Writers are regularly intimidated by what might seem the oddest thing: the work that springs from their own minds. If you have days when you seek a reason to do anything but write, you may be one of them.
Not because you’re suddenly dragging your feet—but because, in one or more small ways, you started dragging them long ago. If that’s the problem, soldiering on may not net the best results.
(Full disclosure, I just read the exact opposite advice on Facebook today—“keeping your writing momentum is key”—but hang with me. If lack of story impulsion has already brought you to a dead stop, why not let your manuscript show you how to move forward?)
Re-read what you’ve written so far. If it reinvigorates you and impels you forward, problem solved! Chances are, though, the writing itself may reveal your reluctance to drive deep into the heart of your story’s conflict.
Know that you are not alone. Denying fear is so common that you may not realize it has been a problem—until you start flagging the following for further analysis.
Is fear holding you back? Here is your early detection guide.
- Story withholding instead of storytelling. Writers who fear pushing forward convince themselves that if they don’t tell parts of the story, the reader will be dying to know by the time they get around to surprising them at the end—but by then the reader may be long gone. The reader needs story to get hooked by it. A useful adage: Put your best material up front, and the rest will live up to it.
Detection Q: Are you laying down story that raises questions, or might you be withholding story from your reader—and yourself?
- Repetition/reiteration. Detectives in mysteries reflect on clues, politicians in thrillers analyze strategy, lovers in romance sort through their emotions—but the right to reflect must be earned, and only when a new clue forces the protagonist to reassess everything she once thought was true. Driving the story forward in a cause-and-effect chain will remove excessive plot re-hashing born of the author’s need to remind, because everything will become more memorable.
Detection Q: Did your character really need that episode of “where we are now in this story” to move forward—or did you need it, to spur you on? (In which case you can remove it)
- Bland dialogue and associated beats. Since “I told you not to call me anymore” is a decidedly more interesting way to answer the phone, maybe keep “Hello?” for when your character has a gun to her head and she is being ordered to answer normally. Don’t fear all that edginess Emily Post, the Scouts, and your mother tried to iron out of you.
Detection Q: Is your character speaking while running his hand through his hair just because you’ve seen something like that before (so has your reader—too often), or is that dialogue needed to increase tension, reveal character, and further story?
- Prose bloating. Don’t make the reader to sift through buckets of words and overlapping sentences to find a dramatic nugget because you fear building a gold mine. Instead, research “gold mining.”