Page 80 (aka Writer’s Block)

Pages 1-79 are sheer bliss. I’m in love with my story, I’m in love with my writing, the characters are singing, the words are flowing and everything is as it should be.

Then I hit page 80.

At page 80, everything starts to unravel. I question the meaning of the story, the authenticity of my characters, my own abilities as a writer. Everything about the story is flawed, I’m not the writer I thought I was. I should quit this nonsense and go get a real job. 

But if getting a real job doesn’t appeal to you, these are some strategies I’ve employed in the past. 

1. Put it away. The longer the better. This is always hard for me because I tend to work obsessively on my projects and if I’m not actively shaping it, I feel as though I’ve abandoned it. But sometimes distance is necessary to be able to think critically and objectively.  

2. Give it to a friend, someone who is a constructive and critical thinker. Maybe they can tell you where they think you think it’s going, or tell you why it’s not working.

3. Start over. I’ve had great results with this, sometimes switching from 3rd person to 1rst, or vice versa, or telling the story from someone else’s POV. You may have thought it was one person’s story, when really it was someone else’s. Characters are tricky that way and it’s fun way to experiment (and exercise) with voice.

4. Let it go. Sometimes if you move onto a new project, the story will come back to you. 

5. Read. Reading good books is a great way to look critically at what’s wrong with your own. Study their page’s 80 and see how they got through it–did they introduce a new character? a new obstacle? a terminal disease? 

6. Let go of expectations and/or set small goals for yourself. “Today I’m going to write one killer line, today I’m going to write one great description, ect.”

7. Just keep writing. You love to write like a fish loves to swim. So write poetry, short stories, emails, blog posts, or work on editing someone else’s work. Every little bit you do makes you a stronger writer.

Got any more suggestions? I’d love to hear them. Page 80’s come around again and again.

Revising Tip: Retyping

I recently started revising a project that I’ve been working on for the past three years. This will be the fifth full revision of it and (thankfully) it has already been sold to a publisher. This revision will focus on voice and dialogue. But when I sat down to do it, I felt trapped in the manuscript, especially with that oh-so-important first chapter.

I decided to retype the story. Crazy, I know, but there is also something so liberating about starting out with all that white space and nothing beyond. Perhaps it is more psychological, but I felt free to really make it what I wanted. I was also able to determine the slow/boring parts and trim them right out (I don’t really have to type all that, do I?). Without the stress of trying to make sure A matches B and C, I could get a little more personal with the characters. I could switch backstory around as I saw fit, without worrying about being redundant. And most importantly, I was able to fall in love with the story all over again.

So far I’m on pg 28. We’ll see how it goes from here.

Happy Revising!