Rightly or wrongly, I assume my subconscious knows the story that I’m trying to tell, so I generally further assume that writer’s block means that I’ve wandered away from that story.
So my solution for writer’s block is to open a new document, name it OUTTAKES. Then I look at my original manuscript and highlight every single bit of novel that I am not thrilled by. Then I cut it and paste it into outtakes, so I can pretend I’ll use it again.
I guess maybe sometimes I use it again.
I had 150,000 words of outtakes for Dream Thieves. It was a novel I really, really wanted to get right.
Ronan plays the Irish pipes — that might be canon, actually. Is that already in Dream Thieves? It might be. He plays them because they are awesome, difficult, and sad.
One of the Lynch brothers plays the concertina. It’s the cute brother.
|—||Terry Pratchett, author of the Discworld series, on writing magic. (via theticklishpear)|
I think we can handle this assessment…
(via mashable’s list of “14 Tech Supplies That Made School Tolerable in the ’90s”)
Ah, the memories…
Here is the thing about Kavinsky. I invested, like, 18 months of my life into him, and then he died, which is very annoying to me because he had all the good scenes and he lit things on fire and he drove my car (or maybe I drove his car; he had his Evo first) and he was just so tragic and terrible and awesome Ronan’s dark mirror and I loved him.
But he is dead. And I will not toy with anyone, because KAVINSKY: he is staying dead.
There is fall out in book 3, but also, book 3 is using different cameras than book 2, so the focus is different. Book 2 was Ronan’s book. Book 3 is not.
I actually wrote an entire third book, Requiem, last year, and sold it to Scholastic, but then I decided I was not happy with it and snatched it back from my editor.
Scholastic is very good about putting out only work that I’m happy with, so they’ve been kind enough to not send Queen Latifah to badger me, a la Stranger than Fiction.
So it exists. I think I know how to fix it. But I am just not going to put it out without being happy with it. And I won’t lie: it’s a very weird thing to return to those characters now, one million published words and however many fictional characters later.
I would write the first two books differently now, and I don’t want the third book to not satisfy folks who loved the first two.
I used to tell people: know the ending before you begin. Because I used to begin books all the time when I was in my teens, and I ended up with several dozen unfinished books. It wasn’t until I made myself think of the end first that I was able to reliably finish them.
But that’s only true for me. Also, it’s not even true anymore. It’s not actually the end that I need. It’s the point. I need to know why I’m telling the story, because that way I can keep coming back to it when I get off-track or stuck. The why can be a mood or a theme or an idea or a single scene where I long to crush every tear out of every readers’ tear ducts.
So my writing process, in the broadest possible sense, is that I cannot let myself begin until I know that why.
I’m normally quite certain when I’m done with a book. I can feel it in my heartparts. A story just won’t release me until I’ve finished what I meant to finish.
Usually what this means is the character arcs — I need the characters to end up where I want them and then, ta da, I can return to my regularly programmed life. I no longer daydream and night dream about the novel every day and every minute.
But I never got that feeling with the Scorpio Races, and for a long time, I wasn’t sure why. Puck and Sean both ended up where I wanted them. So what was the problem?
Then I realized that it was because the island, Thisby, had become a character to me, and that is a character I can never really put to rest. Do I want to return to it? Desperately. Will I? When a story calls me back to it.
I actually was turned down for a creative writing class in college. I’m not telling you this to emphasize the injustice and tastelessness of my alma mater, but rather because I always tell would-be-authors that the most important person to convince of your career is always going to be YOU.
I have hundreds of rejection letters, including one from my current publisher and my current agent. All those letters meant was “you’re not good enough yet, Stiefvater.” They are a progress report, not a death sentence.
For me, the point of being a published author is to have a story in my head, and then to tell it well enough that readers can see the same version I am, or close to it. I don’t want to trick my way in to publishing a novel. I don’t want to publish before I can do that.
And I believe that anyone can learn this trick with enough practice — like learning to play a Bach piece.
So show your writing to other people, and don’t wince if they don’t like it. They’re just saying not yet, not no.