For several weeks I’ve been agonizing over version 3 of my Victorian romance, Releasing Yesterday, the sequel to Searching for Sara. A great idea for the storyline hit me upside the head, one which I thought would be better for the flow of the story. So, like a good little girl, I began attempting to reorganize the story, rewrite, and polish.
Unfortunately, the project moved forward about as good as a car with the emergency brake still on.
Today, while staring at the manuscript and attempting yet again to push the thing forward, I decided to just let it go. That’s right, I gave up and shifted back to version 2. The relief to my brain, my spirit, and my muse is incredible. It is as if the storyline is in perspective now, and concepts for mild reorganizations of scenes is as smooth as silk.
All this time I wasted trying to fit a square peg into a round hole and all I had to do was listen to my characters…. Oh well. It’s over. It’s done (not the manuscript, yet). I’m ready to move on.
Sometimes the best way to push through a lack of motivation, waning inspiration, or sluggish writing (writer’s block) is to go back to the basics.
- Start bulleting questions for yourself.
- List facts you (or your character) know.
- Ferret out points you need to get to for the reader.
“Writer’s Block” is one of my clues that I am taking on too much, or that I’ve written myself into a situation that goes against what I instinctually know about my character. The minute I feel the dread or reluctance to work on a project, I know it’s time to take a step back. In fact, that’s what I’m doing today for To Save A Soul, since my creative juices started waning as I approached the middle of the manuscript–which also happens to be the beginning of the bulky additions.
I know it will be easier to steady and calm myself once I have a firm understanding of what is coming and what has already passed. It’s one of the great things about brainstorming, or simple outlining: creating a foundation to work from. No, I’m not one of those who prefers to outline the entire novel beforehand because then I really have no desire to write it out. After all, I “know” everything that’s going to happen and how it’s going to resolve. There’s nothing left for ME as the author to discover.
BUT, if I only know the key points and the general ending I would like to write toward, there are still surprising bits of information left for everyone to find along the way–like a great scavenger hunt.
At the moment, I know a little bit too much about what I want to insert, and it’s creating a challenge for me to stay interested. However, it has been a lot of fun to bounce ideas off my husband–even though he rejects some as lame–and see how the two of our minds working together can come up with some pretty fun twists. So, I’m going to take this challenge and move forward, push through the whining and get something down.
Even if it’s just an outline.
What do you do when you’re blocked or stuck?
Every day new opportunities rise to greet us. Every day we choose some and abandon others. We won’t even necessarily understand what causes us to choose one over the other, especially since our reasoning can change from day to day. Sometimes the only reason we have for not following opportunities is fear.
For me, fear and pride have been great obstacles, a daily struggle to overcome. That was one of the subconscious reasons I began writing Searching for Sara. Through Sara, I was able to show my heart what could come from facing my fears and stepping forward regardless. Pride was the driving force behind Broken Angel, the heroine Rachel suffering because she wouldn’t back down or compromise. Now, in Releasing Yesterday, I have no idea what I could learn, or what I can pose as a question to my characters to teach me.
Until I think about my floundering passion and stagnation. I just stand–or sit–here and think about all I need to do without doing any of it. In Releasing Yesterday it has taken Sara’s absentee father more than 20 years to finally step forward in action and seek her out, determined to repair their non-existent relationship even against the wishes of his family.
Once before he allowed his family to dictate his future. Ten years later, he discovered that, not only did his wife die alone, she left a daughter whose only means of support was the kindness of others and the work of her two hands. It has taken him nearly fifteen years to finally track her down, and now he stares into the mirror image of his wife only to see all the years squandered and lost.
And then she looks away.
Because of his lack of action so many years before, she has suffered–then and now–and he faces the daunting task of seeking not only her forgiveness, but her love.
I think I’m in these same shoes. Because I left the sequel unfinished–and even un-outlined–I stare at the maw of my encroaching deadline and wonder how I’m going to craft book 2 into some semblance of order. How will I do this series justice? So I stay in one place and don’t even attempt a beginning. But the sequel calls to me, as do my obligations, as do the characters. “Just write!”
But what about all the “do this” and “don’t do this” that leer at me in the back of my brain. I forget what to look for, what to be mindful of while writing when I write. It can’t be fine to simply write the story as it unfolds in my head, can it? What if I do it wrong? But is it better to not write at all?
So I stare down at the pages I have just printed–the physical often helps me find my footing–and look at all the scenes and pages cut from book 1 that I would love to weave into book 2, and whimper. There is so much to keep in mind! But that isn’t necessarily true. I have book 1, and I have an idea of what I want for book 2. Everything else is a blank page waiting for my pen. The future is bright and unfettered, my characters free to whisper to me their story.
Like Sara’s father, I only need to take that first and then second step forward, and keep going. The future doesn’t come to us–we go.
I found it difficult to begin this month’s blog article for the Christian Writers.com Blog Chain. The topic? Forward. Granted, there were many ideas rambling around in my head, but I couldn’t get one to sit still long enough to actually form a complete thought. So, as is my usual habit, I simply began rambling… er, brainstorming. A sort of free-form attack of the topic.
So, the first question would be, what does the word ‘forward’ mean to me? Yes, it’s a rather blase question, but it’s direct, and to the point. Do I know how to answer it? Certainly not. However, as the title of this post suggests, it did put into my mind the statement of determination uttered in many a Hollywood movie about the caravans venturing westward for a new life.
Everything was left behind… well, mostly everything. They attempted to cram all types of objects and obsessions into those massive wagons, but along the way, one-by-one, these things also were abandoned. All except their hope for a better future and their dogged steps forward. (Unfortunately, ‘Forward’ is also the one-word maxim for our President, but I wasn’t going to allow that to quell my growing idea for this blog post.)
Like those pioneers in days of old, they had a target they were determined to meet. They looked forward, toward the horizon, and took the next step to face that new future. These treks into the unknown took months of hardships and staring death in the face, and still they moved their caravans onward.
What didn’t kill them, made them stronger.
Yes, of course, there were those who were then embittered against the frontier and the people who “forced” them to venture out of their comfort zone. Those aside, where would we be without those brave souls? We certainly wouldn’t be a collection of states.
Now there is a new year upon us and we are faced with new opportunities. A blank slate. An open horizon waiting for our first step. Even should everything crash around us today, we still have tomorrow morning to pick ourselves up and start again. That is what I intend this year and, with the Lord’s blessing, I will see it through to the end.
My target? I have two:
- Publish the expanded edition of my paranormal fantasy, To Save A Soul, in May with new chapters and a new cover
- Publish book 2 of my ‘Heart of the Blessed’ series, Releasing Yesterday
The challenge for me will be the goals and staying on target. Keeping my eyes forward, on the prize, and trudging the uphill course that always is ‘writing.’ My husband is helping me setup realistic goals to meet these targets, and it will be up to me to stick to them. To not allow myself to become overwhelmed and, instead, find joy in the challenge. To shout “Forward, HO!” and set off into the unknown with eyes alight and chin raised.
We never know what the ‘morrow will bring, but with the Lord beside us, we know it will be more great than grave.
Day 17. I hit 33,000 words just a little bit ago. Par for NaNoWriMo on this day should be around 28,300 words. It hasn’t been easy, but I’ve still managed to push myself forward, averaging around 1,900 words per day.
As of yesterday I was still fighting motivation issues, which is odd because I love writing about Para. I have since 2008 when I first began this series as part of my NaNoWriMo adventure. Based on a table-top adventure module designed by my husband, it was a way for me to draw him into the chaos of my NaNo experience. 2009 found me writing the continuation of the story, this time delving more into Para’s comrade, Munwar Meek.
But 2012 finds me starting at Para’s beginning. And with no Mun, that might be what is causing me to balk. If there was one thing I looked forward to writing, it was the banter between Para and Mun. Instead, I’ve been learning about who Para was before she knew Mun. More than that, though, there is the challenge of learning about her childhood friend, Phillip, who is a character of my husband’s design.
That is the cause of the flagging motivation. I don’t know Phillip, nor this young Para, as well as I knew the Para and Mun of book 1 and 2. That leeches my confidence and makes me reluctant to write. What if I get it wrong?
But there is no wrong with NaNoWriMo because all of it is a rough draft. It is simply getting the roughest of the rough onto paper so that you have fodder to work from/with – or not to. Even if you only hold onto the idea and chuck everything else out the window, you have still explored the story and the characters, and that gives you a better – and more informed – place to start.
That is a position of strength and power.
My goal is to write practically all weekend, with brain breaks here and there to ruminate and brainstorm, or maybe to simply add to my outline. Regardless of whether I write 2,000 words today or 7,500 or something in between, at least I am no longer entertaining the idea of tossing in the towel. I’ve hit well beyond the halfway mark and am nicely above par (no pun intended on the name of my main character). So what’s to keep me from finishing with a bang?