When I reviewed chapter 8, I noticed with surprise that the chapter had only 8 pages. How did that come about? I read the text and noticed that a whole scene was missing. By missing, I don’t mean that it had been eliminated by The Evil Computer. The scene had never been written. Instead of the scene, there was a feeble sentence pretending to bridge the gap in the storyline.
This is what happens in Chapter 8:
One of my main characters, Lady Linfield, tries to convince hero and heroine to do something against their will. She sets out to pay each of them a visit and persuade them. She first stops at the heroine’s lodgings. The chapter includes a proper scene about this. Then, Lady Linfield goes to the Pulteney Hotel, where the hero stays.
Was the next scene a description of the formidable Lady Linfield meeting Robert, the black sheep of the family, and the clash of their different opinions? No. In my first draft, Robert had gone out, so all Lady Linfield could do was to leave a letter for him.
What we see here is a severe case of Writer’s Laziness: I had either had no clear idea about the course of the dialogue or been too lazy to make an effort. So I had tried to muddle through with the flimsy excuse that Robert was out. Shame on me!
What is Writer’s Laziness?
Writer’s Laziness is less known than the dreaded Writer’s Block. It also seems less dangerous than Writer’s Block, as there is no visible indication that the author has been struck by Writer’s Laziness: the author keeps writing. Often, an author doesn’t even notice he is suffering from Writer’s Laziness, or he deludes himself that nobody will notice he has muddled his way around a problem. But the quality of the text suffers as the author has stopped making an effort.
Even if the author is blind to the low quality of his own text, the effects of Writer’s Laziness will usually be spotted by the readers. They might simply frown at it, but they could also be so appalled by the lack of quality that they stop reading. Thus, Writer’s Laziness shouldn’t be taken lightly. Texts written under the Writer’s Laziness syndrome have to be edited thoroughly.
When I started editing chapter 8, I still hadn’t a clear idea about what would happen when Lady Linfield and Robert meet. Writer’s Laziness threatened to strike again. But as I wasn’t happy with the first draft, there was no muddling through this time. I tried various creativity techniques. All in all, I wrote the scene three times before I was satisfied. Chapter 8 has grown to 17 pages.
Tips for Dealing with Writer’s Laziness
As a writer, you might occasionally suffer from Writer’s Laziness, too. Here are some tips to overcome the crisis:
The playful approach
Allow yourself full artistic license; write whatever comes to your mind. You will find great ideas in the texts you produce. Pick the best ideas and sentences and continue working with them.
The strategic approach
To some writers, it is helpful to plan each scene as carefully as a great field marshal plans a campaign. So image yourself being Wellington (or Napoleon, if you like):
- Where does the scene take place and which conflicts or comical effects can be derived from it?
- Gather intelligence about the plans and aims of each of your characters.
- Consider all strategic movements each of your characters:
- What are the options for action of, e.g. the hero?
- What will these options mean for the other characters involved in the scene?
- What are the most funny/dramatic/daring ways for the other character to react to the hero’s options for action?
Once you know the secret and open aims of each character and everybody’s options for action, draw up an action plan: if character A does this, character B does that. Than A reacts by doing this, upon which B has no choice but to do that, etc. You will come up with a mini-story-board for the scene you have to write.
Interview your characters
Interviewing the characters involved in a scene is an amazing creativity technique. It helps you to understand the aims of each character, to find out what he/she would do in a certain situation or can contribute to a scene. Figuring these things out is the basis for inspiration. If you would like to learn more about the interview technique, click here.
Talk to a friend
Sometimes one simply can’t find a way on one’s own. It is then helpful to discuss the scene you have to write with a friend. Introduce him/her to the content of the chapter and ask
- what he/she would do if he/she was one of the characters,
- what he/she would like to happen in the scene to be written.
Don’t be afraid to write a text again and again. Nobody can write the perfect scene at once. Eventually you will get a chapter your readers will be perfectly satisfied with.