I took too long of a break between writing the 1st draft of the current novel I’m working on. I’ve about 1/3 of the way through it and hit the dreaded Writer’s Block. Say what you will about the mighty Block (I did here), whether you believe in it or not, whether you let it control you or not, or maybe you just ignore it altogether… when it does sneak up on you it is no fun.
So now I’m back at it, trying to get back into the flow, trying to figure out what it is that I’m doing. And trying to fill in the gaps of an outline that I didn’t realize had any gaps in it until I started writing.
Well, I’m almost at it. You see, I’m somewhat breaking one of my rules about editing before the draft is done. In rereading the early chapters of the book I notice things. Nothing big, but enough where I want to tweak, add, subtract, you name it and I’m trying to do it. So I’m both reading and editing in an effort to get back to where I want to be with the book.
But I notice the little things and it makes me realize that putting things off until the end can work for a while… until it doesn’t want to work anymore.
Character Names – I use placeholders for names of characters. Who the heck knows if the girl is a Jennifer or a Celeste? I don’t always know that when I start writing them. So they get a placeholder name. And that works pretty well until it becomes time to figure out who they are supposed to be, and you still don’t have your main character’s last name (just “YYY”). It is annoying and bothersome and forced me into some true decision making about a couple of names.
Skipping around and writing chapters out of order – A great way to ensure productivity for the evening is to jump around with the manuscript. You write the first 6 or 7 chapters and then when you get a tiny bit stuck, just jump to the big action scene or that one scene you’ve been looking forward to for forever. It keeps the writing crisp and gets you closer to writing The End. The only problem is that if you don’t finish everything up you are left with huge gaps where you’re either not sure what is going to happen or you are 100% sure, but may not want to actually write that piece of the narrative. Because you’ve already written that “exciting’ section, the rest sometimes feel a little mundane.
Outline – This is the best. You may think you work better pantsing, but you just don’t know the power of the outline. It’s great.
And then you realize that the outline isn’t complete. You’ve left out a huge plot point which occurred to you while you were writing. You forgot some set piece or character moment or something. And now you’re stuck again. Repairing this thing that you’re not sure you really needed or just the thought of what good is it to lay everything out if you are just going to go off script anyway.
Or maybe that’s ok. Maybe it is just the basic roadmap, but it doesn’t have to have all the possible stops. It may not mention the big ball of yarn, but if you want to include it – it just means that maybe you need to update the outline.
Get to the keyboard and just type – Really, this is the only hack I need to remind myself of. Sitting down and do it. The words are going to flow one way or another, but you won’t capture them sitting on the couch.
John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?
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His prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Theft & Therapy, There’s Something About Mac, Hollow Empire, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.
He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com