Let Me Tell You a Story #21: Creative Exhaustion


It had to happen eventually.

I sailed through NaNoWriMo last year, which took me most of the way through the first draft of the sequel to What We Need to Survive.  I wrapped it up by mid-December and took two weeks completely off writing, then started the first draft of book #3 over my post-Christmas vacation.

But now I’ve run out of outline!

Historically, I’m more of a pantser than a planner, but since I had the idea for both books at once, and planned to attempt a drafting cycle in order to increase my productivity, I decided to draft #3 before revising #2.  (WWNTS was my sole project at the time, aside from fiddling with plot bunnies during beta-reading stretches, so this is a new experiment for me.)

It certainly has benefits, even this early on, and especially for a series: having at least some idea of where #3 ends up means I can lay better (ie, more consistent) groundwork in #2, trim dead-end subplots, plot stronger character arcs.

It has downsides, too, in as much as oh my god I’m writing two first drafts back-to-back, somebody pull me out of this quicksand!

My outline for #2, created in a blitz just prior to NaNo, was solid, and the right length.  I only had to add a few spur-of-the-brainpan chapters here and there to fill holes I hadn’t anticipated, but that’s always been my experience writing from an outline.  Scenes become necessary during the actual writing process that I hadn’t imagined ahead of time.

I thought that would carry me through #3’s much shorter, looser outline.  By the time I get there, I told myself, I’ll have plenty of ideas on what to do next.

I know these characters.  I know who they are, what they want, and what they’ll do to get it.

And yet, suddenly I don’t know where I’m going.  And a new, completely unrelated plot bunny is fighting for space in my brain.

I think that’s why I’ve been spending so much time reading lately, instead of writing.  I’m excited about my reading challenges, yes, and I’m having a grand time trying out new books for them.  But I’m losing the discipline of writing.  Over the weekend, I didn’t meet my 1000-word-a-day minimum I’d maintained since starting the draft.

It’s time to switch back to pantsing, which is a little scary, after working from an outline for so long.  I know where I need the story to end up, I just don’t know how to get there.

There’s no real fix for it.  It’s not so much a case of writer’s block as a feeling that I’m spewing useless words out for the sake of writing.  A lot of what I force myself to write in the next few days (or however long it takes me to get back on track) will probably end up being heavily revised or (gasp!) cut entirely.  Knowing that, I have a hard time wanting to write it.

But the dedicated writer soldiers on, plowing through the tough times.

I am that writer.

I can do this.

(This grandiose, public self-pep-talk brought to you by a dismal, rainy afternoon, the letter T, which decided to become stuck on my keyboard for a while yesterday, and the number 3, for the books I picked up at the library on my last trip and am dying to read.)

2 thoughts on “Let Me Tell You a Story #21: Creative Exhaustion

  1. Your pep talk isn’t grandiose at all; as writers, we HAVE to keep ourselves motivated. Writing requires such mental strength, and we keep having to try everything to get us through each hurdle. Pantsing? I say go for it!

    Liked by 1 person

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