When the Words Won't Flow: Turning Bad Days into Better Stories

Embracing Feedback, Fighting Self-Doubt, and Writing Through Adversity
When the Words Won't Flow: Turning Bad Days into Better Stories

Writing method: Long hand

Word count: 1320

Keith's Audio Commentary:


(Modified transcript)

The Morning Struggle

Today is July 7th, 2024.

It's Sunday and it has been a hell of a day.

I started writing this morning and I chose to handwrite today's chapter, which always takes a little bit longer because of course I have to handwrite it and then I transcribe it.

it just so happened to be one of those days.

One of those writing days where I have no idea what the hell I'm doing.

I often see people online complaining about these types of days where you didn't want to show up and write.

when you do show up and write, you just have an idea but it's not a very good idea.

getting from A to B feels like crossing a chasm on a very questionable rope bridge that the planks are falling out.

one misstep and you're into the you're into the drink, you're screwed.

And that's pretty much what happened to me today.

I was hanging by a thread.

Struggling with Plot and Character Motivations

I'd almost finished- well, I finished writing the chapter, which turned out to be- after I was done transcribing, it was about 1,300 words.

Probably the original written version was around 1,200 words.

And I had an idea for a scene that I've had for a while, but the lead-up to that scene, I had no clue.

No fucking clue what I was gonna do.

And I got to a point to where- and I had this point in Cereus & Limnic, my first novel, where there was a huge- there's a really big pivotal plot- plot connector that I've been struggling with.

Because in Gates of Okinawa, a big part of the story is they're closing the gates.

But I've been stuck on, why are they closing the gates?

Is it a good thing that they're closing the gates?

Is it a bad thing?

I think I've wanted to leave it kind of ambiguous because that is the quest.

the quest is to close the gates, and the gates are connected to the main bad guy.

But then there's also a gimmick to where it's good for some for some of the demons that the gates are open.

It might even be good for humanity that the gates are open.

But I wanted to leave that question in the reader's mind and the character's mind.

Like, is this a good thing that we're shutting these things down?

I wanted to leave that ambiguous.

Now the problem with this is that it makes threading the needle with the plot, especially at this this moment where we're coming up towards the end of the story.

And we really need to resolve, like, okay is this a good thing or a bad thing?

Do we want the gates closed or not?

was this quest all for nothing?

Or was it a total MacGuffin?

Or was it really "the friends we made along the way?"

You know what I'm talking about.

And I haven't figured that shit out yet.

I'm sitting here like, well shit I don't know.

I just had an idea for a cool scene.

And I think that's one of those things where you have to try and show up anyway when you don't have any ideas.

And I just knew, like, after I'd written it, I was like, I don't like this.

But then if you put so much work into it, you know, you sat there for an hour and a half, two hours, and then it's done.

But then it's like, I want to just rip this out of my notebook and do a do-over.

But that seems like a waste too.

So what I'll probably do is go back and rework it and figuring things out.

The Beach Trip Debacle

But the other thing that happened today was I decided to go on a beach trip, basically, to a place that's pretty far drive from where I live.

Maybe it's like an hour and a half drive out and back.

But yeah, so there some people did some snorkeling, someone went in the water, and I was there trying to write.

But it was just one of those days where everything was daunting me because I had handwritten it, and then I was like, okay, I'm not gonna take my laptop.

I'm just gonna do it on my phone.

So I pull out the beach chair, I sit down, and the only shady spot out there, and I get one paragraph in, I got ants crawling over my feet.

Okay, ants are on me.

Okay, that's why I gotta raise up.

I raise up, I go back to the car, put everything back in the car because I got all their gear and stuff, and then the sky's darkened.

Sky's darkened, and rain starts spitting down from the sky.

Of course I got my notepad. Now it's wet and the ink's blotting. Shit.

Then the wind starts kicking up, and when the wind's not kicking up, it is hot as hell outside.

So there's no place to sit.

It's either in the grass with the ants, or you're standing.

So I stand under a shady tree, and I just start transcribing on my phone, and that wasn't working too well either because the wind kicked up, and so my notepad kept blowing.

I was trying to put it under my arm, but I'm sweating, so my notepad's getting, the ink is getting wet.

I'm not being able to read my handwriting.

It was, man, it was just one of those days where they're trying to bust you.

Like, they don't want you to write.

They don't want you to finish, and somebody don't want you to finish, and of course I went back took back, and by the way, my car has no air conditioning.

No air conditioning, middle of summer, so it is hot as hell on the way back.

I'm just melting, and just sitting there in slow traffic, melting, and all the while I'm thinking, I still got to transcribe this bullshit chapter that I wrote and put it in, and then you just get hit, you know.

It's just one of those days where you get hit psychologically, and on top of that, so I received feedback on my recent novella, Sync Whole, and this was really the first outside feedback that I got from the story, and long story short, it wasn't like great feedback.

Dealing with Feedback

It was basically like, yeah, there's plot holes.

This was super confusing.

I didn't really get this, and yeah, they weren't really feeling it that much, but I was cool with that, you know, and I think, first of all, I think that's one of the things that you got to get over in this game, if you're a writer, especially if you're writing fiction.

First of all, not everybody's gonna understand your art.

They're just not gonna know where you're coming from.

It's not gonna vibe with them.

I think that's the first thing you got to let go, that people just aren't gonna always vibe with you, but that being said, you got to understand when it's love, when somebody wants you to get better.

They want you to put out your best.

They want your stories to be read, and they want them to be the best they can be, but it's still a dusting because you know you've put a lot of this time into these works.

I mean, even a novella like Sync Whole, it still took me, it probably took me about two months to get it done, and that was fast.

That was 25,000 words, pretty fast, and that's the funny thing, like the things that I thought would be sticking points for them, they weren't sticking points.

It turned out to be all these other things that I wasn't even aware of, so that's good to have that extra set of eyes on it,

but it's still one of those things where it just added up to the whole package of today, of a writing day, just added up to just blows, you know, just things that I've seen people quit this game over, you know, quit writing because you don't get the feedback that you want to hear.

You're struggling to get the basic shit down on the page.

You're just at one of those moments in the story to where it's not linking up.

You want to throw it out, but of course I'm not gonna throw it out.

I'm fucking 67,000 words into Gates of Okinawa.

It'd be foolish to set the whole thing on fire, but I know this is what happens.

The Challenges of Writing and Reader Interpretation

It's easy to get discouraged because when you're writing, you're just, a lot of it's having fun.

You're in your own world and you've got ideas for characters and scenarios or things you want to say.

Those come out on the page, but somebody else is in a completely different headspace when they're reading your fiction, and this is especially true when it comes to fiction.

When it's super subjective, what's good, and like when the quality is good, right?

Assuming the mechanics and the quality is there and what you wrote is readable, it's presentable, then everything else is up to interpretation, whether it was too much story, too little story.

I think that was one of the big things with Sync Whole was that basically I was putting too much on the reader.

You can't just hop into the story currently as it is without having read my first novel because of the backstory, all the stuff, nothing's really explained, and that is true.

That was something that I wasn't thinking of because I was thinking of it like, okay, you go on to this.

This is like Cereus & Limnic 1.5.

If you read the novel, then you read this, it should line up, but even with that, because they did read my novel, even though it was a number of years ago, they remember the story, and even with that, they were like, this doesn't really make sense.

This doesn't really line up, and yeah, I'll take that.

I'll take that, and it's not easy.

I know it's not easy for them to give me that type of feedback, but they know the amount of time that I spend on just sitting here, either in front of the computer, in front of the laptop, on my phone, writing.

I spend a lot of time doing this, and I'm trying to get better, but that's what it comes down to is getting that feedback and then not letting it get to you

you know, that's just one thing that I wrote.

I've written a lot of other things.

I've written stuff that they've liked, too.

I've written stuff that they don't really like because it's not really their style, but I think the lesson here is don't let the feedback, one, don't let it derail you.

Don't let it say, oh, I'm a terrible writer.

I can't do this, whatever.

It's one person's opinion, and that may not be, that doesn't have to be the final say because it's your say, you know, and I took that.

I had them write down some of their suggestions, and I do plan on going back and integrating some of them into a rewrite in a future date, but so that's the first thing.

Don't let it tear you down.

Second thing is it's ultimately your stories, your art, so you've got to, you make the call, what goes in and what doesn't make it in.

Like they said something about, oh, this certain detail about how this character dresses.

How come that's not addressed?

I'm like, that's not important to the main story, so I'm not putting that in.

It's only a secondary character.

That's the way I saw it.

They didn't see it that way, but once again, that's a subjective thing that you've got to decide.

I'm the author at the end of the day.

I always say if somebody doesn't like what you wrote enough, like they really don't like what you wrote, then they should write another book.

They should write a book, writing it the way they want to write it, whether it's fiction or nonfiction.

That's the answer.

The answer to a book you don't like is a book written by you as you do like.

That's why books exist.

Book is an argument.

It's either an argument for a story or for a complete thought, and that's the way I think of them.

Conclusion: Perseverance Despite Challenges

So that's really all I wanted to say today.

I'm sitting here just fried.

I'm hot.

I'm tired.

I got, it was just, people say writing's hard.

Today was one of those days where it's just like all the external factors wanted to make sure I didn't get this done, didn't get my words in today, and it would have been easy to just say, well, fuck it.

I'm not going to do it on Sunday.

Why bother?

I'm tired, but no, I'm going to keep going, and even if the product wasn't that good, I always know I can come back and make it better, a little bit better every day.

That's the way it goes.

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