You’re writing fiction. Unfortunately, your inspiration is flagging. Then it dies.
Professional novelists know that after period of inspired writing, at around 10,000 words, they’ll hit “the wall.”
The wall is the point at which you think your novel is a complete disaster. Not only do you hate it, you stop caring. More than anything, you want to nuke the project into oblivion.
Writing fiction: your inspiration will die, but you can revive it
Here you are at the horrible wall. You want to quit. A charmingly seductive voice whispers in your ear: your novel is boring. You made a mistake. Here’s a MUCH better idea… This new idea is a guaranteed bestseller. Delete the dreck, and write THIS NOW…
Dismiss the voice, please.
ALL novels hit the wall sooner or later. A “better idea” isn’t. You’ll hit the wall with that idea too.
Here are some tips to give your creativity a swift kick up the derrière, so that you can revive your inspiration and complete your novel.
1. Power through by changing your writing process
Every writer has their own process for writing fiction. Your process isn’t immutable. It may change from book to book. When you hit the wall, it’s time to switch up your process.
If you’re an outliner, it’s time to pants (write without an outline.) Alternatively, if you’re a pantser, outline several scenes.
- Writing the final scene in the novel. When you write the final scene, you’re setting up your goal posts. This scene often gets you over the wall, because you’ll envision your main characters in a new way.
- Outlining several new scenes. (Even if you don’t know where they’ll fit.)
Although the voice intends to derail you, it sometimes has a point about the “better idea.”
Thank the voice, and make a note of the idea it brought you. Tell it that you’ll work on its “idea” next, after you complete this novel.
Now, ask the voice, because it’s the part of your creative self which specializes in ideas, for fresh ideas for wonderful scenes for this novel. Tell the voice that the scenes can be for the setup, the middle portion, or the final quarter of your novel. You don’t care.
Ideas for new scenes will come to you.
Add the ideas where they fit. If you’re not sure, put the ideas into a “unplaced scenes” folder. Scrivener, if you’re using that app for writing fiction, makes creating new folders and documents simple. Add the Unplaced Scenes folder to the end of your draft.
2. Create differently: dictate, handwrite, or sketch-write to generate words
You can often break through the wall by changing the way you write.
- Try writing fiction in a coffee shop, or write on your phone;
- Dictate the next few scenes;
- Write several scenes by hand; or
- “Sketch-write” the scenes.
When you “sketch write” you write your scenes in all dialogue, or simply jot notes for them. Tell yourself you’re just playing around, you’re not really writing anything at all.
Oddly enough, when you tell yourself that you’re not writing, you’re playing, your resistance dissolves. It’s a trick, and it works.
3. Rethink: a subplot may help
The wall gifts you with clarity on all the holes in your plot, as well as insights into problems with your characters.
Don’t panic. Although the voice can be brutal, it’s helpful too, as long as you don’t dissolve into a puddle of tears and despair.
Since the voice tends to toss ideas at you, ask for an idea for a subplot. Whatever your genre and main plot, a subplot can add a needed change of pace. Shakespeare often added humorous scenes to his tragedies. When there’s too much gloom and doom, you need a contrast so that readers appreciate the next horror scene.
Humor is always welcome. Try creating a comic character.
Consider adding a romantic subplot, if you’re writing in a genre (science fiction, thrillers, mysteries) which doesn’t need romance. In these genres, a romantic subplot not only aids character development, it also provides a useful change of pace.
Vital: when you’re writing fiction, keep writing
If you change your writing process and refuse to stop writing fiction when you hit the wall, you’ll discover that before you know it, you’ll tap into fresh inspiration and will power through your novel.
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Copywriter and marketing pro Angela Booth maintains a busy copywriting and ghostwriting practice. Fascinated by online marketing, she wrote one of the first business books for internet marketing, published by Allen & Unwin. She’s been an enthusiastic blogger since the late 1990s.