Jul 22, 2008

Struggling with Stretching

by Terri Wagner

I write for fun as well as for profit. In one capacity, I write for a trade publication/reporter; at home, I write stories about lives I might have lived (cop, spy, trust fund brat, etc.) with an LDS sister I've known for 30 years (hard as that is to believe).

We keep getting stuck. For a few years, we had fun with our characters, threw in silly cop/investigator type plots, romance when it was deemed appropriate and ended the story when the "mystery" was solved. We printed them out, added photos from the Internet for visual appeal, bound them and re read them now and again.

We also wrote short stories for various contests, winning some, losing most, trying out different things. We created a bunch of characters we've fallen in love with and intend to use in a "real" novel "some day." (We all know about some days don't we?)

But lately, my fellow fun writer has turned serious in what is supposed to be fun. Suddenly, she wants more realistic plots, more complications, more "real" romance (as in they argue, gripe and sometimes not even like each other). I myself am not really happy with this turn of events, but let's face it, the old stuff was getting just that old.

Here's the problem: I think we're getting too complicated. We find ourselves in plots that we can't solve ourselves. I'm always wanting the bad guy to confess so we can move on to the next cute scene while she's always telling me, that's too easy. We argue more than we write.

It's not fun anymore. But oddly my writing skills are improving, my creativity is being stretched and the characters are more real. I know in my head you have to stretch as an author. Write in a different genre just to refresh the basics. But stubbornly I don't like it even though it's working.

So let's not tell her she's right for pushing for more; let's just let me grumble here and re read the old silly stuff for fun alone at night under the covers with the flashlight, oh and the obligatory stash of peanut M&Ms.


  1. If it's any consolation, I also 'fight' with myself over how and what to write, and even when. I'm thinking that doing it with a writing partner gives you the choice of getting upset with SOMEBODY ELSE, and considering whether to keep going or break off. It's much more difficult to break off with myself. But then, anything is possible. And yes, getting out of one's comfort zone is the only way to progress. Perhaps a partner might be more persuasive than a lazy conscience, if you let her. Either way, in the long run, we all have to make our own choices, do our own things, and live with the consequences--even of M&M's. (Does that stand for Music and Memoirs?)

  2. How fortunate you are to have a writing partner! I thought I had one for a few weeks...but she backed out. Perhaps it was the colored dots on my skin from falling asleep eating those M&M's??

    Stretching and growing can be terribly painful. Hoorah for you, Terri!

  3. Terri,
    Your comments on my blog each day are so very much appreciated by me. You always relate so perfectly to what I am saying, and stretch my thoughts to meanings that are deeper.

    Colleen and I and all the children have been dealing with incredible terror and trauma over what has happened. Thank you for sticking with me, even though the posts have been few.

    The sadistic caseworker has copied over sixty pages of my blog and sent them to every county in the state, as well as to other parties. She says my blog shows that I have "another side" to me: an angry, anti-social side. All this because I would not let her back in the house the second day.

  4. Terri,
    My husband always says, "It used to be fun, but now it's work." Yep.

  5. I wrote my last book with my sister and it was HARD! The first one we did together was already outlined and it flew by but this one on C. S. Lewis took nine months of hard work. There were tense moments but the finish product is impressive.

    Still, I think it's our last collaboration for a while.

  6. Great post, Terri! I have found the same thing from writing for the Arizona Beehive. It has to be journalistic in nature, which isn't my nature, because I can be very verbose. However, as I rework it and tighten it up, the piece becomes so much better (thanks in part to my mentor/editor, Cecily Markland). And in improving in this area, I notice my writing improves in all areas.


  7. Delightful post. Loved the bit at the end with the M&M's. Kari I know relates!


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