Last month I wrote fifteen chapters in my WIP within the span of a few days…then I hit a dry spell for a couple weeks. The past two days have brought me to chapter twenty-three… the journey from chapters 15-23 were rather painful as I wasn’t feeling inspired, but I knew I had to keep writing. Plot holes are healing, I’m recognizing some major flaws in certain characters (which sounds like a bad thing, but I’ve been unsatisfied with them for a while so the fact I’m pinpointing their issues is a GOOD thing), and a character I thought I’d hate is slowly becoming my favorite (yes, I play favorites with my characters).
My current read, Gotham Writers’ Workshop: Writing Fiction, which I’m reading as part of a book club, is proving to be a tremendous help. Chapter two completely dealt with characters, and chapter three, where I currently rest, is going over plot. My highlighter is never out of my hand, and I’m constantly grabbing a notebook to jot down thoughts inspired by the text or story notes that came together as the book revealed a weakness.
The other thing that has helped to get my mind focused is talking to a friend about my story. She graciously, patiently listens to me as I ramble on about characters and plot points of which she knows nothing, agreeing with me when I say “you know?” and she really has no idea, and helping me get my point across clearly. (This afternoon I was speaking to her about a problem with my main character; I knew exactly what I meant, and as I tried to explain I could tell she was completely confused. Finally, she said something that sparked clarity. I can’t remember what it was, but I was able to say out loud what the problem was and she understood me. That’s best friend power, right there.)
Also, there’s nothing better to make you realize there is a serious problem in your story than when you share your document with someone else and realize you’re sick to your stomach, not just because you hate waiting to hear what she thinks of it, but because you KNOW it’s terrible and needs work. Again, said friend came to my rescue and assured me it was okay if I didn’t want to share it until I had fixed some of the bigger issues. Thanks for keeping me sane, bestie.
I’ve learned over the past few weeks that there is benefit in pushing forward; when I struggle over a particular word, skip it. When the scene isn’t going the way I want, make a note for later and continue writing. When a character says something she would NEVER say, highlight it and move on. When the squirrels outside are going bonkers and you have to stop and watch them chase and tumble over each other in your backyard, it’s okay to stop and laugh at their antics — then get right back to writing.
When the story isn’t coming together and you’re freaking out about ruining it — DON’T WORRY. That “Aha!” moment will come to you, whether it’s when you’re doing something random like spying on squirrels or opening the floodgate of your story woes to a friend.