How To Break Through

Last week I hit my writing milestone of 70,000 words for Blood, Ink & Fire. Getting to this point sure was a challenge. 

I had reached a curious point in my writing. The action was rising nicely, the characters were shaping up well and the plot was building momentum as I’d anticipated. Then around 62,000 words, I unwittingly backed my poor cast of characters into a plot cul-de-sac.

My 70k word count milestone for Blood, Ink & Fire.

My 70k word count milestone for Blood, Ink & Fire.

I had followed my outline, so how could this happen?

It turns out that no matter how closely you stick to your pre-writing plan, sometimes the plot takes an unexpected turn and you find yourself trapped with your characters in a box of logic you just can’t seem to get out of. This point in the story was really important. I needed to avoid the dreaded “sagging middle” where the action in act two seems to drag on listlessly. So I did what any normal writer would do: I asked my characters for help. What exactly they were planning on doing to get us out of this mess?

The secondary characters just shrugged and carried on twiddling their thumbs in slow-motion suspended animation. Thanks guys.

It was at that point that I turned to my protagonist, Noelle Hartley, hoping that after all her character development she’d have something up her sleeve.

I waited patiently. I listened. I even went back and revised the chapter, hoping that might get her going. At last she started talking. She knew exactly how to break through. And even though her idea was pretty scary – traumatizing actually – I knew it would help tie up the rest of the book, nicely with one long narrative thread.

Now, in case you’re thinking I’m crazy sitting back and waiting for my characters to tell me what to do, take comfort in this quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald:

Writers aren’t people exactly. Or, if they’re any good, they’re a whole lot of people trying so hard to be one person.

Thanks, Mr. Fitzgerald. I feel like you get me.