Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Gasping, choking, sputtering... to write a paragraph

I have been working on revising chapter 14 of my novel for a week? two weeks? It's hard to say exactly, because in between I have been revising other bits of writing, critiquing, writing pieces for my workshop classes, etc. But let's just say I've been agonizing over chapter 14 for some time.

Today I was at it again and had a terrific moment of insight. I scrawled in my notebook, "What does [main character] think is happening?" I knew this was a pivotal question and would help me break through many of my difficulties because as I wrote it I had no idea what the answer was.

And perhaps that sounds a bit dumb. It's a basic question. But I was so focused on my character's voice and her having a legitimate emotional reaction to the situation, that I had completely neglected to consider her powers of reasoning.

So what did I do when I made this startling revelation? I journaled for about 10 more minutes, sorting out what my main character is thinking, and how this changes my plot. Then I desperately wanted a nap. But I didn't give in. Instead I printed out my fellow students' assignments for the week and did some critiquing. I put chapter 14 away, possibly for the rest of the day. Why? Because I was all out of writing energy.

I'm a total writing wimp. Writing is a very physical activity, as well as a mental one, for me. When I struggle with a seemingly insurmountable task, like chapter 14, or plot out a story, or develop a character, I end up gasping. I'm exhausted.

I try to make up for this by keeping busy. I intersperse my writing time with blog posts (like now), critiques and various writing assignments. As long as my butt is in my chair, writing, for 3-4 hours a day, isn't that good enough? Lately I've begun to think it's not. Is it possible for me to work harder? I've been stuck on chapter 14 for an awfully long time.

Do other writers struggle with these issues of stamina? How do you cope?


  1. I do force myself to write. On slow days when I'm stuck, if I even write a page at least I've accomplished something. I do this, and eventually I become unstuck.

  2. Thanks, Medeia. I do do that to a certain extent, but I think I need to start pushing myself even more. Because you're right, usually I just need to write myself out of it.