Thursday, December 16, 2010

Is Your Work Supremely Boring?

Last week I posted the question if your first chapter can be too exciting. Today I'd like to ask if your work is supremely boring. My greatest fear is that my stories are soooooboooooorrrrring. I go through this on every draft because after awhile they are so familiar to me I can't imagine anyone else would find them exciting. This is why I have what I call Alpha Readers - more like Cheerleaders. They are made of awesome. They deserve a special place in heaven.

A long time ago I would have said that if a writer got to the point where their work was boring to them, they were in big trouble. I don't believe that now. Some writers spend years on a project. It can get so familiar that working on it can be boring and, well, a lot of work. However, these writers who become bored with their work still love their work, and they are still driven by artistic achievement. That's not boring.

I think that's the word to remember: familiar. 

Anytime something becomes familiar, it runs the risk of becoming boring. If this happens to you and your book, keep going. Most writers I know who have this problem start working on another project. I suppose that's one way around the problem, but it can create other, bigger, problems. As I said above, a good way around all this is to get some good Alpha Readers (readers who read as you write, chapter by chapter or section by section). Cheerleaders are important, at least for me. I can't write in a vacuum. Talk about becoming too familiar with my surroundings...

My answers aren't the answers for everyone. How do you deal with getting bored with your work?

On another note, we received all but one entry for our Notes from Underground anthology! For the next month we'll be formatting this huge project and getting it ready for sale. We'll unveil the cover as soon as we can. Special thanks to Tara Maya for her artistic talents!


  1. I believe you're right to pose "familiar" as an alternative to "boring." Sometimes writing gets tough, but that's just when the failures get going! Did that come out wrong?

  2. Justus: I could take that the wrong way, but I won't. :)

  3. Okay, don't take what I'm about to say too seriously. I mean it, but not as stridently as I'm going to put it, because I do think there's room for a lot of different approaches and attitudes in writing.

    But I'm going to say it anyway.

    Just don't be offended, please, because it may not apply to you if you're an art writer or a self writer or have other reason and purpose for your writing.

    But --

    If you approach your writing as a career (and not everyone need do so), then I think you are copping out when you switch to another project because you get bored through familiarity with your current project.

    If it's a career, then it's a job. If it's job it not only has hard parts -- but it has boring parts. Any job has parts that get routine and dull. Pushing through those to see a project to completion is a sign of professionalism and excellence.

    It's not easy, because we like being entertained as writers, but when you get bored, if you have a career mindset about your writing, then you need to buck up and write anyway.

    It's your job.

  4. Nevets: Oh, I agree with you 100%. Of course, there may be exceptions, but I do think that switching a project because of familiarity or "getting bored with it" is a sign that the writer isn't ready to treat their work as a job.


    If the project simply isn't working that's something else entirely. Also, I do know some writers work best on multiple projects. Davin does this, I believe.

  5. @Michelle - Yes, there are definitely legit reasons to switch projects. I myself have worked on multiple projects sometimes. That's part of work, too.

    Not opposed to switching or multi-threading, just don't like career-minded writers' using boredom as their justification for switching most of the time because I think they're doing themselves a disservice.

    If you're a perpetual multi-threader, so that it's just part of your process, I think of that more as an accommodation that keeps you going, rather than giving in to your boredom.

  6. When I get bored -- actually it's more frustration than boredom -- I take a break from it and do something else. Rewriting and editing can get pretty tedious, but I put manuscripts aside for a few months and work on something else. If you have a couple of projects going at once, this really helps. You just get a rotation going. But since I am not a career writer, nor will I ever be because I don't aspire to be, I just move on to something else that moves me: painting, sculpting, gardening, etc. I think you should have a resting period between drafts anyway. The manuscript I am working on now rested for 2 years because I needed some distance.

    I do the same in my day job as well. I have a bunch of projects going at once, so I can switch between them if I get frustrated or bored. As long as I meet my deadlines, it doesn't matter how the time gets alloted.

  7. I'm a switcher. If I get bored with something, I put it away, sometimes for a short while, and sometimes for longer.

    I try really hard not to make my writing feel like a job. I don't want it to be a job. I want it to be alive with passion and soul!

  8. Writing is a job I can have that actually keeps passion and soul, at least more than most. :)

  9. I'm like the others. Walk away for a while, focus on something else and then get back to it. Hopefully this helps the boredom pass...

  10. This just in: Davin doesn't like working. Let's start a club! Meh, never mind.

  11. Interesting. I guess I've always looked at my writing like a marriage of sorts. You can think you know your spouse inside and out, but you can always push new buttons, look through different perspectives, and twist an arm just to get a rise. My writing is the same. I don't know if others see their characters more like real people than words sitting in their computer, but I love to rile my characters, and in doing so, they feel the need to get me back. And much like people, the work changes, if you deal with it long enough. Familiarity can cause me to wonder if it's interesting, but as you said, that's where finding someone interested in reading the work comes in. Then they cheer you on and you feel all better about it. Though I do often switch gears, but it's not due to copping out or anything else. I'm also an artist, and it's in my blood as I've actually been conditioned to following my inspiration and my muse. I may not even want to switch gears, but if I get a great idea for a story or scene for a story, or even if a picture pops in my head and I find myself doodling it out or painting it in full... ahhh, the muse leads me around by a leash. But it works for me. So I'm not going to complain. It just depends on what you expect to get out of it in the long run. I don't really care that people wonder if I'll ever actually get something done. I have two books published (well one is ALMOST published), and three nearly fully edited, and others in different areas of completion, not to mention the hundreds of outlines my muse has offered through the years that I can go back to on a whim and pluck one to start on if I ever need to challange my sensiblities. Though if I'm just bored, (like during the editing faze UUGGGHHH!!) heh, I keep banging my head against it until I'm done. Then there's formatting... a nightmare in and of itself... but it must be done. No, writing isn't all sparkly lights and bright smiles, but I think that's where the real definition between a 'career' writer and a 'hobby' writer lies.

  12. I am a career writer. I take writing as my job. However, just because I look at it as a job, doesn't mean I don't get bored.

    I was a professional chef for almost 15 years. Believe me, no matter what, you get bored cooking the same old thing night after night until you decide to change the menu.

    Same with writing for me. Worked on my last book for 9 months straight. Line edits and revisions were a nightmare. I got bored. So I started working on something else. I gave myself some breathing room. When I went back to it, I could finish it.

    Even if I was a secretary, there would be tasks I would find boring. It doesn't mean I would quit, it just means I'd rather do something else than data entry.

  13. I'm a slow writer at the best of times and so I always have other things on the go. It's not so much boredom that makes me switch as reaching an impasse. Sitting for long periods of time clearly getting nowhere is a waste of time and time is precious and there is always something else a writer can be getting on with. The trick is to know when to move onto a new project or simply to get a cup of coffee because sometimes that's all you need too. There is no right answer and some people can work through the boredom easier than others.

  14. Serious question, not trying to stir up anything. This is one of those things my mind isn't clicking on.

    It sounds like so far most writers feel like they can't write as well when they're bored/familiar/not charged up about it/etc. So they do something to overcome the boredom or wait until it passes.

    This is foreign to me. For me, I may have to take a deep breath and push harder, just like any time I'm bored, but I don't feel like I just can't write.

    What is it about being bored with what you're writing that does make it hard for you to write it?

    Honest question.

  15. Nevets,
    I'm not sure if this answers your question, but I strongly believe that, for most writers, our emotions come through in our writing whether we intend them to or not. I personally think a truly good reader will pick up on what the writer is feeling. For that reason, I need to be in a proper mindset to make art of any sort. I think it translates as being engaged versus being not engaged. If I'm bored or not in the mood, then I think the product I make will show that, though a lack of attention to detail, for example.

  16. @Domey - Maybe then it's my "method" or "role play" approach that makes it different for me. Since I take on the character I'm writing, I don't rely much on my own current emotional condition to feed into the expression. Hmm. Thanks, I think that helps me understand.

  17. Nevets: Don't you have times when you sit down to write and it simply isn't coming? You're unfocused or sloppy or just not into it and you can't keep your eyes on the page? I have made myself get into a habit of writing, where I sit down to write with no real thought of my mood, but there are times when I know I'm not doing good work. Sometimes I just push on anyway, but other times I close my notebook and go out to the garden or whatever instead.

  18. @Scott - There are times when my writing definitely is garbage or my mind can't engage, but I don't equate that with being bored.

    Maybe there's another semantics things tripping me up here.

  19. Cheryl: Thanks for your thoughts here. It sounds like you've got a great system going for you. I personally can't switch between projects if I'm writing a rough draft. I can maybe switch back and forth if I'm just revising stuff. Rough drafts take too much out of me.

    Davin: I kind of like my writing to feel more like a job. Keep in mind I don't have another job going on, like a desk job. Feeling like I have a professional job again is actually quite amazing. I love it. It IS filled with passion and soul. Amazing!

    Liza: Does it usually help your boredom pass? I try to charge through, but I often do need to take a break if I'm feeling overwhelmed.

    Justus: Hahahaha. :)

    Justine: That's great that you can let your Muse drag you around, haha. I can't let mine do that. I think I cut the leash a long time ago. I wouldn't be where I am if I left my projects before I see them through to completion, but that's just how I work. We're all so different. It's fascinating!

    Anne: I agree. Any job, even creative endeavors, have periods of frustration, boredom, familiarity, etc. It makes all the other periods that much better. :)

    Jim: I'm slow, too, but I do seem to be getting faster. I think. It really just depends on the project. Usually getting up to eat a chocolate will cure my boredom. I'm easily entertained. ;)

  20. I don't really know quite what everyone else means by "bored." But I will say that sometimes my stories bore me, so familiar are they to me. That's when I add scenes with wild animals. Perks the MS right up. Every time. Yep.

  21. Nevets: You bring up a very interesting question. I'm like Davin, in a way. I need to be in the right mindset to write, otherwise it does show up in my writing that I'm not engaged. However, since having my daughter, I'm quickly learning how to work past that and write in 10 minute stints whenever I can grab the time. This is helping me overcome the "have to be inspired" mode of writing.

    Like Scott, sometimes nothing comes, and I know I just have to step away. Sometimes I'll write a short story and that helps. Most of the time I just need to go stand in the shower and think things through. Or add a wild animal. SCALES will have Aeloff the owl. My daughter named that owl, and he is made of awesome.

  22. @Scott - I think that's the other reason I don't usually let that sort of boredom drag my writing down. If the story's boring, I do something to make it less boring.

    @Michelle - Part of it may be for me too that, like you, I actually like when it feels like a job, since it's the job I want to end up doing...

    I definitely get that for many writers, there's no mixing the artistic and the chore-like. I think I probably sacrifice a little of the art to make a compromise ground for myself.

  23. What a CUTE drawing! Love it.

    Yes--I think you have the key, here: beta readers or critique pardners. Well, honest ones anyway. To let you know if places are getting yawny.

  24. I wouldn't say I get "bored" necessarily, just that the familiarity you mentioned tends to wear on me after a while and I start to think, "How could anyone possibly find this quite as exciting as I do?"

    When I get in a rut and think it's all crap, I go back and read my favorite parts and start to become inspired to write all over again, to continue trudging through some of the less exciting parts.

    Since I know every scene before I write it and know, ultimately, where every scene is leading (which can seem sort of boring and uninspiring), it's always nice to rediscover those little surprises that pop up in a scene even when you thought you already knew everything the scene would contain. Those little surprises keep me going, too.

    And I refuse to start another story before I've finished the one I'm currently working on--and I've been working on it for 3 years.

  25. I haven't gotten bored with my story yet. There are sections I will skip and sometimes I think if I'm skipping then it's a place that could be cut.

  26. Oh man, I hope not!

    Actually, I've read my first book 150 times and I still love almost all of it. I do seem to skip the same chapters now and then. Perhaps that is where it needs work.

    I also write in a vacuum, as you put it. I rarely get feedback.

  27. It does seem to me that there's a potential pitfall in a writer assuming that boring parts are places that could be cut. As Michelle suggests, they might just be more familiar or lived-in.

    I know that I used to sometimes edit that way, but then I realized it was a trap because the more recent stuff always seemed less boring, just because it was fresher in my mind.

  28. That's why it's important to take breaks from the work, to have time to forget some of it and no longer be able to recite passages word-for-word. The first draft I'm beginning to revise now? I've been ignoring it since March.

  29. Scott: Yep. I did that with Monarch, and it worked splendidly.

  30. "Familiar" is the right word choice, I think. Sometimes, I need to step away from a project for a few days, or even just reading it out of order (chapter 10, then 3, then 15) helps renew my interest.

  31. Hey guys. One of your articles has this girl on the couch illustration. Can you help me find the artist? -


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