The Novel: Update #17 – How Are My Characters Doing?

For the last week, Tabula had felt kind of stalled. I’ve still been jotting down ideas, finessing the structure, sketching characters – but in terms of actual writing, there had been nothing.

Every time I opened Scrivener and looked at my manuscript I would get a hot, anxious feeling boiling in the pit of my stomach. Suddenly, I’d remember a short story I really need to finish, or I’d notice the washing up that needs doing, or – well, anything to avoid trying to write my novel!

Best visual representation of writer’s block! Found it in this great article on beating the block.

I’ve been distracted by work, by family problems, by heartbreak, and by other projects (as always), but really the problem has been my mindset. I’ve been sitting down and thinking, at some level, “I need to write the best science fiction novel of the 21st century!” or “I need to write something that will sell a million copies!” or even just the humble but insidious thought: “I need to write well.”

These are all useless mindsets while writing, at least for me. I’m sure every writer fantasises about fame, glory, riches, or just a positive critical reception, but they’re just that – fantasies. These things have nothing to do with the daily work of writing.

The breakthrough came when I found myself thinking about Audrey, my primary protagonist, and wondering “How is Audrey doing?” It was like a magic spell that opens secret doorways; I was instantly back in my story, with my characters. My extraneous concerns melted away. What relevance did they have in this world where so much is at stake, where these characters whom I love are hoping, fighting, fucking, and dreaming?


Quite a lot of fucking, yes


It’s a constant struggle for me, staying with this novel, but so long as I keep asking “How are my characters doing?” I think I’ll get there in the end.

If you’re wondering, friends, Audrey is not doing so well. But I believe in her, she’s a good egg is Audrey. She’s a fighter, she just doesn’t know it yet…

What gets you stuck when you’re writing, and how do you break through the wall? Tell me things!


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