Writing, like any art, is a time consuming labor of love. When wrapped up in such a massive personal investment, it is easy to forget that the entire act of creation is optional; that sometimes the best way to FINISH the project is to simply stop creating…
You are in a garage that has been converted to a recreational room. Arcade machines and scrapbooking items line the north and south walls. Outdoor carpeting on the floor and a stash of booze in the corner display case will keep you from freezing. A table in the middle of the room is set up with all the implements of an aspiring author. In the corner of the room there is a door to the outside world and another that leads back inside the house.
There is a laptop here.
You emit a hearty battle cry to the Gods of creativity.
>TURN ON LAPTOP
The system clicks and blinks to life.
Laptop: “Good day, writer! Are you ready to craft glorious fiction!?”
>NO, NOT REALLY
Laptop: “Sorry to hear! You’re so close to being done!”
You’ll have to write something new. Your WIP deadline has passed.
You are carrying:
a table of contents
>LOOK AT DEADLINE
Accordingly to this 4th deadline, your beta readers expected your novel draft last week.
(which door, the door to the house or the door leading outside?)
Outside the House
You are just outside the garage side entrance door. It is pitch black out here in the moonless night. You are likely to be abducted by aliens.
There is a trash can here
There is a recycling bin here
Like a used water bottle, the deadline comes back in a new form and with an improved ‘use by’ date.
There is a laptop here
How much would you like to write?
>ALL OF THE REST
Don’t be ridiculous. That’s too much at once.
>WRITE SOME FICTION
You’ll have to be more specific. Better check the log.
>READ TABLE OF CONTENTS
It is a listing of chapters for your WIP that reads 1 through 38. Chapters 9, 28, and 37 are highlighted in red.
>WHAT IS CHAPTER 9?
Chapter 9 of your WIP is an engaging display of fancy description and brilliant yet directionless dialogue as you currently fail to enamor your reader to your new characters.
>FIX CHAPTER 9
Your heroine and bit characters glare at you in confused response.
>ADD A PERSONAL TRAGEDY TO CHAPTER 9
(+13 to backstory)
>ADD A DIARY TO CHAPTER 9
Done. A sense of balance and peace settles over the characters inside this chapter.
(+9 to structure. Your novel is now passable.)
>WHAT IS CHAPTER 37?
Chapter 37 is a gripping episode in which action overshadows form and unanswered questions are left brutally unanswered.
>FIX CHAPTER 37
Your hero and antagonist look up mid-grapple and await clearer instruction.
>ADD FIRM ANSWERS TO CHAPTER 37
Done. The opposing parties finish their brawl and sigh with satisfied relief.
(+23 to closure. Your novel is looking quite good.)
>READ TABLE OF CONTENTS
It is a listing of chapters for your WIP that reads 1 through 38. Chapter 28 is highlighted in red.
>WHAT IS CHAPTER 28?
Chapter 28 of your WIP is a fine example of classic American fiction in which characters are stuck in a romantic tangle with muted fire and nary a resolution in sight.
>ADD ROMANCE TO CHAPTER 28
You sprinkle in cupids and hearts to little effect.
(+1 to romance. -5 to clarity.)
>ADD PASSIONATE KISSING TO CHAPTER 28
Your characters fall into a rousing embrace. Events in Chapters 18 and 33 no longer make any sense.
(+53 to reader confusion. Your novel has issues once again.)
Done. All kissing has been swept from the book.
(-123 to gender sensitivity)
All kissing restored.
(+123 to gender sensitivity)
>REMOVE KISSING FROM CHAPTER 28 AND HELP?
Done. Perhaps you can try a more subtle, background approach.
>ADD BONDAGE SWING TO CHAPTER 28
That didn’t qualify as subtle.
(+32 to kinkiness. -60 to continuity. -20 to tone.)
Your noble hero character looks nervous.
Due to poor structure, a flock of rogue chickens has entered the room.
>ADD WHISPERED SECRETS TO CHAPTER 28
Your hero mouths dark truths to the pecking chickens. Your heroine is in the corner, tentatively spinning the bondage swing with one curious finger.
(-90 to continuity. -130 to tone.)
Your main antagonist has entered the room. A braying donkey has entered the room.
The braying donkey is too distracting to the text for you to make that update. The antagonist saunters into the corner to inspect the bondage swing along with a now quite interested young heroine. You appear to be losing control of the novel.
(-100 to everything. Your novel is now bad literary comedy.)
The donkey resists your efforts with a flurry of kicks. Your hero is struck in the gonads and falls to the ground, mortally wounded. The antagonist sweeps the heroine off her feet and leaps onto the donkey to make his getaway.
(-100 to everything. Your novel is now a fictional cesspool.)
>KILL CHAPTER 28
Your characters, human and animal alike, freeze in mid-step and pivot their fearful stares in your direction.
(What do you want to kill chapter 28 with?)
Laptop: “Oh sure, make ME the bad guy.”
With a series of torturous clicks, the deceased hero, the sordid heroine, the suave antagonist, the pile of animals, and all the miserable rest of chapter 28 cease to exist.
(+675 to structure, +102 to tension, +50 to tone.)
*** Winner! You have finished your first draft! ***
Of course that’s all much easier said than done… I’ve been stuck on the same nasty ol’ chapters for a few months now. How long does everyone else give a troublesome section before it’s off to the circular file?