Writer's block, stalling, and just plain old procrastination

Posted on May 10, 2016 (Subscribe to Blog)

I hit the halfway mark of my latest novel, Sinister Roots, and came up against a roadblock. Well, not so much a roadblock, more of a fork in the road without a signpost. I knew where I needed to get to, but I couldn't decide how best to get there.

I've never suffered from "writer's block" – unable to think what to write or trouble getting the creative juices flowing. Apparently, some writers can go for years without being able to write anything! Yeesh. This is a common theme in movies about authors; they're always so angst-ridden and irritable! I don't buy it, though. Personally, I think anyone who suffers from writer's block can't be a true writer. In my opinion, a writer's only real problem is finding time in their life to get all their ideas down on paper.

Anyway, the problem I had recently was not writer's block. It wasn't even a case of stalling, which is what happens when you suddenly realize you don't know where you're going with the story. I've stalled before, in my very early days, and it's not pleasant. I remember stalling with Island of Fog and ended up ditching a whole bunch of chapters and going off in a different direction instead.

I wasn't even procrastinating. No, the issue I had was that, in addition to the main plot, I had a half-formed subplot that I expected to solidify as time went on. It's quite common for me to have several threads that I plan to knit together after I've figured out exactly how they relate. This is a challenge I set myself to keep things fresh. It's like taking a few cool and very different ideas and throwing them together in a bowl to see how they blend. Normally, I can make it work, and it's always exciting to have that Eureka! moment when a logical connection presents itself. Sometimes I can't make it work, though. Sometimes Plot Thread A and Plot Thread B work nicely together, but Plot Thread C refuses to fit in.

In the case of Sinister Roots, it was coming along very nicely except for one sticking point. I stopped writing and decided I needed to give this some serious thought before resuming, and so I pondered and cogitated for a week or two, looking for that perfect connection. But it never came. Reluctantly, I decided I'd have to drop that idea and move on. Hey, if it ain't working, then dump it.

With that decided, I resumed writing. There's a small gap (a couple of chapters) between the first and second halves, which I'll back-fill later. I'm eager to move on to the exciting second half, so that's what I'm doing. I recently finished a scene where Travis and his friend Rez leave a misty bog behind, which is apt since I'm just now picking up momentum after being stuck. If I had any advice for writers, it's to avoid becoming mired in a scene that isn't quite working. Just skip it and move on. As long as the basic plot works, the details of that missing scene will usually become clear eventually, and you can go back and bridge the gap then.

So, Sinister Roots is over halfway done and moving at quite a pace. There are four very different elements to this story: the talking trees of the forest, a community of trolls, the fact that Travis is a chimera shapeshifter, and a visit to the Grim Reaper. (I had a possible fifth element, but that's the one I ditched.)

"Why on earth would the boys want to visit the Grim Reaper?" I hear you ask. Well, that would be telling. You'll just have to wait and see. I expect this novel to be launched late-June or July.

Comment by BRIAN B. on Tuesday, May 10, 2016...

Ha! I never knew where my characters were taking me.

Comment by KEAGAN on Wednesday, May 18, 2016...

KEITH YOU SAINT! you gave us a sequel! I'm curious, do you remember me? (I didn't know i would come back here)

Comment by KEITH ROBINSON on Wednesday, May 18, 2016...

You'll have to remind me, Keagan! But welcome back anyway. :-)

Comment by HELIX on Thursday, May 19, 2016...

Thank goodness. Sinister Roots has a big reputation to live up to, what with the books getting better as the series goes on. I'm only new to this website, but I can't wait for late June/July.

Comment by KEITH ROBINSON on Thursday, May 19, 2016...

Yes, I don't mind admitting that Island of Fog Legacies has some big shoes to fill. I think the reaction to Unicorn Hunters has been good so far, so I'm pleased. Sinister Roots promises some creepy scenes as well as a pretty major event!

Comment by ANONYMOUS on Wednesday, May 25, 2016...

Are there going to be more short stories?? You missed the 15th of this month so I was just wondering...

Comment by KEITH ROBINSON on Wednesday, May 25, 2016...

Anonymous, I didn't so much miss the 15th as decide to forego the short story this month. I'm just too busy at the moment to devote the time to it, and I'm off to England soon as well, so I'll probably miss June too. I haven't even had time to write a post to explain its absence! I must remedy that soon.

Funny how you brought up the missing short story in a post about procrastination and stalling! :-)

Comment by ROSAMUND on Tuesday, June 21, 2016...

I'm on labyrinth of fire. I'm rereading the series for the 19th time now! Also, I'd like to point out, on my kindle, if I type "of" then the suggested autocorrect word is "fog". I wonder why!

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