Now that I'm getting down to the wire on the current work-in-progress, and the story and characters are really coming together, I can say this book was...an okay writing experience. It wasn't my best (those would be the three books that pretty much wrote themselves, or so it seemed), but it sure wasn't my worst. Since I'm kinda busy this week, I'd thought I'd share with you what I learned from My Very Worst Writing Experience.
This was originally written as a newsletter article, so if any members of an RWA chapter want to use it in their chapter newsletter, in its entirety, you have my permission. For anything else, please email at email@example.com. (Copyright does apply.)
Working Through Writers' Block
Over the nearly fifteen years I’ve been a published author, I never had full-blown writer’s block until last year. I’d had what I called “writer’s hesitation,” meaning I’d get to a certain point in the story and be unsure exactly how to proceed to the next scene or plot point. Usually that meant folding some laundry until the answer came to me, or if I was really hesitating, doing an outline. That would take a day or two or three. Then I’d be back on track.
However, I finally and regrettably experienced real writer’s block – or at least as real as I ever care to experience. I got about one hundred pages into my book and then…nothing. Nada. Despite what I’d written in the synopsis, I didn’t really know what to do next or how to get to the next plot point. So I revised up to page 100 or so, and got maybe another couple of pages done and then…nothing. Nada. I started at the beginning again, revising, got to about page 110 and then…you get the picture. Nothing helped. I did an outline; I had many file cards that I poured over like they contained the secret of eternal youth, trying to see where I was going wrong. For the whole miserable month of March, I got nowhere. It was so bad, I even got snippy with my mother – believe me, this was a Very Bad Sign, as we usually get along very well. Bless her non-writing heart, she blamed hormones – and I daresay there was a little of that going on, too. Later, I realized there were a couple of other stresses weighing on me that no doubt contributed in a subconscious way, including having had to do a major revision on the previous book I’d turned it.
But at the time, and even when I figured out some of these contributing factors, I was still well and truly blocked.
So what did I do? Since I had a contracted deadline, I had no choice but to put my butt in my chair and work, whether I felt like it or not, and whether I felt like I was writing pure dreck or not. With much angst and worry, I got the book done, and in on time.
If I had not had a contract, I might have given up on that book. Worse, I could even see myself giving up writing entirely. In the darkest days, I honestly thought my career was over. I was done. There was nothing left in the well, and never would be.
Fortunately, I stuck it out. Even better, the book turned out…not bad. Not bad at all. In fact, my editor really liked it, and raved over parts. I did have to do revisions, but they were quite minor, especially compared to the many and various revisions I’d already done on my own. The reviews were some of the best I’ve ever had.
I learned that every writer who’s ever said you just have to keep writing through writer’s block was right. You can do it, if you just do it. To be sure, HERS TO COMMAND (February ’06, HQN Books) wasn’t the most pleasant writing experience I’ve ever had, but let me tell you, now that it’s over and the response proved to be positive, it has become one of my most personally satisfying.