Listen To The Work

This is my 1,000th post at Shadow and Fang.  I would like to say that I have some brilliant insight to share that everyone will want to retweet, but to be perfectly honest, I’m having one of my rare “I hate writing.  Why am I doing this to myself?” days.

I don’t really hate writing.  I’m just frustrated.  It’s a lot of stuff boiling down to things not going as smoothly as I want them to because real life prevents me from having enough time or attention to devote to the work (GO AWAY ALREADY!), so I inevitably miss stuff and have to start over with another draft or another outline.  Just ONCE, I would like to be able to take a story (whatever length) and just write it, one draft, clean it up.  Turn it in.  Like I always do term papers.  I was totally that kid who wrote the term paper and went in reverse and deliberately messed stuff up because they insisted we have a “rough draft”.    But that’s one of the things that I’ve learned over the last three years.  Writing fiction is NOT like writing a term paper.  It’s a whole lot harder.  And no amount of my God-given book smarts is going to speed up the process.  And that is the end of my whining.  Thanks for listening.

Despite not being where I want to be, I’ve accomplished and learned a lot over the last three years.

I finished the first draft of HOC. It was an opus 9 years in the making that will probably never see the light of day.  But it was the first book I finished as an adult, which was a significant step as it totally suffered from multi-draft-itis.  I made significant strides in the rewrite before hitting a massive procedural snag and abandoned it for other things.

I made the somewhat painful transition from pantser to plotter. Anybody who’s been around since this past summer read my Pantser to Plotter series, so you already know most of my thoughts on that.  I’m still trying to refine the process to work for me.

I’ve read a lot of craft books and learned how much I don’t know. This was both illuminating and depressing.  I had the same feeling when I got out of grad school.  I’ve learned so much and it’s just a drop in the bucket.  But it’s really opened my eyes to how much room there is for improvement and whet my desire to learn more about my craft.  It’s opened my mind and, as a result, I think the work has improved.

I have started three other books and abandoned them because something was missing. That might not seem like an accomplishment to you, but I consider it one that I recognized something was missing and didn’t continue to waste my time on them.

I finished the first draft of HiS. Despite my general funk about this, it was still a significant accomplishment.  The first book that I have plotted out and written from beginning to end with very little revision along the way.

I learned about story structure and embraced it. This was my big lightbulb for the year.  It was all the things that I wasn’t understanding, that wasn’t working right in terms of plotting.  I cannot say enough positive things about this series over at

I’ve learned about and struggled with character arc. This continues to be a weak spot for me.  I had the perhaps obvious thought that what I need to remember is that these characters when the story begins are NOT CAPABLE of doing what needs to be done.  And therein lies the point of the character arc.  It’s the thing they need to learn, how they need to change to BE the person who can do what needs to be done.  Which I get from an academic standpoint, but I still am not great at executing.

And perhaps the biggest lesson of all, over the last three years, I have learned to listen to the work. Everyone seems to have a different opinion on writer’s block–whether it exists or not, what it means.  What it has almost invariably meant for me is that I’ve done something wrong.  I’ve stopped listening to the work.  It’s meant that I’ve done something like forget a character arc, mucked up the story structure (this would be why I am cranky this morning–I realized this about the novella last night), not been authentic to a character’s voice or motivation, or I’m just flat going in the wrong direction.  99% of the time, writer’s block, for me, is a sign that I need to stop and re-evaluate either the scene or the story as a whole.  The other 1% is life interfering and taking up all my brain space.

So if I can offer once piece of advice, apart from the usual practice, practice and read a lot, it would be to listen to the work.  If you’ve stagnated, chances are it’s your gut telling you you’ve done something wrong.

Thanks for sticking with me, folks.

3 thoughts on “Listen To The Work

  1. “99% of the time, writer’s block, for me, is a sign that I need to stop and re-evaluate either the scene or the story as a whole. ”

    YES. I’m stuck at that point in WIP. I made a wrong turn and I’ll be damned if the Muse’ll buge until the stupid writer figures out the D’Oh! Moment.

    Great post, as always. Happy 1k blog!

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