Saturday, August 29, 2009

Writing without inspiration

There are times when the story flows, when you can write one or two thousand words at a clip. There are times when the story takes over and you are amazed by the twists and turns that develop and the responses of the characters. There's no better feeling for a writer.

Then there's the opposite. This happens when you don't know what to say next, when you have to think about the story word by word and struggle through each new development, and it's hard work.

What then? Either you can give in and give up, for a while or for a long time, because you are "blocked." Or you can forge ahead anyway, without inspiration, in which case the writing likely feels stitled, overly artificial, and joyless.

I suppose that everyone who writes is familiar with these different experiences. And I suspect that it is the same with all creative endeavors.

Assuming you do forge ahead, writing slowly and painfully through your blockage right to the end of the story, the question is, What is the final result, and how does it differ from inspiried writing? And do you think your readers can tell the difference?

My hesitant opinion is that they will not know.


  1. You're right.

    I did an exercise earlier this year to beef up my persistence in production. I worked from January through April with a goal to produce at least 100 words every single day. And some of those days each and every one of those words was like pulling teeth.

    At the end of the exercise, I read through what I'd written and sure enough, it was seamless. Those short, choppy days when I fought for words read the same as those evenings when 1,000 words just wasn't enough.

    Perhaps those passages weren't quite as creative or "inspired" as my ideal manuscript, but they were actually written and no longer in my head.

  2. For me this is mostly correct. On the hard days, my beta readers can't tell the 300 word days from the 3,000 word days.

    But I do, on occasion, drop into The Zone. My 12,000 word day last year brought me nothing but accolades and it is, quite possibly, still the best thing I have ever written.

    Man, sometimes I feel myself falling into The Zone again, but I am a strange adult that, when tired, I go to bed.

  3. When the muse hits you, write like a madman/woman, when it doesn't you have to push through. Write anyway. Even if you throw it all away, you explored a direction.

    However, I doubt very much that it will have been a worthless effort. If you don't use it on this story, you might use it on the next.

  4. When all else fails, kill off a character.

    All kidding aside, if things are really getting bogged down, throw them for a loop and see how they react. If it doesn't work, you can always delete the words.

  5. I know what you mean. And for me, it usually means the storyline has gone AWOL and I need to rethink. Once I have a clear view of my destination, I can write my way there.

    Writing through the forest of blah is hard.


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