The Spaghetti Syndrome: Writing What Works

I’ve spoken before about how it’s important to focus on a writing project and see it through to completion. But what if you have no idea what that project should be?

It’s like testing spaghetti for doneness: you keep tossing strands against the wall to see if they stick. You may have many ideas, and may even try developing a few of them, but how will you know which project is worth your time, at this time in your life?

Answer:  Your writing will tell you.

When you hit upon that work that begs for your attention, you will know it. The character(s) will start speaking to you (if it’s a fiction novel). Mannerisms, language patterns, quirks, behavior–all that will come to the forefront with ease, as if they were real. And that’s a good thing.  If working on a nonfiction book, you will be lit up at the research involved in bolstering your argument; you have a spring in your step at interviewing people, even determining the content of your footnotes, if need be. The “work” becomes pleasure, and that is a stage to which every writer aspires.

[Sidebar: Writers are the only people who can call a character by name, and say that the character is speaking to him/her in her head. If such a statement was uttered in mixed company, it might get you a one-way ticket to a psych evaluation.]

“But…but…” you may splutter, “What if I have more than one book, or character, speaking to me? What if I like both of them equally?”

Ah…good question. This recently happened to me, as I work on book #2 in the series. I started on one book (let’s call it Book B), then switched to the other (Book C), as it was more developed (I actually have a complete first draft). But as I reworked Book B, it wasn’t flowing. Try as I might, I just couldn’t get past a plot snag, which made me wonder if I should go back to the original version of what I’d changed. Then I started toying with Book C. And it started flowing. And I decided that this will probably be the next in the series, instead, and Book B will then become Book C.

Logically speaking, I should just try to force the original Book B into submission, since I would be doing a second draft, and thus that much closer to publication next year. But if I can’t get into that groove where I am living and breathing that main character, and the book plot, then I can’t deliver a good story to my readers. No good book, no book sales, and I’ll end up on the corner with a cardboard sign and a crumpled paper cup, begging for spare change.

I’m in a good position, in that  Book B and Book C could actually be interchanged in my publishing schedule, with no ill effects. Still, I say all this to say that while concentration on one project is important, it’s equally important to find that story that  grabs hold of you and won’t let go until you finish it. That may mean switching projects mid-stream; it may also mean starting completely over. Just know that if you force something that is not ready to be forced, it will come across in your writing, and you will do your readers a disservice. They deserve better, and so do you.

Thanks for stopping by.