So every now and then when I write I hit this… mode. It’s not writer’s block, because I’m still writing, but it’s like pulling teeth. I know where I’m going, what happens, why the scene is important, I just can’t write it. I sit and I stare at the screen and I can’t write. This is my least favorite part of writing, even worse than writer’s block. Because I KNOW what I’m supposed to do, I just can’t, for whatever reason, do it.
Every single time this happens, I panic. First I blame myself: I’m being lazy, I’m a horrible writer, etc. Next I blame my book: it’s the plot’s fault, I didn’t plan this well enough, etc. Finally I blame things like the weather, being sick, on and on and on. Lots of blame, lots of hair pulling, and no words worth keeping.
This panicking is so stupid, because it always happens for the same reason: tension, or, rather, the lack there of. Tension is anything that draws a reader forward. It can be conflict, mystery, or something as simple as an unanswered question. When it comes to story telling, tension is the water that drives the waterwheel of a book. If there’s no tension, you can still have a story, technically, but it’ll suck. No one wants to read a book with no tension.
Same goes, apparently, for writing one. If a scene is lacking tension, I have the worst time writing it. I think this is because writing a scene is still reading it, only very slowly. If there’s no tension, the reader part of my mind gets bored, and the writer part can’t go on alone. For a long time I thought this inability to write was because I was a bad writer. Now I understand it’s my subconscious’s way of making me a better writer by refusing to let me write scenes with no tension.
All of this wailing is a long winded way of saying that, this morning, I cut 10k worthless, horrible, painful words out of my manuscript. Two bad scenes and a lame character also wound up on the floor. I have never been so glad to see something go. In their place, I have new scenes full of tension and a cool new character. They serve exactly the same purpose as the old stuff, but that’s not the point here. Just because the suit fits doesn’t mean it’s the right one to wear.
(Editorial note: Of course, even though the reason is always the same, I never realize tension is my problem until AFTER all the panicking. You’d think after 4 books I’d have learned the signs by now. No dice. I apparently refuse to learn, either that or I have the memory of a goldfish.)