Perseverance, a great skill that needs to be mastered no matter what your age is. For the past few years I’ve struggled to finish my novel. I knew how it would end but I couldn’t figure out how to get there. Why would the characters jump through hoops A, B and C just to get to Z? Why did Z even need to happen? What happens after that? Why are the characters emotionally inclined to follow through on the mission/task/adventure?
These questions plagued me for some time…until today! So what caused the sudden epiphany? I catered the advice I was given over the years from my MFA and workshops to suit the needs and personality of the story. It was difficult striking a balance because what pleased some, upset others. i.e. some preferred a romantic edge between two characters while others just wanted to get on with the action. Every story is different, what works for some narrations may not work for others, and as the writers, it is our job to govern the story as best we can. The hardest part is figuring out what advice to accept, what advice to take with a pinch of salt and which advice to disregard. Below are three basic steps to help unblock that creative mind so you can make better decisions:
Just write every day: I was given this advice from different sources – most of which repeated, “write 1,000 words a day and make it consistent.” I was troubled by this because I got stuck often. I didn’t want to write 1,000 words only to have it removed during an edit. I felt it was a waste of time if I was going to change the plot. I felt restricted and useless at the best of times. It’s unbelievable when and where you might get inspiration, and I received it from Facebook. Someone shared a story about Hemingway’s cook: (Hemingway’s cook). Hemingway’s word count varied day by day. I felt relief. If he could get away with writing 1,000 words one day and then 300 the next, I could remove that restriction from myself and allow my creativity to take the wheel. I don’t even write at the same time of day, but I do make sure I visit my documents at least once a day. The freedom works well for me which has taught me something about my own temperament.
Music: When I first started writing, I always had some soundtracks playing in the background. I stopped because I was advised to remove all distractions while writing. Through trial and error, I learned that I get distracted but that instrumental music helped me focus. The mood of the music influences the action of my story and I feel more in tune with what’s happening to my characters. Now I have categories of music for different scenes: Fast paced, sorrowful, cheerful, meditative, pensive, calm, etc.
Approach: Since this is my first novel, I’ve put a lot of pressure on it. Over the last year, I’ve found myself subconsciously avoiding the story. Even going as far as starting a science-fiction novella. This was both good and bad. The novella pulled attention away from the fantasy novel but it also allowed me the freedom to write without pressure. I felt I was writing for fun and that was relaxing – I also increased my vocabulary because I didn’t feel I needed to watch every word I was typing. When I went back to the novel, my writing flowed faster and the mental blocks melted away. I wrote more in less time and I plotted my scenes effectively. There is nothing wrong with taking a break from a major project but how you manage that time is up to you.