Monday, September 13, 2010

Coughing Up Wordballs

This is my beautiful cat, Eowyn. Thrown over the fence during the night at the shelter I was volunteering at. She was six weeks old. Someone put her in a box and taped the lid shut. They forgot air holes. Anyway, she is now living the good life and will be helping us today with something she suffers with at times...hairballs. Only, as writer's we cough up Wordballs, don't we?

We all have those days where we spend the time writing but nothing comes out the way we wanted it to. It feels like a hairy, sticky mess. Verbal vomit on the page. It can be discouraging. We have this gorgeous vision in our head that just isn't making it to the page. Stuck in our heads, we can't coax it down our arms, through our fingertips to the keyboard and onto the computer screen.

So what to do with those days? There is no medication we lick off our paws for Wordballs. You just have to suffer through those days and try to salvage what you can. While I admit there are Wordball days where I can't use a single typed word, there are others when I can take what was vomited and spit shine that sucker into something quite beautiful. Or less hairy. The point is, we all cough up those suckers. As a writer every day can't be a full, perfect chapter that needs no rewrites or reworking. We embrace the suck and move forward. We hang in there and keep writing.

Do you have a remedy for Wordballs? One that you would so generously share with your fellow writers? How do you deal with that mess you cough up some days?


  1. This works for me: (a) go for a walk (b) talk to my characters (c) talk to someone - real or imaginary - about my characters (d) read a book from the genre I write.

  2. Great analogy! I think sometimes you have to just clear your throat and get those wordballs out. Usually what comes next is significantly better or at least not so hairy. :)

  3. lol! oh...this made me laugh. Because its ridiculously true, and a very accurate description, but it also made me laugh because sometimes, when I get the "wordballs" I feel like it makes me a failure and no real professional has this problem. So this is a comfort.

  4. omg I HATE that... but you know, when that happens sometimes I'll go back later and find the bones of something really good... just needs reworking.

    you are an angel for saving sweet kitty Eowyn... :o)

  5. My first drafts are one giant wordball! So I revise revise revise. I have never not revised a chapter... extensively. Just the way it goes, I suppose.

    Great post, Jennie!

  6. Aww, sweet Eowyn. I'm glad you gave her air. ;)

    I keep a separate document for my "wordballs". Sometimes they end up working in a different story, or in a different section of the story with a little bit of work. That way I don't have to cut those words completely from my life. I mourn cut sections of the story, but if I know they're not dead forever, just hiding out in a temporary cemetery where there's the possibility of revival, I'm good.

  7. Good question. I think either keep going, or try again. Depending on the day. I'm stuck in the revision, so I have a lot of hairballs to clean up.

  8. Clarissa - Great suggestions! I love taking walks in the winter when I'm stumped.

    Angie - I didn't get your email! I'm sorry! Did you send it to

    C.E. - I'm glad it made you laugh. I was chuckling as I wrote it and hoping that others would find it amusing rather than offending!

    LTM - Sometimes, you just clear away the gobbledygook and there is a gem in that wordball! I'm very lucky to have Eowyn. She's a sweet kitty!

    Jennifer - I love that your first drafts are one giant wordball as well. I started calling mine "ZERO draft" so I'm not as stressed out over it. The rough draft feels much better after that.

    Jenn - I keep a page open to pour it all onto as well. I copy and paste what ends up being salvaged, if any, into the actual document.

    Carolyn - Revision hairballs aren't fun to clean up. But once they are all sorted out, you feel so much better! Good luck with those. Hope the revision is shaping up like you want it to!

  9. I stop and just let it swish around in my head for a while. Then, when I'm not thinking about it, I get the solution.

    And omg! This is my dream: to have a link up mechanism that will take the stuff I see in my brain and post it to the computer. I have lots of problems getting the stuff from my brain to my fingers to the 'puter!!!!!!! Thank you for letting me know I'm not alone!

    I LOVE cats and your's is gorgeous! I'm glad you rescued him. We have two rescues....

    wordballs.....I like it!

  10. I love this analogy!

    Umm, I deal with it by writing a bunch of crap and then deleting it. Seriously, there is something seriously satisfying about hitting the delete button. Very final.