Monday, December 5, 2011

Stuck In Time

I've been feeling stuck lately. Writer's block? That would be the easy, go to answer if not for some compelling thoughts I've read by Martha Alderson aka The Plot Whisperer on the subject.

"If you find yourself plagued with writer's block, chances are you suffer a deeper malady - procrastination. If you find yourself putting off even starting to write, chances are your malady runs deeper still - perfectionism."

Her words linger as I continue to chart the structure of my novel. The process has brought up a lot of questions, for my characters, as well as for me. In taking time to answer them, I've been thinking about time, namely, how much time I spend writing?

I've never been one to sit and write for hours on end. A euphoric session that lasts a few hours will inevitably be lambasted by sessions of nothingness to boot. But in between these two extremes, I've found a comfort zone of about 1 1/2 hours. It's something to work with but to date, I have not produced a readable manuscript, something that I am willing to hand over and so I ask myself why?

My writing time has been a comfortable space, but has it been too comfortable that I haven't asked anything more from it?  Looking back over the years, I've accrued plenty of words but words alone are not enough to render a story complete. What is the difference that some writers can churn out a tale in one, two or three years time while another writer requires ten?

The bones of my story are currently posted on my wall. I imagine the work that follows to be an easy game of connect the dots until I spy something more glaring looking back at me. For all my hours of writing, my story still stands incomplete. In some cases, I have not written my story as much as I have written around the details of it. I can follow the lines till suddenly, the energy falters. Something stops me and I find myself willing to only circle the outer edges of some chapters. Is there such a thing as procrastination-in-motion, the equivalent to spinning one's wheels?

As I said, writer's block would bave been the easy, go to answer if not for the obvious tracks I leave behind. I know some circles aren't worth repeating but now, it seems even time begs for something more. 

Laurence Durrell said, "It takes a lot of energy and a lot of neurosis to write a novel. If you were really sensible,you'd do something else." Are you feeling sensible today?


  1. I've got to give you a big THANKS for recommending that plot whisperer woman a few weeks ago. I watched her whole series on youtube and found it to be incredibly, amazingly helpful! However, like you, I have the bones of my story laid out, and have worked for the entire last month on the structure and content of it all, but my story still stands incomplete, too.

    Only you would know whether or not you're spinning your wheels, or procrastinating-in-motion, but I would caution you not to put too much pressure on yourself for tangible productivity. By that, I mean, maybe the reason you're writing "around the details" of your story is b/c your mind is mulling it all over. I happen to think that is a good thing. Especially coming off of NaNo last year. I think when we crank out as many words as we did so quickly, it makes sense that we have to sit back and think through our stories afterwards. I've read of some authors who think about their stories for months *before* they write the first draft. Six of one, half dozen of the other.

  2. Hi Barb - SO GLAD you found Martha's videos's helpful :-) Thanks as well for your encouraging words. No worries though, no pity party here, I'm just trying to make sense of my road to date and working out the best way to move forward. I agree, sometimes the mind needs to mull over ideas, only you truly know when they are ready but I think I'm getting to that point, ready to tackle them head on. Will keep you posted.

  3. Nancy,
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. What you are going through is not unlike what a lot of writers go through. I find when I am stuck, it's good to take a step back and do a self-diagnosis of my work. What's working? What's not working? Where are the flaws in the story? Where is it weak? What characters are not working? I usually do this as far away from my laptop as I can get and I don't sit down again until I've figured out a solution.

    Good luck!

  4. Thanks Chris - I keep telling myself that it's all part of the process. Sometimes it's one step forward and two steps back but the important thing is to keep striving forward. I'm on it - thanks for your encouragement!

  5. Sorry to hear you're having a tough time of it.

    I saw this post today and thought of you.

    I can attest to the advantage of time. Sometimes the back burner is the perfect place for a novel to spend a bit of time. Perhaps start a new project and let this one simmer for a little while. Maybe a little creative momentum will clear out the cobwebs and provide you some new insights.

  6. Thank you Jessica - the post you included hit home. I can very much relate to Natlie's fears in relation to time. I'm still working it out from afar but yes, me and my manuscript are taking some holiday time off. We'll see what the new year brings. Thanks again :-)