For the past few days, I’ve been navigating the rough roads of a writer trying to meet a deadline-destination with a yet-to-be-completed novel. It was complete, but then I got it back from a few fabulous beta-readers and with their help, I was able to see where I needed to add flesh to bone in a lot of places. This included a new ending, which is where I’m at now. So far, I’ve added 25K words to the story and I forsee it topping out at 100K, which means I have a mere 15K words to bring it all together.
So, I’m traveling along this awesomely smooth road where the sun is shining, the birds are singing, and things are falling into place, when my engine screeches to a halt and the rest of the cars slam into my backside. I’m sure you know this dreadful moment. When these things crop up, we are never really prepared for them. Something doesn’t fit. F***, we might say. We may nosedive into depression because now we realize this fabulous ending we’ve been sailing towards, doesn’t pan out. I was totally bummed for two days because I needed to make A,B, and C at the beginning connect with X, Y, and Z at the end, but couldn’t make it work. The pressure to finish was on and there I was, twiddling my effing thumbs.
I decided now would be a good time to take a step away, meditate and drink some herbal tea, and scribe to you 10 of my discoveries:
1. If you are bored, chances are, the readers will also be bored. Don’t be afraid to cut the bore.
I wrote for three days and was bored to tears with what was going on in the plot. The action and tension was not where it needed to be to keep me focused. Big red flag there. So, what I did was scribble out some ideas for an action-packed, tension building, and fulfilling ending. I asked myself some questions: What would that look like? Where’s “the twist” going to come in? Because I love those moments as a reader myself where something happens that blows my mind, and I for one, want that in my own writing. So, how can I tailor in a twist? I may have to go back and add some things in the beginning, foreshadowing and whatnot, but it will be so worth it. So, once I decided where I wanted to go, I cut back the bore (5K words of it), put it in my “take-outs” doc in case I want to use chunks of dialogue or description for later, and I started from that point with my note-pad in front of me.
2. Sometimes, thumb-twiddling is necessary.
The same goes for staring off into space for hours at a time and cleaning out that drawer that hasn’t been cleaned out in two years. Everyone should have a junk drawer for this purpose. Sometimes, mindless tasks–or no tasks at all–allow the blockage to clear. If you have a tendency to over-think things, you may do better with busy-work. I usually get a good mix of the two. When the wheels begin to smoke upstairs, I know it’s a good time to tackle those things I’ve been procrastinating.
3. Write by hand.
Get away from all electronic devices and conjure the spirits of the ancient art of pen and paper. Things sometimes have a way of working themselves out when we switch it up like this. Just seeing it from a different angle can shed some new light.
4. Draw a map.
Sometimes, drawing a map of your fictional world may help you to see things from a different angle as well. Plus, it’s fun.
5. Run . . . for your story, not away from it.
Physical exercise can truly help eliminate the mental blockage that can sometimes be caused by self-doubt. After a good work-out, we feel better about life and ourselves, and may in fact feel better about the story as well.
6. Give your deadline the middle-finger and go for a drive.
I’m not saying abandon your deadline entirely. Sure, you should aim in the direction of the deadline, but if you want your story to be the best it can be, the fact is, sometimes, your story won’t be ready. Like a little furry, mysterious creature, preparing to hatch from the egg, it may need another week or two to develop. It may need longer. It takes what it takes. Sometimes, going for a nice long drive can release some pressure, getting physically far from the laptop and writing space. From there, we can “take a step back” and see better the full picture. We can just let go and stop trying to force it when it isn’t quite ready to hatch.
This may be the single most important item. Jot down as many questions as you can think of about your plot/world/characters, etc. Then, give yourself a few days to answer them as completely as possible.
8. Take a television/movie break.
Eat Chocolate and Watch “The Walking Dead”
The point I’m getting at here is to shake up the routine. So, if you are a tv buff, take a break to clear up your mind space. And if you aren’t a tv person and rarely watch it, stop what you’re doing right now and watch The Walking Dead. The novel can wait; this is important.
9. Write your ending in flashback-form from your main character’s POV (as an exercise)
I did this and it was cool. It helped me to see what I wanted to happen at the end.
10. Don’t be afraid to skip ahead.
So, you’re stuck and you don’t know what comes next, but you keep envisioning a scene towards the end? Write it! You can save the scene/chapter in its own file or just skip a few pages forward in your working document and write it there. It may help you to connect the dots from where you got stuck to that point.
Hope this helps!
Until next time, writerly peeps . . . .
Wear your safety belt, watch out for road hazards, and write on!