As dust. As a bone. As the Sahara. As lots of things that are very, very dry (including all the ones that I will not write down here as I am attempting to make this a family-friendly blog wherever possible). That is how dry I am on the project I had said I was doing, and had intended to do, for National Novel Writing Month 2013. ARGH.
Those of you following my progress on my NaNo profile may be baffled by this. "But Anne, you have lots of words logged! You're days ahead!" Yes, I do... it's just that they're all for other things. I am, to put it plainly, cheating, writing Killdeer and Surpassing Danger and my untitled reader-submitted Christmas story about gifts.
I know what I ought to be writing for NaNo, and what I ought to be blogging about today, on Thunder Thursday, and both of them are Playing with Fire. The trouble is, PwF has gone dry for me at the moment. So... thanks to that, and with a question from reader AJ on the Dangerverse Facebook group, I'll blog about dry spells instead!
AJ's question was, have I ever had my story go through peaks and valleys? Is this normal? The answer is YES. (Imagine it in much larger, fancier text, if you will.) Dry spells are among the most normal things a writer can experience. It isn't writer's block, because you know where the story's going. It's just hard to get words on paper.
NaNoWriMo is meant to help writers push through their dry spells, by forcing them to get a certain word count out every day, even if it's hard, even if it's not quite right. But is that always the best approach? Well, no. Nothing is always the best approach in any discipline, and writing is certainly not an exception to that rule.
The trick of being a writer, or being anything, really, is finding out what approach is best in what situation, and the trick to that, at least in this case, is to dig into your dry spell and find out what's really going on here. It's also useful for characterization moments, when your characters do unexpected things... but that's for another post.
For dry spells in writing, I can think of two major causes, and they require totally different approaches to curing/solving them. The first is what I think you may be encountering, AJ. You're approaching a difficult area of the story, something you, as a writer, maybe don't much want to write about. (See also, Anne and Bad Things.)
What is everyone's first, easiest, most common reaction to seeing something coming that they don't like? Stall. Hide. Hunker down and hope it goes away. It's a very common occurrence that somewhere inside a writer's subconscious, when they're coming up to an uncomfortable or unpleasant moment, mental brakes slam into place.
So how do you get your subconscious's foot off the brake pedal? It's not easy, but it can be done. Tricks can be very helpful here. Write from a different POV, write continuously for ten minutes even if that means writing "I don't know what to write", write it like a news article instead of a novel -- experiment until you find what works.
However, be aware that your subconscious is tricky. What worked yesterday may not work today. What works today may not work tomorrow. Be open, be thoughtful, and be willing to keep experimenting. Sooner or later, you'll find the right trigger for this situation and this time, and the words will start to flow for you again. I promise.
Now the other type of dry spell happens when you've been writing a lot, for a long time, without much of a break. It's not that the story's being difficult, but just that it isn't interesting anymore. You're tired, worn out, you don't want to continue. Welcome to the other, and even more insidious, type of dry spell... the doldrums.
What do you do about the doldrums? (See also, ten chapters in a year.) Sadly, I have no magic advice, any more than I did about the stalling dry spells. I can tell you that reading enjoyable books, petting animals, and getting out and experiencing some life have all helped me through mine. What'll help with yours? Only you can tell.
Even more sadly, sometimes the doldrums are a signal that the story you're working on? It isn't worth continuing. Whatever life there was in it, it's gone. When that happens, there is little to do except sigh, tuck that story into the "graveyard" on your computer's hard drive, and wish it well as you move on to something more lively.
But! Be cautious before you make an unchangeable decision that this is what has happened to your latest work. It is possible, and even likely, to mistake a stalled dry spell for the doldrums. So revisit your "graveyard" every now and again, or even rename it the "hibernation room". Maybe all your story needed was a bit of a rest.
So, having written quite a long blog post on this Thunder Thursday which has nothing to do with the Chronicles of Glenscar except for the fact that I've currently tucked Playing with Fire into bed for a long autumn's nap, I shall take my leave. Comments welcome, and if you commented on the last couple posts, check back, I've answered!