There’s nothing worse than a story that just won’t come together.
I’ve got main characters, I’ve got secondary and tertiary characters, I’ve got backstory, I’ve got plot threads, I’ve got dark and gritty, I’ve got humorous and light, I’ve got a beginning and an end, and hell, I’ve even got a theme. (And clearly I also have a list.) The spark of inspiration came from a couple pieces of artwork (see below) that I’ve printed up and now have hanging on my wall, and I’m aching to get to work on this novel.
But I can’t.
So what’s the problem? Am I out of pens? Out of paper? Has my keyboard blown up? Do I have no blood with which to write on the walls like Geoffrey Rush in the movie Quills?
No. No, no, and no.
The problem is that no matter what I do, the damn thing won’t gel. The story won’t crystalize into something substantial, something that can be put on the page, something that can be told with any coherency.
I’ve brainstormed. I’ve scribbled down notes about scenes and put them in order. I’ve got a massive Evernote ‘notebook’ full of reminders and ideas and notations. I’ve begged, I’ve pleaded, I’ve kicked things, I’ve taken naps, I’ve banged my head into walls, and I’ve collapsed from frustration. (And I apparently made another list: Cari’s Recommended Process for Story Development.)
Because if a piece won’t come together, if it’s refusing to work, then there’s something wrong.
I’ve learned that. I’m not published or well-known (or known at all, not even a little bit), but I’ve been doing this writing thing long enough to know that if I’m having this much trouble, a fundamental aspect is amiss. Is it something I can fix, or is it something that will force me to scrap it for parts?
There’s no way at this point of knowing if I can make it right, not until I’ve put the work in to figure out just what element is wrong. And that’s a lot of work that might be all for naught if I have to send it to the recycle bin.
But I’ll still do the work. Time and effort and aggravation and tears—I’ll go through all of it, all for the chance of satisfaction at the end. Disappointment if the story is no good; exhilaration if I’m victorious.
(Somewhere my mother is wishing I’d put even a fraction of this determination into things like ‘homework’ or ‘cleaning the house’ when I was younger. I’m not sorry.)
Because writing is work. Writing is hard. It’s not my job, so I don’t technically have to do it. But I love it. That satisfaction when I get an idea to come together. The pleasure of putting my own words down. The triumph when I sign and date the finished work. That’s why I do this.
Assuming, of course, I can manhandle this into some sort of coherent, engaging narrative instead of the murky amoeba it currently is. If I succeed, then my tale gets told. If I fail, then the amoeba eats my brain.
Worth the risk.
(Artwork by Zak Smith)