As someone who prides herself on her (insane) work ethic and productivity, it’s hard for me to write this post. Still, I believe in transparency, which I why I’m “coming clean” here. I hope you’ll hold me accountable and encourage me to finish strong.
I should have been finished with the first draft of Reflections by now. According to my self-imposed timeline (which I have since revised), it should have been finished in April or May. But now it’s nearly June, and I still have about 15K more words or so to go. Normally, I would say the hardest part is finished and I should be able to plow through with no problem. Normally, everything would be just fine.
But I’ve hit a wall.
Looking back, I’m pretty sure the same thing happened to me with Blood and Water. I tried to pants the whole thing, then stopped cold and froze in my tracks about halfway through, when I got seriously stuck. I knew where I needed to go but had no idea how to get there. And instead of taking the time to sit down and work through the tangled mess my plot was in, I stubbornly avoided dealing with the issue. I didn’t go back to the MS for days. Even though I knew I had some serious work to do, I ignored it. That was easier.
Now I’m in a similar bind with Reflections. I started off with something like an outline, and then I ditched it in favor of pantsing (again). I’m 40K into the first draft now and I have hit a massive wall. I don’t know where I’m going. I know (mostly) what needs to happen next and how the story will end, but I don’t know how to get there. And, again, instead of just sitting down and taking the time to figure out what to do, I’ve been avoided the blank page. I’ve been walking around with my fingers in my ears and humming in an effort to block out the novel’s siren song.
But that ends today. I’m taking some advice I’ve gotten from some wonderful people on Twitter and rereading this post on Ava Jae’s blog and I’m whipping my plot into shape. I’m going to write a synopsis from where I am now in the plot and moving forward. Then, I’m going to transfer everything to the cork board on Scrivener and hope for the best.
Once I know where I’m going next, I’ll get this bad boy written.
What do you do when you feel like you’ve hit a wall in your writing?
Have you hit a writing wall? In this post, @brianawrites shares her struggle with her current WIP. (Click to tweet)
I’m currently working on a dark little novel called Blood and Water. Up until about a week or so ago, I was chugging right along with no real difficulty. Then life got in the way (as it is wont to do). Super inconvenient. Anyway, I got stuck. I skidded to a halt. I couldn’t even get close to the keyboard without my mind and fingers completely seizing up.
Of course, this was a problem. I had a novel to finish.
One of the tricks I discovered for getting unstuck is to write out of sequence. I’ve always thought of myself as a linear writer, but since I don’t outline, I’m not committed to the structure. There was a scene I’d been dying to write, but I had yet to reach that part in the novel’s narrative. So, what did I do?
I wrote it anyway.
I fired up Scrivener, put my fingers on the keyboard, and started typing away. It only took me two hours to finish. Once I was done, I sat there in silence, basking in the overwhelming feeling of accomplishment. I hadn’t written the scene that came next, but I had written something.
And isn’t that the point? As writers, we should focus on making progress. Even if you only get a few words down each day, that’s more words than you had the day before. Whether you manage to write ten words or ten thousand, you should celebrate. This tweet from Ksenia Anske is one I strongly agree with:
Any amount of words per day is good. 100 words is good. The important part is writing every bloody day, that’s all. https://t.co/c5nMc5IT9V
— Ksenia Anske (@kseniaanske) April 15, 2015
Bottom line: it doesn’t matter what you write, as long as you write something.
Of course, writing out of sequence might not work for everyone. Although it helped me get unstuck, I can understand some of the downsides. Writing out of sequence can cause you to lose momentum, for one thing. It can take you out of the moment of the story you’re in, and when you return, you might not get back into the groove of the scene. Another frustrating part of writing out of sequence requires connecting the dots. If you write a scene in the future, you have to go back (at some point) and fill in the gaps.
Writing out of sequence worked for me. I’m not sure whether I’ll try it with another MS, but for Blood and Water, it’s making a world of difference. The next tip you get stuck, try writing out of sequence. It might be what you need to get moving again.
What do you think about writing out of sequence? What are your tips for getting unstuck?
What do think about writing out of sequence? Writer @brianawrites explains how it might help you get unstuck. (Click to tweet)
Whenever I come up with story ideas, I usually have a mental image of the story’s characters as well. For example, my characters are usually famous people. In the novel I’m working on now, my protagonist would be played by Mila Kunis, and my antagonist would be Johnny Depp.
Why bother casting a novel if it hasn’t been made into a movie yet? Because visualizing your characters as they would actually appear in reality is fantastic.
Take a minute to calm your mind. Breathe in and out. Focus.
Now, I want you to imagine the world of your novel. Unravel the setting, the landscape, and the time frame. See the buildings, trees, and streets in your mind’s eye. Next, move on to your characters. Imagine them going about their everyday lives. Who do they look like? Pretened you’re watching a movie adaptation. Which actors come automatically to mind?
Once you’ve come up with some famous names, do a Google image search to find some photos of them. You can save them to your computer for reference if you want. Now, whenever you get stuck on a difficult scene, imagine the actor in your character’s predicament. Picture him or her in as much detail as you can. What does he or she do in that same situation? What does he or she look like? What does he or she say?
This exercise has proven useful to me, but it might not work for everyone. It’s been my experience that visual learners and writers with a more visual sort of memory have a better time with this technique, but feel free to give it a shot, no matter what your style.