Woah, There – Back it Up

I’m going to admit something painful this morning, right out of the blocks.

Are you ready?

This is it.

I didn’t want to come to my office today, turn on the computer, sit at it and think. I really didn’t. It’s not that I wanted to do anything else, particularly – I didn’t have any kittens to rescue from trees or any particularly pressing household jobs to attend to (not now that I’ve cleaned the bathroom from hell, at least. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s an illustrative Tweet).


I just didn’t want to have to deal with my WiP today. And do you know why?

Because I’ve made a mess of it. Not a total mess – it’s not unfixable, I don’t think. It’ll take work, and unpicking, and reworking – but then I’ve done that for this book already, in quite a substantial way, so that’s okay.

*blinking hard*

Yup. Definitely fine. No pain to see here.

*cue dramatic, swelling music* I coulda been a contender... Image: gratisography.com

*cue dramatic, swelling music* I coulda been a contender…
Image: gratisography.com

This book has fallen into the ‘whoops! We went down the wrong road again!’ trap several times, and I’m not sure why. It’s not that I don’t know where I want the story to go, or that I don’t know the characters – but I keep making them react in unnatural ways to the things the plot throws at them. I’m not sure if that’s because I’m letting myself get too wrapped up in the book (in other words, my character reacts to an event the way I would, because – at that point – I am being a bad and silly writer), or because I am too concerned with getting things to happen, as quickly as possible, or a mixture of both. Maybe it’s because I’m overworking the text, a bit like dough; the story is turning tough and inflexible because I’m overthinking everything, and I’m literally going over it and over it without giving it – or my brain – a chance to rest, and prove, and rise.

I’m currently at 53,500 words with this project (though, after today, who knows?) and word counts are on my mind, too. I have an upper limit in my head which, instead of being a goal, has now become a barrier. I keep reminding myself ‘just write until the story’s done, and worry about making it ‘fit’ afterwards,’ but for some reason I’m finding that really hard to do this time – it used to just come naturally to me, before. While it’s hard to finish a book and see the word count is 95,000, or something like that (as it was with Emmeline), and realise you have a huge amount of work ahead of you to get it to fit into something more reasonable, writing Emmeline never felt like writing this current book. Emmeline is still too long, I would guess, though at least now I have some expert help in getting it to the appropriate length. For my current WiP, I’m hoping for a final word count somewhere around 65,000, but I’m just going to have to reconsider that once I get the plot shaken out.

One thing I am determined to do, however, is get this first draft finished. Then it can be left to settle and all its holes and stupidities and frankly illogical bits will rise to the top, where I can skim them off.

At least, that’s the plan.

So, I guess this is it. Time to dive back in, trace the threads of the story back to the point where my protagonist starts to make choices that are out of step with her as a character, and rip the text up from there. After that, it’s anything goes!

(Weird. That was supposed to sound positive and upbeat. Instead, it just sounds terrifying. Pray for me, dear people, to whatever it is you worship,* that the words behave for me today. I need all the help I can get!)


*Unless it’s Satan. I don’t really want his help. No offence, or anything.




10 thoughts on “Woah, There – Back it Up

  1. Harliqueen

    Keeping positive and going out with positive outlook can be really helpful 🙂 Though sometimes, there are just days when even that’s too hard!

    1. SJ O'Hart Post author

      Thanks, love! It hasn’t arrived yet. Hopefully it doesn’t go the way of that rash and impulsive side that got lost in the post… 🙂

  2. Jan Hawke

    I’m a big fan of giving yourself permission to goof off when you get your writing knickers in this much of a twist… 😛 If you need distraction tactics then mindless ‘work’ – like chasing 5000 spiders or catching up on your boxed sets only works so much before your brain decides to disconnect and leads you back into the temptation of fretting again.

    Soooooo – are you ready for this? Do something fun that’ll keep your hands AND your brain busy (feet too if you’re into energy stuff – not that I am of course!) that’s definitely NOT to do with writing. Scrabble or boggle is allowed, as is reading something you know will entertain you (and possibly give you some inspiration but it’s probably better to go for a completely different genre just in case…). As for word counts – get all of it out and to your satisfaction without watching the counter (I know it’s hard but worrying about it doesn’t help at all) THEN get editing. There’s no such thing as an ‘ideal’ length for a novel(la), it has to take as long as it takes and let your perceived low-attention readership cope with it – it’s character-building! lol
    Sometimes, as in relationships, you need the space, even if it turns into weeks or months, especially when you’ve got other priorities or commitments to meet – your writing will be all the better when you return to it more refreshed. 😉

    1. SJ O'Hart Post author

      Thank you! Yes, I do know that space is what I need. I just put myself under so much pressure – which makes no sense, I know – and then I tend to get stressed and ‘can’t see the woods for the trees’-ish, and it all goes to hell in a handbasket. It has happened before. I just hoped it wouldn’t happen with this particular WiP, because I was enjoying it up to now. The last book I wrote was so easy in comparison; I guess I spoiled myself by allowing myself to think they’d all come as easy as that one. Well – no. 😀

      Thank you for your kind and thoughtful response, and your words of wisdom. Perhaps I’ll entice my husband to a game of Scrabble this evening, and watch him utterly destroy me (he’s a Scrabble master… :))

      I really appreciate your comment. Thank you.

  3. Jan Hawke

    I’m rubbish at Scrabble too – I say it’s a writer thang!
    It took me almost 10 years to write my one and only novel and you would not BELIEVE the amount of goofing off time I took for that (it was 130,000 words – I keep telling myself it needed that much space!). 😉
    Seriously though, I started my next major project just before I got the novel published and then got so tied up in all the hoo-haa with doing an ePub version and setting Kindle Direct and Nook accounts, then the marketing and now it’s almost a year since I did any significant work on the new stuff… But I’ll get back to it soon(ish!) ><

    1. SJ O'Hart Post author

      Phew – I’m exhausted reading all that. 🙂 Well done, you, on getting there in the end. Persistence, persistence, persistence! It’s the name of this ol’ writing game. 🙂

  4. Maurice A. Barry

    Reflecting back on the many posts I’ve read on your blog, one of the many things I can say is that it certainly illustrates, using what some researchers call “thick description”, that writing is not easy. I am sure that there are some out there who figure that, Hemmingway-like, they can knock out a few hundred words a day and feel free to just enjoy the rest of the day. The truth is do far removed, isn’t it? It’s deeply-skilled hard work requiring more dedication and attention to detail than just about any other profession. I think, more than any other trait it requires commitment.
    Of course, this post is now a day old and I am sure that many of those 53,000 words have been replaced, moved or otherwise altered in the meantime. 🙂
    Oh, and I am sure that thing about Hemmingway writing his 500 words a day, regardless, is mostly a myth.

    1. SJ O'Hart Post author

      *I didn’t at all have to Google ‘thick description’, because I knew exactly what it meant*

      Thank you! I really like the way you’ve encapsulated my struggle, and I appreciate learning a new term. 🙂 I don’t know much about anyone else’s writing process – which can be a huge hindrance, actually, because if you feel like other people are struggling with the same things you are, it can make you feel less useless – but yes. Some days, the writing flows; some days, it’s like trying to dance in concrete clogs. I’ve learned, even, that some *books* can flow, and others not, and it’s tough to keep believing that you can do it, and that you’re not a total spoofer. I’ve been feeling a lot like a person pretending to be a writer for a while now, which isn’t helping. I’ve done a lot of thinking over the past 24 hours, moreso than actually moving my words around, but I think I have a plan now. It will involve chucking out at least 4000 of my 53,000 words, which will hurt. But better to hurt, and have a decent story at the end of it, than to plough on and make a mess. At least, so I hope.

      Thank you for your comment, and your continued interest in my little blog, and my corner of the world. I really appreciate it. Have a great day, Maurice. 🙂


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