Saturday, May 03, 2008

Novel Writing: Snags

I'm back to talking about novel writing. Have you ever been humming along with the current manuscript and then everything stops? You stop producing pages. You toss 100 words for every 50 you write. You begin to wander aimlessly. It's hard to get a word count of 500 a day going. You've hit a snag. The manuscript production stalls.

This post is all about how to get out the doldrums. It might just be a simple matter of going to the beginning and reading what you have as a whole so far. The problem may be bigger than that. Take a look at the back story of the book. Sometimes when I can't move forward, it's because I don't have enough foundation under-pinning the manuscript. I have to go create histories for the events and people of my story. This back story work can get me on track again.

Another thing that stalls a book is "stage stuff". Take some time, make maps of various rooms, and gather visual references of images needed to dress the setting. You can stall because the setting is complex and you have not taken the time to think it through.

Sometimes when you hit a snag, it's because it's time to commit to major themes. Take some time to ask yourself what exactly are you talking about in this story. Is this about love, death, renewal, hope? What is the core and heart of your story? It's not always what you thought. I will take a whole day and just think. I read all kinds of stuff that relates to my theme. I check out books and study till my head aches. Taking time to examine what is happening thematically in a book can pull it out of stall.

Another problem can be wandering in the plot. You got all dressed up but did not go anywhere. Even if you have a outline, it might be time to revisit it-- add all the new twisty changes that you have made. This might help you get a clearer understanding of the shape of the book. Re-outline the tail end of the book. This is like squaring the building. This makes a plot sturdy and eliminates holes. This kind of revisit can help a manuscript that has stalled.

Sometimes, the only thing you can do is just stop working. Let the thing go. Start another project. You need to let the subconscious have a chance to digest what you have done so far. If you have passion, you will return to the work. A second wind will come. If not, you might find that this lost hulk will become an organ donor for a new vital story.

Enjoy the journey. Keep moving forward.

"Whatever we learn has a purpose and whatever we do affects everything and everyone else, if even in the tiniest way. Why, when a housefly flaps his wings, a breeze goes round the world; when a speck of dust falls to the ground, the entire planet weighs a little more; and when you stamp your foot, the earth moves slightly off its course. Whenever you laugh, gladness spreads like the ripples in a pond; and whenever you're sad, no one anywhere can be really happy. And it's much the same thing with knowledge, for whenever you learn something new, the whole world becomes that much richer." -Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth


Janet Lee Carey said...

Renewal for your out of this world manuscript, Molly.

Take a trip to the stars -- view photos and further down on same page "Virtual Voyage into Deep Space"


MollyMom103 said...

Thank you for the star ~ I just feel so connected to out there...

:) molly

Vijaya said...

I'll need to re-read this come fall ...