Friday, March 2, 2012

This Chapter Will Kill

If you follow my book blog, you’ve seen my happy announcements about the current edit of the Screwing Up Time sequel. Everything was moving along at a nice clip. I told my primary betas (my alpha betas) that I’d be ready to give them the book sometime next week....I was naïve.

I’d yet to meet the chapter from Gehenna. The bog of writerly progress. The editing equivalent of writer’s block. Granted, it is an overlong chapter. So I could see it taking longer than the other chapters. But I had steeled my resolve. I’d locked and loaded my writerly skills: Red pen? Check. Outline to verify earlier plot twists? Check. Kick-the-chapter’s-butt attitude? Check.

Then the chapter kicked back. I read the opening paragraphs. I swallowed. The most boring tripe ever written. But that’s okay. That’s why there’s editing. So I fixed the opening. Then I read it again the next day. YAWN. So I fixed it again. And refused to re-read it the next day. I moved on. The next scene read clunky. The plot was there, but it read like a plot outline. In response, I played a game of Free Cell. (For non-writers, the point of playing Free Cell is to win the game and take that confidence into the edit. Pathetic, I know. But you do what works. I don’t call it “procrastination.” I call it “preparation”.) Afterwards, I went back to the clunky scene and made it less clunky-ish. I decided not to go back and reread.

The next scene was also sleep inducing—of course, climbing a staircase is never a hot plot point, but a writer must do what she can. Normally, you include some character’s emotional reveal. But these are teenage boys (not girls), and they don’t share their emotions as they tread the steps. I did what I could and promised myself that I’d rework it later.

After two games of Free Cell (I lost the first one and you can only edit with a sense of well-being), I read the next scene, which was one of the emotional high points of the novel. The scene was two paragraphs long. What was I thinking? I can understand this mistake in a first draft because I’m an underwriter. But I’d already edited this chapter once before. What was wrong with me then?! I needed multiple games of Free Cell and squares of chocolate to get my writing mojo back.

So now I’m just over halfway through this chapter—I’m beginning to think that it reproduces during the night. Every day I work on it, there seem to be more pages to work on. Then, this morning I woke up with a nasty cold. (Which I’ve already had this season.) And I think it’s the chapter. It’s trying to kill me. And I’m being to feel like I want to succumb. 


  1. Ooh, I haven't had that problem yet in my current work - but I know it's lurking in later chapters. I hit at least one of those killer chapters in every work.

    Maybe you should switch from Free Cell to Spider Solitaire? Switching up the game may be just the magic key you need!

  2. Ugh, I hate it when chapters kick back. In fact, one of mine is doing that right now. I'm neck deep in revisions so I feel for you! Hang in there. You'll get it right and it will be brilliant!

  3. Just put in an axe-wielding maniac. That will solve your problem.

  4. Noooo! You can do it, Connie! The cold might actually be sort of your chapter's fault. I mean, if you're stressed, then your body is responding to that.

    In any case, you can only take a deep breath and push onward. You made it through this thing once (writing it), you can do it again (editing it)!

  5. The revisions will eventually end! Every day you're making it better.

  6. Oh, yuk. I feel your pain. I've had more than one of those killer chapters. But YOU are the kick-butt writer, right? Have another piece of chocolate and then show that chapter who's boss. (Um, that would be YOU.)

  7. I'm with Luke, axe-wielding maniacs are never boring!