I’ve read several pieces lately–parts of ‘how-to” books and blogs–that talk about how many words the writers produce every day. These vary from a total of 500 to 1,500 or more words a day. I read these stats in awe. I guess I’m not a writer after all. I can’t begin to match those word counts.
Sometime in early December, I got stuck on my fourth novel, the third in the Burgess Beach mystery series featuring Andi Battaglia and Greg Lamont. I didn’t like what I had written, which wrapped up the story far too soon, contained no surprises, and was a disappointment to me and to whatever readers I would have. I thought about it and even considered scrapping the whole novel and starting fresh with a new idea and a new plot. The problem with that was that I’d already committed nearly a year and some 60,000 words to the plot I had.
My problem is, of course, that I don’t plot in advance but allow the story and the characters to take over and do what they want. And this time, what they wanted to do wasn’t good. It disappointed me, and it would certainly disappoint my readers. What were those characters thinking?
So did I write my 500 or 1,500 words every day in December? What do you think? I woke up every morning and thought about what I’d written so far. I thought about what it was possible to do next, given how much I disliked what I’d already done. I knew I probably needed a new villain or at least a diversion from where the story had been going.
But did I feel guilty about not writing? No, I didn’t. I felt I was putting in profitable time thinking, planning, considering. I suppose if I had to make a living from my writing, I would feel guilty and worried. No writing, no money. I think about Dashiell Hammett and F. Scott Fitzgerald, both of whom suffered terribly from writer’s block and couldn’t write at all. Part of the writer’s block may have been due to alcoholism, but alcoholism may have been a result, not the cause.
It was fortunate that my writer’s block came during the holidays. Too much to do, too many people to see, gifts to buy, tree to decorate, gifts to wrap. Everybody was busy, including my writing group, so no one pushed me to write. That’s the pleasure of being a writer without deadlines.
What would I have done if I’d had a deadline? I’d certainly have needed to be a better plotter and a more organized writer. Eventually, early in January, I realized where I needed to go with the story: go back about 500 words, take a new tack and get going. I worked like a charm.
What do you do when you get stuck?