Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Recapturing the spark

by ANDREA MACK on APRIL 9, 2009

I’m in an odd place with my writing now. I’m finishing edits of a novel which I plan to put aside for critiquing, while gathering my thoughts to begin something new. It’s not that I don’t have any ideas. I have fifteen writing notebooks crammed with them, as well as two partly begun novels with strong characters that have been on hold. Waiting for me to be ready. The trouble is, these ideas don’t have the same spark they did when I first began to develop them. I’m faced with a dilemma: Do I soldier on and hope that the idea will catch fire like it did before, or do I just scrap it and try to generate a new one?

My current strategy is to fall back on research – collect more information for one of my novels (with a premise that I think is promising) in the hopes that something will really resonate with me and inspire me again. I’ll let you know if that works!

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Carmella 04.10.09 at 11:13 am

Once, I agreed to write a book that – initially – I wasn’t crazy about. I didn’t know how I was going to get through it but then I realized that “Action follows passion but sometimes passion follows action.” In other words, sometimes you gotta start writing and see what happens.

This strategy worked for me and I bet your plan will work for you, too. Good luck!

Debbie 04.10.09 at 12:53 pm

I reach this point with every major writing project.

A suggestion (which usually works for me): reread one of your favourite novels for young people and identify one basic reason why you love the book so much. Then try to figure out how to use this to improve your own story.

Another suggestion: Go to a coffeeshop or some other place WITHOUT your computer, and take a notebook and pen. Then brainstorm. Write down everything that comes to your head, stream-of-consciousness style, about your story — your characters, the plot, setting. Just keep writing. Inevitably you should find that you’ll start expanding or changing the story or one of the characters — this might require a partial rewrite, but using this method almost always gets me past any plot problem, re-sparking my excitement in the story again.

If nothing else works, however, you might just want to set aside the story for a while. Perhaps forever (yes, I’ve done this as well), but acknowledge to yourself that perhaps this particular story needs more time to “settle.” Don’t consider it wasted time; as long as you try your best at every piece of writing, I consider EVERY page of writing worth it — it’s all part of inproving one’s craft.

Good luck!

Kate Fall 04.10.09 at 1:37 pm

I know what you’re saying, Andrea. I need time to let the characters come alive … the ideas seem to get cold if I don’t work on them for a while. I think research is a great idea. I love research myself so I’m biased. But it’s a great feeling to find that missing piece of the puzzle. (Of course! My antagonist can be a con artist and run this con! Thanks again Wikipedia!)

You also try combining two of the ideas in your notebook. Do any of them go together?

Christina Farley 04.10.09 at 3:43 pm

I think getting away to somewhere that you’d normally not write and try writing a scene or brainstorming ideas can also help. New settings can spark the imagination. And you might even find your WIP taking on a whole new direction.

For my WIP on Korea, I hiked up to the top of a mountain to get my inspiration (Do you remember that part in the book? Ha! Now you know!). But maybe you don’t need the extremes that I need!

Michelle Gregory 05.02.09 at 7:27 am

somehow it helps to know that other writers get stuck. thanks for sharing.

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