The Writer’s Craft #45 – Stall at the Finish Line

Lynda Williams
Lynda Williams, Author of Okal Rel Saga

Your host, Lynda Williams, talks about her challenge getting going again with the conclusion of her 10-novel saga with just 40,000 words to go to the end. Follow discussions on Ethics in SF and more on her blog, Reality Skimming, administered by Michelle Milburn.

Finally, I have a morning to write again after a very busy period and some major changes in my life. And I’ve stalled.

Part 7: Healer’s Sword of my ten-novel saga is coming out this month, Part 8: Gathering Storm is on its way to me with edits and Craig Bowlsby has delivered the fencing scene I needed for the end of Part 9: Holy War. I’m 60,000 words into the rough draft of Part 10: Unholy Science. I’ve been planning this conclusion for nearly 20 years. Angela, my middle daughter, is youtube-blogging about my series to encourage me. Krysia Anderson, author of the Misfit series set in the Okal Rel Universe, is asking for more sneak previews.

This is no time for writer’s block!

But I haven’t written a word today and tomorrow there’s too much to do for me to risk getting “into” my book. Because like many writers, even though I make some money at my craft, I work, too. And that means I am often away from my work-in-progress for weeks or even months.

Christmas is my master plan. Over the holidays, when I am with my family, I am going to re-read what I’ve got so far; bask in my family’s encouragement;  — The occasional threat is motivating, too. — And transport myself, once more, to the magic state in which the Okal Rel Universe flows through me, brought to life in this world again.

Do you stall at the finish line? How to you re-boot yourself when life draws you away?

13 thoughts on “The Writer’s Craft #45 – Stall at the Finish Line

  1. Hi Lynda!

    Sympathies on the stall. When I’m stuck, I run through a few basic practices to get me back on target:

    1 – I re-organize (if I have to). Sometimes when I’m in the throes of writing, the desktop and surrounding area get messy. I straighten the piles, go over the scene lists and make more room on the desk. This physical clutter-clearing helps to clear my mind, too. It let’s the muse back in.

    2 – I re-read what I’ve written so far. Sometimes I see a plot hole that needs to be fixed. This can be an excellent jump-starter. More often, I can see the possibilities of what could happen based on the story so far…and start writing on some of those leaping-off points.

    3 – I review my scene lists looking for something juicy to write. I like to write linearly, but it always helps me to know where I want to end up. I jot down these lists of things as I’m writing. A juicy scene: a fight, a secret revealed, a plot twist, etc. are usually easy for me to write. So, I’ll jump ahead and get that done. When I return to my linear manuscript, I’ve got a place to shoot for, and moving forward seems easier.

    Hope this helps!

  2. One of the greatest challenges that writers face is the cold fact that only a few of them can make a living at it. This means that they either must work a job to earn their living, or partner with someone willing to support them. (Or, as was generally the case with great authors of previous centuries, have the good fortune to be born into a class where money isn’t an issue.) If you are female, the chances are excellent that you not only need to earn a living, but the bulk of the domestic and child-rearing chores fall on your shoulders as well. Thus, you haven’t the luxury to devote long hours immersed in your craft, completely engaged in your reality, riding inspiration to its logical conclusion. You get an hour here, an hour there, maybe the luxury of a day or (unheard-of!) an entire week-end. Is it any wonder that one’s muse gets tired of waiting, and is off at Burning Man when you finally get around to sitting down and summoning her?

    I am one of those people who you sometimes see standing and staring vacantly at nothing in the supermarket, or get behind at a traffic light and they sit there when the light turns green. Like many others, I have a job (two, in fact, part-time — three, if you count the writing I actually get paid for), children and domestic responsibilities. But my fiction tends to intrude. I expect my subconscious is constantly busily plotting, and now and then erupts into my conscious mind with something it has come up with, dragging my attention from whatever I’m doing, until I hear the horns honking behind me or realize I just dropped a jar of pickles on the supermarket floor.

    So when I do have a minute to sit down and write, I usually just need to reread the last few paragraphs of where I left off, and it all starts pouring out again. If I get ahead of what my subconscious has prepared for me (and I know I’ve done that when I reach a point in the action where the next scene or speech doesn’t flow automatically) I just get up and go do some mindless chore, take a walk, do some errand, and pretty soon it comes to me.

    But I appear to be digressing, and rather at length. The question was about how to reset one’s mind to one’s work when one has been focused on everything but one’s work. I suppose it’s a bit like being expected to, after a long day of chasing after your list of things to do, come to bed and suddenly be relaxed and romantic with your significant other. It’s just not that easy to throw the switch and change tracks. One has to get into the mood. If there is a piece of music that takes you to where your world is, that might help. Chocolate can’t hurt, and there really is scientific evidence that it contains psychologically-stimulating elements. I’ve also heard other writers say that they keep several different projects going at once; if they can’t get into one, they can usually get into another. But if you’re dealing with contractual obligations and deadlines, you might not have that flexibility.

    Lynda, I hope your Christmas plan works for you. Excuse me, my subconscious is tugging impatiently at my sleeve. It has something it wants to show me.

  3. Hi Lynda,
    I do sympathize with you! Getting away from it seems to help me–going for a walk in the woods, alone. But since it seems you don’t have time for that I would try to rediscover the vision I started with. You must have had a conclusion in mind when you started the series 20 years ago…Maybe talk it over with a good friend who you can bounce ideas off–when I have ideas I often jot them down but many times if I don’t follow through right away, my vision gets lost…it’s frustrating.

    For me the Christmas season is fraught with chaotic energy that leaves me feeling depleted, so I’m not sure it’s the best time unless you are strong and lock yourself away from family etc…..most of all don’t be hard on yourself and let the universe bring what it has to give–sounds hokey probably but that’s where I believe all our creative ideas come from.

    And maybe there’s a tiny part of you that doesn’t want to finish it–if it’s been with you this long it’s like a marriage!

    Good luck!


  4. I suffer from “Xeno’s ending”: the closer I feel like I ought to be drawing to the end, the more that end retreats.

    What I find helps is to give myself an obvious target to shoot at. If I know how the final scene goes, I write it, even if, chronologically, I’m still writing three chapters back. I struggle mightily with endings, and knowing that one is already “in the bag” helps me enormously to write my way toward it.

      1. Oh, how I wish I could take credit for it, but I heard that particular phrase first from Elizabeth Bear during a panel at 4th Street Fantasy Convention. If memory serves, the conversation also invoked “Zeno’s potato chip”.

  5. Loved the digression, Justine. Wish we lived close enough to do coffee! Krysia? Okay, I know you mean something I don’t quite get so I’ll Skype you soon to get educated. It’s the aging gray cells. Or maybe that was one of the threats (veiled). 🙂 And John, what is WWLD? “What Would …?? Do?” I googled it but couldn’t find anything that felt like you. Not batting 1000 here. But I feel the love. Nikki, you are right on with the romance analogy! And I liked your points, Kelly. I’ve tried most but not all.

    Thanks all! And I WILL get there. Been thinking maybe I’m suffering cold feet about finishing. Or maybe it’s performance anxiety. My God This Is IT. What if the end isn’t GOOD enough.

    Net result: will seek total immersion at some point in near future to make the final sprint to the finish line! And thanks all!

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