Lonely writer … lucky enough to be under a deadline … but stressed because the book has stalled. It should be a simple scene to write. No dialogue subtext to agonize through. No complicated dance of too many characters in the scene. Yet there sits the writer … stuck, stuck, frustrated, and stymied.
Deadline pressure can be an insidious force. You can tell yourself that you’re lucky enough to have a contract. You can chant the mantra of “Be glad you’re working” over and over, but when the story stalls, panic can set in. If you aren’t careful, you may find yourself struggling against the plot problem, or against the lead-footed characters who won’t move or take action, darn it! or against the antagonist who won’t say what you intended for him to say.
The more you struggle, the more stuck you seem to become, like car wheels spinning deeper into the sand. And the deadline clock tick, tick, tocks in the back of your mind, making you sweat.
Solution? Back off a little. Stop gnawing at your daily page quota for a few hours and take the pressure off your imagination. Ask yourself, what’s wrong here? Why have things stalled? What have I overlooked? What have I missed? What have I left out? What else should my characters do? Why am I bored here? If I were reading this, what would I want to happen?
Don’t force the answers. Let them come to you.
The majority of the time, we get stuck simply because we’ve made a mistake of technique or our plot has reached a soft spot in our synopsis. Our story sense has put on the brakes to help us. We should listen to it, regardless of our looming deadline.
So listen. Think. Put the writing on “pause.” Figure out the problem. The solution always is there. We just have to find it.
Often, I need to cook up a plot twist or something unpredictable to throw in, something that will fit my plot and where I want the scene to go but is unexpected and fun. It brings life back to the story. It revives my enthusiasm.
The solution arrives. You may have to rewrite a scene or two, or maybe only a couple of pages. But now you’re energized and ready to flex the writing muscle. The pages fly. The story gains speed. Your characters are on the move.
It feels sweet indeed.