You’re writing a novel and it’s going well. Your characters are solid, enfleshed, more real to you than yourself on many days. And this is great, because writing is easier when you’re like that celery stalk in third grade – the one stuck in a beaker of blue ink for lessons in osmosis. Story runs through your veins, into all extremities. If sliced open, what seeps from you would contain characters, setting, and theme.
Then Life happens. You have a family crisis, a case of the nerves, get sucked under by a work tsunami. Whatever the cause, on the day you return to the page you cannot connect with your fictional world.
This was me some time ago. I’d reread my book and background materials. Despite intellectual understanding of my characters’ motivations and conflicts, I couldn’t enter their emotional space. As a consequence, the tone was off in everything I wrote. (Imagine channeling Jerry Lewis in a moment of tender reunion.) That made for countless false starts and mounting concern when silent days turned into silent months.
When I canvassed writing friends for solutions, the news wasn’t encouraging. Virtually all had manuscript graveyards with 50,000-plus-word corpses. Almost none had been able to resuscitate a novel once it fell silent.
Fortunately, though it took a while, I found my way back into that book. In case there are a few of you who might benefit, here are a few ways you might reconnect emotionally with your work.