Stopping Points

Hi Folks,

Okay, first, wishing you a Happy New Year. May it be everything you want it to be.

As I write this, I recently visited Dean Wesley Smith’s website (link below) and read some of the comments there. The comments are almost always as informative as the posts themselves. In fact, I regularly pass along tidbits from his site over on my Daily Journal. (Subscription info below.)

To sign up for my diary of a professional writer’s journey and learn by osmosis, click The Daily Journal. Today all the numbers reset to zero. Come along and watch them grow as I head for my goal of one-million published words of fiction in one year.

In one comment, the writer asked whether there was some workshop she could take to get her over places where her writing grinds to a halt: a sticking point.

But let me start at the beginning.

One massive sticking point that is common to almost every writer and almost every novel is the 1/3 point in the novel. That’s where the new and shiny has worn off. That’s also where the critical voice starts to creep in. The writing feels and looks like crap. It’s horrible. Nothing the novelist does seems to work. And on and on and on.

Many, many novels die at this point. This is the point where the writer puts the unfinished story in a folder for “later.” But most often there is no “later.” Most often, the story just dies.

And the writer has just taught his subconscious that what he wants to do is write 1/3 of a novel and then stop.

Most writers also believe this was only a fluke, that it will go more smoothly next time. So they come up with another bright, shiny, new idea and off they go, fingers flying over the keyboard.

Then they get to the 1/3 point. Lather, rinse, repeat.

I experience the same thing in every novel I write. I also experienced it at the 1/3 point through the 9-book series I wrote over the past year. As I wrote above, this is a common sticking point.

The commenter on Dean’s post wrote that at that point she wanted to go to the beach, build a bonfire, beat her computer to a pulp and toss it in. The one thing she didn’t mention was Writing.

I’ve discovered only one way to get over that sticking point. First, forget the beach, the bonfire and all the other stuff.

Sit down at your computer and put your fingers on the keyboard.

Read back a little way in the story to get back in touch with it. If you see something you want to change, a word here and there, do it as you read forward. (Caution: don’t allow your conscious mind to have you check for sentence structure, how many times you use “that” in a paragraph, etc. That’s all stuff to make you stop writing.)

And when you come to the place where you stalled, Just Write the Next Sentence.

Now the secret is to write whatever comes. Don’t think about it or analyze it. Just Write It. Don’t wonder where it’s going. Just Write It.

Then write the next sentence. Then write the next sentence. Before you know it, the story will be flashing past and your fingers will be moving over the keyboard almost faster than you can think.

You will be surprising yourself with characters, situations, and more that probably you never would have thought of with your conscious, critical mind.

My other personal big sticking point is when I realize I’m boring myself to death as I’m writing.If you get bored while you’re writing, read on. I have a fix for that too, not that you’ll like it. (grin)

When I get bored with the story as I’m writing it, IN EVERY CASE that has been because somewhere back in the story, I let my conscious mind tell me “Hey, you need to put in this character type or you need to insert this situation.” It’s always a character type or a type of situation that I’ve written before, so I’m comfortable with it.

Get it? My conscious mind is trying to protect me again. Writing this character type or situation is SAFE because I’ve done it before. It’s much safer than just trusting my subconscious and writing off into the dark.

Now notice that I’ve been practicing writing off into the dark (allowing my subconscious to tell the story) since April 2014. Yet I still have to guard against my conscious, critical mind horning in.

For me this sort of thing usually happens when I’ve hit the end of a scene where another character or two are planning a face-off with a bad guy and I don’t know who the bad guy is. Then I get worried and want to manufacture a bad guy. Again, wrong approach! That’s the conscious, critical mind.

This actually happened to me yesterday (as I write this) in my current novel. I was bored with what I was writing. Then I realized the symptom.

So I stopped and backed up until I found the place where I had allowed my conscious mind to force a particular character type on the story. I deleted everything from that point forward (a little over 4600 words). I had struggled through writing those words over two days. But “struggled” is the key word. I should have recognized the problem sooner.

Then I got up and took a short break.

When I came back, I put my fingers on the keyboard and wrote the first thing that came to mind. All I knew was that it had to be about a guy, the potential bad guy.

After that, over three sessions, I wrote just under 3,000 words and there’s no end in sight. And the character is a REAL bad guy and one I would never have come up with in my conscious mind. In fact, there might be a whole other novel waiting in the wings about this guy, or his type.

UPDATE: I had hoped to finish that novel by yesterday, December 31, but now it looks like the characters will close it out today or tomorrow. That’s fine. I love writing off into the dark. (grin) The characters and story constantly surprise me, and that means they/it will also surprise the reader. That’s what makes for return readers.

The entire key is learning (over and over again) to Trust yourself (your subconscious) to tell a story.

Now most of you reading this will come up with an excuse to justify NOT doing it. In fact, most of you won’t even try it.

That’s fine. Every writer is different, and being free of all the silly myths about writing is a truly frightening thing. Do what works for you. Seriously. This blog is worth precisely what you choose to pay for it, whether in time or money.

I’m just sayin’, what Dean’s preaching on his site really does work.

Until next time, happy writing.


Here is a direct link to Dean’s website. I recommend you check back every day. Seriously.

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