I’ve been stuck on my latest WIP book for several months now. After the initial splurge of creation (16,000 words in six weeks) I suddenly ran out of steam. I’ve only managed around 4,000 words in the last 3 or so months. Not great. Very not great, in fact.
Despite getting really positive feedback from my fellow Writers Anon members, I still couldn’t get my arse into gear and write. I feel the plot (or lack of) is to blame. There is a plot there, a vague one, but I’ve been unable to motivate myself to nail it down. Even so, there’s enough to keep me moving forward. I just haven’t carried through.
The way Writers Anon works, we meet every other Wednesday bringing a piece of our writing with us. One by one we read out what we’ve brought and the others comment on and critique it. The initial outpouring I had when I started my book has kept me in reading out material for months now. Then, this week, I realised I had maybe one more meeting’s worth of book left before I ran out.
Yes, I could read from one of my other books, but they’re now up online, complete and finished. Besides, I’ve already had feedback on those, what would be the point? I need to present new material – material that needs someone else to see the holes and weaknesses – otherwise I’m wasting my time, and the energy of the other writers in the group.
But that sense of ‘Yikes!’ was actually beneficial. It means I now have to write something. While I’ve been lying back on my laurels, knowing I have material still available for reading out, I’ve had an excuse not to write. While my muse is absent, that excuse has been quite handy.
Now the excuse is gone. Time to act.
Lately my writing hour has slipped into, ‘I’ll just lie here and think about what I’m going to write till it’s time to get up. Then I can write it up tomorrow.’ That inevitably means falling back to sleep. Rinse and repeat.
This morning, I opened my laptop during my ‘writing hour’ and actually wrote something. Brilliant! As I result, I now feel something tugging at the edges of my creativity. A new scene. Things happening. Movement, progress. The next bit. All because I have a deadline, of sorts.
For me this has brought up how valuable being part of a writing group is. It’s not just the chance to strut our stuff and show what we can do. That’s just an ego trip. Being part of a group helps us as writers on so many levels. How much an individual takes from a meeting depends on them. They can take or leave any advice they get, invest in their own, and other people’s journeys, or not.
Sometimes, for legitimate reasons, we can’t produce material for reading out. During a planning or formatting stage, for instance. Most of the time, though, as writers, we want to be moving our work in progress forward, even if that involves re-writing or editing stuff we’ve already written. Drying up completely is death to a book, and if having a deadline such as this helps, then yay. Bring on more deadlines.
The other, perhaps more important part of a writing group, now I’m thinking along these lines, is the input from fellow writers. It’s no good me turning up at a meeting all defensive about what I’ve written, because, while I might know it’s not perfect, being told so is another story. My faults might not get exposed publicly and brutally, as they would in a newspaper review, but it will still get critted.
This is a deeply painful experience for any writer, especially when starting out. But nobody will be as nice to you about your writing as another writer in the same position. We all know it hurts. Unless, of course, you come across one of those competitive types who wants to shoot everyone else down (and they won’t last long in a group, unless it’s a group where that’s their ‘thing’), most of your fellow writers want you to succeed. They want your work to be good, and they will tell you when something works and when it doesn’t.
It’s hard, and sometimes you’ll feel upset and frustrated, but those objective, constructive views will put you on a long and rewarding path. The path of a writer.
It took me a long time to learn not to take things personally and start seeing criticism as a way to improve my books and my writing, rather than as a personal attack. I won’t say it doesn’t still hurt, but thanks to that deadline, and thanks to the help and support of a wonderful group of fellow writers, I’m back on track and getting better all the time.