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.