When Writing is a Workout

Those of you following my blog will know that I’ve been participating in the #WIPMarathon – a group of authors who hang out on social media while writing on a given work-in-progress. We support each other, shower each other with virtual confetti when milestones are reached, share in frustrations and lament writerly set-backs. It’s a great little community and I’m delighted to be a part of it, but this innocuous little hashtag reveals a great truth brought to you in gifs featuring Stephen Amell and Matt Lanter…

Writing is a workout!

No pain… No gain!

Writing a novel in excess of 50, 000 words often takes blood, sweat and sore finger tips. Sometimes books write themselves in a momentary fart of divine inspiration. That happened with Obscura Burning. I had that drafted in about 3 weeks. But that is a rare and special event unlikely to repeat itself.

For the past year I’ve been working on a New Adult sci-fi manuscript. (Bear in mind I managed to write two entire YA novels between sessions on this NA monstrosity and edit one of those YA books for publication.) I must be writing the sixth iteration of this NA story now and every day is a struggle. This week in particular has been a rough one for me and my manuscript with a lot of plot rehashing, character axing and scene deletion. Problem is, no matter what I change, something just isn’t working. I’m missing that magic, that spark… it’s just… well, see below…

Nope, not working :/

I have a sneaky suspicion about what the problem might be. See, a year ago this story started out as a very weird, surrealistic sci-fi piece with a literary bent. I abandoned that version for something simpler and more accessible. I abandoned that version for something less dark and dramatic. I abandoned that version for something more action packed and science fictiony. Then BOOM! I was assaulted by a Shiny New Idea and experienced a moment of shifty-eyed awesomeness when I realised I could rewrite my WIP incorporating said new idea.

Why yes I could do that. In fact, I think I will…

Yet another rewrite and my WIP was a mess of ideas, of half-finished plot lines, of subplots that went no-where and of a gazillion characters I had trouble keeping track of. It was a spaghetti mess with way too much going on. I’d taken my quirky romance and tried to turn it into a sci-fi epic. Despite liking some of the new things going on, I knew it still wasn’t working and that throwing more cool stuff (you know, like aliens, explosions, murder, mayhem and international corporate espionage) at the page wasn’t helping the story at all. I had to take a moment and take a step back to appreciate the catastrophe I’d created.

Seriously? What are you doing?

After almost a year of working on this story, of falling in and out of love with my characters, of hashing and rehashing the plot, of creating some of the most amazing scenes I’ve ever written and starting to think in the Texan drawl of my protagonist, there was just no way I was prepared to give up on this novel. I turned old school. I sat on the floor with colored pens and paper, and I started mind-mapping and redrafting, revising the plot and characters and theme from the ground up. And it worked! Things started falling into place. Those new ideas found a home in new scenes with a tweaking of the central theme. My beloved characters could stay put, it was only their story trajectory that needed adjusting. Yes! I was amped, I was excited. One more rewrite and this WIP would be a finished novel!

You’re getting there. Sorta.

That happened earlier this week and after some ruthless editing and restructuring, I managed to bash my manuscript into shape and assemble something close to a half decent story, if now 30k shorter and not really a novel anymore (sitting just below 50k for the umpteenth time!) However, I’ve once again reached a point where things just aren’t coming together how I want them to, but this time I know exactly why…

Come on! Not this again…

As a pantser-plotter hybrid, I once again find myself with my back against the plot wall for one magnificent reason. I have no idea how this story should end. I have no idea how the subplots will wrap up. I have no idea how I want the conflict to resolve. Sure, I know who my characters need to be by the end of it and where I don’t want the story to go, but that’s not enough. Until I figure out how to end this story, I’m basically just treading water and ambling from one scene to the next without a clear direction for resolution. I know what I need to fix, it’s just a matter of getting it done.

So why is writing like a workout? Because this week, working on my story has felt a lot like this:

and this…

and this…



So, yeah. I’m feeling rather battered this week. But I remain optimistic because nothing worth doing is ever easy, right? And all this WIP needs is a decent ending. I’m not sure when inspiration will strike or when I’ll finally be able to write ‘The End’ on this one, but writing is rewriting and it’s a process I love, just like I love the pain and strain of a tough workout because when it’s eventually over that endorphine rush will kick in and that high will make all the blood, sweat and rewriting worth it.

Do you ever feel like writing is a workout? Any tips or tricks you want to share?

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  • Ifeoma Dennis

    OMG you so nailed it.
    I’ve been feeling that way with my WIP too, which I started in…hold on…February last year! I’m excited about a cool subplot that I think would tie things up or make it more interesting and when I finally end up writing, it just doesn’t add up.
    For me, I don’t think being a plotter helps so much, although it does, but I’ve noticed that some subplots sound good on my outline but hardly make sense on the page. Ugh. I have no idea when this WIP would all come together, but like you wrote, I can’t wait for that endorphine rush at the end of the day when it all works out!

    Good luck and hope you get there someday. *drinks to that*

    • Suzanne_Writer

      Yay I’m not alone!

      I’m having this exact problem! The plot points I work out in my outline (rough as it may be) just don’t seem to gel in the story, like I’m writing against my characters or something.

      Really hoping I can figure this one out and wrap it up this month, but I’m not gonna hold my breath.

      All the best and happy writing to you! *raises glass*

  • Yes! I love the GIFs 😀 I know the feeling, and especially recently, I feel like I’m having these long workout sessions of writing, and coming away *without* the sought-after endorphine rush. Like I’ve done all these chinups, pressups, situps, and running, but it just hasn’t made a difference. Ahh! Hopefully next week will be better 😉 Best of luck on getting to ‘The End’ – I know you will!! You’ve come so far! 😀

    • Suzanne_Writer


      That’s exactly how I’ve been feeling lately – like all the hard work isn’t actually paying off *sulk*

      May next week be better for the both of us! And thank you! 🙂

  • Krystal Jane

    This is awesome. (post AND gifs)
    Writing a book is hard. It’s taxing on the brain, just like those Ninja Warrior-style pull ups are taxing on the body. And sometimes, it’s taxing on the body, too. (Insomnia related muscle soreness, anyone?)

    I often have to remind myself that I’m not going to have that high after every writing session. That I can’t plot the entire story and I can’t pants the entire story. In fact, even if I don’t know how I’m going to get there, I almost won’t start writing until I have at least a vague idea of the ending. I totally get what you mean. It’s like wandering aimlessly almost. What’s the end game? What’s the point? I’ve gotten to the point where I’m starting to not even bother outlining anymore. I focus on my relationship with my characters. If I’m stuck, I ask them what’s next. If I don’t know how to start, I ask them. If I need a basic summary to get started, I ask them to give me one. And if anything at all feels forced, I drop it and wait and hope they don’t take forever in getting back to me on where to go from here.

    I’ve found, when you really want a story to work out, when you really love it that much, you WILL get what you need to write it and finish it.

    I’m rooting for ya! ^_^

    • Suzanne_Writer

      Thank you! 😉

      I’m very much at the ‘what’s the point?’ moment right now. You’re right about asking the characters though. I’ve been doing that but I’ve so far met with taciturn shoulder shrugs. Problem is, they just want to make out, I actually need them to do some other stuff too.

      Thanks so much for the support and encouragement – it means a lot!