How to write a book when you can’t write a book

Here’s a quite amazing post about writing a book when you are stuck. Obviously the exact, detailed methods described here won’t work for everybody. But this is still a fascinating post to read.

I couldn’t write the book. I had to write the book. Readers had bought the first two of the series on the promise that Kim and Will would get their HEA in book 3, and in the romance world, that promise is the kind you sign in your own blood at a crossroads at midnight. I had to write the book. I couldn’t write the book.

OK, so on to the part you’ve been waiting for: What did I do about it?

I will be very brief. Much more at the linked post:

a) Switch to using a visual mapping strategy for essential plot elements.

Here is the realization that generated:

This was the point I realised I’d been incredibly, catastrophically wrong about having the romance plot under control. … Laid out in this format, it was glaringly obvious that something huge was missing. There was not nearly enough blue because nothing was really changing or developing in my heroes’ relationship, and what the hell good is that in a romance? No wonder I hadn’t felt like my early efforts were working: they weren’t. I hadn’t dug into the romance at all because I’d got so obsessed with fixing the suspense plot. What a pillock. (It’s fine, this is only my literal job.)

This was interesting because, with different plot elements laid out in color, it IS truly glaringly obvious that half the romance plot must be missing.

b) Make plotting decisions and stick to them.

c) No fixing, no checking

I wrote scenes that were completely incompatible with earlier scenes. I wrote lines that required foreshadowing to be laid down, and left it undone. I wrote jarring transitions and clunky dialogue and lacklustre scenes and truncated bits to fill in later. It was a mess, and every word felt forced and dead and awful, but I wrote the forced, dead, awful bastards down.

Ouch! I have only ever done this when I was VERY close to the end and REALLY wanted to get there. And even then I don’t think I felt everything was this bad!

But, she got it done, and:

 And by the time I reached The End, I knew three things:

  1. I had a terrible book.
  2. I had a book.
  3. I can edit books.

d) Editing

Editing stage, oh my God. Shall we just not talk about this, okay.

All right, fine. I went through it slooooowly and fixed all the dangling horrors and inconsistencies. That took, approximately, forever. I went through it again to pick up everything I’d missed the first time and build up the things I’d skimped and work the scene transitions and all that. Then again, taking thinning scissors to the parts where I was explaining the plot to myself, and again, and again, till it began to read like it was written by a competent professional

This so reminds me of the time when I was calling the Tenai novel — now the Death’s Lady trilogy — The Neverending Revision From Hell. I never actually made that the working title, but I don’t know why not. That’s certainly what I called it for months.

e) Series of beta reads

And then the final conclusion:

f) So after ten months, multiple false starts, and and maybe thirty editing passes, my trilogy is complete. Kim and Will get their stroll into the sunset together, and I haven’t torpedoed my romance reputation quite yet. Talk about a happy ending.

I realise that my answer to “How do I write the book?” boils down to, basically, “Write the book”. Unfortunately, I have so far not identified any way of achieving a finished book that doesn’t involve writing it. If you have one, let me know. But I hope this post might at least promise a glimmer of light in what can feel like an endless tunnel.

So, very good post, a useful and entertaining look at the immense struggle particular novels may become. With a happy ending, which is certainly desirable in finishing a novel, as in a romance. By all means click through and read the whole thing, particularly if you’ve got a novel where you’re stuck.

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