Happiness and Frustration in the Written Word

Written Word

Highs and Lows

We’ve all experienced it.  Those amazing moments when the right words flow from our minds to our fingers.  The keyboard clacks.  Words, sentences, and paragraphs pour out in tango canyengue.  You think to yourself, “Wow, did I just write that?”

But then those other moments.  Every written word is a struggle.  Every sentence bland.  Every paragraph a painful canker sore.  It’s not necessarily writer’s block, just off moments where piecing things together isn’t as easy as it should be.

Rapt in Awe

While I still haven’t named my upcoming series, I’m going to refer to it as Rapt in Awe until I decide on a title.  The name is derived from an Einstein quote: “He who can longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.”  My main character is a scientist and quotes the quote just before taking a mind-bending drug that will help him to (possibly) defeat the bad guys.

Anyhow, that’s an aside.  The point I’m trying to make is that while writing the series, I have experienced both happiness and frustration in the written word.  In writing all ten books as first drafts before any revision, I am amazed at how some chapters are nearly perfect.  Other chapters, however,  are so bad that it smells worse than last week’s meat pie.  And believe me, this meat pie stank to begin with.


Originally, I thought that the problem was content.  I have a preference for writing sections where a character is in philosophical reflection.  And action.  I love writing action.  I know that they are very different things to enjoy but I like what I like.

I don’t like writing sections that serve primarily as setting and character development.  Even though several things might be happening all at once, the purpose of a chapter might be to establish mood.  Or another might be to show the relationship between two characters, even if it is packed with action.  Those aren’t always fun for me to write.

Looking back, though, I think that I’m wrong.  I have parts that are good and bad, no matter what the subject matter might be.  It seems as though some days I am sharp and others dull.  Plain and simple.  There are days when I can turn an empty box into a magic toy and others where World War III has the tension of a slug crossing the garden.  It just depends on my mood, I guess.  And I always have these problems during early drafts.

Pressing Forward

While writing my first novel, Operation Cosmic Teapot, I learned that no matter how bad a page or a chapter might seem, it is important to push through it and keep writing.  While writing Teapot, if I wrote a bad chapter I would set the novel aside and try again when I felt like it.  As a result, it took several years to finish.  It shouldn’t have taken me that long.

I have worked out a better plan to get through those frustrating days when the words don’t want to work.  I write the best that I can and get through the chapter.  I am far better at re-working a story than I am at the initial draft.  If the ideas are in front of me, I can see where to improve it.  My best work is always in the middle drafts.

If you feel like you’re in a writing slump, that’s my advice:  slug through it.  Even if the dialogue is flat.  Even if you have to write parts as point-form notes.  Get it down.  Get to the end of the story.  A completed, crappy first draft is workable.  An incomplete project will never go anywhere.  Most importantly, getting to the end of a first draft is inspiring.

Dylan Callens

About the Author...

Dylan Callens is a writer and educator living in Sudbury, Ontario. 

His debut novel, Operation Cosmic Teapot, was a resounding success. Since then, Dylan has written a number of other books, including his most recent novel, And the Cow Jumped Over the Blue Moon