Revision 03a: Carrot or Carrot?

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My only method for finishing a terminally boring manuscript is bribing the Muse.

Mine will not be bullied. Some people can say, “If I don’t finish this, I don’t get to watch my favorite TV show, or I have to do extra exercise or scrub the toilet.” If I’m royally stuck, I’d rather scrub my toilet — and yours, too — than stare at the screen with nothing happening behind my eyes. If nothing else, when I get jammed, the house gets clean and organized and I get fitter.

Bribes, though, can be very small and cheap. Free, even. Like a sense of accomplishment.

I make a list of all the scenes and bits that need finishing. I print it out, and get to cross off completed items. This To Do list proves motion toward the goal to me. To me, that’s a reward, with a sparkly completed manuscript at the end.

But I also examine that list. It may be time to change some things.

First, I ask why I’m bored. Is it dull? The reader will think so, too, so I need to introduce something exciting or even turn the scene inside out (this can change the plot, but usually for the better). If it’s incurably dull but necessary — I cut that scene and sum things up in a Tell, if that much. You probably will find this improves the pacing no end.

If the problem is plot fizzle, then it’s time to invent some sparklers and fountains. In short, re-examine it and make it zing. This is revising the original idea, but no one said you couldn’t! That’s what revision is about: re-envisioning and changing things. You don’t have to finish a draft of a bad idea. Stop and make it good. This alone can restore the fun and re-excite you into finishing.

Double-check to make sure that you aren’t actually cringing at how bad this seems now. That’s another problem, not boredom.

When I absolutely can’t get going, I put “*****” at every gap (I’m a grasshopper, not a railroader). Then I go to each one in turn and write one sentence forward. Just one, if that’s all I’m capable of. “C’mon,” I tell myself, “you ought to know by now at least ten words’ worth of forward info.” Don’t limit yourself to one sentence if more arrives, but force at least one.

By the third time through, if not sooner, I’ll write somewhere to a scene finish, if only not to see the rest again. Then I can take a break.

Railroaders — you can stand anything not physically damaging for 15 little minutes. Pull your head together. Start the timer* and type fast for 15 minutes with no pauses whatever. Type anything to do with the scene. It doesn’t have to be pretty or salable (crafters, loosen up). If desperate, interrogate the scene.

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*Every writer needs a 15-minute timer, whether a software alarm or a wind-up plastic chicken. You will find me sharing several writing kinks that require a timer. It works because you don’t have to watch a clock, but can concentrate on the writing. Clock-watching can be an excuse to not really write, when all these involve diving in and doing nothing but writing in order for them to work.

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One response »

  1. Pingback: Revision 03: Dead in Its Tracks: What’s Stalling Completion | hollyiblogs

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