Thursday, August 1, 2013

When It's Not Working

It is so beneficial to know when it's not working. When it's time to stop. Reassess. Put an end to, or take a different route. A lot of us keep chugging along, forcing it, not allowing for change or a different direction.

To be clear, I am talking about writing, but I can see how this can apply to relationships as well. Friendships. Lovers. Siblings. Roommates. Co-workers. Sometimes working, living, loving situations simply don't work. Not the way they are. Sometimes they need to be ended. Other times a tweak, twist or twerk will do. 

In writing, in our novels and stories, the ones we toil over, there are mistakes. We take a left when we are supposed to head on straight through and not pass go. We collect $200 dollars when, in reality, the plot line and character development is fit for jail. In the wee hours of the night, we sit at our computers and shove another horribly clich├ęd chapter into a novel we are supremely unhappy with.

We need to recognize the signs of failure.

So often, we fear admitting we have made a mistake. It's the feeling of failure. Or realizing we did something wrong. But if we learn to see when things aren't working, we can change it. Shift. Rewrite. Take a character away. Move the setting. Speed up the pace. Slow down the romance. Add more sex. Erase some violence.

But what does failure look like?

When it comes to writing, it's the forced, contrived scenes that feel out of place and disjointed. These aren't working. They don't tie in with the previous chapters and are meandering words strewn across the page in a haphazard fashion, like your pen simply barfed out sentences of its own free will. Or your computer, because who the hell uses a pen anymore? If what you are writing doesn't interest you, it isn't working. If you think there is a better way, then you are failing as a writing. When you dread looking at your manuscript, it isn't working.

Fear is a crazy thing. The fear of rewriting. Of scrapping an entire book and starting again. Or not starting again. Of actually saying, this is not working, and I need to leave it alone. I am not talking about hanging your head and calling yourself a crappy writer after you've penned a terrible paragraph and eaten a box of truffles. No. I mean standing back with an objective eye and seeing it is simply not working.

Since I brought up relationships. It's pretty easy to tell if it isn't working, even though we are trained  to pretend everything is fan-freaking-tastic. The same logistics apply. If you dread going to work, it isn't working. If you aren't interested in what your partner has to say, it isn't working. When you cannot stand the thought of answering your BFF's call, it isn't working. How to fix these? Well, it can be a bit more tricky.

Sometimes change will help. Shaking up the routine. I cannot stress the importance of communication, even though people hate doing it. Talk to your boss, your friend, your lover. They might realize it isn't working either. Just like your main character. Give him or her a talking to, see what they think. Hell, give your secondary characters a verbal powwow as well!

Because I am feeling optimistic and the sun is shining, I think you can put right the wrongs in your novels and love life alike. 97% of the time, I think change can help, another set of eyes, more patience, some seriously intense brainstorming. Keep in mind, fixing things is rarely ever easy or simple. But if you're willing to put the elbow grease in, you can mend the manuscript and the other more emotional stuff.

The key is being able to see when things aren't working. When the verb is still active. Before 'things not working' turn to 'didn't work'. When there is still the chance to fix them.

People tell us it is never too late. This is the biggest lie you will ever be told.

And I'll love you forever.

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