Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Words Escape Me

Well, after spending the better part of the last eight months working on revisions for one thing or another, I finally have something completely new to focus on! *cue happy sounds* 

But to be honest, it’s slow going. The last two weeks haven’t yielded more than twenty-five pages.

I do know where I’m going and how to get there…for the most part.

The problem is, I’ll be on a roll, all throwing out paragraph after paragraph and marveling at my magical powers of creation and then BOOM!

I get stumped. The car breaks of creation come to a screeching halt. 

And no, – it’s not on a character development or a plot turn, hole or discrepancy or something big and important like that that has my work-in-progress bound and tied.

Uh uh. The continuation of my literary lineage most often depends solely on a WORD.  

When the right word escapes me, at first- I’m only mildly annoyed.

It’s like I can hear the faint gurgle gurgle of how the word should sound in my head. I try typing different variations- sometimes I don’t know the exact spelling and I keep hoping word autocorrect will help me out. But most often, it doesn’t because I’ve either mixed two words together, or it’s a word I’ve never used myself but heard it used elsewhere and know it should fit!- but I just don’t know what the word is exactly.

But it’s the perfect word. And it must be found before I can move on. *evil demonic laughter*

So then I go looking on the internet. – again, wasting more precious writing minutes, but it can’t be helped.  By this point, I’m more than annoyed. I’m like a woman possessed.

I end up taking five minutes to do things like research different types of windows. (I found this page particularly helpful.  It was ‘picture window’ I was looking for. – Yeah. I know. Life or death, here. )

Sometimes it’s a turn of phrase I can’t seem to get right. Which has me typing this like ‘guilty by..’ into google and carefully examining the most common results:
Needless to say, it was none of these.

What ties you up the most when you’re trying to pound out that first draft? Plot line going haywire? Rebellious characters? Description? A single word that has you pulling your hair out?

31 comments:

Natalie Aguirre said...

I'm starting a new project while I wait for a beta read. I know the main points of the story but the first draft is torture. Since the beginning of the year I've written 40 pages. It feels like I'm inching through each blank page. I so love revising better. But I open it up and work on it when I can. Looking forward to getting to page 100 and hoping it might be easier after then.

Connie Keller said...

It's so good to know that I'm not the only person who gets stuck on a word and everything dries up. It's kind of like a mental stutter. Sometimes I try an online reverse dictionary--you type in the definition and it gives you possible words.

Have fun with the new book!

Dianne K. Salerni said...

What holds me up? My pantster brain, which knows what has to happen next, but hasn't plotted out how to make it happen.


As for that word, if you can, put BLANK and move on. I know that will probably make you grind your teeth with frustration, but when you go back and re-read/polish that chapter, maybe it will come to you. Or maybe you'll find that you have to re-write/throw out that sentence anyway and don't need it at all.

Yeah, I've done the thing where you spend an hour looking up something and then later cut it. Erg.

Matthew MacNish said...

I agree with Dianne that you should use place holders. You can always come back later. As a pretty big plotter, not much holds me up while drafting. The main problem for me is actually making the time to sit down and do it.

Anne Gallagher said...

Some words slay me. Depends on what I'm writing, although in my case I have to use the etomogical dictionary because I'm writing in 1810 and they didn't have the use of some words. I once spent two hours on a comma, if that's any consolation.

Linda G. said...

I regularly write myself into corners, and I have to wait for my characters to figure out how to get out of them. Sometimes it takes a while, but it's been worth it so far.

Jay Noel said...

I do the EXACT same thing. I'm making up words because my imaginary word sounds really cool. It's more than just picking the right word with the right meaning. There's an aesthetic to the word I'm craving. And when I can't find it, I trip over it and fall on my face too!

Louise Bates said...

Guilty by gucci! It's safe to say that's a turn of phrase I would NEVER have thought of on my own.

I get stuck on words, too. After frantically checking the thesaurus, I usually run around the house like a mad woman, shrieking, "It's right on the tip of my tongue!" (this does tend to startle the children, but whatever. That's what they get for having been born to a writer), and then settle down and put the closest word I can think of in its place, but in RED, so I can come back and fix it later when the proper word has come to me.

The running around shrieking is, clearly, the most helpful part.

Hart Johnson said...

Oh, too funny. Know something strange? I don't worry about the words first draft. I think it helps. In fact I won't worry about word-level stuff until probably 5th draft.

I can get bogged in connecting sections. I include too much--fill all the minutes rather than just the important scenes. But when I am writing (rather than editing--I, too, have been editing for MONTHS) I can keep plugging away. It is fewer words per hour in the middle than beginning or end because it is harder to get the story right--but that is STORY, not words.

Hart Johnson said...

Oh, and if you want company writing in June--BuNoWriMo--group on Facebook--get in on the group adrenaline and write 50K words in 30 days!

Ash-Matic said...

I have single-word problems too. I spend ages on it (when I don't give up) then come back a few weeks/months later to redraft and end up deleting the whole containing sentence anyway. Grr.

Nicole Zoltack said...

Sometimes being a pantser works against me. That's my biggest hold up - not always knowing what's going to happen next.

Rick Daley said...

I have a WIP i just moved to the back burner. I hit 70,000 words and went back for a re-write, got 9,000 words in and decided I really haven't found the voice for this. I've been fighting the writing. I love the story and characters, but it's not clicking.

I started a new WIP, a story idea I outlined a while back, and it's flowing nicely so far. Now if I can avoid having multiple half-finished projects and complete it, all will be well.

Old Kitty said...

Lovely Creepy! You've found me a lovely phrase "guilty by suspicious streaming"! I really like this phrase! Yay! take care
x

J. A. Bennett said...

Whenever that happens to me I just make a comment to research later then I move on. If I stop, I won't get anything else done that night. If I let it rest a few days and come back to it, I realize my first train of thought was way off anyway :)

mshatch said...

omg, I do this, too! However, I've actually started to do what Dianne suggested, though in a different way - I use my purple pen and underline what I don't like so I'll see it later and hopefully find a way to fix it.

Tasha Seegmiller said...

Sometimes I think of my writing as playing connect the dots. The first job is do get the dots on the page - the idea of the big picture - and then figure out what I need to do to get the dots connected - the smaller stuff.

Good luck!

~Sia McKye~ said...

I hear you on knowing a word or phrase and then not being able to pull the word from your head to the page. I've learned to put down a word that's similar or even a blank, with asterisks and insert a comment saying, look up better word.

What stops me? Hmmm. Sometimes seeing a scene and it's not flowing correctly. So I'm not happy with it and spend time thinking about what I want or how I want it. I have a friend who will tell me, just write it. You can't edit what you don't have down, but I haven't learn to do that and move on yet. sigh...

Sia McKye OVER COFFEE

Stina Lindenblatt said...

That's totally me too with the word issue. Thank God for my massive sized dictionary.

I'm going to be reading through my new first draft soon. It's been on a two month + vacation while I worked on my revision request. I'm afraid to read it. It's going to be scary. And I don't mean Stephen King scary. More like the clown from IT scary. :(

Dana said...

I'm with you: it's definitely the search for the perfect word. It makes me crazy(ier) some days. Gah!

Meredith said...

It wasn't guilty by gucci? Haha, I totally do this, too. If I just know there's a perfect word out there somewhere, I HAVE to find it before I move on.

NiaRaie said...

The WORD thing ties me up too! I can get by with an imperfect descriptor but if I suddenly can't remember the name of the thing you put your items on at the grocery store (conveyor belt) then I have to stop and do quick research.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I think the same thing as you - I'm looking for the right word or phrase. I'm a perfectionist, and even though I know I'll do lots of editing afterwards, I spend time trying to get it right the first time.

Marsha Sigman said...

I am currently experiencing a brain freeze myself.

But just Google 'another word for...' and try to input the closest thing to it. Usually gives you a thesaurus link. You should really try not to get hung up one word though. Usually the simplest choice is the best one anyway.

Angela Brown said...

What might give me the erky-jerky-brake-to-a-halt is discovering I've veered way too far from the original skeletal outline I started with. Then I'm trying to figure out if I'm writing the same story only to end up realizing I am, just with exrra stuff that made its way in all sneak-a-creep style.

shelly said...

Right now, life's been throwing curve balls at me that's what's been holding me up lately.

I'm about to turn into a beast over having my writing time interrupted.

Mama J said...

I find starting a new book hard because I don't know my characters as well as I knew the ones in the previous book. Which is obvious as I'd have spent months with the previous characters but even knowing this, it takes me a while to get into that first draft.

D.G. Hudson said...

I leave a note where I get stumped and go on to another chapter.

This keep the project moving, but I'm an outliner so it's much easier to mark a place. I jump around and don't always write in order, if one chapter is more interesting.

It's like tests, try not to waste time on what's not working and do what you can first.

JEM said...

I do run into the word choice frustration because I'm such a perfectionist about such things, but I'll usually use an approximation as a "placeholder" and know that I'll replace it later. My big holdup right now is the overarching "why" of the world. Like "okay, why can this person do this crazy thing?" Not having that driving conclusion drives me crazy.

Tamara Narayan said...

Boy, I can identify with the single word hangup. I thought it was just early senility creeping up. I hate it when simple words elude me like "heir". For some reason my brain kept showing me "her" and "here". Come on brain, don't do this to me.

Mina Lobo said...

If I get stuck for a word it makes me cray-cray too, especially as I have to then be VERY strict with myself about getting on the Interwebs to look up what I'm thinking and NOT just take a peek at Facecrack, or whatever. Sometimes, I'll take a little walk outside (OK, I'm actually going for a smoke) or try to engage in some manual labor for just a few minutes, to get my mind off the thing, and sometimes just the right word will pop into that empty mental word bubble. But sometimes, not so much. :-)

Some Dark Romantic

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