Working Through a Writing Problem
The fog has lifted.
A few days ago, I posted on Facebook about struggling to write anything worthwhile in the latest WIP (Last Love - Book 3 in the series Six Degrees of Separation). Describing it as being like someone fumbling forward, lost in the fog. I promised an update when I'd worked through the situation. And ...
The good news is I'm on the way again with Last Love.
You may be wondering how I achieved this breakthrough. It was, in the end, surprisingly easy and produced lots of new content.
At this point, it's time to confess I am a pantser. I prefer not to do detailed plot plans. It's much more exciting to see where, given freedom, the characters will go on their own, and I know now the fog problem was because my characters were stuck. They needed the impetus of change, but I'd left them treading water, while I tinkered with the words and how I was telling their story.
Here's what happened - the process/method/ and some of the results.
Day of the fog - I wasted too much time fretting over detail, changing word order, moving paragraphs, and drilling further into the nitty gritty without improving anything. I also Indulged in some displacement activity by posting about the difficulties before I returned to the work and spent another couple of hours of fruitless head-banging - all the time my characters were patiently waiting for me to get my act together and move them on.
On day two (weary and uncertain about the book), I returned to my laptop and ignored the chapter causing the trouble. Remember, this is the first draft so the foggy chapter may get cut entirely in a future edit. I inserted a page break (I work in Word) and set a new chapter heading. Then I moved my characters up to Edinburgh for a funeral. This allowed me to put flesh, bone and action into a character (Archie McKinnon - the deceased's father) only previously referred to and not fully formed in my head. Amazingly, he walked out of my brain fog with a complete and not-very-pleasant personality, providing potential answers to past events not yet resolved. At the same time, his too-young wife, Fiona (Fi for short), appeared. Suddenly I had a much older man married to a pretty young thing. She was sweet and anxious to please, and he was grumpy and unwelcoming. Why would she be married to him? The potential for conflict in abundance and possibly some intrigue gave me a warm glowing feeling. My hope that the characters were about to take over and make their own stories was not misplaced. The following day (within the story) Alastair (Archie's grandson) was seen sitting a little too close to Fi in the church.
My light bulb went on and not any ordinary bulb - an eye-scorching spotlight. Here was the grit and conflict required to make this story dramatic. A secondary but dramatic love story as a background to the main character's second chance romance. BINGO!
It was time to insert a new chapter before the Edinburgh funeral and possibly in place of the troublesome foggy chapter. This would be the moment the readers, alone, would see the connection between Archie's wife and his grandson and be left wondering how and when Archie would discover the truth. While they are waiting for that bomb to explode, little do they know there is another bomb waiting. But I'm not going to tell you about that one - too much of a plot spoiler.
For the moment, my problem is solved, my characters have taken over their story, and in the words of the song - I can see clearly now.