Don’t Get in a Rut with Your Writing Process

Happy New Year!

Remember how I said last month that I always have to know where the story is going to get to the end?

I mean, that’s probably still true. But this past month has also reminded me that I should never say I’m always going to do something a certain way, because then I’ll realize I need to try something entirely different.

When I wrote about brainstorming last month, I had in mind the project I’d been brainstorming for a few months (note that for me outlining also partially falls into the category of brainstorming). All those steps I mentioned were the areas I’d been brainstorming as I prepared to start writing the book. But a few days after I sent out that newsletter, I decided now isn’t the time to write that project–one of those reasons being that I kept brainstorming the project and wasn’t getting any closer to actually writing it.

Now, I can’t really give you a timeline on how long it usually takes me to outline a book. I’ve never actually made note of it. But when it’s really working, I feel like I have the plot in my head pretty quickly and am able to lay out where I want to go with it. (That’s definitely how I felt with both Your Life Has Been Delayed and My Second Impression of You, as well as with a couple of my other shelved manuscripts that I still love.) I was struggling with some pieces of this one. Perhaps it will come together at a later date. We’ll see.

Since it wasn’t moving forward, I went back to my idea file, made a spreadsheet (I love spreadsheets!), asked my teenager what he thought I should write next, and he pulled together three of the things on my list. And you know what? I loved it! I started brainstorming the next day, and the ideas were just flowing. I started outlining as usual–and then I got stuck.

But it wasn’t the same kind of stuck as when I’d been brainstorming the previous book. I was still excited by the overall premise and had a ton of plot ideas. I was stuck on a character. And then I thought back to that panel I was sitting on at the St. Louis Teen Book Festival, where all the other authors said they just started writing to see where the character took them. It’s not usually my style, but one thing I do know about myself is that I like my processes sometimes too much. So I started writing with the plot ideas I’d already laid out, just to see where the character would take me, and I’m now 10,000 words into this story.

Like anything else I write, I have no idea if it will turn into a book you can read someday, but I’m having fun with it right now. And as a writer, it’s important to just enjoy it sometimes–and to remember that sometimes you need to switch things up to get your creative juices flowing.

Wait, did I just say I was enjoying drafting?? Okay, I’d better get back to it before I lose that…

Have you ever had to try something completely different in order to get a story going? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

My January newsletter is also out today! Like last month, there’s an exclusive giveaway for subscribers, so I encourage you to subscribe if that interests you.

On another note, if you’re a teacher or librarian, I still have spots open for World Read Aloud Day on Feb. 1. Please get in touch via my contact page if you’d like to schedule a free virtual school visit.

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