When It’s Okay to Not Write

Every writer has hit some sort of a writing slump. Maybe you’ve lost your momentum, your excitement for a project, or maybe you just don’t know how to progress or where your story is going.

There is no limit to the number of tips and articles to help you get past a period of writer’s block. While many of them are very helpful there is also something to be said for putting your project aside for a while.

On each of my novels (including my current WIP) I’ve gone through a period when I’ve put the project aside for several weeks to several months. Sometimes I began another project or worked on editing another. Most of the time though, I used those breaks to really think about my novel. I reviewed my character’s background stories, motivations, I imagine interactions they might have with each other and with strangers. Sometimes I let dialogues be carried out in my head. I even planned a birthday party for a character during one of my writing breaks.

But as “unproductive” as each of those breaks has been something miraculous happened during each one: I discovered a mind-blowing plot twist or element that I hadn’t considered before. And each one of those revelations led me to a renewed and productive writing period.

For my YA medieval I discovered that an integral character would die (okay…there were two beloved characters who died and both came from a similar non-writing period). I also realized that a minor character, one who seemed to have pulled along by the devious plot of another, is actually quite strong and manipulative in her own right. She’s actually been the driving force of a major plot and is about to become the main character’s most formidable opponent. Until I set aside my writing I’d only ever recognized her as a mousy, subservient pawn in the game that was being played.

For my YA bootleggers story I solved two problems through a writing sabbatical: how to bring my character’s best friend back into the story line and whether a main character was going to die (yes, I do spend a lot of my non-writing time determining the death toll of my books).

My current WIP (a YA martial arts fantasy) is still very much in the early stages, but I’ve already taken a break from it to discover that someone I least expected is going to become the new Oracle. There is one potential death pending, but I haven’t gotten a divine answer on that one yet.

I’m not suggesting it’s ideal to stop writing entirely. Sometimes working on another project can push your current one from your mind, making it more difficult to resolve that which was preventing your progress. Taking a break and using the down time to ruminate on your project (or obsess without writing) can open up answers that you’d never imagine when sitting at the keyboard forcing the story onto the page.

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