September 22, 2011


Seems like the writer's life is plagued by paralysis. At least, mine is. It took me a lot longer than expected to finish the first complete draft of my current WIP, and I'm pretty sure I could only do it because I gave myself permission, nay, ordered myself to suck.

After I finished this draft I took a little break. Did some TV-watching, book-reading. But my WIP was always in the back of my mind. I just got a new computer, and to celebrate, I got myself a copy of Scrivener. There are hundreds of cool features. I've probably used four of them. Even so, I'm already finding Scrivener helpful in terms of organizing the whole project and switching back and forth between layouts to get a better view of the story as a whole. I've taken a lot of notes, and I've marked a lot of scenes as extraneous. But here's the part where it gets tricky.

You see, I'm pretty sure I've done what I can in the re-reading and note-taking department. It's time to dive headfirst into a sea of revision, and I'm coming up against a wall: paralysis.

Paralysis is a common writerly affliction, mostly (in my experience) brought on by thoughts of the "This sucks!" "How can I possibly make this better?!??" "I don't know what I'm doing!" variety. I overcame paralysis in my last draft by allowing myself to be crappy. But how can I do that this time around, where the point is to be improving the writing?

My particular issue (currently) is first lines. I'm convinced that nothing I come up with is anything more than mediocre, and my brain is insisting we not move on to meatier parts of the book until I have the perfect first line, darn it! How can I possibly induce agents and editors to pick up the book if my first line isn't all shiny and eye-catching?

Argh, it's not going so well. I probably should have expected it, but it's disappointing nonetheless. I thought it would be easier to improve something that already existed, but I'm having trouble getting started now that there's a bar: my first draft. (Low, admittedly, but still there.)

How do you get over paralysis when you can't simply allow yourself to suck any more?


  1. Since you've got Scrivener, have you thought about breaking up your novel into parts? I have mine broken into separate documents for each chapter, and I've labeled each with labels like Revised Draft, Needs Polishing, etc. When one part of the book is annoying, I work on making smaller changes to another chapter.

    Also, I wouldn't worry about the first line just yet. In my current WiP, I've changed the first line about ten times and I still only kind of like it. I know I'll probably change it another ten times.

  2. @Tara (The Bodacious Pen)

    Thanks for the tip! I have broken my draft into scenes, but I'm finding it difficult to break away from the "WORK LINEARLY!" mantra I've used in the past. (Mostly because I feel like the character development will come more naturally if I write in order?)

    But you're right, I really should just start jumping around. Maybe the perfect line will come to me in my sleep! :)

  3. I know what you mean. I've been plagued by the first line, first chapter in every single thing I've written. Trust me, put the first chapter away and simply coast ahead.

    I can honestly say from experience you'll be back to that section half a doz. times before your book is ready to go out. That first line will stick you like glue, unmoving and debilitating. (Hugs)Indigo