Think of your dead stops as hurdles, not walls.
As I stared at the monitor I knew, in the deepest part of my writer’s heart, that the chapter I’d just written, sucked.
The writing didn’t suck, mind you. The insights were fresh, the main character was witty in the right places. I’d layered in the right amounts of atmosphere, backstory, and subplot, but not too much. The dialogue was well-paced. The cadence sounded right to my ear.
But none of it helped the story move forward.
No matter how many ways in however many days I rewrote that chapter, it didn’t work. It was as if I’d wrapped a string around my story and then pulled, and it and spun around and around and around like a top, and dropped in the same place it started. What I need was one of those toy guns that shoots suction cup darts.(And I am anti-gun, but drastic times, and all that.) I would just pull the trigger and the suction cup would fly forward and stick.
But I didn’t have a dart gun, I had a sucky chapter.
If I looked at this as a wall (or something like writer’s block, which I don’t buy into), there would be no way to move it, go under it, over it, or around it. So I chose to see it as a hurdle.
Hurdle: an upright frame, typically one of a series, that athletes in a race must jump over.
Just call me a fiction Olympian.
I followed advice from a friend and set up a new document so none of my changes would effect what I’d already done, just in case. Then I knew what I had to do. I wrote the next chapter all over again, from scratch, ditching notes, cards, and outlines. I swept my brain clean of preconceived ideas and notions (and oh, how I love my notions, and the word notions, but I digress…) And I wrote from another point of view. This was not an easy decision, as I felt as if I was cheating on my main character and our vision for the story. It took me days to have the guts to do it. I don’t even know if that will stay in the story but it worked to move the story forward. I have a dart that sticks. For now. (They fall eventually, you know that, even if you lick them. Don’t say eww, you know you were thinking it.)
The leap over the hurdle doesn’t have to be something you’d ever do again, it just has to work once, to get you to that other side.
If you have ever wondered if novel writing gets easier, the answer is no.
For me it has grown increasingly challenging, but I find that the higher the hurdle, the louder the cheers (in my own head) when I stick the landing.
How have you gotten over some of your writing and story hurdles? Did you turn any of them into walls and now wish you hadn’t?