My Random Thoughts and Misc Ramblings

Writing that Novel: Block, Break, or Bail?

November was NaNoWriMo. And many people in my sphere (be it virtual or irl) participated. Me? I went another route. I didn’t add a single word to my novel-in-progress. And as we enter December, I continue to not write. If this not-writing goes on much longer, it may necessitate a designation change from novel-in-progress to novel-not-in-progress. Seriously, how long can I say I’m working on it, if it’s sitting untouched in a drawer?

One week? One month? Six months? One year? Forever?

The most frustrating aspect of my current stall is that I’m not really sure what’s behind it. Am I having writer’s block? Did I just need a break? Or am I trying to tell myself it’s time to bail (or bale for my UK friends) on the project?

It (the stall) started innocently enough. I’m nearing the end of the first draft and I know it needs some work. Among other things, I’m not sure whether my original narrative structure is working. So in late October, I did two things to address these concerns. I asked my writing accountability partner (and published novelist) to read and comment on the entire manuscript. And I submitted some pages to a writer’s conference. In early-November, I was rejected by the conference, so no help from them. But that same week, I got an excellent critique from my accountability-partner reader. Her comments, criticisms, and suggestions were spot-on. But they also reaffirmed some of my concerns. Bottom line: it still needs a lot of work.

In my pre-fiction (and let’s be honest-my younger) writing days, I immediately would have been fired up by the feedback. I am (or was) one of those weird writers that really enjoys the process of editing and rewriting. Pulling apart, restructuring, fine-tuning—love(d) it all! But this time, the thought of all that ripping and rebuilding left me a bit exhausted. So I keep putting it off.

Thanksgiving. Magazine assignments. The weather is nice. Read blogs. Write haiku. All perfectly good reasons not to start back TODAY.

Tomorrow. I’ll start back tomorrow. I promise! (I said just last night.)

So this morning was going to be that tomorrow. I absolutely was going to open up my novel and get back to work. The timing was perfect. My magazine assignments were submitted. Today’s calendar was completely empty. It’s foggy and rainy outside. I was READY to go! Then I saw Teresa’s picture prompt. I am obsessed with monkeys. I LOVE them. They make me happy. And that fabulous photo was all my brain needed to “forget” my original plan. Monkey thoughts filled my mind. But even as the monkey endorphins pumped me up, I caught sight of the manuscript pile on my desk and guilt flooded out my happy monkey vibe.

Doubt returned. Seriously, was tomorrow ever going to come?

So I’m back to my questions.

BLOCK?

  • Am I just dealing with a bit of writer’s block? If so, I should just sit down and WRITE! Even if it’s crap and I delete it all, it will get my juices flowing. Just WRITE has always been a winning strategy.

BREAK?

  • Did I just need a break? That’s possible—I had been on an intense streak the prior few months. Lots of writing hours at the expense of other things. Maybe my brain and body are forcing me to reevaluate the notion of BALANCE. A lesson I’ve never been able to master. If so, I should stop beating myself up. Enjoy my leisure time. Write for my blog. Read for fun. Binge watch The Great British Baking Show. Happy ho ho ho and all that. And jump back into it in January.

BAIL?

  • Am I ready to bail? No! Or maybe yes. NO!!! I don’t know. Quit avoiding the question Tina! Which is it?

OK. OK. I’m such a pain in my own a$$. I’ll try to answer.

If I’m being honest (one of my fave Paul Hollywood phrases), I can’t claim to have writer’s block when I haven’t even tried to write. It’s not as if I’m staring at the screen with a blank mind. I haven’t even opened the document in over a month! But am I seriously thinking about bailing on the whole project? Do I really think that I could let it go? I don’t think so. (?) I’ve been working on it for over a year. I don’t think I’m ready to just dump a year’s worth of effort.

So?

I think (or maybe feel—not sure which is dominate at this point) that I’m committed to finishing it. I still like my basic idea. And I’m not afraid of hard work. But I have to be honest, I’m just not ready to jump back into right this minute. So maybe I’m just on a break?

I guess we’ll see in 2019.

Any words of wisdom or support from the blogosphere will be welcomed! Meanwhile enjoy these adorables.

monkeys-768641_1920 Thanks to The Haunted Wordsmith for the wonderful monkeys. I don’t blame you for my continued procrastination 😉

And to FOWC prompt of leisure. Maybe it’s karma’s way of saying that taking a break is OK!

13 thoughts on “Writing that Novel: Block, Break, or Bail?”

  1. I feel like this is a thing lots of people go through – I know this type of thing has happened to me, for sure.

    I’ve recently had a hard time working on a novel ostensibly because of work, but I also find that I easily give up on a novel and try writing a new, better one instead of ‘fixing’ it. I know for me it’s a self-confidence thing, this sort of fear that I’m wasting my life away at something useless (whether true or not). So if it’s this tinge of worry that’s got you going, I can dig! The only way I’ve gotten around those worries and kept going is to restructure my life goals and expectations surrounding writing. It sounds like you’re already more successful than me (you write stuff for magazines! Wow!), so I also want to say that all your accomplishments are awesome! Go you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your kind words. (And it’s mostly just sponsored content stuff for a local magazine so not that glitzy 😎) I definitely suffer from imposter syndrome. (Which I guess I just demonstrated!) Always have. So I know that’s part of it. But I’m also a completion nut. I’m not sure I’d even be able to start another book while this one’s unfinished. I think it would crack my brain 🤪😉 I like that idea of restructuring my goals and expectations. Maybe I should try not to beat myself up so much. Hmmm? Thanks!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I had plans to do NaNoWriMo…got started on one project (bailed), project #2 (bailed), published Reflected Echo instead, project #3 (stalled). I am a person that either can’t focus on one thing or hyper-focuses and won’t stop until its done. I had grandiose plans for today…outline my four current WIP so I can get those whipped out (after much reflection on Echo I found that it would have been much faster to write if I had an outline). Started one outline last night, finished it up this morning. Half-way through #2, then here came the NetGalley approvals. You see after helping someone review theirs, I decided mine needed a little sprucing up…yeah, I am just glad that I read a lot of YA and under because I had nine approvals this morning while working on my outlines. So, naturally, I have to put the outline down and start reading. Then there’s the blog posts, blog reading, comments, lunch (I remembered this time), and now I am taking a break (okay, not really but it sounds good).

    I don’t know how you write, but with me, once the characters tell me their story and leave, I almost lose sight of why I agreed to write their story in the first place. Sometimes, it’s not really my style, then I have to put it up and let it simmer. Sometimes, the fault is mine and that I simply lost interest in their story (that’s what happened with Echo). Sometimes, I liked their story so much I become hypercritical and nothing will be good enough because I have played it so many times in my head that I know I can’t reproduce it (that happened with Life in River Hollow).

    If you were asking my advice, I would say table it for now. Work on something else. The characters will know and will come back to either show more of their story, let you in on little secrets they didn’t before (Life in River Hollow again), or will help you get inspired about them again. You’ll see.

    Sometimes a little distance is needed. It’s not giving up and its not silencing a good idea (you wouldn’t have spent a year on it if you didn’t like it). It’s letting their story regroup and be upgraded from VHS to HD.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. First I am awed by everything you accomplish ever day! Not just the writing (which I love) but the being a mom and getting your grad degree… I did that as an adult as well so I know how hard it is, without a kid! And second, thank you. I’m trying to make light but I am struggling a bit with everything. I’ve never really written fiction until the last year so I’m constantly worrying that I’ve got no business trying. 🤪 I appreciate the reminder that sometimes things need to simmer. I’ve given that advice to others but I’m not great at following my own words! So maybe that’s what this is. Simmer time. So far I’ve let the characters tell the story. Maybe we all really do need a break! ☺️

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You are definitely not alone in your block/break/bail dilemma. Writing a novel is a daunting task, monumental honestly. Not everyone goes through the same writing process and nobody said you have to devote 24/7 to this ONE project. While forcing yourself to write is a solid strategy for getting the creative juices flowing, it might also make things worse if your brain just needs to step away and recharge for a bit. You’re the only one who knows what you need right now, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you need to take some time to do some self-reflecting and figure out what exactly it is you need. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Jade. You are the third person to remind me it’s ok to step away for a bit. Simmer time. I’m calling it. I think I’m letting the constantly lurking imposter syndrome get to me. I need to realign my thoughts and expectations. I like to be challenged but I don’t need to be overwhelmed. I really appreciate your kind words. (And on a side note I still need to check out the new Charmed.)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I understand, I think we all succumb to the impostor syndrome from time to time. I’m glad you’ll be taking some time to realign with your thoughts (and hopefully, to reconnect with your novel! 🙂 ).

        P.S. I wouldn’t bother honestly, I’ve dropped the show. It’s very disappointing 😦

        Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s true, we all need a break at times. It’s also true, the return to work can be … difficult. We’ve lost the rhythm, the drive has gone. And where-oh-where is the inspiration? Slipped under the desk while we were away?
    My remedy is to cogitate on the plot. Write notes. Replot it in five parts instead of three acts (or vice versa). Analyse the whys and wherefores, identify the archetypes represented by your characters. That kind of thing. Somewhere along the line, a thought jumps out, this is how we can improve it! Or, gosh, why didn’t I see that before? And there you are, on the off again. And meanwhile, yes, you have been working on your WIP.
    I wish you a speedy return. Cos you know, writing’s the only thing that keeps us going.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So true! That elusive rhythm 💃🏻 and I remember my inspiration but boy you’re right the drive seems to have slipped into park! But I like your suggestions- think, make notes, think ….

      Thanks for taking time to offer your thoughts and experience. I really appreciate it. 🙏

      Liked by 1 person

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