By Alissa Johnson
One day, a novel writer in my Writer’s Voice Mastermind group came to me with a challenge. She’d been going along just fine, the story seeming to pour out of her. All of a sudden, things got fuzzy.
“It’s like I’ve been going along on a straightaway, and all of a sudden there’s this curve in the road,” she said. Things slowed down, she couldn’t tell what was around the bend, and she had no idea how to move forward.
A few days later, the other novel writer in the program came to me and said the exact same thing. “I seem to have hit this curve in the road.”
I love it when writers use the same language to describe the writing process.
It reminds you that you're not alone. You're not the only one who's struggled to find your way. (And it happens more than you think.)
For both of these writers, I knew the obvious temptations: wait and don’t write until you know what happens. Or, set hard and fast rules that can be hard to follow, like writing a certain number of words per day.
In one scenario, you’re stuck, and in the other, you’re forcing it. Neither feels very good, and neither leads to much progress. So I suggested that these writers try something different: write to answer a question. What will this character do next? What happens to this character in this scene?
I love this approach because it follows your curiosity. Instead of worrying about how much you write, or feeling like a fraud because you don't know what you're doing, you focus on things that make you curious. It frees you up to try new things, be open to new ideas, and even write the unexpected.
It definitely changed the way these writers felt when they sat down to write. Instead of focusing on what they didn't know or feeling like they had to think something up, they got to approach writing with a more open mind. And ideas came—slowly at first, but then more freely. And they both finished the first drafts of their novels.
Ready to change your approach? Make a list of questions you could explore about your writing. Then pick one and give yourself the freedom to freewrite about it for 15 minutes. Just see what you come up with. This isn't about writing well. Let yourself write however badly you need to in order to explore.