I had a moment of weakness over the weekend.
I’ve been working my tail off on my WIP (work in progress). Almost every day I have been writing between 500 and 1500 words. The days I have not been writing, I have been thinking, or researching; working in some way related to the story.
Then on Saturday, something unpleasant happened. Un-welcomed company came into my head. One character arrived. He didn’t say much. Then, how could he, there were no other characters for him to talk to! But then I realized there was another character there. She was speaking, to him, but he was not answering. Not with words, at any rate. And it made me wonder, why wasn’t he talking? Could he talk? Well, yes, I heard him say one word to her. After spending some time with them, I realized that this girl was so in tune with this guy that she didn’t NEED him to speak. A twitch of his eyebrow told her one thing, a slight movement of his gaze another. Some situations arose, and I watched and took some notes as they went through them. Then it happened.
Wow, I thought. I really like these characters. They definitely have a story to tell. They have a relationship, and they are in a situation, that is dripping with conflict, both existing and potential. Suddenly, this story seems so much more intriguing than the one I am working on, the one I am probably at this point about half done with the first draft of. This is the story that I was born to write! This is it! I all but convinced myself–stop writing the damned Melitta story. This new story, this is what you should be focusing on. This tells the story you want to tell. You can’t do it in ancient Rome; too many rules. My characters are being suffocated, drowned by the rules and social structure. So is the story.
I had a very miserable day yesterday, trying to figure out what on earth I was trying to do. Because I have been writing long enough to know–you can’t just drop a story every time something better shows its face. Because when you are writing, something better ALWAYS shows its face. And it always is The Greatest Story Ever. Until you start writing it, and get about halfway done. Then, an idea pops into your head. And it always is The Greatest Story Ever… You get the picture.
Yes, the grass is always greener on the other side. When in Ancient Rome, Medieval Japan looks better. When in Medieval Japan, the Tudor Court looks mighty intriguing. While jousting with King Henry, you realize how much you always wanted to ride with the Amazons… And that is fine. That fascination with new things, that exploratory nature, is what makes us good writers. I write because i want to learn about all these people in my head, all these places. But another thing that REALLY makes a writer is self-discipline. You have to be able to finish what you start. Otherwise, what’s the point (unless you are simply writing for your own enjoyment, which is fine, but I would STILL encourage you to finish something, and experience that sense of accomplishment. It is like nothing else in the world)?
Strong characters can also be helpful at this point. When I get especially frustrated, and want to just give up and move on, I spend some time with my characters, because ultimately, that is what the story IS. If I enjoy the company of my characters, then of course, I want to spend more time with them. When you have strong characters, it no longer comes as a surprise when, say suddenly, in the middle of the night, Tiro pops into your head and says to you, “Do you really think I made it as far as I did by following the rules?” (in response to your frustration with some of the “rules” of Ancient Rome). Ding dong! Of course not!
Which brings me to another thing that REALLY makes a writer. You have to be just a little, slightly, insane.