In writing, story is my one ring to rule them all
And what better way to discuss writing than to quote Guns n Roses? Right? So,“Get in the ring motherfucker!”
Get in the Ring was, according to Wikipedia, directed at music critics who had things to say about the Gunners’ antics on stage. So I think it’s quite apt to use in the context of writing.
As writers, we are our first and often worst critics, and we constantly question and criticise our own “antics” on — and often off — the page. This, our inner critic, can be a huge hindrance. At least, it certainly can be for me, and I am in no way unique.
OK. I lied, I am unique. I’m a beautiful fucking snowflake! But that’s not the point.
I have taken on a new task in my writing, which is to outline everything as it makes my writing all the quicker. Currently I am taking the time and outlining multiple novels which I wish to publish this year, as my goal is to publish as much as possible. Not because I am trying to churn out as much content as I can — and I certainly won’t be treating this like some mass-manufacturing production line — but because I have so many premises sitting and waiting and I have a yearning, a need, to get them out.
So then, what to do while writing and the plot, the story, proves as elusive as catching smoke that has mingled with the smoke of the dragon that is the inner critic?
Just the other day, I was working on finishing the outline (now finished since drafting this post — BOOYAH) for my next novel, The Enlightened. Nothing I could think of made sense to the dragon critic. And then, worse still, I could think of nothing at all. The ideas had scattered like gerbils upon seeing that ferocious beast.
I could have said fuck it and left it. Gone off to read instead in an attempt to kick-start the ol’ noggin. Worked on something else.
Except I couldn’t.
I was obsessing over it and doing my own head in. I was fighting the dragon, and it had me taking cover behind a rock as it did it’s utmost to engulf me in flames. I’m the type of person who gets pissed off and obsessed when I can’t make something work. And that makes being creative almost impossible, often even makes what you’re trying to accomplish worse. And nothing is worse for creativity than forcing it. Send a knight to slay a dragon when he doesn’t want to, all you’re going to end up with is the cost of armour dry cleaning and hiring a new knight.
Now, send a knight who is rested and prepared and, by Poe’s moustache, you’ll have yourself a dragon skin gimp suit before you know it!
So instead, I went and started the outline for the sequel to Ward of the South. And that outline then suddenly became the opening chapter. And then that unclogged the pipes for other ideas to come spurting through for both that novel and The Enlightened, and I was able to push past the literary blue-balls, and trust me if I hadn’t quit smoking a few years ago I would have lit one up over that behemoth’s corpse and flipped it off, that’s how good it felt to silence the inner critic.
Sure, sometimes I have to just say fuck it and throw the digital pen across the room (and sometimes the literal pen, but then of course I have to go hunting for a pen and get even more angry, which is why I don’t use a real pen) and just go do something completely different for sanity’s sake. Play a game. Watch some brain numbing escapist TV show or a movie and switch off the creative engine because, I’ve given her all she’s got, she cannae take much more cap’n! Yeah, I went there.
For the majority of the time, I stick it out because, as above, you never know what will trigger that next synapse that opens the right pathway. The two novels are quite different despite their shared genre of horror/dark fantasy — one is in your face and more action, the other a slow burn — but even when racing along on the fat-hog-of-writing-something-wholly-unrelated, you can be struck in the face by the flying beetles of inspiration. They fuckin’ hurt and taste like shite, but hey, at least it’s something meaty to chew on.
Cheers and write on!