The latest thing I’m doing to derail myself

So, the latest thing I’ve started doing to seemingly sabotage myself with my writing is this: any time I hit any part of my story that isn’t clear to me yet, I stop. everything. completely.

It started happening a couple weeks ago, when I couldn’t decide if I had my characters at the right age and finally decided the story needed to be reworked in order to be Young Adult. And then, I froze. I spent days not writing anything, just thinking over the changes I had to make.

Eventually I started writing again, but ever since then, every tiny bump I hit paralyzes me. I haven’t written anything at all yet today, because I can’t figure out the side story with one of my main characters. I vaguely know that he left his home and there is tension with his legal guardian, but I don’t know why he left, what that tension is, or even what actually happened to his parents (why did he end up getting raised by someone else?).

And he’s not even the protagonist, he’s just the possible love interest for the protagonist. And still, I’m totally frozen today, just thinking, “I can’t continue until I know more about his background.”

I was plowing forward for so long, ignoring these questions, reminding myself it was just the first draft and I could go back and fix things later. But it’s like my snow plow hit a rock and now it’s crookedly plowing and has lost a bit of its confidence and any time it sees any bump up ahead it’s like, “Oh, I’m not sure I can make it. I’m scared. I need to slow down and stop completely and stare at that bump up ahead for a while.”

I need to get back to mowing forward, because lately I’m not making any progress. I mean, I guess outlining could count as progress, but is that even what I’m doing? I’m just sitting here, thinking about the direction the story could go. But I’m worried that if I know too much about what’s going to happen, I’ll lose interest in writing it. I feel like maybe I should be left in the dark a little, so I still have some curiosity. And I think my characters need a little freedom to breathe and move, too.

But then I’m afraid if I don’t sort these things out and get plot questions answered now, I’ll end up with an enormous mess of a first draft, or my story will devolve into something ridiculous.

I don’t know how to approach this situation. Do I stop writing for a day, or a couple days, or however long it takes me to sort out my plot/character questions when they come to me? Do I spend time outlining and drafting and mapping, to avoid disorganization, but risk losing curiosity? Or do I force myself forward when I have questions, ignoring them and allowing my characters actions and the flow of the story to eventually reveal the answers? I honestly don’t know at this point. And so I end up standing here, glancing around and doing nothing.

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6 thoughts on “The latest thing I’m doing to derail myself

  1. A bit of both would be how I would approach it. Maybe have some paper beside you to jot down any notes/ideas/questions you have as you go, but only stop when you decide. I.E I’ll write 500 more words and then have a ten minute break and work on those ideas. I think stopping whenever you have a rough patch will be worse in the long run whereas stopping when you’ve made the decision would be a good habit to form.

    • I like the idea of writing a certain amount before I allow myself to take a break and think about any possible issues. I think I’m going to try that next time! Thank you, katiemay 🙂

  2. I don’t know if this is helpful or not, but I write out of order — whenever I feel inspiration for a particular part of the story, I just start writing it — and then I work back and tie it together. I’m not sure this is a recommended process, but it makes whatever I’m working on creative, and the story gets to write itself a little bit 🙂

    • A lot of people write this way! Definitely not an ‘unrecommended’ process – in fact, I think it’s often encouraged. I used to work with college students, and when they had writer’s block, a lot of time I would try to get them to work out of order to help get the wheels moving again. I’m just nervous to do it myself because I think I might start feeling too scattered if I do.

      Thank you for your advice and your comment!!

  3. “But then I’m afraid if I don’t sort these things out and get plot questions answered now, I’ll end up with an enormous mess of a first draft, or my story will devolve into something ridiculous.”

    This is my fear as well. I’ve never been successful at going back and reworking things from notes. The flow is wrong. I do better when I go back immediately and fix big problems. Big problems are like ripples in a pound. They spread out and touch every part of the story. If I fix them as soon as I see them, I minimize the damage.

    I think it’s different for everybody. The trick is discovering what works for you.

    • Thank you for the encouragement! Hopefully I’ll get a better sense of what works for me as I keep writing. I hope your writing has been going well lately for you. 🙂

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