My 2018 Write by Midnight Experience

Stacey Kite

This year, my Write by Midnight experience has been great. I didn’t reach all my goals, but I wrote every day and made real progress—which is something I haven’t done for a while.

I’d been in the writing doldrums for a few months, and my enthusiasm had evaporated. I’d struggled to make headway on my story, but I’m happy to say that I reversed that trend in February.  

How? Well, first, I made a few, small lifestyle changes: I started physical therapy for my back which I hurt walking my dog—I’ll explain that later—listened to more music and cut out news for the month. All that made me feel better which made me more enthusiastic about everything—including writing. But the thing that really did the trick was reworking my story’s outline.

Over time, my story had … mutated. As I learned more about structure, I abandoned some ideas and expanded others. That’s tightened parts of the story, but left other sections flapping aimlessly in the wind. There were big sequences that just didn’t fit anymore. Slowly, my manuscript had turned into a Frankenstein’s monster with parts from different, but similar stories stitched together in ugly ways.

At the back of my mind, I knew that was a problem—a problem I had every intention of dealing with—later. I told myself not to worry about the messed-up bits and to just keep writing since I had a solid handle on the plot from the midpoint of the story through the climax.

My subconscious, however, took a different stance and embarked on a passive resistance campaign that first slowed, then stalled my writing. Trying to move forward was like trying to drag my dog back to the car on a sunny day when she doesn’t want to leave the park. The closer we get to the car, the slower she goes, dropping from a happy trot to a sniff-n-stroll, then eventually to flopping on the ground, twisting back and forth to scratch her back then coming to a rest, belly up with her paws in the air.

It’s an unfair strategy she perfected in puppy-hood. It doesn’t matter how much I pull on the leash, once she’s comfortable, she just lays there, tootsies up, shooting coy glances at me out of the corner of her eye while she basks in the sunshine. She’s learned over the years that there is no way I can pick her up by myself. (Want to guess how I hurt my back?) And I refuse to drag her across a public park by her leash and collar when she looks like a canine corpse in the throes of rigor mortis.

My subconscious, it seems, is just as stubborn as my 70 lb snuggle hound, though not nearly as adorable. (I suppose cracking up when Kali goes into her carcass routine doesn’t exactly bolster my authority, but I can’t help it. She’s adorable. I so need to take a video of her doing it.)

Anyway, in January, with WBM around the corner and my subconscious playing dead weight, I decided to go back and redo my outline, fill in the plot’s gaps and trash the irrelevant scenes.

Wow. That was an eye-opener. Looking at my outline and my story, I realized my subconscious had a point. I’d been trying to fly a jet-biplane hybrid. There were a lot of scenes that didn’t fit anymore. (Like 30,000 words worth. Eeek!) And taking those scenes out left gaping holes in the story, in particular the first half of the second act was a giant void. I’d known the plot was tenuous there, but not that it was an humongous sinkhole.

The good news is that going through the process of revamping my outline has made my subconscious cooperative once again. For now, she’s trotting along beside me all happy-clappy. I only have a tiny hole left, which I should have patched over by Wednesday, and my scene writing has taken off.

In all, February has been a great writing month for me. (And I can bend over again without screaming. Yay!) Now I just need to keep it up. All of it–including the exercises.

I guess I’ll give in sooner the next time my subconscious takes a page from Princess-Prancing-Wiggle-Butt’s playbook and goes into dead-dog mode. Sometimes it’s just better to cave.

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