Wrote only 107 words yesterday, and that includes tweaking what I wrote the day before. The scene went stale. Has that ever happened to you? I told myself it was horrible writing. Who was I fooling? I'm not a fiction writer.
Then I remembered what James Scott Bell wrote in Plot and Structure:
"Sometimes the . . . problem is merely writer's exhaustion. A temporary loss of confidence. Maybe even the fear that what you're writing is total garbage.
This is The Wall, and it should help you to know that most novelists hit it at some point in their first drafts.
For me, it is around the thirty-thousand-word mark. I get there and suddenly think all the worst things about my novel: the idea stinks and is beyond redemption; my writing is lame, the characters uninteresting, and the plot virtually nonexistent. I can't possibly go on. Career over."
Sound familiar? This is my fourth attempt at novel writing. Prior to this manuscript I completed two novels and abandoned a historical fiction at about 10K words. That I'm up to 18,355 words, further than usual, tells me I'm making progress. But I'm definitely at The Wall.
Here I am, closing in on Act I, ready to plunge into the "muddle" of Act II, and the creative juices freeze. What to do?
First, I won't panic.
Second, I'll complete the tasks that are on my mind that need to be done - such as paying the bills on time, fulfilling my mentoring duties, preparing Sunday's sermon, and daily stuff like putting supper together, cleaning up the kitchen, and doing the laundry. If I ignore these chores, they'll muzzle the muse.
Third, I'll read a chapter of Plot and Structure or Conflict and Suspense (another James Scott Bell how-to-write book). Bell's writing on writing never fails to motivate me. Ideas and scenes just fill my mind, begging to wriggle out.
Fourth, I'll press through. So what if it stinks? I can fix it later.
(Check out James Scott Bell talking about "Writing Through Frustration" on YouTube. Be prepared to laugh.)
Bell gives some excellent advice on pushing through The Wall in Plot and Structure:
- Take a whole day off from writing.
- Try to spend some time at a peaceful location.
- Spend at least thirty minutes sitting without doing anything. Don't read, and don't listen to music. Breathe deeply. Hear the world around you.
- Do something for pure fun.
- In the evening, drink a glass of warm milk and fall asleep reading one of your favorite authors.
- First thing the next day, write at least three hundred words on your novel, no matter what. Don't edit, don't slow down. Just write. You'll start to feel excited again.
- Push on until you complete your first draft.
I'm still on target to meet my goal of 20K words this month. I gave myself some breathing room. I can take a couple of days off a week, or write less on a couple of days. 20K/month is 5K/week, or 1K/day, 5 days a week.
I'm going to go read a chapter in Plot and Structure. Then, look out, Wall! Here I come!