Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Unsticking The Sticky Wicket

I don't believe in Writer's Block.

That's right. I SAID IT.

Now, let me clarify. I don't believe in writer's block for me. I don't doubt there are lots of writers who would say they've suffered from the dreaded block, but for me, I just believe in my own laziness. As in, "I COULD write right now, but it would probably be hard, and watching TV/napping/reading/playing Chocolatier 3 would be ever so much easier."

However, I haven't found a way for those things to pay the bills (yet) and so I sit down and hammer out stuff even when I don't really feel like it. Case in point right now: REBEL BELLE.

Around Christmas, REBEL BELLE died going into its final turn. I mean, just completely stalled out. For weeks, I opened the file, stared at it for an hour, and shut off my computer. Then I got my AlphaSmart and started taking it to Starbucks, thinking that not staring at the whole manuscript and wondering, "Where did it go?" might help.

Instead, I'd fire up the old Alpha and spend the next few hours writing and deleting different paragraphs. Every day at the gym, I would jog on the treadmill while my brain circled the Gordian knot that had suddenly sprung up, but no solutions came to me. Then I got my BOOK THAT IS NOT DEMONGLASS edits, and all thoughts of RB went out the window. Until now.

All that thinking and deleting did help me figure out one thing, though. The problem is what I like to call the, "So This Is What The F&*k Is Going On" Scene (the STIWTFIGO, if you will.) You know what I'm talking about. It's one of the perils of writing any sort of fantasy/paranormal fiction. It's that moment when a character in the know sits down with your main character and tells them...well, what the f&*k is going on. The problem with this type of scene is that it runs the risk of becoming an infodump, and as we can all agree, infodumps=OMGBADNO!

AND have to explain WTF is going on. So you see the conundrum.

So this week, I did something I really don't like to do in an effort to save REBEL BELLE. I plotted.

Ugh. Just writing that down...I'm a dedicated "pantzer," or someone who flies by the seat of her pants while writing. I start with a basic idea, then I just sit down and start writing. That way, most of the plot twists surprise even me, and I feel like the story develops more organically. But the boondoggle that was REBEL BELLE demanded an outline in the hopes that I could see exactly where the snarl started, and- God willing- unravel it.

Now, I loathe formal outlines. I loathe writing them, I loathe reading them, and God knows I loathed teaching them. So instead of all that A) II) iii) business, I just typed out what would happen in REBEL BELLE in the simplest language possible.

This created an unintentionally hilarious document.

Some quotes:

"And even though she just killed a guy, she's worried about missing the crowning."

"But that was before he looked into time and all that bullshit, so he's fine now."

"So they make-out, but it's weird. Not BAD weird, but weird b/c of his sister."

"Then she has to fight his mom in the street."


On the upside, this crazy, crazy outline seems to have worked! REBEL BELLE is now chugging along again, complete with killing dudes, looking into time, making out, and fighting moms.


Maureen Lipinski said...

I actually did one of those weird outlines with my YA: "Even though he might kill her sister, she's cool with that b/c she needs his help."

Oh? And the infodump scene? In first drafts, mine always start out as a "As you know, Bob" dialogue scene. Which is also unintentionally hilarious.

Shelli (srjohannes) said...

good for you for hanging in there! what's an alphsmart - sounds very intellectual.

Carrie Harris said...

Oh, the dreaded infodump! I'm glad you figured it out and your wicket is now unsticketed.

Er... yeah.

Ronald L. Smith said...

The visual equivalent of the infodump is when, in a film, the Villan, while holding a weapon on the Good Guy, begins to expound on all the reasons that brought us to this moment. When he could just shoot/stab/zap the guy.

I am a pantzer, too. I love the organic process. So it's always a surprise when you say, Wow, that's cool. I don't really start to come up with an outline until the first draft is down on paper.

Rachel Hawkins said...

Maureen: HA! As you know, Bob dialogue cracks me up. And I saw it recently in a NYT bestseller! (Also, if stuff like people needing help from people who might kill their sisters in in THE BOOK RULEZ AND HAS IRISH STUFF IN IT, then I cannot wait to read it! Sounds fun!)

Shelli: An Alphasmart is a handheld word processor that basically looks like a giant calculator. Or a Speak-N-Spell. ;) It's great thought b/c it runs off batteries that last FOREVER, and you can take it anywhere. Plus it doesn't offer up distractions like the internet and solitaire!

Carrie: HEE! Dirty! ;)

Baltazar: Hooray for Pantzers! I'm all for the organic process. I mean, maybe if you write mystery novels or something, that's not such a great idea, but I can't imagine working any other way!