My Process, Part 3: Getting Stuck

In Part 1 and Part 2 of explaining My Process for writing the first draft of my first novel, I shared with you what I did to make it possible to think of, plan, and write the draft within a year while still raising two small humans who demand more of my brain power than I even use on myself. I came to a realization that I needed to close with a Part 3 – what I did or didn’t do whenever I felt stuck, because believe me – it happened plenty!

  1. I told the story. Early on in the planning phases of my book, I was talking over the problems I had been having with a scene with my writing friend, Shannon. She gave me a piece of advice that kept me going time and time again. She said what helped her was to remind herself to “just tell the story.” There were plenty of times where I was caught up in trying to find a poetic way to describe something or I knew what I wanted a character to do but I couldn’t figure out how to get him to that point. Reminding myself to just tell the story helped me imagine myself telling a friend about what had happened to my character as though he was a real person. I mean, I knew what I wanted to happen, I just hadn’t found the words yet. If I acted like I was just recalling an event that I had witnessed that day, I suddenly had words to put down on paper, and I could move on to the next moment.
  2. I gave myself time. Writing a novel is hard mental work. You’re putting yourself into the brain of different people and moving from person to person, trying to weave their stories together into something magical. This doesn’t always come easily, especially if the for the first 5 hours of your day you were wiping baby butts and kissing boo-boos, and then the scene you sit down to write is about a sexy woman trying to seduce her brother (…not…not that I wrote anything like that…). So I would give myself time. I would check out of my mommy brain for a bit but I wouldn’t quite check into the author brain yet. I needed neutral time so I zoned for 5-10 minutes on Facebook or Twitter until I started to get annoyed enough to start writing.
  3. I tapped into my feelings. For a long time, I had totally cut my feelings off, choosing to be numb rather than experience the mood swings I had dealt with for many of my younger years. Getting back into a creative zone, however, has required that I turn those feelings back on. This time, thankfully, I’ve been able to do so in a healthy way. When I had to write my first “bad guy” scene, I was really nervous. My friend asked why I and I said, “Because I’m not a bad guy!” I was super intimidated, so I went to the library and gave myself some time and listened to “bad guy” music. I just closed my eyes in the middle of the library with my headphones on, and even allowed myself to rock a little to the music, trying what I could to imagine myself in the brain of Anthony, my villain. In the end, Anthony became my very favorite character to write. I feel like his scenes are my strongest because I just know him the best, all because I took the time to allow some angry feelings come to the surface temporarily.
  4. I zoned. Sometimes I’d get stuck and all my solutions just felt cheesy and I’d get too frustrated to write anything. So I’d click onto Twitter because on Twitter, just about everyone I’m following is an author to some degree. Reading other people’s frustrations with their work or their success kept my brain in the writing “sphere,” but it wasn’t about my own writing and it was just bits and pieces, nothing deep to fully pull me away from the work I was trying to complete myself. Two things would usually happen: The first is that I’d get bored from reading Twitter and would force myself to just stare at my document until something came to me. The second is that the idea would finally form as I was dinking around and I’d quickly get back to my Google docs tab and write it down before I lost it.
  5. I read my work. Most recently I was stuck with my last scene. I had just written the most monumental chapter of the book prior to that, and I needed to figure out how to blend the drama from chapter 31 and put everyone’s story line to rest (for now…) in a satisfying way in chapter 32. I like when story lines bring back elements from the introduction, so in order to get over my frozen brain, I read the first few pages of my book and suddenly my ending just clicked! I knew where I had to bring the story and reading my own work was the only way I could have discovered that. Another way I read my own work to get out of a rut was by reviewing my outline or checking the document with my characters’ dopplegangers to trigger inspiration.
  6. I talked it out. I was so hesitant in the beginning stages of my work to talk about it with anyone but my husband or family. My particular topic is very polarizing and I am a notorious people-pleaser, so talking about it was (and still is) very uncomfortable for me. But the benefit to my story and my confidence far outweighed the discomfort, and being able to talk about the book reestablished the story in my mind enough times that plot line or character development issues tended to sort themselves out, just by talking about it.
  7. I shared my book while I wrote it. Another aspect to talking about my work was that after a few months of writing, I started feeling a little discouraged and stuck on a scene, so I asked my sister to read what I had written up until that point. I invited her to my Google docs page and that was one of the best things I did. She would text me some nights saying things like, “Holy crap I can’t believe he did that!” or “WRITE CHAPTER 22 RIGHT NOW! I NEED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS NEXT!” Having someone read my work as I did it was extremely beneficial to me. She was my cheerleader, and literally the only other person who knew what I was writing about – confirming that my brain was indeed producing a coherent story suitable for human consumption. Letting someone into that sacred space gave me the confidence I needed, letting me know that I was on the right track, and it also pushed me to get those chapters written so I wouldn’t let my only fan down!

There you have it. It’s in no way a magic formula or THE right way to write a book. It’s simply the way I’ve gone about getting my first draft done. I still have a ways to go. I’m giving myself a break before I edit the draft, then it’s gotta go through the fires of beta readers. After that, I’ll be searching for an agent and then hopefully a publisher! But my first and primary goal is complete: Finish the draft. And I’m here telling you now, if you’ve got a story simmering on the back burner of your mind and you’ve wondered whether or not you could or should write a book, DO IT! You have everything it takes to get it done. I promise. There’s nothing special about me that makes me any more qualified to write than you, so DO IT!! You’ll never regret it 🙂

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