Trusting the process, even when it’s not one

I’ve been struggling with book #3 for a while now. Every time I think I’m making headway, I hit a wall. Almost always, this means that somewhere along the way, I’ve taken a wrong turn, so I end up backtracking until I find my mistake, hang a sharp left or right in my plot, then start moving forward again. Unfortunately, this also means that I end up trashing more scenes than I care to think about. By the time I’m done with this novel, I will have probably written enough words for three.

Writers generally fall into one of two categories ~ plotters, who outline and think through the entire book before writing even one word, and pantsers, who may start with the seed of an idea but write the bulk of the story by the seat of their pants. I’m not a big fan of labels — especially ones people try to slap onto me — so I’m happy to say I’m neither. I fall somewhere in between.

Here’s also where I’ve gotten myself into trouble with book #3. I’m not enough of a plotter to think through more than the major plot points. I know where I’m headed, but not exactly how I’ll get there. And I’m not enough of a pantser to just write whatever comes to mind, trusting that it’ll all fall together in the end. I end up going round and round and nowhere at all. But my normal process — plot some, write some, plot some more — just wasn’t working with book #3. The story and the characters didn’t want to take shape, didn’t want to become like real people in my head.

And then in a screw-it-all moment, I chucked my process and wrote the black moment — far, far ahead of where I was in the story. Suddenly, my main character came alive. Her goals and motivations and conflicts fell together. Her personality lit up the page. She told me everything I needed to go back and fix in the scenes I’d already written, and every scene I still needed to write. By writing this one scene out of order, I’d found my story.

Every story is different, so I guess it makes sense that the process of birthing it might be different, too. My next characters may require an entirely different method to flesh them out, who knows? But I do know one thing: I’ll be listening.

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About Kimberly S. Belle

Kimberly Belle grew up in Eastern Tennessee, in a small town nestled in the foothills of the Appalachians. A graduate of Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia, Kimberly lived for over a decade in the Netherlands and has worked in marketing and fundraising for various nonprofits. She's the author of two novels, THE LAST BREATH and THE ONES WE TRUST (August 2015). She divides her time between Atlanta and Amsterdam. Keep up with Kimberly on Facebook (www.facebook.com/KimberlyBelleBooks), Twitter (@KimberlySBelle), or via her website at www.kimberlybellebooks.com.

Posted on August 8, 2014, in Blog Posts. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. The best advice another writer gave me when I was suffering from major writer’s block was to skip ahead and write the black moment. I wasn’t sure that I could do that, but when I did, I had the same experience. The story wrote itself. 🙂

  2. Sounds like you found your process!

  3. By your reference to “plotters” and “pantsers”, I imagine you’ve read the book “Outlining Your Novel…” by K.M. Weiland. I concluded the same thing as you did: I fall in the middle of the two categories.
    I’m glad you found your way around the wall you were running up against. Good work!
    I’ve discovered my own style of writing is to stop generally about 3/4 of the way into the story and begin again, fleshing through the story and characters. It has, so far, helped me get around that proverbial wall, too. It puts the story into clearer focus for me as I plow my way through to the end. Then, of course, begin again. LOL!
    All the best to you with book # 3. Sounds like you’re back on track!

  4. Thanks, all, for the words of wisdom and encouragement. I’m glad to hear I’m not alone. Writing is hard, and trusting you’re headed in the right direction when you’re not entirely sure where you’re going is even harder. 🙂

  5. Kimberly, I’m glad you found your way through this plot. I often find myself in the same situation, where I’ve taken a wrong turn and have to backtrack. I like the idea of skipping ahead to the dark moment.

    I don’t know what my process is. Write a bit, plot a bit, skip around to whatever scene is in my head so I don’t forget…One thing’s for sure, I need more structure than I used to. I’ve got very aggressive publishing goals this year, which means I don’t have time to write words I can’t use.

    • If you figure it out, Andrea, let me know. This last book has taken me waaaayyyyy too long, and though I’m finally making forward progress, I still need to figure out how to do it quicker and sooner.

  6. I respect your approach, because I think it’s so important to let the creative process come about as organically as possible. Keep at it! 🙂

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