Last week, I mentioned my 'writing detox' which was my attempt to clear my head so I could focus on a 2000 word story to hand in tomorrow as a formative assignment. Progress on the story was slow and painful. I spent hours freewriting around the idea and until two days ago, it was a jumble of clumsy vignettes.
However, this mess of a first draft gave me a foundation. I could work out what scenes were needed and where - although this was a gradual process done over several drafts. I felt like I was 'writing by numbers', filling in the gaps and using very little creativity. It was hard work, but it got the job done.
I think this demonstrates how much you can achieve when you *have* to, i.e. if you have a deadline. However, it also shows that some stories are slow-burners and need to be worked on a lot before they show their potential and form a coherent narrative.
Would I have abandoned the story if I didn't have a deadline? I don't know - but I would have been tempted. I probably would have put it to one side for a few weeks (or months...) until I'd thought it over and worked out some of the problems.
Would putting the story aside have been better than working relentlessly on the story for a week?
It's too intensive to do every week, but finishing a difficult story provides a lot of satisfaction. I should point out that if I had put it to one side, I would actively work on other stories. Maybe it's a strategy writers should use every so often, regardless of whether they have a deadline.
If there's a project that's been stumping you for a while, ponder over it and write around your characters - your messy collection of ideas may blossom into a good story!