A lesson I’ve learned the hard way, more than once (twice, in fact, on one book alone [Broken (Shifting Isles series, Book 4)], once on another, and it’s happening again with one of my current works-in-progress, Illumined Shadows (Treble and the Lost Boys, Book 3)).
You’ve got your story idea, your character profiles, your outline. You’re feeling good, ready to write. Sure, there will be hiccups along the way, little details that need to be researched or fleshed out or filled in, but you can worry about all that later. Hells, for all you know, those little bits might take the story in a new direction you didn’t anticipate and make it even better.
So you sit down to write.
At first, everything is great. You knock out a few thousand words. Then the same on the next day. And the day after that. You grin to yourself, seeing your word count climb.
Then your pace slows. Your daily word counts go down. You stare at the screen trying to decide what to write more often than actually putting your fingers to the keys. You find yourself distracted by other, more interesting things. Maybe even not-so-interesting things, like chores. And you rush off to engage in those other things because sitting any longer at that computer, seeing no new words appear, is getting tedious.
You check your outline. You know what you want to write next, right?
So you keep trying.
DENIAL: It’s all fine. Everything is fine. If I just keep chipping away at it, I’ll eventually get past whatever this slump is, and the book will get done. Doesn’t matter that the outline isn’t really working as well as I thought it might, and that the characters aren’t developing quite the way I imagined. It’s fine. Totally fine.
And you keep trying, forcing yourself to sit at that computer and make words happen, even when they’re not starting to feel right. On that note…
ANGER: Why the hells are these words not feeling right? I outlined this damned book, didn’t I? So why isn’t it coming together? Why is the story falling flat? Why aren’t the characters shaping up the way I imagined? What the hells is going on?
Insert rage-quit and storm away, glaring at the computer from a distance while you go about doing other things.
But you still have a book to write, so you sit down and try again.
BARGAINING: Alright, if I can sit down and get 5,000 words today, and tomorrow, and the next day, until the whole thing is finally done, I can have [insert reward here]. Or, if I can just get this book done, I can finally move on to that other one that I’ve been really itching to get to.
So you try, but you’re still having to force the words out. It’s just not flowing. There’s still something wrong, and you know exactly what it is–the truth has been taunting you from the beginning–but you can’t seem to make yourself say it without slipping into…
DEPRESSION: Oh, gods. This is hopeless. The plot is wrong, and the character arcs aren’t quite right, and fixing it isn’t going to be just a matter of going back through the 50,000 words I’ve already written and just doing some scene editing. It’s going to mean deleting almost all of those 50,000 words (half a novel!) and starting over. I can’t do it. I just can’t. Losing all that progress? Seeing my word count drop back from 50,000 to zero? *goes to hide in a dark corner and cry*
But then, finally, comes the moment when you’re left with no other choice. For the sake of your sanity, for the sake of the story, for the sake of ever getting another word written ever again, you hit the final stage.
ACCEPTANCE: [Ctrl-A] [Backspace] *sigh*
Word count: 0
Rewrite outline. Fix character arcs. And start again.