Sanding Down the Speed Bumps

This week, I'm feeling frustrated. I've hit a couple of speed bumps on my current work in progress, and though I've wanted to really get in there and write a lot of pages, I've found myself repeatedly going back to the same @#$! chapter-in-progress and literally boxing an octopus. I deleted one day's work entirely (though I saved it to my outtakes files, just in case I need some element). Then I rewrote, starting from a different spot. The results are far, far better -- terrific in spots, but last night, as I lay in bed (insomnia's tough on my body, but I figure out more book stuff after midnight), I realized I still had a problem. So this morning, I got up and started yet another new scene, which I've inserted in front of yesterday's work (which will now have to be not only finished but revised to reflect the new stuff. Ack!)

At the moment, the chapter's still a nightmare, an abominable morass of fits and starts and loose ends that apparently tie in to nothing. It's such a mess I fear I'll die, leaving it unfinished, and someone will find it on my hard drive and take it as proof of my mental decay. The previous chapter, which flowed from my fingertips with an effortless joy, is a distant memory, and I'm left to feel I'm cobbling the current week's work out of bloody chunks torn from my innards.

After writing twelve books, you'd think it would get easier. The scary truth is, writing's sometimes (when it's not play!) very hard work, but at least experience has taught me that when I hit these snags, there's a reason. It often means I haven't adequately thought through this portion of the book, and I'm searching out of transition to a section I have more fully imagined. When I can't move forward, it means there's some plot knot that has to be teased loose or that I've started at the wrong spot or with the wrong character's point of view. As frustrating as it is, the speed bump can't be hurried over because, in this case, my thought process is still lagging somewhere behind my fingers. And because my books have a heavy-duty mystery element, where one clue builds to the next in strict sequence, it's very tough for me to write scenes out of order.

Eventually, I've learned to trust, my brain will catch up, and I'll once more start "making pages." I've also discovered that readers can't tell the effortless parts of a book from those that were agonizing to produce, which is great news. (Nor can they tell the "gift books" from the "books from hell," thank God.)

If this work didn't have its tough spots, I suppose everyone would do it, but they doesn't mean I wouldn't appreciate some better way of sanding down the speed bumps, or at least a little moral support.

So how's your writing coming lately? Are you moving full speed ahead (if so, I hate you at the moment, but at least you can remind me how it feels -- preferably without gloating that you wrote 50 pages before breakfast) or bogged down for some reason? Do you have any great tips to share that help get you through the sticky thickets? If so, I'd love to hear them.


Joni Rodgers said…
Snarg. Been there, done that. I feel your pain.

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