Stymied in your story? Should you step away?

Rule number one for aspiring authors is, Write every day. The best way to get your story told is to keep at it, whether the going is smooth or bumpy.

But what happens when you come to a roadblock you cannot get around? Is there any value in putting your writing in park and going off to do something else?

It may be worth a try. By taking a break and returning to your work with rested eyes and a refreshed mind, you may forge a big breakthrough.

Think of it like working on a difficult crossword puzzle. For me, that’s the Friday installment in The New York Times (I don’t even attempt to solve the Saturday puzzle, which is the hardest). Almost weekly, one or more clues on Friday stump me, leaving me convinced I’ll never finish.

So I let the puzzle sit there for several hours while I do something else—ideally, that something else is writing. More often than not, when I return to the puzzle, the solution for the toughest clue becomes obvious, and filling in those squares becomes the key to successfully solving the entire grid.

After a couple of weeks away from home and my first novel, I am in a similar position. The first draft is all but done. But I’ve been stymied by a roadblock right before the end of the story. Writing a satisfactory version of my “final battle” scene has been, for far too long, an arduous and frustrating exercise. As I return to it today, I am hopeful that my time apart from the problem will help me recognize the solution and wrap up my first draft.

Then, in a perfect world, I will motor through my revisions on cruise control.

Dream on, self.

If there’s one true thing that we all know and must accept about writing, it’s that there is no such thing as perfect.

—Alex McNab

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Published in: on June 17, 2010 at 8:25 pm  Leave a Comment  

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