Grinding to a Standstill

Last week I sat at my computer gazing out at the most beautiful view in the world.  I sipped yet another bladder-challenging-sized mug of tea and wondered why I was having such a hard time writing a story that I had already outlined.  Why was I feeling bogged down?  I know how the story ends; I know the characters and settings as well as my own family and home; so why the listlessness, the disconnect?

Prior to this, if I hit a writing snag, I would just write another scene or describe a new character or setting.  That almost always worked to loosen the writing log jam.  This was different.  I’m near the end of writing this book, so there aren’t new characters or settings to dream up.  It was a new and unsettling experience for me.

Post-Christmas preening gave me a valid excuse to take a few days off.  That distance and the drone of the vacuum helped me figure out what was going on.  What I realized was I didn’t have a clear enough direction to get from where I was in the telling of the story to the end I had in mind.  (More experienced writers would likely have figured that out sooner.)  The book I’m writing is the third in a trilogy.  I had roughly outlined this third book when I was writing the second one.  I knew where it was going, and I was clear about a few critical scenes along the way, but I hadn’t filled in the details: I thought I could do that when I wrote it.  Apparently it wasn’t enough.

I went back to the outline, re-read and printed the last few pages.  I flipped through the notepad I carry around with me like a security blanket and tumbled ideas around in my head for another day or two.  It was just the jump-start my imagination needed.  Eventually I sat down and began filling in the outline.  Ideas took shape and grew into even better scenes than I’d initially imagined.  The outline is now bursting at the seams and I can hardly wait to dig in and write the rest of Emelynn’s story.

God I love writing – why’d it take me so long to discover that part of me?


About JP McLean

Author of The Gift Legacy, a contemporary thriller with a twist of fantasy that will leave you believing the impossible and wary of the night sky…
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2 Responses to Grinding to a Standstill

  1. indytony says:

    If you don’t mind an unconventional suggestion from someone who has written but yet to publish a novel. Sometimes I think outlines restrict us. I know many (if not most) writers work with outlines (and charts and graphs, etc…), but I say… let the characters live and breathe and lead you where you want them to go. They may surprise you. Just a thought…


    • jpmclean1 says:

      Thanks for your feedback. You’re right – outlines are restricting. My first book’s outline was very loose and even at that, it didn’t fit by the end of the writing. In fact, looking back on that outline now, it wasn’t even close. A good case for letting the characters live and breathe. (Made me wonder why I bothered.) The outline for the third book started out as a list of plot points from Books I and II that I needed to reference and tie in, but when I wasn’t looking, it morphed into an outline. They’re sneaky that way! Thanks again for your comments and have a great 2013.


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