Novel Writing as Overflow

To my fellow fiction writers:

Do you remember the times when words seemed to fly onto the page, a storm of ideas and conflicts amassing into a coherent story, and you simply were carried along for the ride? If you have not had such moments yet, don’t you want them? Doesn’t some part of you need them?

With most fiction projects, I suspect you will have at least a couple of those moments. Of course, hardly a book has ever been written in one long, continuous outflow of creativity. Quite the opposite, most novels have a lot of blood and toil behind the majority of their text, the times when you had to squeeze out words like the last drops of water from a sponge.

What if that’s all you feel? Sometimes a novelist feels as if he or she cannot go on. Do you just give up on the project and move on to something else? Or do you hide it away in your underwear drawer for ten years and then pick it up again to see if it can be salvaged? Or do you plow ahead and write an even worse first draft than what you had hoped for, then strap yourself in for an even longer revision process?

I cannot give you a firm solution. All I have is my experience with my (blocked/stalled as of tonight) first novel, and a little nugget of advice that came to me tonight: Do. Not. Give. Up.

Give your words a little time to breathe, go do something else, then come back as refreshed and inspired as you can be. Think of it as priming the engine before you turn the key.

It is important to push yourself in order to finish any novel. But if it’s one long trial of pouring yourself out, that will only exhaust you, and it bleeds your creativity like a butchered animal. When you write that book, let it be because your muse has filled you to the point of overflowing.

Wish I could say how to do that, other than this: Go gather some ideas, think about your story for at least half an hour when you’re able to relax and think deep, and then go back to it. I will be trying that tomorrow. Maybe you can try it, too. Let me know if it helps your book get unstuck.

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