When the Writing Hits a Brick Wall

Rena George Writing 10 Comments

IMG_2110I have discovered something about myself over recent weeks. I’ve discovered I’m not a jump in and just get on with it kind of author.

I don’t know why this came as such a surprise. Everything else I have ever written has been properly planned out – except for those news stories in the old days when I was a newspaper reporter and had to dictate back fast-moving events on the spot.

In a previous post I may just have touched on the fact that I’m writing a new crime novel. It’s a story that has been rattling around in my head for close on two years. The main characters and storyline were so familiar to me that I thought all I had to do was to start typing and the whole thing would flow quite naturally.

But I was wrong. BIG TIME!

Nothing was working. Everything I wrote just read like so much rubbish. It’s difficult to keep ploughing on when you feel like that. I mentioned my plight on Facebook, and lots of lovely writing friends came back full of support and advice. They were all basically saying the same things – “take a step back” “know where your characters are going” “don’t give up”.

I listened to all of them and realised the real reason the book wasn’t working was because I had started writing too soon. I wasn’t ready. The book wasn’t ready. I hadn’t done nearly enough preparation.

I know many writers don’t like planning beyond the basic synopsis, but I hadn’t even done that properly. I didn’t have any written character profiles. And, well yes, I have to admit it; I simply didn’t have a clue where I was going.

For various reasons, some happy, some not so happy, I haven’t been writing for several months, and now, reading back what I had written, I really believed I had lost to knack. Not a great feeling for any writer. But I took everyone’s advice on board and gave myself some time off.IMG_0486

When I came back to the book it was from a different angle. This time I did my planning. I thought about it, and wrote those character profiles and timelines. I drafted out a proper synopsis, made a rough plan for how that could be spit up into scenes and chapters, and finished the bits of research I needed.

That’s all done now and I am feeling in a much better place. My plan isn’t so rigid that it can’t be changed. And I know that once I get going the characters will take over and could steer the book in a completely different direction from what I’d planned. But that’s fine. That will tell me the writing is working. I can’t wait to get started again.

If any of my experience sounds familiar, please do leave a comment and let us all know how you coped with the situation, and what steps you took to get back into the writing zone.

Comments 10

  1. Hi Rena, I am at that stage really with all three ‘novels-on-the-go’ at the moment. The first part of one is being read by someone else so I have been let off the hook for a bit. I don’t have enough faith in it to plough ahead without first hearing the verdict of someone I trust and respect. The second has required a great deal of research into the subject matter, some of which I have experience in. I have to be in the mood to write this one and the plot is tangled at the moment – it is in dire need of some post writing planning. I plan to start that very soon. The third is my favourite of the month. I thought it all but complete as a first draft but there are some serious holes when I read it through. I have tried to fill them but a proper timeline is now a must before I tie myself in knots.
    As for getting in the writing zone, if sitting down and writing, just writing anything, doesn’t work then I read. Nothing like reading someone else’s polished novel to light that fire again 🙂

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      I so agree about reading other people’s work. I find all writers are inspiring. Unfortunately, after I read a great book I’m thinking, ‘Now why couldn’t I have written that?’
      I think you are very brave, Deborah, to have three major projects on the go at once. I would be concentrating on the one I liked best (your number three) Imagine how motivated you will be once you complete that.
      You might currently be having writing problems but you can obviously see the way forward and know what you need to do to get the novels all back on track.
      Good luck with all of them.

  2. That’s a very interesting post, Rena, not least because I still don’t plan any of my writing before I start! But I think with a crime novel it might be a little different. I want to get back into the Victorian one I started a year or so ago and I suspect it will need a little more thought, and maybe for once I’ll try writing a brief profile for the main characters. I do hope you’re getting back on track now!

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      I really admire writers like yourself, Rosemary, who can just start writing without any plan, apart from what is in your head. Your books are wonderful, so that obviously works for you.
      I’m a compulsive planner, and if I don’t plan my work properly I get into the kind of muddle I’ve just experienced. Thankfully it’s all sorting itself out now and the writing is coming along as it should.

  3. I can’t plan, Rena. Once I know where a story is going, it sounds the death knell for it and I lose interest. I like to discover as I write. I really wish I could plan though! I’m glad you’re ready to get started again – I think having a plan and being flexible about it is the best of both worlds xx

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  4. Rena, thanks so much for posting this – and I’m so glad you feel back on track. This wall (which isn’t writer’s block) has totally done my head in for months. It’s partly created by too much ‘not so good’ stuff but I’ve just realised it’s also a result of thinking TOO much, as opposed to my last attempt at a book when it was too little planning and no idea where I was going! My discovery is there’s a happy medium in there somewhere – and probably everyone’s is different. I guess you just hit your stride eventually… I hope! x

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      Hi Maggie, I think I was just trying to be far too clever with the new WIP, imagining I could just wade into it without any planning. I need a plan! I’ve learned my lesson. From now on I will stick to doing my preparation. Totally agree with your insight about that ‘wall’ not being writer’s block. I could write OK, it just wasn’t very good writing. So relieved it’s going better now. Thank you for leaving a comment. x

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