Saturday, July 7, 2012

On the suck and the getting stuck.

It's been awhile since I blogged, but with good reason: I've been working hard. Seriously. It's like I have this crazy deadline fast approaching and I have to get as much work done as I can before it hits. (By the way, I'm having a boy!)

Not that things have been easy. I'm getting work done, but it's hard. SO HARD. But then, when is it not? (That's a rhetorical question. If you answer it with, "Meh, I don't think it's hard," I will punch you in the face and you won't be able to punch me back because I am pregnant therefore protected by the Pregnant Ladies Can Do What They Want clause.)

Um. Where was I? Right. The hard work. I've actually been working on two separate projects. I've been revising the wahzoo out of The Opposite of the Dead as well as slogging away on the first draft of The Children Most Foul. Basically, I've been alternating, so when I need a break from one, I just switch it up. It's possibly a strange system, but then, I'm a strange lady.

But it's the drafting of The Children Most Foul that I want to talk about today because I recently had an epiphany:

I hate writing first drafts.

Now before you roll your eyes and say, "Well, DUH, Jade," let me explain. See, for a long time I believed that I preferred writing a first draft to revising. There was a time in my life where I could breeze through a first draft in a month or two, barely breaking a sweat. I though getting the words down was the easy bit, the hard part was the editing.

But this was back when I didn't know what I was doing. When I was writing books that I didn't like or care about. This was back when I wrote a 175k word fantasy and a dystopian called The Freaks.*
Now that I have a tiny idea of what I'm doing, now that I care about the books I'm writing, that first draft is so bloody hard.

(To give you some idea, I started Children about this time last year, and I've had to put it away several times and then come back to it later. I'm still in the dreaded middle. *sobs*)

But I am determined to finish this book, even if Shiny New Idea is trying to seduce me. I made a commitment and I'll be damned if I'm going to let some little hussy lead me astray. So I went searching for some help, which I will now share with you guys because you are super pretty.

Many of you will know Laini Taylor as a mad talented YA author, but did you also know that she has a really cool blog called Not For Robots,** which is filled with helpful writing advice? I love it so much that a quote from one of her posts is stuck directly above my computer:

I happen to think that work is as important as talent. We need to work hard. We need to build our lives and our dreams like we're building houses or bridges or something, and not to expect it to be easy and idyllic.


Now I've been stuck at certain point in Children for MONTHS, and desperate to make progress, I scoured all my favourite writing sites for help. I ended up on this post on Laini's old blog, which I found so amazingly helpful.
One of her suggestions for getting unstuck, is to brainstorm a dozen possible scenes that could happen next. I did this, writing down all my ideas, even if they were crazy. A lot of them involved my MC burning things. Three scenes had her making out with three different people. Some of my ideas were ridiculous, but a couple of them were usuable. So I brainstormed a bit more and then BAM, I had written the next two chapters.

TWO CHAPTERS! (Did I mention I'd been stuck for months?)

Before I sign off (because, let's face it, this is a long, rambling post) I want to link to another of Laini's posts. This one, which deals with the suckage of first drafts. This is the other thing I've been struggling with--I can't shake the notion that this story sucks, that I suck, that my face sucks. It's so tempting to give up and start something new because new ideas NEVER SUCK, but this is a lie.

You must fight through the suck. You must find a way to unstick yourself. You have to keep pushing yourself until you reach the magical moment where you type THE END.

And everything is easy from that point on.***

Is anyone else stuck or full of the suck?

*Really. That's what it was called. Feel free to laugh.
**Seriously. It's not for robots.


  1. Yay--you blogged. And EEEH! Congrats on the boy. Isn't Laini Taylor a goddess? I love everything you said and all the quotes of hers and links you included. So spot on! Keep going! I know you can do it.

  2. Whaaat, you're pregnant?! Forgive me; uni swallowed me whole about two years ago and I'm still trying to shake off the cobwebs in my brain and block out the trauma. CONGRATS!

    I'm working on a first draft right now; the good thing is that I have a pretty good plan for the plot... the bad thing is every time I try to write it out, I start wallowing in the ungraceful suck of it all. Revising has always been easier for me; getting over the fear of failure is a constant issue when writing first drafts.

  3. Congrats on your pregnancy and that it's a boy. Boys are the best. I can't tell you how glad I am that I have a boy, especially now that he is a teenager. What you see is what you get with a boy. Yeah, they make for some crazy energetic toddlers, but in my opinion boys are way less drama than girls. I'm also impressed that you are getting so much done right now as I swear pregnancy eats holes in one's brain :)
    This is some great advice, too. I am definitely in the suck point on my WIP, which I started during Nanowrimo and have only written 10,000 words on since. I am totally going to check out Laini's blog. Sounds like I need it.
    Good luck!

  4. Hurray for the little boy! He's going to look so cute in that Very Hungry Caterpillar onesie!

    I've had to use the same system to get unstuck before. A pretty fab writer once told me it's not the first, second, or third idea you come up with that's the best. It's the seventeenth.

    And I'm totally with you on first drafts. I absolutely despise them.

  5. 1: Boys are cool! Congrats.
    2: You're right, Not for robots rocks. (actually I do think I'm half robot, because I never get the "please prove you're not a robot-part" right in one try, when leaving a comment.
    3: Good luck with your first draft. I just printed a part of mine that wasn't working and slowly ripped it to tiny shreds. Doing this had no use whatsoever, but it felt good anyway.

  6. I just got out of my stuck and back into the suck and it feels AMAZING. I'd much rather write a crappy first draft and have the words flowing then just sit and look at my blank page forever.

    Also, CONGRATUALTIONS! You will be a great mom. And boys are fun. (according to my sister, who has two.)

  7. Okay, I LOVE that idea of brainstorming a dozen ideas for what could happen next. That sounds super useful. I don't have a major dislike toward drafting. It's by no means easy, but I think each part of the process toward completed novel has it's pros and cons. In the draft stage there's so much possibility... the story can go ANYWHERE we want it to, and that's exciting. Then the bear of revising is making it pretty. It's exciting to see it take shape, but again, work. But you and Laini are right... we have to put work in to everything.

    Hope you get out of the suck zone soon, and congrats again on baby boy! :)

  8. As the mother of two boys, I must say, congrats, Jade! Prepare to be exhausted and happy at the same time. A boy can wear you out but also love you fiercely. A quick example: when my younger son was not quite 4, I took him to see his older brother (then 7) in a play at school. It was standing room only, so I held Little Guy on my hip. At one point as we waited, he looked at me and said out of the blue, "I love you, Mommy." It was so sweet I've never forgotten it. That little boy is now 22. His brother is 25. And they're both still wonderful. Parenthood is the most rewarding job you will ever have, but be ready: it's also the biggest time suck ever.

    And crappy first drafts are normal. Even Laurie Halse Anderson admits her first drafts are crap.

  9. All my first drafts are crappy! I like them that way. If I ever write one I think is good I'll worry that I'm just not seeing the suck. :)

    Congratulations on having a boy! I love my boys! I love my girls too, but my boys are the sweet ones. Get ready for some seriously fun snuggle time... and months without sleep. :)