So the incredibly talented Laini Taylor wrote this amazing post yesterday about having a jerky writer brain. If you haven’t read it yet, you should. There’s something very comforting in knowing that someone as awesome as Laini Taylor struggles sometimes with getting the job done. And I completely agree with everything she has to say, especially the part about how weird it is that the very thing that gives us our creativity is also the source of our struggles. But the thing is, my experience with this problem isn’t at all like hers.
Let me explain. First up, a confession: I have never in my life written a novel out of order. I start with chapter 1 and end at “the end.” Always. I am incapable of writing a story any other way. And yes, I imagine that Laini might give me a cat hiss if she were ever to read this. But the thing is, our journeys are still similar. I struggled to write something publishable for years. I wrote four whole novels of impressive (read: ridiculous) length. My first novel was 180k—can you imagine? That’s two YA novels in one.
And the thing is, writing all those words was easy. I would sit down at my computer, set a word count goal, and then vomit out sentences and paragraphs until I met it. And I would do it without even thinking about it, with the critical part of my brain asleep. Kind of like this:
Trouble was, these novels, complete and whole as they were—with characters, something resembling a plot, a beginning, middle, and end—all sucked. Big time. Did you read the part about vomit? Yeah, I really meant it. I wrote those first four novels a bit like this:
But just as Laini suggests in her post, when I sat down to write The Nightmare Affair, I decided I needed to do something different. I needed to write a novel that wasn’t just vomit. But unlike Laini, that didn’t involve tricking the critical part of my brain into staying quiet long enough to let me get the story out. No, it meant just the opposite. I had to wake up my critical brain and force it to pay attention and do its job. That part of my brain is the smart part, the one that can find plot holes, detect character inconsistencies, even rat out the boring scenes.
And guess what? It worked. The moral of the story, I think, is that all writers need to find the way to trick the critical part of their brain into working for them instead of against them. Once you do, magic will happen. And if you’re looking for another visual, I imagine it might be a bit like this (because seriously, Sherlock without Watson would just suck, and vice versa).