After reading the print out of my first draft, I sat down to start on the second draft…and immediately became overwhelmed.
There was so much I wanted to add: relationships between characters needed strengthening, story threads needed to be woven tighter together, new scenes added, old scenes revised. The list seemed never-ending.
Because I had pantsed my way through the first draft, I knew that I would have to rewrite every chapter to get it the way that I wanted it. At first, this idea was exciting because I was looking forward to adding in all the fun ideas I’d had while reading through the first draft, but as I began writing chapter one again I got these overwhelming feelings of lethargy. I felt like I was walking in circles—like I’d beaten a game only to have it crash and make me start back at square one.
I realized that I would have to do more than just add in some things and rewrite some paragraphs here and there. I would have to completely rewrite ever single chapter.
Chapter one suddenly seemed more daunting than when I was starting from scratch.
It didn’t help that I had this huge list of things that I wanted to accomplish in the first chapter. There were so many world-building elements I wanted to add, characters I wanted introduced, back stories and tension between characters that I wanted to hint at. Making the list was helpful, but having it loom above me while trying to write the first chapter made me feel more like I was writing a college essay than a story.
So there I was, barley a chapter into my second draft, and the only feelings I had were a sense of starting at ground zero after months of work, and the nagging feeling to make it perfect this time through so there wouldn’t be so much to add in the next draft.
Working on the story left me feeling frustrated and frustration dried up any creativity which might have helped me out…which left me more discouraged and frustrated.
I kept thinking that it was just a faze and I’d snap out of it, but my writing sessions were pitifully unproductive and I started wanting to write less and less.
Finally, I got tired of waiting for my writer’s block to leave me and sat down at my lap top determined to figure out WHY I had writer’s block in the first place. Everyone goes through times where their writing sessions are sluggish or they are a little lethargic…but a month of no writing? Yikes!
First I figured out everything I wrote above. I realized that I was putting too much pressure on myself to be mostly finished with this story when the second draft (at least for a pantser) is basically just the first draft since the first draft was simply me figuring the story out and serves as more of an outline than a first draft. (Why do I have to be a pantser? Seems like a curse.)
Instead of focusing on all the little details that needed to be added in and trying to fit them in at just the right place with just the right wording, I needed to continue focusing on the big picture and overall flow of the story just as I did in the first draft.
I was feeling bored and frustrated with it because I was trying to get everything set in place and nailed down too soon.
I was allowing myself to get bogged down with the dos and don’ts of story writing—looking at it like a list of boxes I had to check— instead of simply continuing to let the story tell itself, which for me still means keeping those concepts in mind but still letting the characters and theme drive the story.
One of the reasons I love writing the first draft so much is because of the dream-like quality it has for me, the sense that anything can happen, and the excitement of getting to know the characters and world. Writing those first drafts are a lot like smearing paint in colorful blobs on a canvas: anyone watching will see meaningless shapes, but the artist sees the overall picture, including the details he will add later.
I was trying to make my second draft like a math equation: Perfectly formulated character arc + perfect place for back story + every detail given in the “right spot” = a perfect story.
While there are times to evaluate a story like an equation to find what’s going wrong or what aspect could be strengthened, that approach simply wasn’t working for me at that stage. I needed to let surprises happen, start writing without knowing exactly where the scene was going, and begin a chapter without looking too closely at how the first draft of that chapter was written.
In short, I had to pretend that this was the first draft and—to keep from feeling like the first draft was a complete waste of time—pretend that the actual first draft was a messy, overly-detailed outline.
If you are reading this because you a struggling with a case of writer’s block and are hoping for a magic “trick” to help you out of it, I’m sorry to say that I don’t have one. There are so many reasons for writer’s block and what works once to get you out of writer’s block three months ago may not work for you in your current state of writer’s block.
But what helped me get out of this particularly long slump is something that can get you started on writer’s-block recovery even if it doesn’t cure it outright. I had to let go of how far along I thought my story should be—stop looking at it like a puzzle with a thousand frustrating pieces—and look at it as an adventure I get to go on every day. Some days are tough, but some days bring me the most beautiful scenery.
The only magic trick that can cure writer’s block is rediscovering that magic that drew you to the story in the first place. Find that spark that ignited the idea—a character, a scene, an aspect of the world—and focus on refining or expanding that character or idea until whatever is blocking your flow is forced to melt away.
I’m excited to announce that The Hashna Stone has been selected for the book cover contest on allauthor.com!
The winning book gets some pretty sweet prizes, including free advertising.
It would help me out so much if you clicked the link below and voted! My book needs to stay in the top 100 covers in order to go to the next round.
Thanks friends!!! 🙂
VOTE FOR THE HASHNA STONE