When I wrote about the nonexistent muse, John Wheeler raised an issue many of us deal with:
My occasional collaborator … gets an idea and works through it for a while, but then can’t finish what he starts. He says he gets bored too easily—he then starts off on a different fictional framework and the process repeats.
I am actually right in the midst of a similar problem. As I wrestle with the final few scenes of Book Two in The Prophet’s Chronicle—a book that has seemingly refused to allow itself to be written—I find that random scenes from Book Three and even Book Four come to mind.
As I said one day on Facebook, it’s as if the last act of Book Two is a cat hiding behind the couch because it refuses to be put in its carrier for a trip to the vet. Meanwhile, Book Three is a big ol’ golden retriever jumping at me and begging to go for a run.
One of my editor colleagues, Teresa Bruce, neatly summarized the way to deal with this:
Toss Big Gold a custom-written cookie to tide him over, then don your heaviest protective gloves to help you corner Kitty.
And this is in fact what I’ve been doing. I jot down just enough of the random scenes that I’ll remember them later, and then get back to Book Two whether I like it or not.
Whether the point of frustration with your work in progress is boredom, as with John’s colleague, or just not know what comes next, which is what I’ve been dealing with, the only way to really deal with it is to just keep at it. This kind of resistance is just another form of writer’s block that needs breaking through.
When project one becomes boring or impenetrable, figure out why. If the story itself is boring, maybe it needs to go on the shelf for a while until a more engaging story bubbles to the surface.
If you are just bored with the process, maybe you need a collaborator to do the parts that bore you. Maybe you enjoy the plotting or the world building but writing all that dialog and description is tiresome. Find a partner who loves dialog and description.
If forward progress on the story has halted because you don’t know what comes next—which was my case—deconstruct and reconstruct your outline. This is much harder for those who write without an outline, but consider outlining what you have already written—one line per scene in a spreadsheet will work. Then try this exercise from James Scott Bell’s The Art of War for Writers:
Make two lists of at least ten items each:
a. The first list is all the things you can think of that readers would expect to happen next.
b. The second list is all the things that could happen that are not what readers would expect. Write your new scenes based on the second list.
Through a combination of brainstorming, outlining, and sheer slogging—with the occasional bone tossed to Big Gold—I’ve made progress on Book Two and now am within maybe five scenes of being finished.
What are some of your favorite exercises for overcoming resistance?