PRESS PAUSE ON YOUR WORD COUNT
One of the best things you do for your writing could be to press pause on your word count.
I know. It seems contradictory, right? But sometimes, pressing pause on the actual number of words in the manuscript can be the easiest way for you to move through a tough section of your story.
As an editor and writing coach, I often have clients reach out to me when they are behind schedule. We're usually able to accommodate and move people around, but when they ask for advice to move through this feeling of being blocked, I don't believe you can always simply write your way through. You need to get to the source of your block and progress from there.
Some common blocks can include:
Photo by Klaudia Piaskowska on Unsplash
I don't know what happens next: If you don't know what happens next in the story, I have news: that is okay! It's perfectly normal for both discovery writers and even plotters to feel as if the next part of a scene or the story is unclear for them.
If this is you, perhaps you simply need time to daydream. Fill your creative cup and visit a museum or an art gallery. Read a book, watch a movie, binge TV - not every part of writing is putting words on the page. Some of it is enjoying yourself away from the book so you can get those words.
If taking a little break hasn't sparked your creativity, another option is to brainstorm ideas of all the possible events that could occur next in your book. Make yourself a list of 20 different options. Usually, the first few may feel like obvious choices and then things get a little wild - but by the time you reach option 20, you could have some serious golden concepts that weren't front of your mind before.
It's important to note that a brainstorming session may take a whole day. Maybe it takes two days, or even two weeks. And at the end of it, the word count in your manuscript has not changed - but that's okay. Because sometimes, you need to press pause.
I don't have the time right now: Life is fluid. It changes and it challenges, and sometimes, that means you just don't have the time for writing that you used to. That is okay. You are not a machine. You are a human.
If this is you, one way to work past this can be to give yourself permission to pause. Consider your circumstances and set a date when realistically you hope that things will become easier for you. Even if on that future date you simply show up at the laptop and write one sentence, then decide to pause again, you're committing to the process. Most importantly, you're being kind to the most important asset you have in your writing career: you.
Nothing I write is good enough: If you feel like nothing you write is good enough, you're not alone, and I am sending you a virtual hug because author, I have been there, and it sucks. But this feeling of inadequacy can cripple us when it comes to word count, and can result in a stalling of progress.
Sometimes, the solution here is to keep going - but sometimes, the best option is to simply press pause. When we're close to something, we see more flaws than positives. Think of the last time you looked in the mirror. Did you think 'Oh, I look great today', or did you notice the hair that was out of place, the bags under your eyes? (Maybe the latter is just me.) It's natural for us to focus on the negatives when it comes to something that means a lot to us, and I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that your story means a lot to you.
By pressing pause and getting some distance from your novel, you can come back in with fresh eyes. This allows you to see the story more clearly and enjoy the good parts of your writing - and I promise you, there are good bits in there. I've never yet met a novel I didn't see potential in.
If you have been beating yourself up over not getting the words on the page you want, I hope this post helps you. And if you're looking for someone to give you permission to pause, let that someone be me.
Photo: Rose Jane Photography
Lauren Clarke is a structural and line editor, and author coach. She has worked in publishing for more than 15 years with both independent and traditionally published authors, some New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal best-sellers amongst them. In 2019, her work on Kennedy Ryan's book Long Shot garnered her a RITA Award.