When I have a Bad Writing Day – and let me tell you that I have them ALL OF THE TIME – I can go barmy very quickly. Barminess is not fertile ground for good writing. So I’m offering a series of tips from my own personal experience to help you with yours. Take what you like and leave the rest…
Tip #2: GET INTO BED. (With your characters.)
Here’s how I see it: the human brain was not designed to produce new creative content hour after hour, day after day. Editing’s a fucker, because I have to slash huge chunks of perfectly decent dialogue out and pull the entire thing apart to seed new plots – but new writing is the real killer. Great for a few days; a few weeks even. But after that: no. My brain has nothing more to give.
Everything grinds to a halt. I start writing dreadful things (here’s an example) and I lose faith in my writing. It’s normally at this point that I call or email one of my writer friends to weigh up the pros and cons of sticking my head in an oven.
One thing that helps is to let go of the story completely. Not forever, just for a week or so, and to get into bed with my characters. It’s been my experience that once my characters are established (and character is particularly important to me), they start writing the book themselves.
It stands to reason, therefore, that they can solve my problems for me. But for that to happen, I’ve got to get to know them better. So I get into their beds. Their heads. I check their fingernails for dirt; I dabble in crap psychology; raking over their childhoods, teenage years, twenties. What made them who they are today? What phrases are they fond of? How do they dress? What’s the first thing they think about when they wake up? What makes them angry? How would they feel if they did actually wake up and find Lucy Robinson in their bed, staring at them and taking notes?
It’s scary to abandon a story even for a few hours when you’re working to a deadline. But trust me, it will only get worse if you try to just bludgeon your way through it. Pause. Breathe.
And get into bed with ’em.