Ah, yes, that Family Guy clip makes me laugh and want to cry at the same time…little Stewie may as well be prodding me over how it’s been over a year and a half since I started my manuscript. And that’s when I actually started writing it; the idea had come to me a couple years before that, in the form of random scribblings on the pages of my journal or Starbucks napkins and envelopes…and the more I read about other writers’ processes, the more universal that mode of transcription appears to be—I see us all just dwelling in these rooms with Post-Its and index cards and newspaper scraps thumb-tacked to the wall and strung together with yarn, the map room in the midst of a warzone where our batty, “Beautiful Minds” strategize…
That digression aside, I’m seriously having issues pulling it all together right now. I haven’t even been able to follow the advice I shared in “The Beginning of the End,” back in March…yeesh. And why, when the journey has already been so long and is so close to its end destination?
Because there is very good reason for that initial voyage to require some time. Unlike what many tend to perceive, writing is a lot of work, not merely something one just dashes off in a burst of inspiration as one’s Muse sings softly in one ear as Her sister strokes a harp into the other, with the brooding writer sequestered in a candlelit garret, feverishly scribbling with ink-stained fingers—films like Becoming Jane or Shakespeare in Love would have you believe even a masterpiece can be penned overnight. Not that I’m remotely considering myself in the ranks of Jane Austen or William Shakespeare simply by virtue of taking a stab at this writing thang, but I can’t keep psyching myself out with how much I’m not them either, or I’ll utterly paralyze myself.
You know what helps with that, though? Empathy. Lua Fowles, for instance, shares her experience grappling with “The Fear of the First Draft” in her Like a Bowl of Oranges blog. And if it isn’t the fear that can slow you down, it’s the procrastination—Eva, author of the Write in Berlin blog, shares a few surefire tips on how to do so in “The Art of Avoiding to Write.” Even when you do find your groove, there is a process to it, a method underlying all that madness that ensures the narrative is structured and worded effectively—I love author Wendy Robertson’s take on her own process in “The Joys of Cranking the Engine of a Novel” in her A Life Twice Tasted Blog (she’s one of the gracious and encouraging facilitators of the Room to Write workshop I attended in Spring).
And even when a writer does finish that first draft, the pilgrimage is far from over. Never mind the elusive quest of getting published, the revision alone is going to be another prolonging factor. Some revise as they go along, others leave the bulk of it for the end; regardless, it’s yet more process to undertake, and that requires some time, people. Again, empathy to the rescue!—see Lua once more in “Editing 1 (oh no) 1” and Agatha’s appropriate analogy in “Digging in the Dirt” from her Here Be Dragons blog. I personally am one of those who revises along the way, so my constant backtracking is another reason for delay.
Whatever excuses I can arguably throw out there to defend why it’s taking me so long to finish writing this book, the brutally honest truth about it is that the story has gone quiet in my head. I’ve sat, and I’ve written. But whereas before I was satisfied and moved forward, now I only go back and delete and rewrite and delete and think and re-envision and write and delete…never seeming to get it right. What I write these days feels artificially imposed on my characters, you see, because I don’t seem to see them or hear them anymore. No kidding, I almost feel abandoned…and melancholy, as I didn’t get the proper chance to say goodbye. So what sort of cerebral seance could I conduct to summon their spirits back to my consciousness? How can I get them back?
Maybe it’s because the story really is ready to end, and this is its way of telling me.
Or, egad! Maybe the story already ended within its alternative universe, and I failed to write it down in time!
Maybe it’s only because I’ve been tending to it lately in fits and starts and need to more fully immerse myself back into its world.
Maybe it’s because after stringing those varying colors of yarn all around the walls, I now sincerely have no idea where to take those loose ends, which to tie up neatly in bows and which to continue on out the window and into the sunset on their own happy trails unbenownst to any of us. Seriously, maybe I’ve over-thought myself into a rut and simply don’t know how to end it.
Maybe the Muses have stopped singing for me.
Or maybe, just maybe, I’m not ready for it to end…
“I’m a novelist; I’m never going to finish the book.” – James, Sliding Doors
June 25th, 2010 at 07:16
Hahahaha – this is brilliant! Specially that Family Guy scene. Thanks for making me part of that great post, and yes – I so deserve to be in it. Having worked on my first manuscript for 5 years (next to work, but hey, still, and again that was the physical writing down, the idea is aeons old) and dabbling too long with the first pages of number II, I so know how this doubt feels like.
But I’ve got a theory there. Whenever I actually WORK on a manuscript, it feels good. Like an avalanche, I want to keep writing, and writing more. Whenever I stop for too long and start thinking about the process of writing, everything goes downhill. Doubts, laziness, procrastination, excuses, you name it.
So screw those muses. The lazy bitches (sorry) usually have to be kicked to sing. Hard labour is the only language they understand. My opinion.
Have a lovely weekend in the trees….
June 25th, 2010 at 17:47
Nice! You compelled me to tell those beeyotches to step off, and in doing so I actually just wrote another 900 words. Bring on the avalanche!—I’m prepared to gnaw on my own arm for a while to survive if I get trapped under it…well, maybe a leg so I can still type (and swing from trees) after I thaw out.
You are so right about the thinking-too-long being the crippling factor…just got to get out of our heads and get it into writing. Just do it, as Nike would say (that one’s for you, ad girl :)) And thanks for approving the shout-out—your wit is too good not to share.
Have a splendid weekend as well!
June 26th, 2010 at 09:50
If I could contribute even a tiny part to you hanging in there I am happy. Thanks as well for the targeted use of advertising quotes! Advertising is the cradle my writing was nursed in, after all! 🙂
June 25th, 2010 at 19:32
I loved that Family Guy clip! Hilarious and thank you for mentioning me amongst those blogs you mention. I can tell you that I know EXACTLY how you are feeling, but please don’t stress over how long things are taking. The novel will take as long as it’s meant to take, and you will go through several stages of how you feel, and well, I’ve been through that experience where you feel it’s all gone quiet and I’ve also experienced that feeling that I don’t want things to end. Why? Because saying “I’m writing a novel” sounded good, whilst what comes after that, the submission to agents, the rejections etc etc stressed me out. I still haven’t finished my final draft but I am no longer beating myself up over it, because I know it will be only done when it’s totally ready. Anyway, it’s good to know we are all on the same boat . Good luck 🙂
June 26th, 2010 at 12:08
Ha, so true that it sounds much more powerful and romantic to say you’re writing a novel than trying to push it through the submission process. “I know it will be only done when it’s totally ready”—that’s exactly it, I think. The endings I’ve tried to slap on my draft so far have felt like quick-fix band-aids and not what’s really meant to be. I’ve got to get back into the minds and souls of my characters to adequately do them justice and give the proper conclusion they deserve, so that’s a task I’m getting back into today. Good luck to you as well! 🙂
June 25th, 2010 at 21:42
[…] great blog by Fallen Monkey called Fraying at the End got me thinking about the journey us writers go […]
June 25th, 2010 at 22:13
I love stewie 🙂 I love it when he does those little high-note comments. Well, my issue right now is I actually really want to write and keep going but extraneous circumstances seem to make it impossible! At least at the moment.
Sounds like you need to “fill the well”! Have you heard of Julia Cameron? I highly recommend reading her book. I know some people might be uncomfortable with the whole spiritual part of what she talks about, but if you’re not into that, you should just ignore those parts, but still use a lot of the exercises she recommends.
Julia would recommend an “artist date.” Where basically you take yourself on a little adventure, a night out if you will, and I have found in the past to be either inspired or have a lot of holes filled when ever I went on one of these dates. If ever I have a “drought” as Ms. Cameron refers to it, I go and “fill the well.” I love taking walks on the beach, mediating in a peaceful outdoor place, hiking in the mountains, or going to an observatory and seeing the stars at night.
I hope you can get back to writing soon. Good luck! 🙂
June 26th, 2010 at 12:16
Hey, Ollin! Thanks for stopping by! No, I haven’t heard of that book, but I’m definitely keen to pick it up now. I like that metaphor of filling the well and would love to take myself out on dates in the name of creative inspiration! It’s interesting that you should mention this, as, obviously, when I wrote the post I was feeling in the rut and full of holes, but then yesterday I decided to walk home from work via a large and beautiful park, and…well, I guess you could say the experience (which included a brief and utterly random encounter with a stranger) unexpectedly filled those holes and left me welling with ideas, so I quickened my pace to get home to my computer before any of them spilled 🙂 And I wrote! And it’s actually something I’m happy with that is getting me closer to that resolution. So thank you for that affirmation and much luck to you during your process as well!
June 29th, 2010 at 00:08
You’re welcome. The book is “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. Get ready. It’s a life change.
p.s. it’s what led me to start my blog, and finish my novel. 🙂
June 29th, 2010 at 00:08
June 29th, 2010 at 14:02
Excellent—thank you! It’s a fine summer for a life change 🙂
June 26th, 2010 at 08:08
Wait- when did you break into my room and photographed it?! 🙂
That clip makes me laugh (and secretly cry inside) as well- that little baseball headed guy with the funny accent is MEAN! 🙂 I feel for you Brian buddy…
“Unlike what many tend to perceive, writing is a lot of work, not merely something one just dashes off in a burst of inspiration as one’s Muse sings softly in one ear”
Can you believe that I actually had people coming up to me and saying, “you’ve been working on that novel for a year? Don’t you just sit down and write, what is taking so long?”
Argh! And when I start talking about plotting, characterization and how I can have difficulties sometimes getting from one point to the next they just stare at me with empty eyes and repeat, “sit down and write when the inspiration strikes.”
And I agree with you- empathy truly helps, I somewhat feel better knowing I’m not the only one out there who’s struggling to get my novel out of my heart and head on to paper.
I think each and every story has it’s own time and way of coming to this world, some will take years to develop inside its writer’s head, some will be written quickly… It all depends on the story.
I don’t believe the muses have stop singing for you; perhaps you’re not ready for your ending, not ready to finish your story just yet. For me, the endings have always been the hardest part to write… Perhaps it’s because, “I’m a novelist; I’m never going to finish the book.” 🙂
June 26th, 2010 at 12:26
Ha, I hope you don’t mind the breaking and entering, Lua. I swear I didn’t rearrange any of your notes, though I might’ve yanked a Post-It off the wall to stick my gum in—hope it wasn’t a vital plot element 😉
No, I cannot believe people are giving you crap like that, and my friends are just lucky that they haven’t dared ask me the same thing (well, probably because a lot of them still don’t realize I’m doing this!). Ridiculous and so not helping! But, yes, where the empathy is concerned, I just feel really blessed to have found such kindred spirits.
I know the ending is in me somewhere…I think I’ve been letting my head do too much of the work lately and need to have my heart work the next shift 🙂
June 29th, 2010 at 23:21
I just found your blog and I really liked the way you write, so keep with that novel whatever it is. I’ve subscribed on email so I can keep up with how it’s going.
I also loved the cartoon and I know the space you’re talking about. My experience is not to rush it. I don’t see a problem with revising for a while before moving on. Sometimes you can’t move on before it’s sorted.
What I do is take a walk and let my mind clear. That’s when things pop in. I also see what I’m writing as a series of scenes and sometimes just visualising the setting and the characters of a particular scene is enough to set off the action in my mind. Music is good too, but you have to select the right mood for the scene.
I think you’re right about immersing yourself in the character’s world. Sometimes we need to just stop thinking, enter our fictional world and see if anything happens. No pressure to write anything.
Until it was finished and I got an agent – which is rare for a first time author in Australia, so it gave the novel a bit of credibility – I never told anyone apart from my husband, daughter and the people I asked to ‘read’ it that I was writing a novel. That saved me from the sort of things in the cartoon.
I have a blog too. It’s about my journey to publication. The novel isYA fantasy, called ‘Lethal Inheritance’. You can read ch1 at and see what I’m up to at
On the home page there are postings about writing, challenges of the writer’s life and getting published. You might like to have a look.
June 30th, 2010 at 09:50
You’re wonderful! I appreciate your words of advice so much–it is especially calming to know that taking a bit of time is okay, if not necessary. With my husband out of town last weekend, I shamelessly blew off my friends and curled up at the computer from Friday through Sunday evening, which gave me that immersion that was so needed. Worked out well; I made good progress, I think. I likewise had only told my husband and close family about my undertaking at first, then began this blog as a means of getting some feedback/writing practice anonymously, and only recently have been spilling the beans to some friends now that it’s close to finished…so far, they’ve been tactful 🙂
A belated congratulations on your published novel, that’s a tremendous achievement! I love YA lit (and fantasy, at that), so will be certain to read it—as I will your blog, which I think will be a valuable resource going forward. Thank you for sharing your experience as I putt-putt through my own little journey 🙂
July 2nd, 2010 at 17:46
[…] one of the factors that initially delayed me in writing my manuscript’s ending was word count. At 90,000, I’d estimated I was about three-quarters through when a […]
December 1st, 2010 at 00:07
[…] is staring down my novel and basking in its perfection…but I know I’m past my “Fraying at the End” point and have reached instead where I’ve read it over and revised so many times, […]
March 28th, 2011 at 16:55
[…] into a hole the first time around and didn’t know how to bring it all together (see “Fraying at the End“). So while ms #1 accordingly still needs a lot tender lovin’ care, ms #2 is providing […]
October 26th, 2012 at 09:22
[…] I’ve been close to the end for months now, but, just like with my first manuscript, the characters’ voices went quiet. I probably should have pushed through anyway, but I didn’t, and now I’ve got them all […]