Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Filler Material

Ever been in a rut with your writing?  No?  Okay, maybe it's just me...

We've all hit that brick wall where the portion of the story we're working on doesn't quite seem done, but you don't know what to do to advance the story, and the next part of the story isn't ready to be displayed.  I'm ashamed to admit that in times like these, I've simply meandered along and hoped the story acquired the right taste to get me past it, kind of like what goes inside the hotdog or that stuff you put in meatloaf when you're short of ground beef.

I call this filler material, and I usually resort to it when two conditions are met.  First, I've outrun my outline...again.  Second, I'm still a few hundred words short on my word count goal and I'm tired.  I know these are poor excuses for churning out shitty stuff, but it happens to more writers than would care to admit.

To all you folks who revel in being seat-of-the-pants writers, God bless you.  I wish I had the imagination to sit down without having at least an idea where the story is headed and crank out something both coherent and creative.  Unfortunately, I can't operate that way for very long and  produce quality.  That's not to say that I painstakingly map out each scene in such detail that you could turn the outline into a Shakespearean script, just that I have to have a general idea of where the road goes if I want to drive there.

When I try to do the seat-of-the-pants thing, I invariably put in filler material.  I'll plant in a conversation that does nothing to move the plot along, or I'll put in a description of the scene that does little except kill whatever mood I'd hoped to create.  I'll be able to stop myself if I catch it in the middle of doing so, but sometimes I don't discover the flaw until much later...like the next day...or the next week.

That's because sometimes I'm stupid and write when I should know better, like when I'm tired.  I want to eventually make this a profession, so I know I need to write enough to build an inventory.  A lot of writers never make it past the Dreaming of Fame and Riches portion, and so they don't sit down and just write.  I'm determined not to fail simply because I stopped producing material, so I try to establish a daily word count goal, especially when I'm working on a novel.  However, I need to take my own advice sometimes and recognize when it's just not happening, because when I don't, I seem to put in garbage that everyone knows will get cut later.  It becomes pointless, and it's all so I can get to the word count goal and stop for the evening.

Filler material may temporarily satisfy, but it's not good for your work, much like those hotdogs I love.  The reader gets easily bored with such tripe, and if you as a writer annoy them enough, they may get sick of you and never come back.  And although I vow never to use it again, I find that I'll fall into the trap when I don't pay attention.  I don't want to, but it happens.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go eat another hot dog.

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