Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Mystery Writer?

It has been a long time since I've talked about my current novel. Let me assure you that's not because it's going so smoothly.

I know my characters well, and I like them. (Even the not-so-nice ones.) I know my plot, and I like it, too.

But I hate what I'm writing and how I'm writing it.

I don't know if this is "writer's block" because I have an outline and I can force myself to sit down and choke out the appropriate number of words to complete the scenes I anticipated writing with excitement when I plotted out the novel (which I didn't do in too much detail, because I wanted to leave open the possibility of surprise and excitement, even for me).

But I'm certainly stuck in the doldrums. I am bored to tears with what I'm writing, though I think the story and characters are viable. I wonder if a writer's workshop would help.

Which leads me to wonder more deeply: Can I write a mystery? Can I even write at all? Have I just been deluding myself? Perhaps I'll forever be an almost-writer: pretty good, not good enough.


  1. Hi Sarahlynn. Just dropping in from Ireland. Here's something that might be worth trying. If you have another idea back there somewhere on a shelf, that never had any time given to it, plot it out. Do the wallchart or the roadmap or the blueprint or whatever your own name for it is. It doesn't even involve writing any of it. I've found it to be a good way to stay in the zone but not get zonked out from staring at the same material too long, if you kwIm. It's like a little lemon zest for the brain. Not only do you get a break from the other stuff, but you also make progress on sth new. It can help refresh the way you were thinking about the first book too. Anyway, it has worked for me, once with a book and often with poetry. Good luck!


  2. I assure you, sarahlynn, you are a writer. Otherwise I would not be drawn here every morning at the start of my day to read your latest entry. That said, I have been there, where you are, in working on my own novel, those days where I would just write my thousand words like I was facing a firing squad or something. I would rather throw up than read a single one of those words. Now that the book is done, I enjoy it again. :)

  3. Sometimes I find plowing through the rough bits, gets me to a scene I'm excited about again. Give yourself permission to suck on your first draft. I was struggling to get back into my MS. It took a lot of writing before I found myself wanting to sit and write when I'm supposed to be doing other things.

  4. Totally unrelated to this topic, but I know how much Ellie loves Ralph. Did you see that he's going to be at the Duck Room?
    Ralph's World
    Duck Room at Blueberry Hill
    St Louis, MO
    Sun, 09/14/08
    Ticketmaster: On sale: 06/20/08

  5. I think nick and amanda have provided some excellent advice.

    I can give you my experience, but you should definitely go with whatever works best for you. Whenever I'd get stuck or tired of what I was writing, putting it aside and dusting off a few older ideas usually helped. Sometimes switching genres or even going back to trade journal, website and magazine articles helped, too.

    What was always hepful for me, though, was doing a few shorts on the side. Given my rareified (or not-so-rareified anymore) genre, quick & dirties are pretty easy and can serve as an effective wake up.

    Also, you might consider setting aside your novel for a couple of days, then pulling out the outline again. The way the characters are developing no longer fits the outline. For example, if your characters are turning out to be bolder than you thought they would be when you wrote the outline, they may no longer behave the way you originally thought they might. I never used to believe it when writers would tell me that their characters took on a life of their own, but sometimes they really do.

    Good luck!

  6. Nick, that's good and timely advice. I just started working on a magazine article with my youngest sister. Hopefully a solid break with a completely different style of writing will do the trick. Thank you. (And I'll be checking out your blog after my girls go to bed, too!)

    Liss, thank you so much! For the compliment, but especially for this line: "I would rather throw up than read a single one of those words. Now that the book is done, I enjoy it again."

    I hate to think about "wasting" hard work. I know that writers are supposed to do "practice novels," but I have to believe that everything I write will be "good" or have some potentially publishable value as I'm writing it (even if it's just a rough draft I suspect I'll be rewriting) in order to get through the hard parts. Your words give me hope that even though I feel like it sucks now, maybe I'll like it better later!

    Amanda, I feel like I've been plowing and plowing and am getting nowhere. But if - after a break - I find that I'm still stuck, I'll definitely be taking your advice and will plow on through to the finish line, if necessary. (Though I really hope the fun comes back before that!)

    Tracey, I did and am so excited! September is a crazy busy month for us this year (already!) but if I can make the scheduling work (Paul's traveling for work a few times this fall) we'll all be there. (Ada's a huge Ralph fan, too, and asks for him by name - adorable!) Are you going?

    Thanks, HiddenChicken. As I mentioned, I'm working on a magazine article now, which might help. I've written a couple of shorts in something similar to "your" genre that I haven't done anything with - I need to find a market where they'd fit, if such market (other than my enthusiastic husband) exists - and I have an idea for a short story involving the characters in my novel. Maybe writing that would rejunenate my interest in the world I've created.

    I've often had big ideas while writing that change the direction of a story, but it's all head for me. I've never experienced my characters talking to me or redirecting the story themselves. I think that's an individual thing - some writers seem to have that experience, others don't - or maybe I just haven't gotten there yet.

    Thanks, all! Advice and encouragement are always appreciated. Especially encouragement from those who've read my work. Hmm, perhaps it really is time to revisit the workshop idea. Due dates + feedback = creative and productive Sarahlynn, in my experience. Also, financially strapped Sarahlynn.

  7. I've got no good advice. But I can tell you that I'm there with you... I'm in the middle of my second book right now (nonfiction). It feels like a big muddle.

    And then, on top of it, I got a snarky comment yesterday about my first book... that didn't exactly help....

  8. Thank you for the support, Carol, and good luck to you! My condolences on the snarky comment. I shudder to think of how that must feel.

  9. I just thought I'd add...though it's sort of presumptuous...since both of us have had our writing groups IRL fizzle out, if you wanted to exchange/critique writing electronically, you could email me. I'm not a mystery writer, but I read anything that stands still long enough. And being an English teacher, I'd have no trouble giving you deadlines. ;)
    elissajanine at

  10. Me too! But I like the mystery. I don't think it is boring, etc.

    Here's what I'm telling myself:
    "Just finish the crappy first draft."

    And I owe you a response--I've just been So. Freaking. Overloaded.

  11. Liss, I think I'd like that. Will take you up on generous offer. Um, sometime.

    And, PK, I totally get that and do not mind!