This is where I would usually post part of a story I’m working on. Since it seems I can’t do that if I ever want to sell the thing, instead I will write this short blurb.
I have, at any point, two to four stories that I am working on. I find that the way my brain works, it’s better to have a few going rather than trying to plow through one that may or may not be working. Right now I have two main stories that are anywhere from a quarter to three quarters done. At least the first draft. Each of them will be around five thousand words.
It doesn’t take a long time to type up five thousand words. A few hours maybe. Putting together a story can take days, or weeks. It isn’t getting the words out that is the problem, it’s pacing, tone, pov, style. Working out the puzzle of what set of words works best for the feeling I’m trying to convey. That stuff takes time. Or at least it can.
I got about 3000 words into one story when I realized it wasn’t hitting like I wanted. I tried to solve that puzzle. It wasn’t working. So I switched gears and moved to the other story. The other story started strong but quickly floundered. I switched back. I got a little more done on the first story. I went back and forth like this for at least a week.
One morning I was exercising and one of the two stories solved itself. My brain had been running it as a background process for several days and then ‘pop’ it laid itself out. Beat to beat to beat.
I moved some style choices from one story to the other and I was off and writing again.
I don’t think there is any such thing as waiting for inspiration. To make anything you have to work through the steps and build it a little at a time. I didn’t have ‘writer's block’. I didn’t wait for the muses to speak to me. I was doing the work. Chipping away at the task.
I get that the process I outlined above can make it seem like I waited and then all of a sudden, out of the blue, I thought of the whole story. It absolutely did not happen that way. I considered the problems, attempted to tackle them in many different ways and then, having solved several smaller puzzles, the solution to the larger puzzle came into view. It just happened to be when I was exercising and not when I was writing.
Stories are as much a mechanical puzzle as they are an emotional puzzle. Getting the words out efficiently and in the right order is part of the problem. Making them land so that the reader feels what you want them to feel is the other. It’s not enough to solve one or the other. They need to be solved together. Sometimes solving those puzzles can seem like magic. It can happen all at once. It can be surprising and exciting. In my experience, the only way to solve the puzzles is by doing the work. Gradually, even slowly, grinding through the problems until they are all complete. Sometimes that means that you get a clear picture of the whole thing early, sometimes it can seem to take ages.
It would be nice to think that one second I was spinning away on the elliptical and the next I had a fully formed story in my head, but that wouldn’t be the truth at all. I have pages of notes. I have many cut paragraphs and chunks of story written two, three, or four different ways. I did the work, solved the problems. After I had solved enough of the small ones I was able to solve the large ones all at once.
Now I only have the other story to fix, because that one isn’t working at all.