Got writer’s block? There are few things worse than writing your novel happily, when suddenly, from one day to the next, it all turns to garbage. At the back of your mind, you know that you’re your own worst enemy — you need to keep writing. Sadly, you can’t, and your novel dies. Let’s look at some writing tips to help you to reanimate your dead novel.
Firstly, let’s think about WHY this happens. It seems to happen to most writers: a novel dies on them. You lose your inspiration. You may tell yourself that you’re too busy, and have no time to write, but you know that you’re kidding yourself.
Why does it happen? The answer is probably different for each of us. Sometimes it happens because we’ve had a failure in another area of our life, and that bleeds through into our writing.
Realize that why it happens isn’t as important as knowing that writer’s block is common. It will happen to you, sooner or later. When it does, these tips will help.
Three writing tips to reanimate a dead novel
You’ve got writer’s block.
Avoid post mortems. Get back to scheduling time for your novel, at least an hour a week, spread out over the week, if you can, and even if you don’t feel like it.
In your writing sessions, follow these three tips, and you should find that your novel comes alive.
1. Free-write answers to the question: “What’s this novel REALLY about?”
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Sometimes we block because we’re confused. You never wrote a thumbnail description of your novel, and you can’t remember your original inspiration.
Memo for the future: create a book journal for EVERY novel you write… and write in it. 🙂
Grab your journal, and free-write answers to this question: What’s this novel REALLY about?
In free-writing, you set a timer (five or ten minutes). Then you write, without pausing for anything at all, for the time you’ve set. Don’t stop to correct anything, just write whatever pops into your head.
When the timer sounds, read what you wrote. Then write a one-sentence summary of what your novel is about.
2. Remember causality (cause and effect): create character goals and motivations
Causality (cause and effect) is vital for your plot. Without causality, your novel is shapeless. Things happen for no apparent reason. This is frustrating for readers, who’ll toss your novel, Kindle and all, across the room.
You may not be aware that your novel lacks causality, but your subconscious mind knows. It slams on the breaks, because it knows that your novel doesn’t make sense.
Do you have challenges with your plotting? The great novelist E.M. Forster had a wonderfully clear-eyed way of looking at fiction:
“We have defined a story as a narrative of events arranged in their time-sequence. A plot is also a narrative of events, the emphasis falling on causality. ‘The king died and then the queen died,’ is a story. ‘The king died, and then the queen died of grief,’ is a plot.”
To emphasize… “The king died, and then the queen died of grief” is a plot. If you remember causality — cause and effect — you’ll write excellent stories.
Your characters need goals, and they need inner and outer motivation to achieve those goals.
Grab your journal again, and free-write again.
Free-write about your characters’ goals.
Free-write about possible motivations, and conflicts.
By the time you’ve done this, your novel should be showing signs of life.
3. Write the final scene of the novel, and delete your first chapter
This sounds harsh, but it works.
DELETE your first chapter. You don’t need it. Your free-writing will show you that — you’ve now got characters with goals, and motivations. The conflict you need is apparent, so delete away. You can save the chapter into a separate file.
Next, write the final scene of your novel. (Free-write first.)
You’ve now got a destination. All you need to do is plot your characters’ progress from the beginning of your novel, to that final scene.
Kudos to you — your novel has come to life. 🙂