Breaking through the wall

After it had happened with my first novel, I didn't think it would also happen with my second one. There is no way around it. I hit the wall.

I started to dread mornings, when my alarm would go off so I could steal that best hour or two of the day to do what I love most - write. Except now, I had nothing to say and everything I'd written so far seemed terrible. The story was stuck, the characters seemed boring and flat and everything I could think of were things that had nothing to do with writing.

This happened about 36 000 words into my second novel. If this hadn't been the second attempt at the first draft (yes, really), I would have given up and pushed it into that "on hold" folder indefinitely. I knew there was no way the story would leave me alone: I just have to write it down.

So, I did what seemed most reasonable. After a week of sitting in front of the computer, feeling like a failure, I took a break, made some tea and buried my nose into my notebook, where I keep the golden nuggets from books on writing. The rescue came from the notes I took after reading: Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell, a novelist and screenplay writer (in case you are an aspiring writer, I highly recommend reading this book: it's solid gold).

Following the author's advice, I started with how to energise a lethargic middle:

  1. Analyse the stakes: What will the main character lose if they don't reach their objective? Turns out the stakes were not high enough for my character, so I pushed them up a notch.

  2. Strengthen the adhesive: What bonds the main character and villain? Look at possible adhesives and find the best one for your plot. You got me there. This was something I hadn't given much thought to and would need to work on much more.

  3. Add another level of complication: When you think things can't get more complicated, they do. And they did.

  4. Add another character: Without realising I'd already done it, I introduced a new characters and used it to push the story forward.

  5. Add another subplot: While not writing and doing mundane tasks, my brain was munching in the background. I actually came up with a few good ideas that I used to energise the story.

  6. Push through the wall:

    • Take a day off writing. Check, check and check.

    • Find some time alone in a peaceful location (cats count, right?)

    • Spend at least 30 min without doing anything (turns out I can do more than 30 minutes).

    • Do something for pure fun (an easy one!)

    • Fall asleep reading one of your favourite authors (difficult, but I managed to do it).

    • First thing next day, write at least 300 words on novel, no matter what, without editing or slowing down.

    • Push till you complete the first draft.

Funny enough James Scott Bell notes he usually hits the wall at around 30 000 words. Phew, it's not just me then. The sense of not being alone gave me enough will to push through the wall. Okay, I might have taken a few more days off writing than was suggested, but it helped.

I managed to break through the wall just before going off on long holidays and yes, I did take my computer with me. There was no chance I'd let those 3 weeks come between me and my story. My first draft of the second novel is now at about 80 % and finally looking good. 

How about you? Any good tips on how to break through the wall?