Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Desperation Your Secret Ally

A while ago I read a really interesting essay by Neil Gaiman about where he gets his ideas. He's rather candid about it, and I've thought back fondly of that essay time and again. But today what's made me think of his essay about ideas is when he talked about desperation. He was desperate to figure out a story for the Sandman comics and gradually worked his way through it.

So I come to desperation myself. I've worked on three or four different ideas, and none of them came together. The ideas were there, but the plot hadn't joined up like the big robot in Power Rangers (the original show from the 90s...we don't talk about the Power Rangers in Space Metaton IV on this blog). 

Bored and frustrated, I reread some of my old things. You know those novels. They didn't quite work out the way you thought they would. You abandoned them before you finished. You wrote until you didn't know what else happened and gave up. I read over my zombie novel, still beloved in my heart despite it only being 34K and very, very rough and discovered magic.

I could make this into a full length novel. It actually wasn't that bad. Sure I wrote it before I knew what a scene was, but still. The character's voice was alive and whole and there. Like magic. From my brain.

Desperation can be an ally. Sometimes you're at your wits end. You've had enough worrying over the book and your future as a writer, and you just want to lose yourself in a story. Given the rough state of the half draft, I also think it's going to be easier to just write in the spirit of discovery. To write out an exploratory draft, and write with abandon, instead of feeling like I need to stay on the path of the plot. 

I've worked out some things for the plot, but mostly I plan to wing a lot of the story. I also plan to do NaNo this year, and I am excited for it.

Sometimes you just have to throw in the towel, give up your writerly notions, and just sit down and tell yourself a story. It's so easy to forget that, but so vital to remember it.

What about you? Has anything good come out of a moment of desperation?


  1. Yes! Every time I find myself against the wall and ready to just go over the edge, something always crops up. It's crazy, and yeah the old ideas are a goldmine of awesome. I actually have three projects from my past that are in line to be written.

  2. Just so you know, Power Rangers ruined Saturday morning cartoons.

  3. Rena: it's also good for the self esteem, in that you can see your improvements, but it's almost never as bad as you remember it.

    Joe: they really did.