Ever have those days where you just want to shoot your manuscript (or a book you’re reading) in the head?
I do. In fact, I had one of those days today. When I started writing, things were going great in my story. The words were flowing and the characters were behaving. Then I hit a new scene. All of a sudden, my bright, vibrant characters coughed and sputtered, then developed a raging fever.
I tried to force the issue, banging those words out and pushing through the plot. Now the entire manuscript seems to be limping along with foam in its mouth and blood on its fingers, eager to sink its teeth into my creativity and tear it to shreds. Yup, you guessed it, I’ve hit a wall. It turns out that this wall is in the middle of my book, and it’s a rather common phenomenon.
It’s so common in fact, that people have given it a name. When reading, people refer to it as the sagging middle. When writing, things can go so slow that they stall all together. Then it’s often called writer’s block.
I prefer to call it the “writing dead.” :-)
In my story, I know who these characters are and where they came from. I also know where I want them to go. So what’s the problem? My characters don’t want to go where they need to be. They’re resisting me, and as a result, they’re taking a detour from the story. For some reason, the words are harder and harder to get out onto the paper. The characters have lost their glow and have become sick and lifeless. I’ve begun to lose interest. That’s the worst part.
If the writer loses interest, you can better believe the reader will, too. Part of me wants put the story out of its misery. Much like Rick Grimes in the Walking Dead series, I flex my fingers on my pistol and watch the half-finished manuscript drag its mangled body to the finish far out on the horizon. The story has a long way to go and it seems like it will never get there. It’s suffering.
One bullet and I would end the torture and let it die an honorable death. I’d bury it someone on my hard drive, never to see the light of day. But everyone knows that if you fire that shot, the noise would bring more zombies. I’d probably encounter a similar problem with the next manuscript, and the next. Wouldn’t it be better to grow as a writer and figure out what happened?
There are many reasons why a scene can drag, and even more reasons why writers suffer from writer’s block. The most common problem involves pacing. In a good book, conflict is at the forefront of every page. If the writer drops the conflict, if the characters take a detour in the plot or pause to expand on backstory, the pacing slows, and the reader loses interest. The more conflict you have, the faster the pacing. Okay, that’s all well and good. The trick is, how do I add more conflict – aka more life -- to my manuscript?
Some people add a more characters and subplot, some add a bit of action. I prefer to take a deeper look at my characters. Many times conflict can be inherent in their personalities.
For example, in my new release Dark Obsession, my hero Javier is an ancient vampire. He has maintained old fashioned values from an era long ago. Back when he was first turned, men were in charge and everything had a place. Things were always black and white. My heroine on the other hand, had to learn to adapt to a changing society. Once, a long time ago, she was timid and fragile. Circumstance made her hard and cunning. When Catherine and Javier reunite at the beginning of the story, it didn’t go well. Javier wanted Catherine to go back to the timid young miss he know over a century ago. Catherine was angry that he left her to fend for herself and wanted to shoot him in the head.
Much like I wanted to shoot this manuscript this morning. :-) I won’t shoot the manuscript today, and probably not tomorrow. I know that the answer to saving my story lies in the central characters. I’ll just need to spend some time with them and discover more of their likes and dislikes, so that I can layer more conflict, give them better direction, and tighten up the plot. In the meantime, I have a couple of questions…
For the writers, how do you overcome the writing dead? Have you ever written a scene that dragged? How did you fix it?
For readers, have you ever watched the Walking Dead? Are you a zombie fan?
One commenter will win a copy of my newest release from Red Sage Publishing, Dark Obsession.
Book Title: Dark Obsession
Book Two in the Immortal Realm series, but can be read as a stand alone novel
Buy Link: http://www.eredsage.com/store/DarkObsession.html
Type: Paranormal, Erotic Romance Length: Category (~52k)
Pairing: mainly m/f, but it does contain a m/f/m involving main characters and m/m between secondary characters
Other kink: whipping, bondage
Setting: Egypt, present day Paranormal Components: werewolves, vampires, fey, demons, egyptian mythology Book
After over a decade in the scientific world, Suzanne needed a creative outlet. She tried scrap booking, cooking, crocheting, painting, and piano, none of which held her interest for very long. Then one of her friends suggested writing. Thrilled with the idea of creating her own worlds, she opened up her lap top and never looked back. When Suzanne’s not writing, she can be found playing with her two daughters, testing her husband’s latest kitchen creations, or curled up with her favorite romance novel in her central Massachusetts home.
Blurb: Long ago Javier chose to walk away from one person that mattered most in his life. Now that he is free to once again roam the Earth, he becomes obsessed with making up for past mistakes. His mission is to gain Catherine’s vote on the Immortal Council, but when he sees her he realizes he wants much more than her support for the vampires. He wants her heart. When she disappears from the Immortal Council’s halls, he tracks her down, determined to get her to remember the past — and the love they once shared. Catherine can’t let the passion she had with Javier rekindle again — no matter what the cost. Much has changed since he abandoned her so long ago.
With the Immortal Council fragmented and her werewolf king abducted, Catherine has little patience for Javier’s empty promises. Still, Javier is persistent, and soon she sees the value in having an ancient vampire for an ally. A deal is struck: she will submit to his every carnal desire if she can gain his aid in finding her king. Unfortunately, things don’t go as planned, and their erotic interludes ignite the passionate anger of Catherine’s only fey ally. Can the three of them put aside their obsessions long enough to free the tortured werewolf king? They must do it soon, for a dark presence looms on the horizon that threatens the stability of the Immortal Realm – and will force Catherine to choose between her clan and her heart.