Another deleted scene from Vengeance Will Come

It’s been an anxious couple of weeks on the writing scene. Weeks is an unfair way for me to describe it… possibly 10 hours is more accurate in terms of available writing time. And yet a couple of hundred words spread over 10 hours is enough to make me anxious. In fact it did more, it sucked my enthusiasm dry and wrapped it in the cold embrace of a black hole. I literally had no enthusiasm left.

In an effort to reduce the number of point-of-view (POV) changes, I had decided to delete the scene below.

It’d been a day and a half since the female Brethren agent had discarded her cloak of normality. She dropped to the rubber mat for some rapid push-ups and then did a series of stretches before returning to the wooden chair. She let her head and neck relax into position behind the thermographic scope of the sniper rifle.
It had started by been comm’d and told to not go into work. The same morning the Shadow Generator had been delivered to her house in the shell of a large fridge-freezer unit. The nameless ‘delivery men’ had reassembled the device while she used a laser cutter to dig into the house’s foundations to the secret weapons-cache.
Throughout the day construction workers had begun building a pool and patio in her backyard with heavy machinery. The work outside was purely to hide the noise of the real construction: a shield box in the attic where she now sat. The shield box was a large metal cage which protected her high-tech weapon from the Shadow Generator in the kitchen.
While some of the workers had left at nightfall others had remained with their supplies and equipment. They watched through the ground floor windows, ready to defend the Shadow Generator with their lives. She had never met them before but they were Brethren; that was enough.
Her mission was clear, even if its ultimate purpose was not: keep the Shadow Generator running for as long as possible and prevent the enemy from capturing it. She was honoured to have been chosen as a martyr of the New Order.

The enemy arrived in under three hours, approaching in a staggered formation with the lead squad moving through her neighbour’s yard. The forward unit was closing in, but she watched further up the street for the unit leader. As the unit leader stepped around the corner she placed the crosshairs on his face and pulled the trigger. She shot two more soldiers in the chest before the Tadorian squad returned-fire at her en-masse, shredding the attic and forcing her to roll down the stairs to escape the inferno of lead.

The unnamed character in this scene had this, and one shorter scene and then disappears from the story line. Hence, why it was a prime candidate for POV removal.

However, I had originally added the POV because I needed someone “close to the action”. Removing her, meant I had to view the scene as a bystander… which was risky in the slowing-down of action. Try as I might, I couldn’t get enthusiastic at writing the scene from the alternate location. The words dribbled out and my enthusiasm quickly evaporated.

Making a beginner’s mistake, which I thought I was smart enough to be immune to, I misinterpreted that lack of enthusiasm as more than what it was. The story was horribly flawed, broken and should be abandoned. Not true, but that’s how I felt. I wrestled with the complete death of my enthusiasm. I tried to puzzle out what my problem was and it wouldn’t come to me. Day after day, the same soul-sucking dread. I lamented to a friend over coffee that I was considering putting the whole project aside, or completely reverting the scene deletion (and then putting it aside).

The morning following the coffee while getting ready for work, I had a brainwave. It would mean going back and changing a couple of earlier scenes but if it meant breaking the deadlock it was worth it.

Not only that, but I’m also taking a riskier step. My protagonist is going to have a slightly longer sulking session, which is a very dangerous move. If he is too sulky the reader won’t like him. But as it is currently written, he overcomes his emotional distress in the speed it takes Jack Bauer (of 24) to recover from a near-death experience. Which isn’t authentic at all. It’s a risk. I’m taking it.

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Overcoming Writer’s Block

(This is very loosely based on the Writing Excuses podcast Season 1, episode 16, with a lot of additional rambling and ad lib).

How to overcome writer’s block, you ask… Stop reading this and go do some writing. (I’m almost serious, but I’ve put some effort into this post…so why not take a few minutes to read it and then get writing 🙂 ).

There are two schools of thought around curing writer’s block and they are helpfully contradictory. It’s as simple as just forcing yourself to write or, you can go the other way and just don’t try to write.

Step 1: Accept Reality

You want to be a professional writer, right? So that means that you have to produce. Just the same as a farmer, a cubical monkey or a factory-line worker you don’t get paid for staying in bed. Nor would a baker make any dough without being up early (ouch, bad pun). The early bird feasts on the juicy worm; the sluggard bird gets nothing.

The reality is that you do have to produce. Just because you don’t feel like it (emotion) or you don’t feel you can do it (also emotion) doesn’t mean you can be successful not doing it. Publisher’s want authors they can rely on to regularly churn out product, not one-hit wonders. You must produce.

Step 2: What’s the Problem, doc?

Be your own doctor. No, that doesn’t mean to self-medicate; that’s not going to help anyone.

You need to diagnose the cause of this malaise which is preventing you from writing. In order to fix or work-around the issue, you need to know what it is. From my own experience I have encountered the following:

  • a plot problem which essentially “breaks” the story, or I don’t know where it is going.
  • feelings of discouragement in overall ability, or the quality of the current work.
  • exhaustion
  • preoccupation with other things

Step 3: Cure

A Plot problem. The first stage of AA, and Writer’s Block is to admit the problem. It can be painful to admit that this baby you have been gestating for months has some serious flaws. Diagnose the problems fully. Write them down, be specific and pull no punches. Thinking it through in your head is not enough; write it down.

Then brain storm possible solutions. Throw up a dozen ideas, even if you instantly discard ten. Identify the strengths and weaknesses of each solution. Normally I’ll have to throw up about fifteen options before I hit upon the right one. Most often it is the right combination of solutions which comes out the strongest.

Discouragement. Discouragement, friend of mine. Discouragement is nothing unusual to the writer. Like your own personal Flanders (aka annoying neighbour) it will come a round. Even seasoned, acclaimed writer’s continually struggle with feelings of inadequacy and foreboding failure.

When this enemy comes knocking on my door the best fortification is to go bolster the defences. I do this by reading some of my past “success” stories (published, or not), and the positive feedback which I hang onto (for moment such as this). I am a decent writer, and any setback I have is temporary and does not define me.

It also helps to remember:

  • a literary masterpiece doesn’t come out of a first draft. A gem is honed and cut, not pulled jewellery-ready from the ground.
  • writing well isn’t easy; don’t expect it to be.

Exhaustion. Who would have thought that sitting at a keyboard for hours at a time can be truly exhausting? Especially when trying to meet deadlines it doesn’t take long to completely drain the batteries of more than just your laptop.

Allow yourself a break, between ten minutes and an hour. Go get some sunshine, people watch, call a friend or drop around for a coffee. It’s about changing your setting, giving yourself a small break from the requirement to write.

I’d advise not checking email, youtube, news websites or playing computer games. You want to refresh your mind, not put it to sleep.

Pre-occupation. Humans are complex beings. Sometimes we have pesky things like relationships, occupations or responsibilities that fall outside of the realms of our latest novel.

Sometimes we have to deal with other things, and there is no way to put them off. It is better to focus on those other tasks, get them done efficiently and go back to writing than to try doing both things inefficiently.

Step 4: Prime (as required)

If you’re still not ready to write then start doing things that will prime your writing engine.

  • Read what you wrote yesterday
  • Just write – even if what you write isn’t any good, at least you are writing (which is better than not). Write yourself into a scene or character.
  • If you absolutely cannot write, are there other tasks you can do that are still productive? (It is better to be productive in research or editing than to give up and play a computer game!)

Prevention, better than a cure

Learn your rhythm. Understand when you are most productive and what things impede your effectiveness. As I wrote in Writing-Life Balance, I am most productive in the mornings, so where possible I need to set aside the morning for writing and leave other tasks until later in the day.

Understand your motivation. This is a big one. Why do you write? A good motivation will keep your literary engine running. Are you writing so that others can experience the adventures that you must write about?

Schedule pressure. Some people are hard-wired to respond better under pressure. Set yourself deadlines. And if you miss a deadline, adjust the following deadlines – don’t just say “well I missed that, so whenever is good enough.” Make yourself a goal, and plan a reward that you will only receive if you meet the goal (and/or punishment).