07 February 2012


The last time I wrote about my WIP, I was stuck in the quagmire of writer's block. I just couldn't see where to go next: how to add complexity and higher stakes. It was a frustrating, scary place to be.

Now, I'm pleased to report I have pushed through, but not in the way I expected. I thought my quirky minor characters would fuel the sub-plots I needed to add layers to my main characters' journeys. I thought and thought and got nowhere.
The key is the villain
Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Then, I was reading this article about mirroring your plot points, and a lightbulb went off. The section entitled "the bad guys close in" could be taken as a metaphor, but it got me thinking. I have some shady characters, and there is one in particular that causes trouble. His main action had impacted on a minor character (albeit a quite important one), and this action then ricocheted into the main characters' worlds. But then I thought - what if? What if this guy is actually a proper villain, who seeks to disrupt my hero's path whenever possible, and to use my heroine as an unwilling accomplice? What could he do, what would be the worst he could do, to destroy my hero's hopes?

Image: renjith krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The answer popped into my head, and then I was off, adding quite a few scenes to the second half of the novel, as well as a few pointers to lay the foundation in the first half. It sounds quite simple, to increase the antagonist's role, but I had thought that the book would be almost solely driven by the characters' internal journeys, with the external happenings just driving home their development. Instead, I can push them into increasingly desperate situations using intentional evil.

Plus, it's fun to write a villain... and doubly fun to see him get his just deserts.

So now, my novel has blossomed from 46,000 words to just over 60,000 words. I still have about 20,000 to go, but it feels good to be 3/4 of the way through. I know it still needs plot development, with tidbits that are yet to drop into my brain. But I feel like I will get there; no longer lost in the "what if I never finish" doldrums.

Here's what my structure looks like now (see the first version here). I've increased from 43 to 75 scenes. Act 3 is still looking a little bereft, but some of those scenes will be long.

My scenes, 3/4 way through
Have you experienced such a breakthrough, and how did you achieve it? Perhaps by studying the craft as I did?


  1. Yay! I'm glad you pushed through the block.

    Looks like you've taken it to the home stretch!

    Great job!

    We must always continue to study the craft. It took me a long time to learn that.

  2. Congratulations! It feels so good to get through writers block =) Most of my breakthroughs usually come at random moments after I've been pondering on the problems in my story. When I feel stuck it often helps me to take a few days (or weeks if needed) and let myself think about the story. Eventually I find something that works.

  3. Loree and Sierra, thanks for stopping by :-)

  4. Not so much studying the craft, usually my breakthrough's hit when I'm doing yard work. Or some kind of hard physical labor. Left brain, right brain kind of stuff. Although, I've been really lucky lately, I haven't been stuck since last summer.

  5. I think it was you who had asked me once, if I knew what title the guy from Downton Abbey held -- He's an Earl. But I'm sure you already knew that by now.

    I don't watch it. It's on too late for me and it's the wrong era for me. But I do love the costumes.

    1. I too find when I give my brain a rest it comes up with solutions. Cooking, walking and showering seem to be my most creative times!

      I looked up the Crawleys on Wikipedia and found out about their titles - but thanks all the same!

  6. Ack, I'm getting a headache looking at your charts! :) I usually get breakthroughs when I'm least expecting it.

  7. Wow, this looks intense! Good luck! I'm always impressed with people who can write villains, because I always end up liking mine too much and making them more anti-hero than villain (ala Severus Snape).

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)

  8. Thanks for your comments Talli and Sarah :-)