Tuesday Tip: Work on Another Part of Your Story
Writing tips is a new category of posts here at Writerly Life that will be appearing every Tuesday. It’s a series of concrete tips for improving or kickstarting your writing. The tips that fall into this category are the sorts that you can do today or even right now, and they’re chosen to immediately re-vitalize your writing in some small (but meaningful!) way.
This week’s tip is:
Work on another part.
Sometimes we can feel that we’re stalled in a story or novel. We still like the idea, and there’s still good stuff to write, but the chapter we’re in right now, or even the scene, is proving grueling. Maybe something has happened in your life that has made that scene feel too close to home; maybe you’ve moved away from the setting that you’re still trying to capture; maybe you’re just not sure yet how that scene should play out. Whatever the problem is, sometimes it’s a great idea to work on something else.
Try putting that problem chapter aside. I’m relying on what I call the crossword principle; whenever you’re stuck on a clue in a crossword puzzle, the thing to do is move on without delay. The answer will come to you precisely when you’re not thinking about it. In the same way, your mind will unconsciously work on that problem chapter even while you’re getting stuff done elsewhere, and when you return, you’ll find yourself refreshed and ready to write that part. And in the meantime, you’ll have kept your writing muscles sharp and gotten some other writing work done.
So rather than gritting your teeth and trying to force these things, try going with the flow. Follow your interest in a story and move on to a different piece. Consider David Foster Wallace’s final, posthumous work The Pale King, nominated for the Pulitzer Prize; it was found in a complete jumble of pieces that were later assembled, showing that the best writers use this hodge-podge method of writing in pieces.