Saturday, October 03, 2009


I have been working on my current manuscript for close to a year now. Things have been relatively easy, the words flowing, the ideas coming, my characters behaving. I have LOVED writing this book!

Until recently, that is.

I have been in the death throes of this novel since July, writing ‘the last two chapters’ for what seems like a small eternity. The darn thing has been like taffy, stretching and stretching with no end in sight.

At long last, I have reached the last two chapters. No, really. This time I mean it. Halfway through the penultimate chapter, I have growing confidence that I will finish this book before it finishes me.

What has been the problem? Fear of finishing? Fear of failure? Sun spots? Life, the universe and everything? I do not know. I only know that it has been a struggle, my usual 1500 words a day dwindling to 250, sometimes less. No, it’s not that I don’t know where the story is going or what is supposed to happen in the last two chapters. It is something else. I won’t call it writer’s block, more like writer’s paralysis. I am past it now, thank goodness. But, it has made me wonder if any of you have faced a similar crisis in your writing. Been working on a sweet little darling of a manuscript only to have it morph into an unruly, out-of-control teenager complete with an attitude, raging hormones and growing pains?

So, I ask the same question Gwen did a few days ago. How do you get yourself unstuck? My answer came when I realized I was worrying too much about the mechanics of the action that takes place in Chapter 34 instead of concentrating on the emotions of the characters. Once I had that Eureka! moment, I was able to break free of the ice that surrounded me on all sides.

She said bravely from the middle of Chapter 34.


Callie James said...

When I get megastuck like that, I usually have to make a big change. In one case, I switched from writing romantic suspense to paranormal romantic suspense. In another case, I made a single title a trilogy. Yeah, big holy cow changes to keep going. Luckily, they've been two of the better decisions I've made.

Good news, though. You're almost there! :)

Jeanie said...

Yes, Callie, almost there. It feels like giving birth, only I'm an elephant and the gestational period is eighteen months.

Taking a break and writing something completely new is a good idea. Unfortunately, I can't switch gears at this point, not so close to the end. I will just have to soldier on through, and hope my muse gets back from vacation, or wherever it is she's been!

M.V.Freeman said...

I so understand this!
I managed to muscle through to the end. It wasn't pretty, but I did it.

For me, there is no great mix. Sometimes I have to write something else, sometimes I need to relax, and other times, I just have to drag myself kicking and screaming over the finish line.

And I wonder why my kids are obstinate....

Anonymous said...


I had to comment because I am where you are. I've written this book for the last 4 years and am on the very last chapter. I am not done because I realize I have like one more issue to tie up between the hero and heroine and it might take more than the final scene to do it. Sigh...which means I have to go back and rewrite the last chapter I wrote.
But I understand your pain. Meanwhile, I have have gone on ahead and started the character info sheets for my next book, and started to plot it and work on query letters. After all, what else can you do really?
Good luck with your scene.


Jeanie said...

Thanks to everyone for their kind words of encouragement. The good news is I finished Chapter 34, the buggaboo that has had me pulling my hair out for nigh onto three weeks. The bad news is I'm not through with the scene. That means I'm right back where I've been since July with 'two chapters' to finish the blankety blank book! I feel like I'm in an episode of Twilight Zone.

More encouraging, however, is that I have written nearly two thousand words today. Of course, nothing else has been accomplished. I have dirty laundry and a dirty house and the wolf is at the door because there are no groceries in my cupboard, but the muse has deigned to visit me today!

Christine said...

Congratulations! You finished!!!

And now let the revisions begin.... *evil laugh*.... a book is finished so many times... isn't it?

Now, back to revisions for me... seems someone wants complete sentences....

Cari Hislop said...

I enjoyed your post! I've been working on two stories this year. Two months ago one of them came to a screeching halt and a few weeks ago the second one came to a full angry stop as well. I put them aside and did some sewing and had some adventures all the while pondering where I'd gone wrong. This last week I opened up the less done story and realised I'd forced the characters in the wrong direction...once I removed the element and rewrote the following scene I came back and the story purred like well fed cat in front of a fire on a rainy day! One down...I then cracked open the other story and accepted here as well I'd tried to take the characters in the wrong direction. As soon as I rewrote that last chapter the water started flowing again! Hurrah! It took me all week by I've finished a new chapter and I'm really happy with it. I don't know which one I'll work on tomorrow. Maybe I'll just have to work on both! It feels so good to get that story that was blocked for months moving again. I'm sure my characters are all rolling their eyes at me. If I'd just listened in the first place...ouch!

Good luck with that rewrite! It sounds like you're might be subconsciencely trying to force the characters to do something they don't want to do.

Kate Diamond said...

When I get megastuck I try writing several different follow-up scenes/sequels and then I go with whatever was most fun to write.

Jeanie said...

Words of wisdom, all. Yes, I, too, have been guilty at times of kidnapping my characters and taking them places they don't want to go. It never pays off. They get too cranky and recalcitrant. That wasn't the problem this time. Okay, here's the deal. This chapter contains a battle scene, and it took me several weeks of pulling my hair to realize that I was focusing too much on the mechanics of the fight instead of the emotions my heroine feels about her true love being in danger.

Once I figured that out, things came much easier.

My hat's off to you gals that can write more than one thing at a time. It's all I can do to wrestle with one story!

I do think it's good to take a break when you get bogged down. Go exercise or cook or watch a movie or whatever to give your mind a rest. And I always like to go back and re-read things after I've let the words cool off a bit.

I'm a tweaker, a major, world-class tweaker. I must have changed the opening lines of this book no less than 20 times.

The main thing, in my humble opinion, is to make yourself sit down and do it. You can revise what you've written, but you can't revise a blank page.

Sigh. And I used to have this idea that writers just sat down and the words magically flowed from their fingertips! Boy, what a stupid head I was!

Christine said...

the first 16 lines .... make them sing... easier said than done!

Jeanie said...

Yes, Christine, I stink at beginnings. I really have to work hard on that part. As I've said before on this blog, I have the same problem at the beginning of each chapter, too. Arggh!