Writing Stops and Starts

Okay, so I’ve been struggling to get back to the writing project on the creepy haunted dollhouse, in part because it’s going to take research to get where I want to go with it, and that’s a time and energy thing. But the more I rewatch my current favourites and obsessions — Marvel movies, Castle, OUAT, SupernaturalThe MartianGhostbusters (reboot) [I go through periods of obsession over a universe and then they are overtaken by new ones, but they are always in the background] — and read articles about their characters and writers and directors, the more it’s bugging me that I can’t get this story under control or back into momentum or whatever you want to call it.

For me, writing is both planning and pantsing: I know what I want to produce, and I think I know how to get there, but in the middle of it all the damned thing surprises me over and over again as the characters take on their lives. Sometimes, I start to feel like I’m just an observer for the words that are coming out, a passenger on the journey who is tasked with documenting what goes on.

The creepy haunted dollhouse thing was supposed to be a narrative at first, but then I realized that it really wanted to be an epistolary. So, I started working on that, building a treasury of tales of the consequences of coming into contact with this object that had been built for mysterious reasons out of used coffin wood. Had to come up with those reasons, after a while, and doing so opened up a whole second world of possibilities, some of which my teenage son told me were too out-there for the whole thing. But for whatever reason, I can’t just let go of that secondary plot. I tried exploring it more in NaNoWriMo, and found that by the end of November, it was almost cornering me in. Sought out feedback from friends and other talented writers (who are friends), and it was very helpful in conceptualizing, but I still have to do the work.

Tonight, thinking about The Martian again, I realized that I need to make a list of things to do for the creepy dollhouse novel in order to get the first draft done. It’s not like writing the Talbot Trilogy, not in the least. Here’s what I need to do, how to work the problem, as Mark Watney would say — how to begin:

  • Soundtrack — I find it really helps to have music going on in the background for inspiration. I had playlists for the Talbot Trilogy, and I think I’d started on one for this, so I’m hoping I can find it. Songs connect to theme and character development, plus inform plot twists and moments of insight as they come about in the writing.
  • Protagonist — I’ve got her name (Bronwyn) and I know her genealogy, but I need to write it out in full, I think, with a timeline of events in her life to really know where she’s coming from. Sometimes these things come up during the drafting, though, as well. I had a recent experience at a hypnotist show that probably explains my rekindling of interest in the Bucky Barnes storyline, in the psychology of memory, so I may delve into that for Bronwyn’s purpose and actions. This means I’ll likely be re-writing her chapters. I want to sigh about that, but you know what? Sometimes the second draft is more satisfying than the first.
  • Research — a lot of what Bronwyn does is based on my own suppositions and extrapolations from past experience, but it doesn’t feel authentic enough because I haven’t done the proper research into the job she does. There’s a list of things I need to look up, in my head, that I need to put to paper. Kind of jealous of Diana Gabaldon and her team of researchers and assistants . . .

The big thing is that I have to consider what attracts me to the Bucky storyline, as well as others that involve amnesia and brainwashing — big fan of the Bourne series, for example — and the elements of horror and suspense that I want to include, and keep them in mind at all times when I’m putting bits of the story into place. This is why Stephen King recommends staying on the draft until it’s done, I guess.

If I had a room in my house dedicated to writing, I’d put these keys on the wall. I want my creepy dollhouse project to be about the creepy dollhouse, and the things that it does, but I also want it to be about memory, programming, identity, secrets and revelations, hope and despair, being trapped and searching for escape. I see it as The Dybbuk Box meets World War Z, in a sense, touching on fairy tales and lore. It’s a huge project. I don’t want it to take years; I can’t afford for it to take years, too, because I’ve applied to do grad school online and I have a full-time job on top of that, plus I’m going to apply to theatre grad school in two years. But I can’t rush this process, either.

Here’s a video I keep coming back to — for some reason, it keeps connecting with the creepy dollhouse in my head. Wish I knew why. For now, it’s tenuous.


I should be sleeping, but this is how it is — sometimes, my head grabs hold of these things and won’t let go. So I’ll list some strategies to try out tomorrow, see if that helps:

  • Character sketch
  • Freewrite / association
  • Brainstorming through mind-map
  • Timeline of (possible) events
  • Soundtrack with associated (possible) events
  • Specifics to research

Maybe it will help to tell you what happened at the hypnotist show. I’ll do that tomorrow, too.

Thanks, Internet peeps. Appreciate the listening ear and reading eyes. 🙂

2 thoughts on “Writing Stops and Starts

  1. B.J. Baye says:

    I also do the soundtrack thing, though for me the soundtrack is less about events and more about characters. For example, in the novel I’m working on now, I have songs like Roar and Invincible for a young girl on the run who’s starting to realize she has power of her own. Immortals and Heroes (we could be) for a boy dreaming of being a superhero, and so on, and a few songs (like Kings and Queens) to represent the cast as a group.

    Of course, sometimes I have a song for the story as a whole. The one story I’ve so far sold to a (web) magazine was inspired by the song Starships, by Nicki Minaj. Actually, just the one line, but that added it to my soundtrack anyway. The line ‘Starships were meant to fly’ gave me the idea of a starship being decommissioned and an old commander who wanted to take it on one last (suicidal) mission.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sweet!
      I find for me that sometimes it’s music that goes with scenes, and other times it’s characters — all depends on what song it is, and maybe how I’m feeling or what point in the manuscript I’m at. It’s funny, though: I mentioned it to Jack the other day, and he said that he’ll hear a song and it will make him think up a plot for a story. Eventually, he’ll start writing them down . . .


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s