Thursday, August 16, 2012

Surviving The Doldrums---

Have you ever felt like what you are writing is junk and it stinks to high heaven? I've been going through that emotional roller coaster for the last few days. I pick up my WIP (work in progress) and start to re-read the last chapter I was working on and grit my teeth, while inside my head I'm saying: Eeew!

That's when I have to bring out the big guns and shoot away at those feelings. Some people advise you to continue writing and break through the funk. I recently I read something that had a different take on getting through the doldrums. And that was to study the craft of writing!

Analyze successful stories. Writers should ask questions when reading and then use their findings to help strengthen their work. For example:

  • How does the writer make me turn the page?
  • Why am I drawn to the lead character?
  • When are the stakes raised?
  • How does the writer integrate minor characters?
  • What makes a scene work?
  • What's the key to conflict?
  • How does the writer handle dialogue?
There are many questions you can ask yourself as you are reading, these questions were just an example of the many that you can employ.

Another thing you can do is have people give you feedback - editors, critique groups, trusted and objective friends. Feedback will help set you in a direction of action. What you can correct or what is already working in your WIP. One thing you don't want to do is throw out the baby with the bath water. In other words, keep what is good and edit the rest.

Here is one last thought when you are reading: Writers write with fresh voices.
  • Explore all facets of a story - then concentrate on feeling your story as well as writing it.
  • Read a wide variety of material - writers need to read outside their genre - even poetry - to expand their stylistic range.

Remember that the most important thing is to keep writing while you do your studying. Don't be defeated by lack of inspiration. Continue writing and get that first draft finished. Then you can go back through and edit what needs to be polished.

Are you going through the writing doldrums? Or have you had those feelings lately, that say you aren't really a writer? Have you read any good books lately?

"Fear reveals itself through our excuses."


  1. I usually doubt the strongest when I begin writing a story. It's not until a few rounds of edits before I really start to feel good about it.

  2. I felt that way about something I started this summer. I put it away and started something else which went great. But usually I try to push through it and fix the blah stuff in edits.

  3. What great advice! I'm not a writer, but I can see perfectly how the principles here can apply to art. Good post!!

  4. Alex: I guess we have to keep up the edits until it looks good!

    Susan: I getting over the worst part by pushing through, like you said.

    Rettakat: It can apply to all the things we do, I think, if we want to use it as a life principle. Thank you.

  5. Great advice. I've had those "feelings" for a long time now and I really had hopes of finishing my WIP (kind of an intrigue/spy novel - something totally different than anything I've ever written before) and really only wrote 3 pages but got bogged down in thinking about all the research needed to really write a believable story, but have to deal with the fact that in order to write the story I need to just go forward and not worry about whether it is factually based or true in many ways whereas other parts will have to suffice for being creative licensure. So I will revisit that WIP and try to get the first draft written and go from there - Thanks for the advice - see you in the postings - E :)

    Elysabeth Eldering
    Author of FINALLY HOME, a middle grade/YA mystery (written similar to a Nancy Drew mystery)

    1. Elysabeth: I'm glad to see you are stepping out of your comfort zone and writing something different. We all need to stretch ourselves. Good luck with the book!

  6. I've gone through phases of "I hate every word". Study is a good one. Feedback is great if you have reliable partners. But they may not catch what you're looking for. If you can spare the time, perhaps put it down and go work on something else, then come back. Do I do that? No. I usually start tearing it apart and piecing it back together.

  7. M Pax: I had to put down the WIP I was working on, but now I'm ready to go back to it. I spent the time in between reading and observing what I had read. It did help.

  8. Since you inspire me, I decided to tag you in a post today. Stop over to check it out!

  9. I've been stuck in the doldrums for a while now too. I had to put aside the chapter I was working on before the feelings spread to my other projects. I find a good book is a great way to pull you out of those nasty funks. :)