on writing ruts

I’m in a writing rut.

I finished Birthright over a year and a half ago, and besides a handful of poems (gasp!), and various novel starts, I hadn’t written anything substantial since.

calvin and hobbes on writing 3 on writing ruts

Until Memorial Day weekend. Something about Memorial Day weekend spoke to me, and despite the beautiful weather and abundance of things I could have done, I holed myself up inside and wrote over 20K words of my next project. It was clearly a matter of putting the well-abused Nike slogan to good use: I just did it.

In the next week, I nearly doubled my word count, passing my own set halfway mark (I’m shooting for 65K total), and currently sit at just shy of 40K. Over halfway there!

The problem is this: I haven’t written anything more since my brother’s wedding weekend in mid June. I knew it would be a problem. A habit is formed by repetition, and I eliminated the repetition when I found myself without 10 minutes of free time over the course of a long weekend.

Here’s a little hint of how much of a rut I’m in: I returned to Pittsburgh over the 4th of July holiday by train, giving me 18 beautiful, open, freetime hours. … I managed to write 800 words over the course of two train rides. 800! Not only that, but they’re 800 words that I hate. I’ve already deleted them.

Looking back on my various projects over the years, I can see the pattern. I always get to a point where I can’t do it anymore. I don’t know if it’s psychological or what. With Birthright, it was at the end. In fact, it was so far at the end that I stopped writing, called it the end, and convinced myself that it was a good ending. I never thought it was perfect, but I thought it good enough that I polished it from there then, satisfied, and started submitting it. Rejection notes never actually mentioned a weak ending, but still: 8 months later, I rewrote it to be the ending it should have had the entire time. Also, I remember stopping 3/4ths of the way through The Moonstone and taking a break. This is, really, nothing knew.

Basically, I don’t know the setting and details of the next scene. I know the conversation that has to happen, and I know the participants, but I can’t set the scene. Most people would tell me to just write the dialogue out and worry about the time and place later, and if this project were 3rd person narration, maybe I could. Maybe I will anyway, because I want to be done with this and way into revisions by the end of August, if not sooner.

It felt really good to start writing again, even though the constant doubt and disgruntled not-yet-published writer in me likes to tell me what a waste of time and energy it is. This will be the fourth book I’ll have tried to get an agent with (providing, of course, that I finish it). Chances are good it’ll be my fourth round of rejections. It’s a good story. Fresh, contemporary, romantic YA. But I can’t help but feel like my most recent was the one that was supposed to get me published. Obviously, it didn’t, and that’s heartbreaking.

If I dig all the way down to the core of it, the reason I’m in a rut is because the last thing I want is to go through another year of ‘sorry, but this just isn’t for me’s. There really is only so much I can take.

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