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May 17, 2016

@sloanebcollins Writer's Block is an Evil Thing #amwriting #PlottingPrincesses #MFRWorg #writinglife #SullivansofMontana

I’ve been really stuck lately on my current work in progress.  Like STUCK, stuck.  I hit over the halfway mark, and I didn’t know what needed to happen next.  So I worked on editing the first half.  Searched Pinterest for more inspiration.  Tried writing just whatever, scenes that weren’t interesting.  Tried plotting an outline.   I even created book covers for all five in the series, hoping it would get me going (it did give me plots for books three and four!).  Worked on character development worksheets.

Etc., etc., etc. (said with Yul Brynner’s accent in “The King & I”.)

I had taken a brief hiatus from my French book sequel, and the prequel, because I had a dream about five cowboy ranching brothers, and they were clamoring for me to start writing their stories.  I’d hoped to enter it in a contest last year, but didn’t finish in time.  So with my Sullivans of Montana cowboy story, I wrote and wrote until I reached the point where the hero and heroine finally get together (you know what I mean). 

Then I got stuck.  In lava.  Which hardened until I couldn't write.

I know how I want it to end (thanks to my critique partners!!), and even though the hero and heroine just spent a night together, it’s not going to be smooth sailing.  So they were in limbo—and that limbo I left them in was not all hearts and flowers.

I finally chained myself in front of the computer last week, and stared at a blank white page, with the clock ticking a death knell.  That white page really mocked me to the point it was just hateful.  Just to get even with it, I typed CHAPTER TWELVE at the top of the page.  “Take that, you blankety-blank page.”

I stared at the two words I’d written, the cursor blinking at me, and finally started writing from the heroine’s point of view.  I got to a certain point and ALMOST head-hopped to the hero’s POV.  Then I realized this chapter should be from HIS POV, so I saved the document and opened a new BLANK WHITE PAGE (oh, woe is me).  But this time the words flowed better, and I ended up with 400 words (GO, ME!).  It’s not a lot, but it’s more than I’ve written lately.

So if you ever hear anyone say “I should write a book. It won’t take me long, because writing is SOOOO easy,” smack ‘em upside the head.  Writing is NOT easy.  Except maybe if you’re Nora Roberts. <grin> 

It’s hours of plotting, planning, pantsing even, torturing your characters, then rewriting and torturing some more.  Because readers don’t want a boy meets girl, they fall in love, happy ever after.  Where’s the payoff in that?   Readers want a couple to have obstacles to overcome, right?  Real life is messy and complicated, so fictional characters should share some of that, THEN get the hearts and flowers happy ever after. 

If you’re an author, what do you do when NOTHING is working and you’re stuck like glue…or mired in quicksand?
Readers, do you want the complications before the big payoff?  


Vicki Batman, sassy writer said...

Hi, Sloan! I had a problem and sometimes still do with this current book. So I had in mind a scene I wanted and wrote it then found the right place for it in the manuscript. So much better. I even did a couple of more. And should do more. This is the first time this has happened to me.

Phyllis said...

I'm like Vicki...just write a scene and figure out later where it should fit in...if it does, but you've got the juices glowing again.

Phyllis said...! How about flowing...just too funny.

Unknown said...

writing a scene out of order is a great idea Vicki and Phyllis. When I'm stuck, sometimes I just sleep on it (literally). I lie down and close my eyes, and sometimes the characters just start talking. And once I have dialogue, I can usually make a scene.

Sloane B. Collins said...

I'll have to try all those techniques! Thanks, Ladies!

Kathleen Baldwin said...

Thanks for sharing your struggles Sloan! It gives all of us hope. Great post.
When I'm stuck I analyze where I went wrong. Because the most common reason I get stuck is because I went wrong somewhere. I use scene & sequel to analyse the scene. That usually sets me on the right path.

This was so helpful, I will tweet.

Liese said...

Great post, Sloane!
Anyone who hasn't been there is just blessed!

I've found myself stuck about halfway through. Recently, I attended a Michael Hauge workshop, and he noted that when you get stuck about the middle, it's often because there wasn't a "change in plans" about 10% through the book. The original inciting incident isn't enough to sustain a full plot. Next time I get stuck, I'm going to take a look at that 10% mark and see if I've not added a twist that pushes the characters in another direction.


Sloane B. Collins said...

Liese, good point. I'll look back at my Michael Hague notes - hopefully I can track it down!

Karilyn Bentley said...

Great post Sloane! I got totally stuck on my last book, which luckily I managed to finish. My thing is if I'm stressed over anything, even things that I don't particular think are stressful, my creative juices completely dry up. I find taking a break for awhile helps. Or getting rid of the stress. ha! Like that happens. Sometimes thinking of a scene while doing something else, like cleaning house, will make the scene happen and then I can write. Good luck with breaking through the block b/c your story sounds like something I want to read! :)

Sylvia said...

This is why I plot heavily. If I did pantsing, I would be so stuck so many times. Also, I've learned that never get away from the story for too long. If I take a week off or even a couple of days off, then it's hard to get back into the story. Even if I only write five hundred words a day, I'm thinking about the next scene. Kat Baldwin was so right. When I get stuck, it's usually because I went wrong somewhere and have to go back. I'm about to celebrate over thirty books and six box sets...and I can tell you which books were written with blood dripping on the keyboard.

Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing this, Sloan. I think every writer has books that stop them cold. Or scenes that don't work. Or middles that loose steam. I know I do!

The one thing that I have found most productive lately is to write out—longhand—what is the EMOTIONAL TRUTH of this scene? Often times I don't know when I start out! I just think, they need to flirt and dance. But what I really need to show is growing intimacy and attraction, which is the emotional core behind the action. I think readers read romance for the emotion and personal connection to the characters, so I find that most often, that's where I've gone wrong.

And then I do all the other things y'all have mentioned. :)

But I don't let myself stop until I know where I'm going. :)

Cathy McElhaney said...

I walk away for a bit. Sometimes it's a long bit, lol! I focus on other things for a while, then I go back and read and reread. I get into the characters heads and try to find what will make them stronger, what will cause them anxiety? What will bring out the fire-the passion? What can the anti=hero do to cause obstacles? How would I react in certain circumstances? How would I want to react (because chance are the way I would react would not be the way I would want to, LOL)?
Sometimes reading someone else's work will also inspire me. Not scene stealing or copying, but getting inspired by their style of writing and the whole genre I am writing.
Good luck!