All of us go through slumps. It’s difficult to be creative when we’re stressed out and worried about things. I’ve heard a lot of stories on how writers just have not been able to get the words flowing since COVID. I can’t say as I blame anyone. If you don’t know where your rent is going to come from because you’ve been laid off and the government has stopped the extra funds from coming in, I wouldn’t be able to think about my next project either.
I’ve been stuck working on my book the past few days. I haven’t wanted to work on it, would rather binge Lucifer. But the problem with that is, I enjoy writing, and I also think of my books as a business. If I go through a slump, so does my business. My books aren’t great earners right now. Without any type of ads whatsoever, my books make pennies a day, but I’m definitely not going to make any money on books I don’t write.
My slump, fortunately, has nothing to do with COVID. If you follow my blog at all, you’ll know that I just came up for air after writing six books back to back. I started last year, in December of 2019, and finished them up about two weeks ago. I’m letting them breathe now, which is why I’m starting a different project. Almost 40k into it, I haven’t felt as excited or connected to this book as I have past projects. Wondering why, I came up with this list. If you’re having a problem with connecting your book and your characters give these ideas a try:
Get to know your characters again. When I started writing I only had a shadow of an idea who my characters are. When thinking up a new story, writers will come up with plot first, then characters, or characters, then plot. I try to think of both of them together. The characters, who they are and what they want, drives the plot. I didn’t plan out who they are as carefully as I usually do, and I need to go back over my character notes and familiarize myself with who they are as people. This would maybe be a good time to try to create an aesthetic and dig through stock photos to find models that would remind me of what my characters look like.
Remind yourself of the stakes. Sometimes if you’re struggling with a story, it helps to remind yourself what the stakes are. What do your characters want? How are they going to get it? And what is standing in their way? I write romance, so the characters want each other. But what is standing in their way? A lot of time it’s their own personal demons that prevent them from needing who they need to be to take what they want. It’s no different in my current WIP. Colt’s father abandoned them to live a life Colt doesn’t approve of. Ever since then he’s worked his butt off for what he wants. What he wants prevents him from seeing what he NEEDS. So going over what you have and reminding yourself what the stakes are and what is standing in their way if they can’t have it will help keep your story moving.
Keep your head in the game. Lately because I haven’t felt like writing, I’ve been binge-watching Lucifer on Netflix. It takes a lot to hold my attention (I can list a million TV shows I’ve stopped watching because I got bored) but so far Lucifer has kept me entertained. I suppose it helps that Tom Ellis is hot, and his accent is hotter. The only problem is, when I did take a break from watching Lucifer to write, it wasn’t an accident then that my character started to sound like him. Lucifer is catty, and my character, Colt Jameson, isn’t. So it felt very out of character for him to sound snarky after I watched five episodes of Lucifer. I know lots of people can watch and read books while writing their own work, and I never had a problem with doing that either. But this time around because I don’t know my characters very well, it was easy for me to turn them into people they aren’t supposed to be. That gave me a feeling of disconnect from my book, and in turn that made me wonder if what I’m writing is even any good.
After reacquainting yourself with your characters, reread what you have. It probably won’t be as bad as it seems, and if it is, take a very deep dive into your characters’ personalities and fix it. Whatever your views on editing during writing are, I know that if I don’t feel good about what I’ve written, I can’t write more. I do not like to rewrite. My first drafts, besides minor changes and proofreading, are usually my final drafts when it comes to story/plot, at least. I don’t have GREAT IDEAS I need to implement after my book is done. I don’t think, “THIS STORY WOULD SOUND SO MUCH BETTER IF THE ENDING WENT LIKE THIS!” No, no, and no. I write it how I like the first time around and then, the end. So I can go back and read what I have so far and reshape some of the scenes when the characters don’t sound like themselves, or if they sound like they have forgotten their own stakes.
Don’t worry about word count. This is a major one for me because I’m worried about word count the minute I open a new Word docx. Anyone will tell you that’s a terrible way to write, and I don’t make up scenes to reach a certain goal (and have never needed to). But for some reason I need my manuscripts to fall into the range of about 70-90,000 words. I always worried more when writing third person, and it seemed harder to reach that 70,000 word mark. First person is a lot easier to reach that 70k mark and my six books in my billionaire series, they all fell between 84,000 and 90,000 words. It is a terrible habit of mine to worry. And I shouldn’t. My WIP right now is at 39k, at least half of what this book will turn out to be, and I know every plot thread that needs to be wrapped up before the end.
I didn’t take a
long enough break. Six books is a lot. The plot just came to me out of nowhere, and I wrote those books as fast as I could. They consumed me for almost a year, and all I did was live, breathe, and dream about Stella, Zane, Zarah and Gage. They were my entire world for a long time and the minute I finished the first set of edits on those books, I jumped into Colt and Elayna. I started a new project to let those other books breathe and I want to edit them again with fresh eyes in a few months. I should have taken more of a break. Taken some time to read a few books, or go for walks, since the weather right now is actually quite lovely. But I jumped in because it’s not my nature to take a break, and now with that disconnect I described, I am feeling a bit burnt out.
Remember why you started. This sounds trite, but we all started writing for the sheer love of writing. I love to write, to tell my characters’ stories. We can get so swept up in the money, the marketing, our sales rank, what are ads are doing, the newest and best promo sites, and newsletter building that we forget it’s about telling a fabulous story! I want to tell Colt and Elayna’s story. I want them to find their HEA. That’s why I wanted to be a romance writer. I want my characters and their readers to fall in love again and again and again. My characters are my friends and I want to enjoy them.
So what I’m going to do is remember who my characters are and what their stakes are. What is the end game. I don’t have the ending scene in mind yet, and I should figure that out to give me something to write toward. Like I said, I know everything that needs to be included to wrap things up, it’s just a matter of getting it all down on paper. This book also has series potential, and I’ll need to figure that out before I publish if I want to keep going. Elayna’s suitors should each find their own happily ever after, but that would require at least four more books. Since I’ve already created this world, it would make sense to keep going, but that is a blog post for another time.
Do you ever lose momentum? How do you find it? Let me know!