Breaking Through the Block

Post by Sarah Holroyd

In 2008 I participated in National Novel Writing Month and “won” by writing 50,000 words in the 30 days of November. The trouble was, my story wasn’t finished. I continued to work on it beyond NaNoWriMo, but stalled out around October 2009, only adding more on two days after that.

Until today. You see, I’d grown a bit bored with where I was in the story. I’d mapped out nearly the entire plot before NaNo started, using the phase outline approach I’ve discussed in a previous post in my editing blog, but at the point where my committment flagged, it was starting to feel too repetitive. I told myself that I was afraid of the prospect of having to revise, and that’s why I’ve never finished a novel.

I’ve been reading Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones lately and it seems to have given me some inspiration. I opened up my novel files today, reviewed where I was in the narrative, reviewed my phase outline…and decided to cut out an entire chapter of phases. Just gone. Out the window. And the next chapter in my outline was the climax of the plot, which is what I’d been wanting to get to, apparently, because I had no problem setting to work once I’d skipped the boring part that had been staring me in the face. A little summarizing and I was off and running again. That’s not to say some of the cut phases won’t wind up in the revisions. But bypassing them now has allowed me to move forward, and that’s the important thing. You can’t publish without a finished manuscript, and you can’t have a finished manuscript without having a draft to revise.

So if you’re facing “the wall” in your work, think about skipping the part that’s giving you trouble and writing a scene that you can see clearly in your head—the scene that’s just been dying to get out and on the paper. Sometimes what we call writer’s block is really just our subconscious telling us that this part that’s holding us back isn’t really important to the story.