Sometimes, no matter how well we plan our writing lives, things go awry.
We can’t figure out the shape of the story, the arc of the character, no matter how many times we revisit our notes.
We can’t get the words to work, to reflect the amazing ideas that are hovering there, inside our minds, just out of reach.
We can’t get an agent interested in the novel that we’ve finished, even though we think it’s our best, most ambitious work.
We can’t get an editor interested, even though our agent is wholly on board, more enthusiastic than s/he’s ever been before.
We can’t get booksellers to buy the book, even though our publisher has invested good money in an advance, cover design, basic marketing.
These are just a handful of the dozens of things that can go wrong, between Hey, Wow, That’s A Brilliant Idea and Readers Are Buying My Book By The Boatload! Virtually all of us will get snagged somewhere along the way, for at least one of our books. We’re all going to have to develop a strategy for surviving. We’re all going to need a recipe for our own lemonade.
1 part emotion: I rant. I rave. I keen like Mr. Rochester’s mad wife in the attic. (I have to do all of this so that I get all the useless emotion out of my system, so that I can begin to think and act constructively once again.)
1 part brainstorming: I force myself to define a worst-case scenario. Then, I dream up various possible solutions, testing what sort of edifice I can build on that terrible, horrible foundation. (For really tough cases, I bounce my solutions off others — critique partners, spouse, my agent… The key is that the others have to understand writing and publishing, at least enough to help me rank the various ideas I brainstorm.)
1 part action: I choose the best new building and I move forward, even though the “best” isn’t “perfect”. At all. In any way that I’d originally hoped for, dreamed, and planned. (Ideally, I move forward in ways that are new to me, that are uniquely suited to the specific situation. For example, I force myself to find the energy, time, and money to have an in-person meeting with a person or people who can change things, even when my reflex preference is to communicate by email, from under a rock.)
I’ve got to admit — I’m not a big fan of lemonade. Whenever I buy it in a restaurant, it’s too sweet, or there’s not enough lemony taste, or the ice melts and dilutes the once-perfect beverage. But sometimes, lemonade is the only thing on the menu. (Come on. Work with me here. This is an extended metaphor.)
Over and over again, I’ve found that my basic recipe works. For me. What’s your core method of dealing with writerly challenges? Can you reduce your way of dealing to a recipe of easily repeated steps?