When stories grind to a halt

As is inevitable when a bunch of writers get together (such as a gathering like World Fantasy Convention), there is a natural tendency to talk about process and craft, including the things that stop us up.

Now, I’m not immune to getting blocked or stopped up.  Even though I’m known as being efficient in getting books out, part of that is because I build a certain amount of “things might get stuck” into my schedule.  As much as I would want the writing of every novel to just be a powerhouse, “writing X words a day, every day”, that’s rarely been the case.*  Most of the time, even with my outline, there will be some point where the connective tissue from A to B just isn’t apparent, and it’s going to take me a bit of time to let my subconscious hack through it to figure out how it’ll work.

So, what to do in the meantime?

I’ve got three go-to tactics.  (All of which were rejected by one friend who was stuck in her novel.)

  1. Write a scene further ahead.  I’ve not written a single novel in order. Not one.  There’s always some point where I jump ahead and write some red-meat bit down the line and then go find the connective tissue later.  It’s a simple solution to the Point A To B problem: just go directly to Point B and often the writing of it gives the answer of how to go back and fill in the details.
  2. Play with maps.  I do love messing with maps, and it’s a good process to use a different set of brain muscles so the subconscious can grind away at the problem.  It lets me also do some worldbuilding work for other things down the line.  I’ve often said I really only have the illusion of being a fast writer, because I’ve spent a long time at planning things far in the future.
  3. Write something else.  There’s always a “secondary” project in the works.  If not two.  Usually things that don’t have a contract or deadline involved, so if and when I need to stop and get to the “real” project, it’s not a big deal.  I’ve got a few things cooking along those lines right now.

So, what are your techniques to break through the wall?


*- The one exception is The Alchemy of Chaos, which I did the draft of in a little under five months.  There were a couple weeks that dragged, in that I “only” wrote the minimum for that week.

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