K is for Keep Moving – Write or Die!

By Hermanus Backpackers (Great White Shark Cage Diving)  via Wikimedia Commons
Image Courtesy of Hermanus Backpackers

Today’s writing metaphor comes courtesy of the shark. In case you’re not entirely au fait with animal biology, many sharks need to swim constantly to stay alive. It’s all to do with passing oxygen-rich water through their gills, but the only reason I mention it, is because as writers we too need to constantly move to ensure our writing survives that elusive first draft.

We have all experienced that familiar lethargy that can creep up on us, half way through a story or novel. You may find you have written yourself in to a corner with a difficult plot twist. Perhaps your main character suddenly appears to have all of the personal charm of Piers Morgan. Maybe you just lost that initial spark of inspiration. It could be that you didn’t allow your idea enough time to cook (see post for the letter ‘C’) Out of nowhere a big pair of wet pants smothers your creative fire and you would sooner do anything but write. It’s just so hard, isn’t it?

So what?! Man up!

These are the times that you really discover whether you have what it takes to call yourself a writer. The first thing to realise is that you are not alone. Anyone who writes regularly will experience this at least a couple of times a week.

It wasn’t until I took on the NaNoWriMo challenge last year (see Nano Post), that I was forced in to finding a strategy to cope with this energy-sapping syndrome. During the challenge I spent a depressing few hours completely stuck on one particular chapter. I knew that I needed to come up with an event to move my character towards the next plot point, but drew a blank when it came to writing the actual scene. It didn’t take me long to realise that if I waited around much longer I was in danger of losing all of the momentum that I had built up in the previous days of the challenge. With this in mind, I typed a one sentence summary and moved on to the next chapter. Simple. Liberating. And it worked.

Momentum – keep the snowball rolling

But what about if you’re writing a short story, or other prose project and you feel that self-doubt is rearing its ugly good-for-nothing head? Maybe you need time away from that project, but that doesn’t mean you need to give up all of that hard-earned writing momentum. Keep writing, but write something else. Sketch out another short story. Write some flash fiction. Use some of the techniques I outlined in my ‘B is for Bananas’ post.

The point is: DON’T. STOP. MOVING.

Because, like the shark, if you stop swimming your writing will be dead in the water.

This was my 11th post for the A-Z Blog Challenge. Follow the blog during April for more writing tips, inspirational life posts, short fiction, film-inspired articles and some songs with audio recordings – like the next post – L is for Lies (Go Home and Tell Some Lies – original song)

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30 thoughts on “K is for Keep Moving – Write or Die!

  1. As Dory of Finding Nemo would say: “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming…”

    I am guilty of being the stuck writer. I have so many half finished short stories and have never written a novel for this reason, though I’ve always said that I want to write a book – someday. This made me think. Good one.

  2. Argh! Yes, keep moving is excellent advice. This post strike a chord with me, especially the part about writing yourself into a corner.

    Alas, I found myself in this situation on my first NaNoWriMo novel, and although I wrote over the required 50k I never finished the project.

    Your advice about writing a one sentence summary never occurred to me at the time as I was fretting too much about moving forward.

    Perhaps, after the A to Z, I’ll have a ‘Finish What You Started’ challenge.

    Thank you for the good advice. 🙂

    1. Thanks Maria. Good idea for the next challenge – perhaps we could call it The Mastermind Challenge – I’ve started so I’ll finish?? Have a good weekend.

  3. aaajjjssskkkdddlll aaawwwnnn and the words then came back and I was able to continue..
    That’s one of my techniques.. just keep tapping away at anything repetitive nothing specific and the thoughts appear as if by magic..
    Great post as always.

  4. Good advice! I seem to lose momentum around the 20,000 word mark! That’s where I’ve finished the initial scenes I had planned out, and need to decide what’s coming next. If I just keep writing though, I can usually push my way through it.

    Rinelle Grey

    1. Yes, although I’m not a complete planner, I do find that I work better if I at least have some kind of list of events to keep me on track. I find that when I get to the end of that, things slow down considerably.

  5. Good advice! Just keep going – except when I do that I just write gumph (as I discovered in Nano one year and then had to bin 30k words!). If I’m stuck, sometimes I’ll change a character and make them a baddy or a goody – that can work.

    1. It doesn’t matter if the stuff you write isn’t great first time round anyway – just turn off the inner editor, finish the first draft and then rewrite until beautiful. Good tip on changing around the characters.

  6. Have you tried the Write or Die app? I LOVE it, for the very reason that it makes me turn off that internal editor and just keep plowing forward, even when it’s hard.

    1. Hi Kate – yes I have and I’m glad you mentioned it. I actually meant to include it in the post when I was drafting it, but to be honest it slipped my mind. It can be another fun way to avoid ‘the block’.

  7. I’m writing mostly short stuff now, having lost momentum and courage on a longer piece. I have to get back in the water after the A to Z is over. You can’t keep swimming if you got out of the water!

    1. As long as you’re still writing, you’re still in the water. It’s not all about the novel – short stories, flash fiction, poetry, whatever – it’s all about putting words out there to create something new that wasn’t there moments before you wrote it. Most of the time, I’m wearing big arm bands and sitting in a rubber ring, but I’m staying afloat. Just! Good luck!

  8. I didn’t know that about sharks 😮 really good analogy, though. I would add that if you can find a lovely oxygen rich place to do it (like the library/somewhere peaceful), you’ll also have a better chance of survival. Of course… my writing warm-ups might kick start a good writing session too :p

    1. That’s 2 very good points – finding the right place to crack on is vital. With regards writing prompts – yes, actually another blogger mentioned earlier about wanting to try flash fiction and was going to look for prompts – I’ll point her firmly in your direction!

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