August 09, 2012

Stuck in the Middle

Holy Hannah. I am 10,000 words into the sequel of my upcoming release, and I am crazy stuck. Only unlike the title of this post, I am not stuck in the middle but in the beginning. Beginnings are so hard for me. Every writer has their issues with various stages of their project, whether it is the beginning, the sagging middle, or the end; but for me, my crux will always be the beginning. I am slightly obsessive compulsive, and I view my books as neat, little buildings. If I don't build a great foundation, I can't continue. If I do the rest of the book will implode. I need a perfect beginning, even in my first draft. What does this obsession mean for me? I can't move forward no matter how desperately I try to work around it! With BLOOD, SHE READ I spent months on the first 20,000 words. When I finally had those opening scenes 'just so' I was able to move on and wrote the rest of the book in something like five or six weeks. Yes, 50,000 to 60,000 words in 5 or 6 weeks. It is all downhill from the beginning. At least for me.

With my current WIP, MAGIC, SHE CAST, I have five completely different openers. All of them are about 2000 words each. I just can't decide which one to chose or if I'll chose one of them at all. In reality I know I'll probably scrap them all and start again because that 'aha' moment hasn't come yet. I worry it never will, but don't all writers feel that way? That we'll never complete another book? I've only completed two so far, and another one that I'm 50,000 words into and I've officially developed a love-hate relationship with but I know I'll never truly abandon. The funny thing about my being stuck is that I have MAGIC, SHE CAST outlined--in great detail. I know what I want to happen, but the opening scenes keep tripping me up.

So how am I battling this nonproductive obsession? Anyway I freaking can. This includes:

1. Writing scenes I can't include
My book is in 1st person past tense so I can only share what my character experiences. I've been writing scenes from the hero's POV and also from the heroine's mother. I actually find this helpful and know it will inevitably make my plot much more solid. But is it helping my word count? Not so much. At least, not yet.

2. Writing random scenes that occur later in the book
I HATE writing out of order. It makes me anxious. But sometimes you have to more forward no matter how much your brain protests. And hey, this strategy DOES help your word count.

3. Brain storming alone or with friends
I have wonderful, supportive writer friends who are always willing to let me bounce ideas off of them. One in particular is always there to listen to me vent and push me in directions I hadn't thought of. This same person has just become an acquisitions editor for my publisher! Yay for her! I can't name her yet, because I don't think she's shared this information with the world yet.

4. Character profiles
Since I've already written the first book in this trilogy, I already know my characters fairly well, but in the past I've found that completing detailed character profiles has helped me move forward. Knowing what your character is all about will help you decide how they will realistically react to situations. Character choices are extremely important for your plot, which will make or break a novel.

So these are some of the ways I push my self through 'stuckitis'. And yes, they're not currently working for me, but I know they will eventually because they've worked for me in the past. I'm curious where other writers get stuck and the strategies they use to move forward. If you write, leave a comment. I'm always looking for suggestions. And if you're not a writer, leave a comment anyway. Just because you can. :)


  1. Sara, I will write a journal entry in my character's first person POV. What's on their mind, how are they feeling about what's happening in the story, the other characters, what do they want at this moment, why do they want it, etc.

  2. That's a great idea, Anne. I'll try that. Hopefully, it will help me make some headway.