Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Swamp

Photo by Susulyka
Currently, I'm in what my good friend and critique partner (and brilliant screenwriter) Jen Klein calls The Swamp.  That's the place where you suddenly feel mired down in your story, unable see anything but the mud and the muck and alligators.  You know the story needs something, but everything you try doesn't seem to work.  You doubt every decision you make.  You rewrite a scene, only to decide an hour later that the new scene is crap and the whole book is crap and your agent is going to hate it and it's never going to sell but that's okay because no one is ever going to want to read it anyway.

So, uh...yeah.  That's The Swamp, and that's where I am.  By the way, Jen calls it The Swamp because in her first screenplay there was literally a swamp at the place where she got stuck.

Georges Seurat's La Grande Jatte/Art Institute of Chicago
It's like I'm stuck inside Georges Seurat's La Grande Jatte and all I can see are the tiny multi-colored dots.  I can't step back and see the beautiful painting as a whole, its scope and vision.

There's a swamp in every single creative project, a place where we're suddenly struck with quicksand-like self-doubt.  It takes every ounce of positive thought and determination to not let yourself get pulled under.  Sometimes you have to doggie-paddle in place to keep yourself afloat for a while.  Sometimes it takes copious amounts of cookies and chocolate and pie to keep the alligators at bay.

The thing about The Swamp is that you can't really fight your way out of it.  You have to write your way through it.

 And maybe it takes rewriting the same scene over and over and over, but eventually you'll realize that the third new version of that scene does work, and your decision to cut that particular character out was the right one, and your writing actually isn't crap.  The sun will shine through the trees, the alligators will slink back down into the mud, and you'll find yourself on solid ground again.

Nicole Maggi writes YA - paranormal, historical, and beyond.  Her debut novel WINTER FALLS will be released in 2014 from Medallion Press.  She's represented by the fabulous Irene Goodman of The Irene Goodman Literary Agency, and lives in Los Angeles with her husband Chris, their daughter Emilia (after the Shakespeare character), and two cats Sawyer & Hurley (after the LOST characters - yeah, she's a geek).  Check out her website and follow her on Twitter!


Jen Klein said...

There's something in that allegorical book, PILGRIM'S PROGRESS... isn't it called the Slough of Despondency, or something like that? Or PRINCESS BRIDE... isn't it Pit of Despair? Either way -- fear not -- you will wallow through to the other side, where lives chocolate and champagne.

Anne Van said...

Great post Nicole! Been there done that! : )