Beyond Categorization, Meaningless Drivel, Self-editing Tips, Writing tips

Trails for Rabbits and Writers. And Rabbits.

Struggling with your current work in progress? Good for you. I mean, it’s lovely and wonderful and all when the story just flows like gravy over the Spoon Ridge Mountains of your mashed potatoes, but if you ask me, struggle is a good thing.

You’re somewhere in the middle of your book, aren’t you. And you’re totally frustrated. And ready to quit. Actually, yes, I am psychic. You’re also not eating enough vegetables and you need to call your mother and the world is going to end in 2012.

But before you grab and drop your messterpiece in the virtual trash, read the rest of this blog post. Your novel may yet be salvageable.

I said may be salvageable. Because let’s face it, sometimes the whole project does belong in the trash. But usually, it’s just a few pages here and there that deserve such fate.

This is where I must pause and offer a moment of reverent silence for the Days of Typewriters and Correction Fluid. In those days (yes, I actually am old enough to remember those days, the proof of which can be found in my so-mild-it’s-almost-precious brain damage, an unavoidable result of inhaling the literary scent of a generation: Liquid Paper), there was only so much you could fix on a page before it started to look like a cheap hooker in bad Kabuki makeup. That’s when you would practice the time-honored rip, crumple and toss that reminded you in multi-sensory fashion just what a horrible writer you were. At least on that particular page. Sometimes, the joy of actually making a three-point shot in your wastebasket would cheer you up enough to return to your novel in progress with renewed vim and vigor. But probably just vigor. Vim doesn’t get out much. Same with flotsam and jetsam. Flotsam gets lots of solo dates. Jetsam? Nope.

Today, it’s too easy. Bad writing doesn’t engage enough of our senses. It’s just “click, drag, pop” accompanied by wind chimes and the chirping of happy sparrows. There’s no satisfying machine-gun gear-grind inevitably followed by a pained groan from a spouse or co-worker who respects machines far more than humans and considers the removal of a sheet of paper from typewriter by anything other than gentle spinning of the platen wheel a mortal sin.

I know, you young folks are all “what? Platen wheel? What?” Google it. Wait, no, don’t Google it. Go to the library and check out a book called an “encyclopedia.” It’s sort of like Google, except it’s better at pressing flowers.

While you’re at the library, go to the fiction section. Grab the dustiest hardcover you can find and remove it from the shelf. Open to somewhere in the middle. Read a paragraph or two. Then find a comfy chair and keep reading. When the librarian taps you on the shoulder and says “we’re closing in ten minutes,” do a quick inventory of the past few hours. Were you drawn inexorably into the story? Or did you fall asleep? If the former, use this as motivation to get back to your own novel in progress. Because, let’s face it, the writer of the dusty library book struggled as much as you did with the middle. She just kept at it, you know? Maybe she took a break and made a BLT, only without lettuce and tomatoes since she really only likes BLTs for the bacon, and this inspired a brilliant idea that the protagonist could be allergic to wheat bread which would then solve her problem of a stalled plot because he just got a job in a bakery. Or maybe she printed out the offending pages, crumpled them up one at a time and played wasteketball until she felt so guilty about her growing carbon footprint that she vowed never to buy bottled water again, which gave her the brilliant idea of making her protagonist a quirky environmentalist because that would create palpable tension between him and his Hummer-driving love interest. Or maybe she went to the library and pulled out a dusty book and sat in a comfy chair and fell asleep because it was really horribly boring.

And when she awoke, she felt just what you did moments ago when the librarian tapped you out of your slumber, an electric surge of superiority all writers politely deny in public but crave in secret that goes by the name: “I can write better than that hack.” And as you brushed away fading dreams of secret library rendezvous and monkeys with typewriters and correction fluid in a spray can that works on annoying people, you realized you can do this.

You can fix the middle. Because you’re a damn good writer. Better than that loser who put you to sleep, anyway.

So go do it. Crumple up a few pages and write some new ones.

But first you should probably make a BLT.

Just in case.

The end. Yup. Really. Feel free to dig for hidden wisdom in this post.

* * *

You may be wondering why I don’t post more often. Why don’t you tell me? Choose from the following, or make up your own answer.

  1. Because I’m lazy.
  2. Because I can’t write until the muse shows up and she’s lazy.
  3. Because I like being contrary and infrequent blogging is exactly the sort of thing blogging experts tell you not to do.
  4. Because more often than not I don’t have anything new to add to the conversation and I have little interest in saying the same old thing in the same old way. Besides, you can get that elsewhere.
  5. Because I’m sending a coded message to rebel authors who are preparing a literary coup of the current publishing regime. (Count the number of days between posts. Assign a letter of the alphabet to each of those numbers. Re-arrange the letters until they make sense, in a “literary coup” sorta way. Follow the instructions carefully.)

21 thoughts on “Trails for Rabbits and Writers. And Rabbits.

  1. My guess is #4.
    And I appreciate it. Thanks for not cluttering up our Google readers.
    (p.s. this wasn’t COMPLETE drivel. There was the word: messterpiece. Which was quite punny.)

  2. I’m going with #4, but #5 is a very close second, although that is probably just wishful thinking on my part.

  3. I’m in for number #3 but totally involved in #5.

    (And the only way I like bacon is in a BLT. Perhaps there’s something rebellious in that, too. I hope.)

    1. Yup, it’s #3. And #5. Gosh, you people are sharp cookies. Which makes me wonder, what’s the point of that phrase, anyway? Who wants a sharp cookie? I prefer cookies that don’t bite back.

    1. The time is nigh. And by “nigh” I mean…soon…ish. Like, probably before 2012, so we can enjoy our reign before the world ends. But don’t quote me on that. I’m not real good with deadlines. (Ask the publishers I work for.)

  4. Ah, the satisfying release of pent up frustration when paper is ripped from the roller.

    Try peanut butter on one side of a BLT. It’ll cure anything. 🙂

  5. I think I love you, Stephen. Found you via the Bloggess. I suspect you’ll be getting lots of people from there in the next few days. Also, I am also old enough to remember correction fluid and manual typewriters, and I’d like to point out that the three-point shot did not exist then. Well, it did, but it still only got you two points.

    1. Point taken. And by “point taken” I mean, let’s erase that extra point from my post and make it a long two-point shot. Or maybe I was watching ABA games in the 70s? Yeah, that was it.

      Thanks for stopping by. And quoting David Cassidy.

  6. I’m only commenting because Jenny linked to you and I’m pretty sure that means you’ll get 17 squillion hits, so maybe 2 will have pity on me and visit my blog, ESPECIALLY Harry Potter geeks who get the significance of my name (only HPG will get which name I’m talking about).

    Because I knew you PB (pre-bloggess, not peanut butter, no jelly), I know the REAL answer to your sorry posting schedule is 6. Twas a trick question, indeed.

    Wait, it wasn’t a question.


    {{…SQUIRREL! }}


    1. Yes, you are indeed the queen of the rabbit trails. I’d bow to honor your title, but I suspect when I looked up again you’d be gone, happily hopping down one of those paths.

      Just be sure to leave a bread crumb trail so people can follow you to your blog. It’s a splendiferous place to visit. Even for non-HPGs.

      Nice to see you again, btw. You always brighten up the place.

      Hello? Robin?


      I guess she’s off chasing squirrels again.

      Long live the queen!

    1. You’re very welcome. Unless, of course that “little something” you’re working on is an email to alert the current publishing regime about my little coup. In that case, you’re slightly less than very welcome.

  7. An encyclopedia is like Google but better for pressing flowers!! Priceless.

    And good advice in there too – not to give up on the WIP too soon. Certainly with every novel I’ve written there’s been a time I’ve been ready to burn it and the computer it rode in on. But perserverence – sometimes word-by-word perserverence – definitely is the trick.

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