Getting Stuck!

Wednesday February 27, 2019

This is the third time it's happened, so I should have expected it.

Well, being honest, it is about the thirtieth time, but only the third since I found a way through it.

Yes, my book has got stuck.

I think I have at least twenty draft novels in the loft. Some are written in exercise books in an eleven-year old hand (there might be earlier attempts too, but I'm not sure if I've kept the stories where I wrote myself into the adventures of the Famous Five and Secret Seven); some are typed on my mother's old portable typewriter – only thrown away last year when she downsized and moved into her small apartment. Some are printed out in faint grey on that computer paper with holes down the sides. Some are stored on floppy disks (both sizes). There are a lot of stories, and they all have one thing in common: they are unfinished.

You see, they all got stuck at a certain point – usually about a third of the way in – and I didn't know how to unstick them.

I know how to unstick them now, at least in theory. I plot and write every word in my head before I even touch that keyboard.

When the simplicity of this solution was first suggested to me, I was flabbergasted. I had always assumed I was a "seat of the pants" writer, so I just started a story and let it find its own way. Apparently, its own way was to meander to a dead-end. Once I plotted my story scene by scene, it almost wrote itself; the task became easy.

In my second book, it was my villain who gave me trouble. The problem here was that I just liked him too much! Once I understood he was really another hero, it was easy: I just had to chain myself to the keyboard and type.

This book (deep sigh). Despite meticulous plotting, despite knowing my characters inside out, it still got stuck.

I needed to rewrite (in my head) a crucial scene. I did that but was still stuck. Then a friend challenged me. 'Just write another 500 words,' she said. 'Just write the next scene.'

It took such a long time to write those 500 words. Well, no: it took a long time to write the first 300; the last 200 just flew. And now I can't wait to get on with the next bit. All it takes now is the discipline to schedule writing time and then take that time and write.

We get stuck with a lot of things in life. My daughter is stuck with her homework. My husband is stuck midway through decorating our bedroom. My mother is stuck halfway through a patchwork quilt.

Maybe the same solution applies: work it all out in your head first. See the way it needs to go. Then – just do a little bit. Get moving and the momentum of your vision will pull you forward.

A Moodscope member

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