Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Overcoming Writers' Fatigue

While I'm finishing up my second in the Hillendale series - UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES, I'm struggling with where to go with Book 3. This is not officially writers' block, probably more like writers' fatigue.

Several years ago, while I was writing the Mist Trilogy, my editor recommended The Writer's Brainstorming Kit, a book she referred to as "tarot for authors." It's a handy book that gives you the option to choose your plots, goals, motivations, conflicts, or to "flip a card" and be inspired. If you order the physical book, it comes with a deck of GMC cards. If you order the e-book, it cross-references to a deck of cards. At the time, I was struggling with my villain and why he did the things he did. I found the book surprisingly helpful.

Which brings me to "now." I have a vague concept of the plots and subplots for Hillendale #3, but this book needs to push the envelope a little farther, so I've been struggling with what haven't I already done in books one and two. Writers' fatigue.

I'm a pantser more often than not - I write by the seat of my pants. I start with my characters or some "thing/place/event" that sparked my imagination and let them tell me the story. When I get stuck, I sit down and plot (does that make me a "plot-ser?") I know stories need to move forward, and there has been more than one occasion where the story was wandering around aimlessly when I had to stop and call my characters together for a little planning meeting. What are the goals? What's standing in their way? What's the point of this story?? I'm not sure I've ever run into this before I've ever started the story though.

One way to get inspired when fatigue strikes is to read other books. Watch movies or series. So I selected a series (A Discovery of Witches) which turned out to be not at all what I'd expected, and yet it's very good! So while I wait for my editor to finish Book #2, I figured I'd pull out the tarot for writers book and see if I couldn't find a plot to carry Book #3. This, my friends, is when I realize I have writers' fatigue, because as I'm weighing my options, I see I've left myself a perfect roadmap to follow if I'd only been paying attention! Every book in a series should point to the next one, even if they are meant to stand alone, and I've done just that. I knew I was laying the groundwork, but sitting in the recovery phase of Book #2, I couldn't see the forest for the trees (to incorporate a cliché).

What do you do when you have writers' fatigue? You use the tools available to you to give you the extra "oomph" you need. In this case, an outline. Actual plotting. It takes the fatigue out of trying to figure out what comes next. Let me point out that outlining isn't a restrictive tool. It gives you a roadmap. Directions. But if you see a road sign advertising a fun detour, there's no reason you can't divert once you're more "rested."

Am I changing my stripes and embracing outlining my books? I sincerely doubt it. There comes a point in every book where I stop to make sure I'm actually moving the story along. Sometimes I let the plot unfold naturally, but when it doesn't, I will almost always stop to give my characters a map.


  1. Paying attention to one's subconscious can provide the signposts we need to lead us on our way. How many times do you get a "brilliant idea" (either yours or your characters's) and go back and see you've already laid the groundwork. It seems it's just a matter of carrying that into the next book. And with 2 books behind in, there should be a lot of groundwork to draw on.

    1. I’m always amazed at the groundwork that is laid without me even knowing it!