Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Go With the Flow: Is it Better If You're Loving It?

It's been a tale of two stories so far this week. Both started with the same anthology in mind: Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations. The second story flowed, done and dusted in two days. I really enjoyed writing it. The first story, not so much. I was enamoured of the idea, I'd got some meaty characters, but I just couldn't get the story.

So that got me started thinking about flow. Some writers say that their best work is done when they're in the zone. Other writers say it doesn't make a blind bit of difference to the quality of their work.

Me? I'm on the fence again. I'm not sure. I've sold stories that were a dream to write, and stories that felt like I was pulling teeth. Obviously it's more fun writing stories that flow.

I'm wondering if I can use this to my advantage, somehow, someway. One doesn't want to get into the habit of abandoning stories left, right and centre, but . . .  but what? Help me out here, folks.


  1. I'm the same. Sometimes they flow, sometimes they don't, and I still can't tell the good from the bad :)

    I'm no help at all, am I?

    Good luck with Lost Civilizations.

  2. Hi Lydia, sometimes it helps to know that you're not alone. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Some of the stories I struggle with the most end up as my favorites, while I'm sometimes less attached to the ones I wrote "in the zone".

  4. It's funny you mention this, actually, because for the past week or so I've started three stories and abandoned them all.

    I believe the first necessary (and most difficult) skill any writer learns is when to walk away. It was a skill I didn't have in my early 20s, and one that I knew I was lacking. I wrote a hundred versions across a dozen notebooks of the same broken western, and abandoned good ideas the first time I didn't know the right word to use. I flat-out didn't know.

    But I do now, just as you do. It's not a perfect science, it's more of a feeling. I would be wary--as I should be of my own recent habit--of walking away from stories just because you aren't in the zone, because you'd hate to lose calibration on your instrument, if ya know what I'm sayin'.

  5. For me, the stories that were the hardest to write are normally the most successful. And in a similar vein, the stories I absolutely adore are usually hard to sell and those I'm not certain about are picked up straight away.

  6. Lots of diversity in the comments. Very interesting.

  7. I'd just leave that story that's not flowing so well right now and rework it at a later date when I have more time and energy.

    I tell myself nothing happens before the right time. I apply that to storytelling as well.

  8. I tend to hunt and peck for "the zone" as I write. It comes to me in snippets, in scenes, but seldom for an entire story. Maybe that's why I've been so focused on flash this past year. Personally, I think that sometimes your inner writer is telling you to stop, drop, and roll until the next inspiration drops. Other times, at least for me, it's sheer laziness that pushes me away from a story in progress. I'm with you, in that I just don't know/understand the difference well enough yet. I do think an ambitious story requires struggle, though it's equally true that you know you've found the "right" path forward once the struggle drops away.

    How's that for helpful (not!)? Anyway, I stopped by to congratulate you on your September success at Write 1 Sub 1 and to remind you to keep Triangulation in mind again this year. Theme is "Morning After". Subs open in December.

  9. Me again, just calling in to say congratulations on W1S1 this month :)