Friday, July 17, 2015

Satisfaction versus Hunger: Two Pivots in Our Stories and How to Toggle Between Them to Keep the Writing Fresh

Good discussion this week in one of my online writing classes:  Bored with her story, a writer asked:  "How do I keep my own interest in my book?  Without reinventing the plot every five minutes?  How can I keep my writing fresh for me, first?"

Smart woman.  She knew that her own boredom with her chapters would soon translate into boring writing.  Right now, it might just be an overactive Inner Critic.  Soon, her blahs would indeed translate to the page.

We toggle between two pivots as we write a book.  When things are clicking along, the writing going well, it's easy to fall into complacency.  A kind of satisfaction or contentment.  Like in life, too much of that becomes boredom.



The other pivot is hunger.  Hunger drives a story initially--the opening chapter or scenes usually demonstrate a longing.  A desire to change.  Push away from the status quo, whether it's a move, a marriage, a divorce, a job change, a discovery, an outer event that causes mayhem.  It might also be within a reader, as in nonfiction readers picking up your book to solve a problem or find information to change their lives.

Too much hunger and there is no integration of learning.  Too much movement in a story and the reader grows weary of change, gets exhausted.

It's a fine balance between the two.  We have to find out where we are on the continuum, when boredom comes to call.

Here are three techniques to try this week, as your weekly writing exercise.  Each will reveal where you are on the line between satisfaction and hunger.  Wherever you find yourself, add more of the opposite to get freshness into your writing again.

1.  Look for repeating patterns.  Study your storyboard (or book map).  Where are thing moving too much?  Where not at all?  Too much movement comes as action after action with no time to absorb or find balance.  Settle it down, space the action scenes, add reflection.  Too much status quo for too long shows up as reflection or interior monologue (thoughts and feelings) versus outer events that force change.  How can you to push your narrator, your characters, closer to the edge?

2.  Study the middle.  Most book slump there.   Make a list of 10 things you are afraid to add to the middle of the book.  Choose one and freewrite on it, telling yourself you don't have to use what you get.  Often, fear keeps writers within a carefully fenced space in their story.  Just the taste of "edgy" reignites interest.

3.  Look at your own life.  Is it off-the-charts crazy?  You may be spending all your "hunger" energy off the page.  See what you can settle down outwardly, surrender, let go off.  Do less.  The pages might come alive.