I know what to do, yet am somewhere paralyzed...

by Joanna Foley

Hello there! I have a very clear idea for a horror novel, which I have loosely plotted out from beginning to end. I have a good main character, another character who will draw him out and also become a love interest, and a few other secondary characters throughout who help move the story along in chapters the protagonist is not involved in. The main problem for me is that I have written the first few chapters, and am very happy with them- yet I seem to keep stalling!

I am not sure what type of writers block I have, as I looked over the site and can not decide whether I am a pantser or a plotter, I seem to be somewhere in the middle. I believe my procrastination may be due to some fear deep down of writing something that no one will want to read, or worse still something I will end up not liking myself once it is done- do you have any advice for me?

Answer: Most people are not purely plotters or pantsers. Most of us fall somewhere in between.

That's why you should do as much plotting as it takes to feel confident enough to move forward, and no more.

So, if you are stuck because you don't know what direction the story should go next or your plot isn't working, or if you are not sure what the story is really about, you can spend some time working on your outline, which should include things like theme, the main character's story arc etc. in addition to the overall plot. Take time to let these issues sit with you until you feel clearer about your story.

On the other hand, if you are stuck because you are afraid your writing won't be good enough, then try to give yourself permission to write a bad first
draft. Play with the story. Write different versions of some chapters. Experiment with a different voice or style.

Remember that any deficiencies can be fixed later, when you work on your second draft. You don't have to get it right the first time.

Some people like to work with a critique partner. If you have a friend who is also a writer and the two of you have mutual trust and respect, you can arrange to critique each other's first drafts. This can let you relax and say, "It's okay. My friend will tell me what needs fixing later. My job now is just to write."

Also, it may help to adopt the attitude that for now you are only writing for yourself - because you want the fun of writing and because you have a story that you are passionate about. After you have a solid second draft, you can consider showing it to others besides your critique partner and seeing what they think.

Of course, if the problem is that you have lost your passion for your story, try asking yourself what you could do that would make you get excited about it. Does the plot need a twist? Do the characters need a little flair? Is there an important issue that needs exploring? What can you do to turn it into the kind of story you always wanted to read?

As a last resort... It takes a lot of passion to work on a novel long enough to see it to completion. Don't waste your life on a story you feel no passion for. If you can't make the story into something you feel passionate about, you could always work on a different story for a while and come back to this one when your passion returns or when you have an inspiration regarding how to make it better.

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Thank you!
by: Joanna Foley

Thank you for your very sound advice, it is much appreciated! After reading your reply, I believe the problem I was having was not just relaxing and letting myself write something that can later be fixed- I will take your advice and just take pleasure in writing my story for myself now, and worry about fixing it up at a later date once a full draft is complete. Finding a critique partner is also a fantastic idea, I will certainly do that too! Thank you again, now I feel much more confident in writing freely, and not being afraid to make mistakes.

Same Here! Thanks so much!
by: Adria, Canada

All my friends want me to fulfil my writing dreams, and they are anticipating what comes from it. My Dad has been a huge support and wants to see me come through. My husband is waiting for a draft that he is allowed to read - at this point I don't want to give away chunks that I am not ready to release out of context of the whole. It makes me feel so vulnerable to be stuck at this point. I feel guilty for pursuing my story because all my life I have been told by the system not to escape reality. (Haven't we all??)

But this reply helps. Thanks!

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