Yesterday’s post was a bit of a downer, I’ll admit. But I’m not giving up on me yet, and I hope you don’t either. I want to be honest about my process, the ups and downs, the good and bad—and I haven’t struggled this long to write anything for no reason.
The simplest reason is that I constantly doubt, and I doubt early in the process. All I have for my current project is a basic outline, and yet I’m convinced that it’s total crap and will always be total crap. Some writers describe a stage similar to this called “the Wall,” though they generally say it happens about 30,000 words into the draft. For me, I hit the Wall as soon as even the most basic layer of detail is decided, and then I have to look ahead at the hard work of writing the entire draft while convinced that it’s crap.
So at this stage, I get a flood of ideas—new, old, revamped, and even altered versions of the current project. And each one sounds better than what I’ve got in front of me. But that’s because they’re all vague and beautiful, and as soon as I pick one and switch to it and develop it, I will find myself hitting the Wall again. And again. And so on.
I’m aware that I need to just write through this if I ever want to finish anything… but that proves again and again to be easier said than done.
So, as many people have wisely suggested to me, why don’t I try writing shorter pieces? The commitment wouldn’t be as great, the gratification more instant, and I could get to those other ideas faster. It is undoubtedly a smart move.
Overall, I’ve resisted it for a few reasons. On the practical side, I think short stories are an even less reliable market for a career than novels, at least as far as I am aware. And on the more artistic side, I don’t really like short stories, so I have less of a pool of influences and inspiration to draw from. In fact, I can’t think of a short story I’ve ever read in any of my English classes or on my own and thought—I want to write something like that. It always feels too short, too unsatisfying (for me as a reader, not as a mark of the quality of the writing).
But long ago I thought of a compromise—episodic stories. I’ve written about this technique before, which combines the shorter attention span of a short story (or perhaps novella) with the longer attachment and satisfaction of a novel or series. And I like TV shows, which demonstrate this story structure and which remain engaging and inspiring for me.
I still struggle with episodic stories (obviously, as I haven’t written one in a very long time). But there is a ray of hope there… and I might even be able to convert my current idea into an episodic structure that might allow it to live on.
It’s an idea worth pursuing, even if it might just be another doubt and procrastination technique. But it’s something.