Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Wall

I have previously blogged about The Swamp, my own personal name for writer's block. Now I'd like to talk about The Wall. The Wall is completely different from The Swamp. You might think it would be a good thing to have a Wall around your Swamp - to keep the neighbors from falling in, etc.

But The Wall is not good. Not Good At All. And yet, apparently no novel would be complete without it.

I've been working on my current manuscript, the Post-Apocalyptic YA story, since April. I hit The Wall about ten days ago, coincidentally around the 100 page mark. That would be the 50% or less mark. I usually slam right into that wall around the 2/3rd's mark. (That would be 67%. Although The Wall makes me feel fractious, I did not intend this blog post to be a lesson on fractions.) (Hey, is there any pie left?)

I have yet to meet a wall-free novelist. If you haven't guessed already, The Wall is that sharp and sudden decompression, that violent impact with an invisible barrier, that abrupt and total loss of confidence in what you're writing. Or your writing, in general. Quite possibly, in yourself!

Writing a novel is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes a long time, and during that long time, at least once, you're going to hit the wall. Everything will be going swimmingly and then suddenly, without warning, you realize your beloved tale is TERRIBLE. It's AWFUL. It's HORSE PUCKEY!!!

Worse, it CANNOT BE SALVAGED because you SUCK.

I wonder how many first-time novelists have quit forever when that horrible wall rose up and menaced them?

Experienced writers know that The Wall is simply part of the process. Perhaps even a necessary (?) part of the process. Hopefully, it does not result in the complete loss of your self-esteem as a writer and a human. It can even be put to good use. Take it as an opportunity to objectively think about your story. Any major gaps in the plot? Bogging down a bit in chapter two? Got the balance right between narrative and dialogue? Is the first page as kickass as possible? Have you thrown in the pack of wild dogs yet? Does the world really need another post-apocalyptic YA book?

Well, duh, of course it does! :-)

Like The Swamp, The Wall can be overcome with perseverance. Don't give up, Aspiring Writer. It's just another one of those mind-*&^%$#@!ing tricks our brains like to play on us. I've been warned about another one - the one where you're more than halfway through the book and suddenly your cerebral cortex comes up with an Awesome, Totally Amazing Idea For ANOTHER Book. In general, I agree that this is just a distraction that you need to ignore while you finish the book you're working on. In general, I agree with that. In specific, however, I have another name for that idea-your-brain-comes-up-with-for-a-second-book-while-you're-struggling-to-write-the-first-one. And that name is SHADOW POINT.

So, in writing, as in life, it's good to know the pitfalls, know the tricks, persevere and sometimes break the rules anyhow.


Then, have some pie.

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