I’ve been working on the second book of a planned three-part trilogy for a while—it seems like years, but it’s been just a few months. Time has been dragging because the book has been progressing poorly.
Sometimes I think all my books progress poorly, but this one really has hit Olympian heights of lousy progression. Everything is bad. My outline refuses to come together, and no matter how I approach it, I can’t seem to fill the holes. My writing is flat. To look at my story notes, you’d think I have enough good, strong conflict, but it isn’t working. I have a cute opening scene that I like a lot, but it doesn’t reflect the rest of the book or sufficiently introduce the story questions. If I cut that, I’ll be cutting the best thing in the book. I want to just keep writing—get that first draft done!—and so far, that’s been my path. I’ve got almost 45,000 words now, and I hate it. Nobody wants to read this mess, including me.
So now what?
I see that I have three options, and two of those are related. The first option is, just keep going. Paste on my monitor all the book-finishing-affirmations from Nora Roberts that I can find (You can’t fix a blank page! Put your butt in the chair and write!) and just Get. It. Done. Quality comes with revisions, so get that first draft out of the way. Nora never gave up on a book, and I won’t either! GO! [cue trumpet clarion call]
The second option is, set it aside. For some reason, the story gods are capricious right now. It’s okay to obey them. Work on something else. Finish that. Then come back. Nobody says you have to get to Point B by climbing over the mountain and through the thistle patch when the paved road is right over there. By the time you get back to your story, that mountain will be leveled and the thistle patch paved over. A lot of writers jump from story to story, and it hasn’t seemed to hurt their overall output any. [cue improvisational jazz]
The third option is, just forget about it. There’s too many stories out there waiting to be told. Even I, who brag that I have only one idea at a time, have several things I could be working on instead. I don’t have to bang my head against a stone wall. I wanted a trilogy? Forget it. A standalone works fine, too. [cue funeral dirge]
So what am I going to do? I don’t mind working hard, and writing is full of frustrations. I get that. But when a story isn’t panning out, it might be time to give it a rest. Will it be a funeral or just a temporary halt?
So what about you guys? Have you ever hit a wall? What did you do then? And why?