Wednesday, April 1, 2015

How Many Blog Posts Does It Take Me To Finish A Chapter?

Today is April's contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.

Why am I an Insecure Writer this month?

Because I didn't realize this was the first Wednesday of the month until about 2 minutes after I posted this.  But that's okay.  I didn't have to make many changes.  This post is just as much about my writing insecurities as my usual IWSG posts.

Patience is a necessary virtue for writers. At least it is for slow writers like me. Hey, what can I say? I’m a plodder. I edit extensively during the first draft. I jump back and forth between chapters as my muse takes me. I restructure the story several times throughout the first draft. Everything I’m told I shouldn’t do. Finish that first draft quickly, they say, before I get bored with it and run out of steam.

I’ve never found that to be much of a problem. Once a story has grabbed hold of me, nothing short of Armageddon will keep me from finishing it. All I need is patience, and I have plenty of that. Still, that patience can be tested at times when I see my writer friends releasing books at rates I could never hope to match.

Overall, I can’t complain about my progress so far this year. In fact, I’ve never been more productive. But every once in a while I hit a chapter where progress grinds to a halt. Like my current chapter, for example. What I thought would be a relatively simple chapter has turned into a major hurdle as I keep re-imagining the scene in order to make everything happen in a logically believable way.

I can always gauge my progress (or lack thereof) by checking the number of blog posts at the beginning of my chapters. You see, I tend to write my blog posts at the beginning of whatever chapter I’m working on at the time, bouncing back and forth between them and the story as my muse dictates. If my chapter is progressing along at a good clip, then I might write only one or two blog posts before moving on to the next chapter. But if my progress is slow, there'll be more. My current troublesome chapter includes five posts—two I’ve already posted on this website, two partially finished ones for the future, plus the one you’re reading right now. And to be honest, I have no idea how many more posts I’ll have added before this %*#@$& chapter is finished.

Takes deep breath…

Feeling better…

I’ll eventually get past this chapter—I always do—but every time I glance at the calendar, I’m reminded how much longer it will be before I’m a published author. Patience is my most important attribute.

So what do you do when you get stuck on a chapter? Do you stick it out and grind through it, or do you jump to something else for a while?



  1. Don't worry, I'm not churning them out that fast either.
    If I get stuck, I'll re-read my outline and remember where I was trying to go at that point.

    1. But you already have three books out there already. You can afford to take your time. :)

  2. Sounds like my process exactly! I also consult my outline and read some of the previous chapters again in one stretch to get my momentum back. You'll get that WIP done, man. :)

    1. I know I will. I just want it to happen faster!

    2. I understand, I understand. So far what I've done last month to the middle of my Wip is cut whole scenes of my chapters. And combined two chapters into one.

  3. LOL. Oh, Ken you are too funny.

    I try not to let it get to me. So, yeah, I'll bounce between areas to keep my calm in place. Once the work is done I do a fair amount of bouncing around too--tweaking, etc.

    I truly believe you are writing exactly as you should.

    Anna from Elements of Writing

  4. When progress is slow it can sure be frustrating! Patience though is key and if the way you write works for you then keep going. I like the way your blog posts mirror your chapter progress.

  5. I love that idea of writing blog posts between chapters. It does get you away from stewing over your WIP. Very clever. There's no time table or penalty when writing slower. My present ms was begun in 2012. That summer, I just couldn't settle in to the story, so I put it away and penned short stories all summer. Eventually returned to the ms and will submit it in June or sooner!! Funny cause this was my third book and hardest to write of all of them. So don't get too anxious. Enjoy the journey.

  6. Boo on troublesome chapters. I demand it be gone!

    Patience is not my thing. So not. Thankfully I'm tenacious, which makes up for it.

  7. I'm the type that when I get stuck on a chapter, I stay there until I figure it out. Once I get past it though, things start moving quickly.

    ~Patricia Lynne aka Patricia Josephine~
    Member of C. Lee's Muffin Commando Squad
    Story Dam
    Patricia Lynne, Indie Author

  8. Getting stuck on a chapter is stuff. It's not quite the same as writers block, it's more instense. You have and want to write something, but trying to get it just right is the hard part. Sometimes I go back and read what I've already written, sometimes I review my outline, and sometime I jump forward to see what I want to happen after that chapter. Usually one of these will get me back on track. Best of luck with your chapter,

  9. I'm a bit like the dog in UP - I have a tendency to spot something exciting in the distance and chase after it for a bit, and then I come back to the stuck place. Sometimes I sit there for a while, but I've discovered I come back refreshed and sometimes have new ideas if I've been away. Best wishes with that tough chapter! You'll get there!

  10. Writing is a process, so it's good to go with the flow. Speed is not the issue...quantity vs. quality and all that. I've always been more inclined to let things happen as they will and not worry about it too much.

  11. Lately I've been plodding too. I've been commenting on lots and lots of blogs! I'll find the story and it will take off again. Good luck and have a terrific week!

  12. I have no coherent approach. Sometimes I plod away, staying on that trouble spot til I kill it or it kills me, and sometimes I jump around. I try to listen to my gut on this, but sometimes, my frustration levels are what dictate the approach. I am NOT as patient as you are, and I am working on it!

  13. Before I hit the Dead Zone (when I started editing for pay), I would re-read part of one of my favorite kid lit books or talk to my critique group about options. Sometimes I sent some very rough chapters with accompanying questions about how to get from point a to b to see if I could get a consensus. I even posted some of the questions on my blog with a prize for those who answered. Yeah, I worried that much about what other people would like. Maybe that's why editing lured me more than writing. I can't even count the number of blog posts since I finished a chapter. But now I want to take another whack at it, and it's past time to have our garden and fruit trees planted. And do taxes. Ack! So if you haven't finished your chapter by April 16th, send it with your questions, and maybe I can help.

  14. Thanks for sharing your writing process, Ken! I, too, am a slow writer, so it's comforting to hear that others write slowly as well. I've never been able to make an outline work, so I tend to follow a process like yours. Messy, but it works!

    If I've learned anything about writing, it is that every writer has a unique way of tackling it. What works for you is exactly what you should be doing! I think you can learn a lot from how other's right, but then you have to follow your own path.

    BTW, I think blogging is an important writing outlet for me. It's been teaching me so much. Maybe I could spend more time on my manuscript if I didn't blog, but I'm getting such creative pleasure from my blogging. Have a good one!

  15. Every author has their own unique process. Yours is very slow, but you stay interested. I wish I had that! I can't finish anything because I get disinterested too easily in almost everything I write.

  16. Hello,

    Here from Ninja Captain's. I can't write a blog post w/o getting stuck at the first para, never mind novels..reassuring to know that there are others who are slow too. Also a fan of HP.

    Best wishes,

  17. Tough chapters? Usually work through as best I can while giving myself permission to say it's lacking and then I move on to another chapter--while bad chapter gnaws on the mind. I write a lot of other things as well. Eventually, the forward chapters will give me a solution or direction. I have patience, for the most part, but I think you have it right with a combination of patience and set goal in mind. :-)

    Sia McKye Over Coffee

  18. It depends on why the chapter is stumping me. Some possibilities:

    a) I know what I want to happen, but I can't logically make it work.

    Taking a break often helps: binge-watching TV, reading books, cleaning out a closet. Meanwhile my sub-conscious will churn on the problem and suggest that I've overlooked a detail that connects everything perfectly, or I've been expecting a character to react one way, when he would really do something different that will still accomplish what I need.

    b) I have no idea what happens in the next chapter that will get me to my next big plot point.

    I make lists of what could happen, what can't happen, what I'd like to happen -- and what would be the logical outcome of everything I put on the list. The next event usually stands out clearly on the list.

    c) The chapter I'm stuck on seems pointless and rambling.

    Back up and re-read. I probably took a wrong turn in the LAST chapter. Figure out where it is and revise the previous chapter to direct the story down the right path.

    Do any of those help? :D

  19. I'm definitely a jumper. Too many times I've found myself beating my head against the proverbial wall so I distract myself with some other part of the story. Sometimes I get lucky and writing about a completely different bit sparks something for me to go back and move forward from where I was stuck. Other times I'll finish whatever I distracted myself with, go back, and still find nothing. I don't have nearly enough experience with the whole finishing process to fully understand your pain but I can say that it what you say is true- that nothing short of Armageddon will release you from a story before you've finished it- then you will. Slow and painful or completely inspired (and everything in-between) you will finish. Just keep writing.