Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Praying Your Way Out of Plotting Hell

My CP and I have heated plotting sessions. We pick each others plots apart to the point they look like something from an autopsy table on CSI. We aren't being mean or vindictive. We simply refuse to let each other write stories with weak, implausible or overdone plots. Or at least that is what we strive for when we pick up our carving knives and go at it.

However, sometimes we land on that perfect story, with that perfect hero and heroine and we have the beginnings of the perfect plot. Until...it goes to hell in a hand
basket and we are in that dreaded place, the eighth level of hell from which no number of Hail Marys and Our Fathers can set you free - PLOTTING HELL !! If you heard really loud music, the kind that announces a horrible thing on an old soap opera, then you understand what I mean.

My question is, what do you do when you find yourself in this most horrible of places? What do you when your fabulous imagination and your hubris land you in this most terrible of purgatories? You know that hubris that says "This story is so GOOD! I just KNOW it is going to write itself!" Yeah, right. That's when the Writing Gods say "Everyone who knows their plot is rock solid, step forward. Hold on there, Louisa. Not you!"

Have pity on a poor sinner. I didn't decide to do something sensible like become a call girl or a Bible salesman in Baghdad. I had to become a writer. I must have been a REALLY bad person in a former life. Can I get an amen? Can I get a way out? Does anyone know the appropriate number of novenas to get a romance novel plot out of hell?

So tell me, ladies? It's just us talking here. Ever land in plotting hell? What did you do to get there? And MUCH more important, how did you get out? Is it getting warm in here, or is it just me?

7 comments:

Jeanie said...

Girl, you know very well it's not just you. Wasn't I in just this same pickle in August when my writing slowed to a molasses in January pace and I was beating my head against a wall and wailing that I was stuck in writer quicksand and could not get out? The answer? Beats me. I did a lot of praying and thinking and worrying, and finally I just sat down and began to write. I ended up throwing away about 3500 words and starting over, but the act of writing something down helped me to work through the problem, figure out what I did NOT want to do and how I did NOT want to write the story . . . and then I went from there.

M.V.Freeman said...

That's what happened to my story! Alas...it's taken me FOREVER to get through it.

All I have to say is..STAY the course! What I found is, that it takes constant thinking, writing, rewriting, crying, cursing, daydreaming...and just letting go.

It's hellish, but worth the pain.
I wonder if it gets better? I am not sure. I know I can't continue to take this long to write a story, but it has taught me a lot.

Here is one sure fire way to get the plotting juices going--start plotting another story and wow, the one you NEED to plot will surface. :-)

Your post really touched a nerve, and is so true!!

Callie James said...

You are so not alone!

I've had this problem in the past and it's awful to get through. Like others have said, you just have to work it through.

I've had a stranger problem lately and it's worse than plotting hell. Imagine waking up one morning and suddenly you can't stand your own writing.

Yep. That's me. I'm hoping (no, PRAYING) it's the exhaustion and complete burn-out I hit this month (Carla, I know ... you warned me).

My husband thinks my writing might be shifting from romance to urban fantasy and--dare I say--sci fi.

I certainly hope not. But what to do? Every time I sit down to write, I try cutting all of it. I can't stand a word.

Sigh. I'd almost be happy to be back in plotting hell. Has this happened to anyone else? Help!

Christine said...

I have been there. Was there with the current WIP. I loved this story till I sent it out to my CPs and they were like finding major holes. Every time I tried to fix on element, the story unraveled. It took me days to work through it. I reread a plotting book, revamped the characters, revisited my original intention for writing the story, lost my characters, found my characters, found a way to write it but I still wonder if it is more stupid than cheese.

Oh well. I entered it into the GH so I have to fix the thing whether I want to or not.

Callie: I am also rethinking my writing direction. Going from category to ST and seriously exploring a YA series that's been tickling my brain for over a year. If you are hating your writing, maybe it is time to sit back and take a BREAK for a bit. Just crochet or cook or do something YOU LOVE to get the creative juices flowing again.

Kate Diamond said...

Ah, plotting hell. I know it well.

One of the best strategies I ever had was a maintenance strategy. I had a writing group composed of friends. We would meet at a bar every week and consume beer and fries while completing 10-minute writing exercises. The exercises were things we'd gathered from books, classes, or just things we'd heard people say.

It helped me to think of writing as fun, and it helped me to make spontaneous decisions. I found I got stuck less often when I had that in my life!

Louisa Cornell said...

Thanks for all of the great insight, commiseration and ideas! It is so nice to know we are not alone in our suffering and that if we must dwell in hell for a while that some of us know where to find some water!

Cari Hislop said...

I know that Hell! I pray too when I find myself hitting my head against the keyboard, but I've found that for me if a story comes to a dead stop and won't budge, something's wrong. I have this story that I started several years ago. The main characters are extra special to me and this story was a third attempt to write their story (a combination of two previous books). The other month I read the 23,000 words that have been frozen for several years now and after reaching the end of what I had I sat there with this sick feeling. I could finally admit to myself that it was ALL WRONG. I'd pupeteered them into the wrong story. There are some lovely scenes (which I'll be reusing) but it's all wrong. The real story is the one where the hero is going to get his heart ripped out before he gets the girl. I don't want that to happen!!!!! He's so lovely...he doesn't deserve to suffer, but the story has a mind of its own and I'm (as my characters often remind me) just a glorified secretary who never types fast enough. He will have to suffer...I need to rewrite the second book (which I deleted out of frustration) not write a new book.

I've also realised this past year that my stories stop if I have the wrong character telling the story. I can know the scene and what is going to happen, but if I try to tell the story from the wrong character it won't flow. Sometimes I have to explore every possiblilty before I figure it out. In one of the stories I've been working on the vilain regularly insists on unfolding the story in his point of view. In this story the reader ends up steping into the heads of all the main characters and what I've found is that part of the story/plot is this contrast of how the characters see/understand each other. Sometimes their right, sometimes their wrong, but it moves the story forward in really weird ways I'd never have thought of if I'd tried to think of it. I find that a lot!