Thursday, April 21, 2011

#WW on Thursday - Grinding Halts

I totally forgot that yesterday was Wednesday and missed my #WW post, but I'm going to make up for it today. First of all and totally off topic may I just say that I loathe mating season for Northern Flickers. We have some that nest in a nearby tree which is fine. It is also nice to hear the peep peep peeping of babies when they are born. BUT when they are nesting, the male sees a need to announce to all that he is LORD OF THIS TERRITORY. The best and most resonant way to do that? OUR EAVESTROUGH.

So far it has not been at 5 in the morning, but rather 9 while I am working. BUT it's also been grey and dismal all week. Wait until we get a lovely pink sunrise. That bugger will be out there at 5 a.m. hammering out a warning. Argh! It's time to get the holography-foil type paper to hang up in the bedroom windows. It doesn't look pretty, but for a few weeks I don't care.

Ok now on to today's subject - grinding halts.

This is in complete contrast to last week's post which was all about riding the wave of inspiration when it comes. Remember I said that if I write too fast sometimes I make a mess? And that I need the weekends to think? That's what today is about. Look at it this way. In the last 2 weeks I've written approx 20,000 words in addition to doing 2 rounds of edits for my next Samhain novella, Final Line Edits for same and my proofs came yesterday. It's been busy. I've been charging ahead and it felt great. But suddenly I'm at a grinding halt.

It is a good thing.

While ultimately it is lovely to think of a book coming out fast AND pretty, it's rarely the case. There are a couple of key points to remember here and very positive. First of all, I do have something to fix, which is much better than having x number of blank pages. Secondly, I was duly inspired so that tells me I did something right (even if I did make some mistakes).  I also reached a point where things DO change for me as a writer - the last 1/4 of the book. There's a shift at this point - into black moments and happily ever afters. Everything comes to a head in this section. It is the perfect place to grind to a halt. Not because I don't have a clue what I'm going to write, because I do. I have a very good idea of what's coming and had a flash of inspiration the other day about how my characters are going to be forced into making choices.

So why aren't I moving forward?

Because I went quickly, and I feel a need to stop, reflect, get my feet. I've read over the first 8 chapters and know that 2 of those chapters need some cutting for pace AND I realized that my hero's arc isn't quite right. I have made it too easy on him, and as a result there's too much narrative and not enough tension. It's all fixable, and quite easily too I think. I also started writing a synopsis.

I hate synopses. But I learned something cool with my last book. My editor had asked if I would do up the Art Fact Sheet and that meant writing a synopsis. Writing it out can really illuminate where the weak spots are. I was just about at this point of the story too - moving into the end - and it really crystallized the story in my mind, making it easier to move forward. Since I can access the AFS at any time, I decided now is a good time to start working on that. I didn't have a chance to finish the whole synop yesterday, and I hope to today.

The thing is, I'm not a planner. So writing a synopsis at the beginning of the book rarely works. BUT writing it at this point means I already KNOW what happens through 3/4 of the book. By seeing where I might have some weak spots, I can jot down notes about what needs to be layered/fixed etc. I also map out the ending - a tentative mapping mind you, because I still don't know exactly how it's going to happen until I get in there. But it also helps me feel confident and on track with starting those last really emotional chapters. I have a tentative plan. As my CP puts it - things "concentrate minds".

Considering I had minimal revisions on the last book (they still took me a long time, but there was no rewriting involved - just fixing a character arc), this might be a method that works.

But that's me. What do you do when your work comes to a grinding halt?

Here are some suggestions:

  • Make a list. Susan Meier does a great workshop on this. Julie Cohen talks about it from time to time too. Look at all the possible problems/solutions/whatever you're stuck on and make a list of what the answers could be. It can start to get really ridiculous, but suddenly an answer will pop out that will make you go aha!
  • Write a synopsis
  • Take a day to NOT write. I know that sounds counterproductive, but sometimes you need to fill your creative well especially if you've been writing very quickly. Taking a day to THINK about your book can be time very well spent.
  • If your last scene(s) are the trouble, have a look at them and see where they are missing. There are some fun tricks to jumpstarting a scene that I talk about in my workshop BLASTING THROUGH BLAH. Try writing the scene from the opposite point of view. Try attributing your dialogue to the other character (that one can be particularly fun and illuminating!). Move your scene do a different locale.  Take away the one thing that your character cherishes most. That last thing? That's sort of what was missing from my hero.
Anyway, grinding halts don't have to be a bad thing. It's an opportunity for you to take stock of what you've got and figure out how best to move forward. As long as you don't stay halted for long. It's an opportunity, not an excuse to not write! :-)

Have a good week,



  1. TOTALLY agree on the not writing for a day (or two if you have time!) to clear your head and come back with fresh eyes. Found that sooooooo helpful on the final stretch with the longest ever WIP in the history of WIP's. As to your bird problem, we have a cuckoo that is seriously doing my head in at the minute so I can sympathize!

  2. Thanks for the great ideas and suggestions.

    When I come to a grinding halt I do research, which can lead to a lot of time wasted on the internet, but can also turn up some gems that spark an idea. I love Scrivener for organizing all the peripheral stuff that I gather. I just discovered the comments feature where you can link info to a particular place in the MS text.