Most writers will actually laugh when they talk about writing their first novel. Hmmm . . . I’m no exception. I think I created every sin possible in that first book. It’s the only book I haven’t dusted off and rewritten to sell. You know- now that I think about it, I really should do that.
Why do published writers laugh about their first book? It’s the learning curve! Compare the experience to the first time you rode a bike . . . you fell off more times than you stayed on. Thing is, we are always learning ways to improve our writing (or we should be).
You’re not the only one with problems. Your characters should face one quandary, predicament, and dilemma after another, each gaining momentum and heading toward the climaxing end. What you’ll find is the deeper into the story you write, the more you’re getting to know your character’s desires, fears, dreams, and even secrets. You’re excited, invested, and even proud of yourself.
You’re moving forward in great strides – then suddenly your characters take a break . . . the story slows . . . you flounder as to what’s going to happen next. Your characters were headed in the right direction with such urgency and they knew exactly what they wanted to accomplish. Where did they go? The main plot driving the story is suddenly looking more like a subplot. How could this happen? Come on characters – speak to me!
Suddenly you question whether or not you’ve got what it takes to be a writer. The self-doubts creep in . . . and panic grips you. Maybe you decide you don’t’ need the stress and your life would be so much easier if you just stopped putting yourself through this. No matter what anyone says – you’re convinced it’s time to hang up your writer’s hat.
Yep, we all hit this stage – some of us more than once. My husband is usually the one who snaps me out of it. He asks, “Would you be happy if you never wrote another word? Would the stories just stop coming to you? I’ll tell you right now, you’re always in a better mood when you’re writing.”
Hmm, he’s right. I could no sooner stop the ideas coming to me – than I could stop air from coming into my lungs. You should know times like this happen to writers. You’re not alone – so just relax and take a breather (the rest of the afternoon or evening).
Remind yourself – your work-in-progress is just a draft. Keep writing – but don’t stop. Your story will quickly pick up speed and take off. I always stop and think my story through overnight – like a movie – it seems my mind works through the stall and usually the next day I’m back to writing with fervor.
If you still can’t seem to incite your story – think about what intrigued you to begin this book. Review your notes. Ask yourself, “What am I missing that has silenced my characters?” There is a reason your story is stalling – you just have to figure out what. Read your story from start to finish (where you stopped) . . . that just might be enough to ignite the action and get your fingers moving. If not, then be honest and ask, “What is missing?” Maybe your character(s) are telling you you’ve missed a key scene – then can’t go on until you’ve given them the motive they need to continue.
You can’t force this – you must excite yourself and then your characters. Maybe the story is ready for a real shocker . . . something you nor your characters expected. Like what? Well, how about your character is struck with snow blindness in the middle of the Beartooth Mountains. Maybe your heroine is ready to walk down the aisle and receives a phone call from the fiancé she thought was dead. Maybe your neighbor’s dog comes running onto your porch and drops a human hand at your feet.
Ask yourself, “What can possibly go wrong in my character’s life – that will literally set the story on fire.” You want your story charged with intensity. The strange thing here is once that happens, you the writer will equally be stimulated. Your characters are suddenly charging forward and you can’t type fast enough.