Tuesday, July 13, 2010

For the Record and For When I Forget

Not to jinx anything, but...

For the past two (three? four?) weeks I've sat, diligently, staring at my computer screen during the evenings.  My WIP has been open and I'm at the end of the document -- you know, that place where the rest of the story needs to be typed out.

And I've stared.  And stared.

It's not like I didn't know what came next -- I did.  It's not as if the next scene was particularly tricky or nuanced or needed a different POV or anything like that.  I knew what my characters were going to do, my characters all agreed that, yes, that is exactly what they would do, all I had to do was bang on the right keys and get the words into the document.

Only they would not come.

Oh, sure, I pecked out a handful of words each night.  Stilted, angular words with elbows and knees sticking out all over the place.  Uncomfortable words that formed even more uncomfortable sentences.

In between watching episodes from the complete DVD collection of Daria* and The Amazing Race Asia † I wondered what had happened to me as a writer?  My WIP is a humorous, Steampunkish adventure whose characters have very clear and distinct voices.  Writing them is easy.  In fact, while ago when an old friend asked on Facebook commented on  how difficult it was to write comedy, I answered

i just write what the voices in my head say.

then i clean it up in during the edits.

But where had those voices gone?  They sure weren't talking to me.  Even when I tried to engage one of the main characters in a conversation, there was nothing.  My characters had simply stopped talking to me.

After a long Saturday of not writing much of anything useful for the story (and doing a spectacular nose-dive into the wallowing end of the self-pity pool) I woke up on Sunday feeling much better about things.  I have no idea what changed, but something had tangibly changed.  And when I sat down at the laptop, I picked up the story right where I had left off and suddenly found myself Back in the Groove.  My characters were speaking to me again!  They dictated the dialog, I typed it in and filled in the descriptors.  The action moved right along, problems became bigger, reactions more telling of the characters.

The side of my left arm started itching and I knew I had some anti-itch lotion in the bedroom, but getting it would have meant getting up from the laptop and leaving the story.  After so many weeks of nothing, I wasn't going to risk losing that Groove for a stupid itch.  (I ended up scratching it so much that a co-werker looked at me on Monday and said, "What happened to your arm?")

Two thousand plus words later and some editing on a chapter section I could stitch into the current version from the old, discarded version later, I went to bed.

Yesterday, after getting home from werk and watching an SNL All Commercials show (thanks to streaming Netflix) I sat back down and banged out another 500 words, stitched and edited the leftover chapter segment into the story and dove into the next chapter.

The only problem with The Groove is that when I hit it my mind doesn't stop racing.  That river keeps right on flowin' and it's all I can do to keep afloat and type fast enough to keep up.  Unfortunately, when I do have to stop -- for things like sleep so I can go off and do that Steady Paycheck and Health Benefits daytime job -- my brain doesn't get the message to head for dry land for quite a while.  Half an  hour after I'd gone to bed I got up again to scribble some quick notes for the remainder of the chapter I'd stopped in the middle of earlier.

Undoubtedly, I'll lose the way into the Groove again and be moping around, certain that I'm just kidding myself that I'll ever be able to write a good story, much less be published.  Hopefully, I'll remember to take a look at this entry and remember that writing is a marathon, not a sprint, even if the rush of the Groove makes it feel that way sometimes.

-- Tom

* Having seen only the occasional episode of Daria when it first aired, I've been disappointed to see how the second season wasn't quite as consistent as the first and how by the third season it had jumped the shark.  (That shark jump came well before the introduction of Tom as Jane's boyfriend.  I'd spot the Official Daria Jump as the hideous All Singing episode early in season three)

† Hard to believe it's taken me eleven entries before making an Amazing Race reference.  I watch very little television these days but The Amazing Race is a notable exception.  I'm one of those TAR junkies who has applied to the show numerous times.


  1. I just got The Groove yesterday after a week of decidedly non-grooviness. I hope it lasts for you :]

  2. 11,000 words in five days -- on top of my regular 9-5 job and watching a nightly "Best of SNL" episode with my wife at night after we eat dinner.

    Being in the Groove is just as exhilarating as being out of the Groove is depressing. (Sounds a bit manic, doesn't it?)

    I hope your time in the Groove lasts a good, long time, too.