Hitting the Wall

amaryllisThe Amaryllis on my windowsill is in splendid, flamboyant bloom at the moment. Pity I can’t say the same about my writing. I’ve never believed in writer’s block, so the last few months have been difficult: I’ve come up against an immovable obstacle that I’ve been unable to push through. I’ve hit the wall.

I make notes, use diversionary tactics and bring out all the tried and tested solutions but I still find myself, against my own advice, messing around in the foothills, constantly editing and re-editing the first few chapters. It’s all procrastination. I should be pushing forward, not marching on the spot.

Writing a novel is a marathon, I keep telling myself, not a sprint. Pseal-pupace yourself. The muse will return. I’ve tried all my usual tricks: copious amounts of tea; long walks on the beach (even the seal pups didn’t inspire me this year); writing other, unrelated stuff. But progress on my WIP remains stuck stubbornly in first gear.

I’ve done my preparation well. I’ve planned scenes, characters and settings. I know exactly where the story is going and how it needs to develop to reach its destination. I know how and where it’s going to end. I can peep over the wall and see the plot ribboning its way through my invented landscape, but it’s all so tantalisingly out of reach. Why can’t I scale the wall?

Well, I’ve had the stuffing punched out of me lately. The disheartening, frustrating and exhausting struggle to get my second novel published (more on that story in a later post) has been such a strain that, along the way, I’ve lost all confidence in my abilities. Everything I write seems stilted, overwritten and wooden, which is why I’m forever ploughing this boring, repetitive furrow. What’s more, I don’t trust my critical faculties anymore either; my inner editor has also gone awol.

swimmingpoolBut all is not lost. I’ve had an idea. I’ve recently started swimming regularly again and I remembered learning to swim at school. As soon as we juniors could swim across the little pool, we graduated to the big one. I knew I could do it, but at every attempt I stopped halfway across. This went on for a long time. All my classmates moved on to the big pool, but I couldn’t get past the treacherous mid-point until, in a flash of inspiration, I asked the teacher if I could start from the opposite side of the pool.

That did the trick. I swam all the way across with no hesitation at all. But why couldn’t I do it from the other side? Swimmer’s block, I guess.

And this is my idea. If I can’t, at the moment, move forwards with my novel, maybe I should follow my childhood example and work backwards instead. I’m clear about the storyline, the character development, and how it’s all going to end, so why don’t I write the conclusion and carry on in reverse until I reach the wall from the other side?

Does that sound like a plan for 2017?


10 thoughts on “Hitting the Wall

  1. It always seems that no matter how in control of a story you are, you very often get a sideswipe which throws you off course. Each one of my books has never been written in a straight journey from A to B and when I have fallen foul of the dreaded wall, I’ve simply looked at another part of the book and concentrated on writing that scene. Even if it’s only a rough outline, I’m doing something and more often than not it eventually gives me the nudge I need to return to where I left off and continue. So I’m not sure about working backwards, but if there’s a specific scene you can work through and get on with writing then I think it will help you get back on track. Good luck Maggie x

    • Clutching at straws, Jo! I intend to ride out the storm by writing the concluding chapter in the hope that this will free things up and I can go back to writing the rest more or less consecutively. But I tend to write episodically anyway, so who knows? Thanks for the advice x

  2. Whatever works for you Maggie. Try it and let us know. I know what a struggle it is to reach publication stage and then struggle through that. Your mind will be on publicity and selling book 2 too. I haven’t got to that stage yet, still promoting book 1. Try to enjoy it all though!

  3. Sounds like an inspired idea to me, Maggie, I’m sure it will work for you, and would love to know how it goes…But after you’ve finished! All the best, Julie x

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