Saturday, July 25, 2009

Long road to nowhere

I am in the middle of reading a book by an author that I have liked in the past. It's from a series and this one is one of the latest books. I'm not going to reveal the author's name or the series, just because I don't think this book is typical of this author or series and I would hate to turn someone against it.

That said, I am on page 231 and have 300 more pages to go and I feel like the story hasn't advanced since roughly page 10. The character is literally roaming the desert. It's frustrating me to no end because I know the writer is better than this. This just feels like a plot that he hadn't developed fully and he is having the main character do a bunch of nothing while the author figures out where he should go.

I spoke with my dad about it tonight and he said that it didn't bother him. He also assured me that it gets better, so I'll keep reading.

But reading this book reminded me of how I've felt sometimes about my own writing. I'll have an idea and be writing along, enjoying where the story is headed and the characters are taking me when I find myself just writing in circles. I have my characters wandering around doing meaningless things. The actions stops and the plot stalls. That's usually the point that I'll give up on a piece. I'll set it aside for a few days, weeks, months, forever.

I mentioned having this problem at the first meeting of the writers' group. I asked the question of whether the other two people there wrote from an outline or if they just went wherever the story took them. Both answered that they went with the story. I said I did basically the same thing but that I ran into the problem of having my characters wandering with nothing to do. One of the other participants said the same happened to him but that he thought it was a good thing. It could sometimes spark an idea. And I agree, to a point.

Sometimes it's fun to send your characters off without a direction and see where they take you. When they automatically show you where they want to head it is fun. I have taken a few unexpected journeys with my characters that way. But what I am talking about is the wandering for page after page while I work through plot problems in my head. I hate when I do that. And I especially hate it when the pros do it. Like I said at the top, I don't think this is typical of the writer in question here, just something that has happened in an isolated case.

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