The last thin wisps of steam evaporate over my tea as I stare despairingly at the computer screen. I change the font to trick myself into thinking that I’ve written more, but quickly change it back. Slightly disgusted, I rummage through a tattered folder and pull out a loose plot summary. The next piece of the puzzle is right in front of me. Setting the folder aside, I scroll over the scene from last week. I know what I need to do. I just can’t. Not yet. I reheat the earl grey and procrastinate a little longer.
Half of the semester has passed, and I have written twenty-five crappy pages for my senior thesis. Every weekend, I procrastinate by hanging out with my family, taking walks with my fiance, and folding paper flowers for our wedding. As time grows short, take a deep breath and crank out another five. I prod my characters into action, adding scenery so that they don’t float in the vacuum of space.
“Hi,” she said, and sat at the table.
Riveting, right? I am writing a skeleton plot, and all that matters is the progression of each lackluster scene. Since I am detail oriented, this is a painful, but very important process. Often I hear fellow novices say, “I like writing novels. I get stuck at about X pages, so I delete it.” I respond: “Aah! Murder!”
Here’s what I’ve learned over the past few years:
- Before you toss it, examine the characters and the plot. Need to make any adjustments? Fix a few scenes, but don’t edit the crap out of it unless you absolutely need to.
- Press on. Get the whole horrible thing out into a word document, from beginning to end. It might feel like vomit, but at least it’s out, right? Go brush your teeth.
- Brilliant details can come later. Write the first draft for yourself; you don’t have to impress anyone, just tell your story. Then work on communicating with the reader in the second draft, through rounding the characters and enriching their world.
I ought to start working on my next five pages, but my tea is getting cold and other homework presses. Before I go, I’d like to hear from you. Have you finished a story, or do you keep deleting? How do you push through writer’s block?