old man in the prime of his vigor.

This sounds a little like a do-over, but isn’t. He still has the age he is recruited at. The treatment doesn’t color his gray hair or clear the wrinkles, though some of that is done simply because he becomes fitter and stronger. The problem is that when he gets out of treatment and has this new lease on life, I needed to do something with him. He needed a life, and that was what I wasn’t prepared for. If he goes back to his former sedentary lifestyle, he will age again, even more rapidly. Young women aren’t particularly interested in him because he is neither young nor wealthy. What do I do with him?

When I wrote Nathan Everett’s A Place at the Table, I envisioned a trilogy. The second volume would be A Place Among Peers, and I began writing it in January of 2021. At 80,000 words, I realized I had written myself into a corner. I have not returned to the manuscript since July of 2021. I think, however, that I will. I believe the story is worth telling, and that it will be among the next stories that I start to write again from a blank page. A Place at the Table is now available on Bookapy.

What does all that mean for The Staircase of Dragon Jerico?

Well, I am not abandoning the story. Like a marathon runner, I’m pushing through the wall. And I have some techniques that will help me continue, though they might not improve the quality of the story. Since I am writing this blog post five weeks before I hit the wall, I can’t be specific about what precise impediment the wall represents. I’ll have to unpack my tools and trust that I can pick the right one for the situation.

1. Radical readjustment. This is one of the beauties of having a plan. Let us assume that the story has somehow deviated from said plan and the problem is that I can’t find a path back to it. In a radical readjustment, I will simply stop the story where it is, look at where it should be in the plan, and start again from that point, regardless of what has gone before. This is one of the reasons books need to be edited after they are written. After the draft is finished, I’ll need to rewrite so the initial track leads to the second track.

2. Skip-to-my-Lou. Closely related to the Radical Readjustment, this one comes into play when I don’t know how to make the transition from where I am to where I want to be next. The answer is to simply skip to where I want to be and keep going. Later, I can come back to work on the transition. It’s less complicated than going back to rework half the story.

3. Prompt. Sometimes the problem is simply that I’m blocked by some issue or problem that has arisen for the characters. Writing prompts, of which there are thousands, are typically random thoughts or situations into which your character is suddenly thrust and you need to write about. For example: “Write a scene from the perspective of your story’s antagonist.” This forces a change in viewpoint and opinion. “Make your antagonist a hero for just one scene.” This prompt would force me to think of something good about the bad guy. It helps to round out a character.

4. Music. Identify what kind of music is playing in the MC’s head at this point in the story. Listen to it. What kind of mood does it put the MC in? How does it influence what the MC does next?

5. Interrupt. This is a generalization of the classic “A man with a gun enters the room.” What does that have to do with what is going on in your story? Nothing. It’s simply an interruption your characters must deal with before they can continue. Another classic is “The phone rang.” Or, “The baby cried.” The important thing here is that something interrupts the flow of action you are stuck in and you can pick it up again as soon as you handle the interruption.

6. Enter a word sprint. One of the great things about NaNoWriMo is the community. At nearly any time of day or night, I can contact a writing buddy and enter a word sprint. We’ll talk for a few minutes, then set a timer for fifteen minutes and see which of us can write the most words in that period of time. Then we’ll talk about whether any of them are leading to a breakthrough, then we’ll sprint again. The objective here is to disconnect the critical reader in our heads and let the free writer loose. Once again, I can fix a problem later. I can’t fix a blank page.

So, I have an arsenal of techniques that will help me break through the feeling that the story is hopeless and I should quit writing forever.

Just so you know, I’m not quitting.

Well, the US Thanksgiving Holiday is coming this week. I’ve made a reservation at a local restaurant for my ‘traditional’ prime rib dinner. Thanksgiving’s also a time traditionally reserved for catching up on NaNoWriMo for those who are behind. Then we have the ever-popular “Sprint to the Finish.” Next week.



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