The past two weeks have been unusually rough for a whole host of reasons I won't go into which include not getting any actual fiction written. Right now my biggest challenge is submitting my novel Reading Glasses chapter by chapter to my writing group. I love them. They tell you when it works and when it doesn't. And when 60% of the group said they didn't care for the main character, I had to sit up straight in my chair and take it, full force in the face that this protagonist wasn't likable enough. So, back to the drawing board I went to remold this woman into someone the reader will want to follow into the depths of hell, otherwise when she goes there the reader might think she deserves it (which isn't my intention).
Here's the tricky bit and the part you don't learn about in any writing class. You can get trapped in the in between of knowing what isn't working and where you want to be, but feel powerless to climb out of the muck of writing quicksand on your own. Like any brainiac with an eye for distractors I made a scene chart for Reading Glasses -- a new one. I plotted each point of tension, each building of drama, and each climactic point I could. I rewrote the entire first chapter and changed how the qualities of my main character were being portrayed while still carrying the basic plot of the story. Instead of a bitch, she was more gracious. Instead of always getting the last word, I made her stumble because of what she said.
And then I shut down. I stared at my chart of what was supposed to happen next and then I stared at it some more. I was frozen. Trapped in the what should or shouldn't happen to my character next. I had to get away from my own mind and I had to do it quick if I was ever going to write another thing again. All the while my husband is saying I should work on another project all together, which of course, makes me think that's a good idea instead of facing my fears and writing my way out of my character problem.
Well, I finally just told my brain to shut up and I got to work. It wasn't fantastic, but it was progress. I had about enough energy to pop the cork off the writing wine, but as I write this, I have yet to actually tip the bottle and get the good stuff to pour out. The fact that the new writing wasn't that good doesn't scare me anywhere near as much as not writing at all, so I'll take the dry rotted cork any day. I hope you're able to do the same and take the bad writing as a good sign that the good writing isn't far away. When you can do that, it's a step in the right direction.