There is a stage in everything, when it looks like you’re going nowhere. It is of course possibly a reflection of reality. Your career has stalled, your book has stalled, your relationship has stalled, the house you’re trying to build has stalled…
It’s quite easy to stick at this point, to give up. It may even be sensible. But hey, I’m a rock-climber: telling me something wasn’t sensible (or possible) hasn’t put me off so far.
And oddly, the phase when it seems you’re getting nowhere can be deceptive. I have had times when I’ve been going backwards… Well, besides that, in the writing sense you are generally doing a lot of groundwork. Trust me on this (rather than making the mistake yourselves, learn from mine) whether you’re a panstser or a plotter, there is a huge amount, consciously and subconsciously, that needs to happen before you can write a book that feels like a window into another world. Some people call this process noodling. I’m not entirely sure why. It’s more like doing the cut and fill, sourcing your materials (maybe even learning how to use some of them).
For me it inevitably boils down to a lot of research, and by the time a book gets rolling I know one hell of a lot about the setting – including the whys and wherefores and a lot of facts that the reader will never see. I spend days to months being terribly vague and forgetful, because all my mental processing power is wrapped up in the book, the background, the characters, the possibilities. I always START writing in this stage – it helps to tie the characters and basic scene down. And then I stick –possibly limping slowly forward with very small wordcounts – despite all my attention being focused on the book (or story). This I treat, I think correctly, as a time to research and think about the setting.
So maybe it’s just an excuse to read up about historical vegetables and Roman Military tactics.
That’s quite possible. I actually enjoy delving in this stuff and letting the great anti-computer in my head turn all those facts into garbage. Well, into fiction anyway.
I find I abruptly move past this and am able to move onto my next major block point (which is where small decisions can majorly shift a book’s outcome –typically around the half-way point. But every single time I’ve tried to push hard and not allowed that book to get its groundwork done… I’ve ended up tossing a lot of words and work time. If I’d finished those books I would have ended up with a house with a weak foundation that cracks and crumbles.
Listen to that inner voice. Broaden your reading on the book’s background. Spend time thinking about it.
I’m sorry this very short – but I am busy proof-reading ALL THE PLAGUES OF HELL and it is due today.