When Writing Isn’t Going Well

IMG_9029I have this great novel idea. I’ve been nurturing and taking notes on it for months. I know my characters, I know where the story is going and how it gets there.

I sat down at my computer to start this novel recently. And suddenly, it’s like my brain is coated in molasses.

This will be my third (hopefully good) book. I wrote my first (bad) novel in high school. If I’m counting all the way back that far, when it’s complete, this will be book number seven (I think). So I’m no stranger to sitting down and writing 70,000 words or so.

But for some reason, this one is just fighting me, and it’s making me wonder: should I be writing something else right now?

For weeks, I’ve been sitting at my computer, forcing myself to write 500 words or so, and then when I felt battle-weary, I’d get up and do something else, hoping that physical activity, organizing, cleaning, would jar the words out of my brain.

It hasn’t worked though. Oh, I feel ready to sit down and write, but the minute I do, it all dries up again, and the molasses is back. I thought about taking a break from this new book, maybe starting something else. But abandoning a book is the reason I have approximately 1,356,791* unfinished novels on my computer.

So, with my last two books, I forced myself to finish, and I think they turned out pretty good. With this one, I’ve decided to abandon the beginning. I almost always rewrite my beginnings anyway. (Why are beginnings so hard?) I’ve skipped ahead to the first plot point, and am writing from there. It seems to be working at least somewhat better.

Sometimes writing is so much fun! Sometimes it’s easy! And the ideas flow! And the characters speak to me and we have tea parties and share secrets!

And sometimes writing feels like walking forward into a hailstorm when the wind blows you backward and turns your umbrella inside out. Sometimes the characters have locked me out and hung up a sign, “Fictional People Only.”

But I still love it.

Does that mean there’s something wrong with me?

Fellow writers, what do you do when the writing is not going according to plan?

*This number is slightly exaggerated.

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3 comments on “When Writing Isn’t Going Well

  1. You could try writing something else — anything else — even if it ends up being something you just throw away. I sometimes find that the distraction is more therapeutic than just walking away from writing itself, because you’re still writing.

    • doreeweller says:

      It’s a good suggestion, but I’ve been working on short stories during that time. But maybe, instead of starting it, getting frustrated, stopping and doing something else, I need to just mindfully take a week off and work on other things.

  2. Ramona Mead says:

    I think Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED Talk addresses this well, I’m glad you watched it and liked it. I find there are times when I’m overflowing with ideas and my writing flows, and then there are times my well is dry and I’ve got nothing. I try to take advantage of the times I’m on point by writing like crazy, and not feel bad about the times when it isn’t there. I have a couple projects that remind me of what you’re talking about in your post. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that now isn’t the time for X Project to come to fruition, so I’ve set it aside and will return to it when the Muse returns!

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