Writer’s Block

In honor of NaNoWriMo, I set a word goal of 32k this month, which is about twice my usual monthly target. I checked my progress through the eighth, and I was running behind by about a hundred words per day. The next few days went pretty well. I made up some ground and at least hit my daily goal for the next five days. Then, instead of life getting in the way, writing itself became a challenge. 

My Process

I have my world and character information in a program on both my main computer and our—very old—laptop. This allows me to reference names and descriptions when I bring them back into the story later, as long as I have taken the time to record the information when I first write it. Having the information on both computers also gives me more freedom in where I write. 

I prefer to sit out with my cats. Who wouldn’t!? One of those lap desk trays I could position over the lap cat would be helpful, but I make it work. 

On the laptop, I open a new Word document, save it with a title for the section of the story I’m working on, and type away. When I finish a chapter or two, I spend time on my desktop computer to record information and do the work needed to move the section over to my main document. The task is more than just copying and pasting. 

I use AutoCrit to help me find improvement areas, so I first copy the chapters to the online program. The Grammarly add-on finds the obvious grammar mistakes, so I run through fixing those first. Then I run the AutoCrit reports to identify where I’m too passive, my dialog is too complicated, or I’m repeating words and phrases too much. 

I do not fix everything. This is a first draft, which means I will be revising and rewriting a fair portion of it after my alphas get through it, so I steer clear of striving for perfection. Even the final draft that goes out will never be ‘perfect.’ Trying to write the perfect book only means you will never publish it, so the advice is always to do what you can within reason and get it out there. 

I’m mentioning this process here because the transfer days always take longer than I want, and they take away time from writing more. I could write straight through, but that would kill my progress in December, which would only delay the problem. I’m not beholden to any deadlines or targets for my November goal other than my own drive, so I think it is better to keep my rhythm consistent.

Challenging Week

So, I’m running behind after the first week and sticking to my transfer days. I had a good five days. I could still do this. 

Then. Brain splat. 

I pushed through a tough Monday, but then came a chapter that was NOT working for me. The scene is fuzzy in my head already, and it only becomes more inane as I push through it. Why is this in here? What is the point? Does this sound as dumb as I think it does?

No. Because. Probably. But the chapter is short, and it feels like something should be here. 

So, I pulled out a tool I saw mentioned early in my publishing journey and used brackets. Brackets are these guys: [ and ]. You do not—usually—see brackets in fiction writing, so they are a great, searchable placeholder. 

For the chapter that was not working for me, I wrapped it up quickly and added “[I don’t like this one, fix or remove].” to the end. I also started using this when I did not want to make up a new name for someone. Like “[new dwarf] entered the room.” I search and replace most when I do the transfer, and I will have all of them fixed and out of the manuscript before it goes to beta readers. The bottom line: if you don’t yet use brackets when something is missing, I highly recommend it. 

I’m still trying to finish this rough draft of the final book in the series. The end is so close I can feel it within reach. Then it is off to revisions based on alpha feedback on Hidden Promise!