The Big Pause

Recently I read this article by Jaye Wells, and it cleared something up for me about writer’s block and how I write.

Usually when I’m working on a novel I encounter a point I call The Big Pause. It occurs 75% of the way through the story, when all the meat is out of the way and all that’s left is to write the big finale.

I stop.

I tell myself it’s because I don’t exactly know what’s going to happen next, and how can I write it if I don’t know what to write, but that’s not really the reason. I know how it all ends up. I don’t have a firm grasp on the details, but I never do for any scene. Somewhere in all the work it just magically comes together.

But the above-mentioned article pointed out what was really going on: The Big Pause is my moment of fear. It’s the point where the book is about to turn into a reality. Soon it’s going to be a finished product, not something I’m just working on for fun. I’m going to have to show it off. Be responsible for its perfection. And that’s scary.

But not the only thing that scares me. The biggest reason I have a Big Pause is that I’m afraid what I’m going to write is total crap.

I don’t have this problem in the first three quarters of the book. As a friend once put it, I write really clean first drafts. I’m not saying everything comes out sparkling, and there have definitely been some scenes I’ve had to cut or seriously modify. But to put it in perspective, for the sleeping beauty story there was only one scene I really struggled with. One that got completely rewritten out of a whole book.

So when I have to face the prospect of writing just to get it done, I freeze up. I love the idea of writing messy and cleaning it up, or maybe I love the idea of getting into that mental space where you know, as the creator, exactly what needs to go, what can stay, and what just needs to be fixed. But when the moment comes I really struggle with writing a sentence I’m not happy with the first time around.

(This is starting to sound like I’m not capable of editing, and let me say that’s definitely not true. After everything I’ve gone through with NAMELESS I feel confident in stating I absolutely know how to edit and mix things up ;-)

My Pause usually lasts a few weeks, and by that time I’ve gestated the issues in my mind well enough to know how to sprint towards the finish. But I don’t want that to turn into a habit. I want to learn to let go, and give myself permission to write the story clearly not perfect, because it can always be fixed later.

It can always be fixed later.

That’s what editing is for, after all. I now declare The Big Pause officially over!

4 thoughts on “The Big Pause

  1. Savannah,

    I tend to have a similar pause about halfway through. The saggy middle, nemesis of my energy for writing. I just recently discovered a trick that’s helping me through it. It’s the #1k1hr tag on Twitter. You set a time with other writers and full-on sprint through 60 minutes of feverish writing, then check back to see how everyone did. At first I wasn’t sure I could even do it, but I’ve discovered when I let go and don’t even allow myself time to do research mid-scene, I can crank out nearly 2K in an hour. Is it gold? I don’t know yet, but my word count is soaring!

    Maybe it would work for you, too!

    – Liz

    • Hey Liz!

      I’ve been seeing you hitting goals with the #1k1hr tag on Twitter :-) I haven’t used Twitter before but I’ve done ‘sprints’ and even daily ‘hold each other responsible’ agreements with friends.

      My problem with the 75% point is that I tend to ‘pants’ the middle part, and that 75% point is the bridge between middle and what I envisioned for the ending. It’s not that I can’t get the word count in, it’s that I literally don’t know what happens next!

      But, of course, some dedicated brainstorming time eventually fixes that. I just need to learn to set that time aside sooner rather than later :-)

  2. Hey Sav,

    Thanks so much for this post (and for linking us to that fabulous article by Jaye)! It’s incredibly timely because I’m in one of those Big Pauses right now, and I’m getting hella frustrated!

    I find that I have three Big Pauses, one for each transition into the next Act, and you’re right, it’s because I psyche myself out… I’m a little bit of a perfectionist and want everything I type out to be “just right”, but goodness me, that’s really not working out.

    So maybe I’ll try sprinting. Hopefully that’ll shrug off that voice psyching me out. Ok. #1k1hr tonight! Manuscript, it’s a date.

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