I just learned a new word over at The Bilge—it’s not just a nautical word, but also a concept:
The ‘Moaning Chair.’
I know, that's 2 words (unless you include 'the', then it's 3).
Without getting all technical on you, here’s how Mr. Left summed it up for me:
“The origins of the "Moaning chair" is the need to sit down and hold your head from exploding after you spent a day and a half doing something completely bass ackwards. Or completely undoing in 30 seconds that it took you a week to do. The moaning chair often has a cooler of beer and a bottle of rum next to it.”
Here's another great description, by Norm Bernstein.
It occurs to me that not only do boat builders need a moaning chair, but so do we as writers, especially those of us who are in the middle of the learning curve. It’s for those times when we learn a new rule, especially something like ‘don’t use Past Participle Phrases.’ Then we realize (after we do the research so we can figure out what the heck the term even means), that our manuscript is loaded with them. Now we’re paranoid about adding ‘ing’ to any word.
Or when we’ve overextended ourselves on word count—we wrote a 150K YA novel without bothering to find out that 70-80K is the outside limit. Time to kill our little darlings.
And then we start second guessing our entire premise (or a good chunk of it), our characters’ motivations, our writing skills and true potential (or lack thereof).
Oh, what’s the use?...
And I won’t even talk about when it’s querying time and all we get is rejection after rejection, and it occurs to us that it could have something to do with the fact that our ‘Women’s Fiction’ is actually Commercial/General/Literary Fiction, and we just blew our chance with a bunch of agents. (I mean really, who ever heard of Women’s Fiction narrated in first person by a guy?! [I know, I know, don’t rub it in].) Surely, it was that and not all those Past Participle Phrases…
Oh, right, that’s only happened to me…
Probably a good time to pull out the moaning chair, cry our eyes out, then take a deep breath and consider all our options (likely, with the help of that beer or rum). I think every writer’s/critique group should have a moaning chair over in the corner so that when we make stupid mistakes, we can go sit in it and think about what we’ve done.
Yes, the moaning chair is there for pitying ourselves, but it’s also there so we can rest a bit, regroup and clarify out thoughts—it’s where we decide there is a solution, where our writing buddies come over and pull us up (or share that beer), and then we get back to work.
When’s the last time you needed a ‘moaning chair?’