You know how everything goes ok. . . Until it doesn’t? Yeah, I’ve hit the first, second, and third problems relating to this new novel of mine, and I have no doubt many other people have had the same issues.
- Internal editor wouldn’t shut up. Instead of getting the story down, I kept fiddling with details.
- I suddenly forgot how to move forward. I knew where I was and where I wanted to be next – and those places were only a tiny step apart – but somehow I couldn’t work out how to take that step.
- Chucked out of the story. When I took a break from it, I couldn’t get back into the mindset of story or the characters, and instead felt like an outsider.
From what I’ve read and from how I got over it, the first problem you just have to work through. I kept writing, watched out for slips into editing mode, and stopped myself whenever I noticed I was doing it. I reminded myself a lot that that’s what second, third, fourth,. . . drafts are for, and that these changes I was spending time on would be done better later. It also helped when I limited re-reading to a paragraph.
The second and third problems. . . Oh dear.
I knew from previous experience that taking a break from a story can help sometimes, if you get a bit stuck or you’re finding it heavy going. (Problem 2.) Since I had a few deadlines coming up as well, I decided to leave my novel while I worked on a short story or two. Great. Only my break turned into a week focused on these short stories. It’s ok, I told myself, you’ve picked up after longer than that.
As soon as I opened the novel I had a feeling it wasn’t going to be so easy this time. I read the last paragraph, the last chapter, my notes. . . Finally I resorted to skimming through from the beginning. But something vital just wasn’t there: I felt completely shut out and disconnected, like the characters were one at a time turning their backs on me because I’d walked out on them first. (Damn writer’s imagination)
So that’s where I am right now. Still working on problems 2 and 3, but while I’m looking for a solution, here’s a couple of things I’ve figured out so far:
- Sometimes you need to take a break from a certain piece of writing. Sometimes doing that (however necessary) can cause other issues.
- My guess is, problems like this lack of connection are less likely to happen if you stop in a place where you feel positive toward the writing, or have some idea of what’s coming next. Maybe if you add a brief note as to what that next bit might be, that could help too.
‘Writer’s write’ is probably going to be my solution: start writing the story, maybe skip a scene ahead and work out how to connect it in later. I don’t like working out of sequence, but needs must and all that. Wish me luck. (And more cooperative characters)