February check-in and enlightenment on the freeway

Happy Valentine’s Day!  How is everyone going with their revision/writing project?

Until today, I hadn’t written for a week.  I was surprised when I realised so much time had gone by.  What had happened was that I had re-written the opening scene of draft two, but I was not happy with it.  It felt flat.  Artificial.  I knew something was drastically wrong, but I couldn’t pinpoint what it was.

I drove to work, usually a sure-fire way for my writer brain to go “HEY!  IDEA!”

Nope. Nothing.  I drove home from work.

I drove to work.  I drove home from work.  Hmm.

I drove to work.  Inspiration!  Unfortunately it was for the other project.  I e-mailed notes to myself all day.  I drove home from work.

This went on for days as I wrestled with the problem of my new opening.  It had all the ingredients.  All the right proportions.  WHY WAS I NOT BAKING THE LITERARY CAKE OF GENIUS?

I drove to work this morning, and there it was.  Not the big kablooie, but the little tic-tic-tic of pieces falling into place.  I drove home.  Opened the document.  Read the scene again.

Oh, you stupid woman.

I had all the ingredients.  Characters with motivation and goals that were at odds with each other.  A tense situation.  My protagonist in the centre of it all.

Except, he wasn’t really in the centre.  He was just in the middle.  I took him out (mentally) and the conflict went on quite happily without him.

God damn it.

Cue dramatic music as our intrepid writer throws out thousands of words and starts again.  And this time it flowed beautifully, with my protagonist (and, might I add, not a small part of the culture) re-aligned to be smack dab in the centre of the problem, with no way to win.

Oh yeah.  Dilemma, you are my friend.

So here’s a piece of hard-earned advice from me.  Look at your scene.  Take the protagonist away.  Do things still happen?  Yes?  Then maybe consider the core conflict of the scene, and whether it really works.  If the action is going on around the protagonist, but not actually affecting them, then you might as well call them a passive nelly-boots and go watch paint dry.

Your turn.  How is your writing going?  What hard-earned advice can you impart to other writers that has helped your writing?