On Writing Slumps and Swimming in Circles

I’ve been in a writing slump.

Writing books. Writing blog posts. It’s why I haven’t been around much on Wonkomance. In fact, I didn’t have a post for today, so I decided to talk about… not writing.

The standard advice for such a slump is to write anyway. Write crap. Then you’ll have something on the page, and then you can revise that something, and thus produce a viable book. Except I’ve been doing this author thing for a few years now. I’ve tried that, more than once. And the writing that comes out is more often not salvageable.

Not salvageable for me, anyway. I can’t infuse voice into a book that has none. I could sit here and fill out a plot worksheet and GMC, and I do, but I can’t give a character a voice… ergo, slump.

There’s one book in particular I’ve been not writing. I’ve been muddling through and banging on and generally circling it, but not writing it. Because it’s due so that makes it kinda important. Okay, a lot important. I have about ten beginnings for this not written book.

So I guess it’s not really not writing. It’s not writing anything good. Or writing and then starting over repeatedly.

It’s not finishing.

I’ve still been reading. Sometimes I feel guilty about that that, because that’s time I could spend writing. Well, some of it. A lot of reading happens right before bed or when I’m out waiting, and therefore not writing time anyway.

But I know the day I stop reading I’m in even bigger trouble. I’m trying to read more indie books. More “cracktastic” books. Books that don’t have as much polish but work because of the story. I need to get back to storytelling.

I am not a plotter.

The word panster has always struck me as weird. I don’t identify with it. I’m almost never wearing pants when I write, and flying by the seat of them? No, not really. Even when it’s going well, writing doesn’t feel like flying.

Writing has always felt more like swimming, like diving underwater. The thing about a lost city is it’s already there, I’m just finding it.

Except when I’m not…

I’ve started this blog post five times. Because that’s just me right now. I can’t write, can’t finish, can’t find the damn story. Seriously, why is it so murky down here? Is that a shark?

I think I need to go up for air again.

I think I need to start over again.

Has anyone been in this place before? Any tips for getting out? Or, like, cookies. If you had cookies that’d be nice, because then we could eat cookies.


About Amber Lin

Amber Lin writes sexy romance about messed up people, because everyone deserves a happy ending. Find her books or sign up for the newsletter at her website authoramberlin.com.
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4 Responses to On Writing Slumps and Swimming in Circles

  1. Sometimes I don’t have the emotional/mental energy to dive in.

    That’s what not writing looks like for me. It’s just, I can’t. It’s not that I don’t know how writing works or how writer’s block works or about any of the ways we self-sabotage. It’s that I can’t.

    I don’t have the energy reserves and swimming underwater is hard.

  2. Sarah Wynde says:

    Love, love, love. I will bake you cookies. They will be weird healthy cookies because I’m off gluten at the moment, but still cookies for all that.

    I’m so jealous of the people who can just write, write, write. I wish I could. I want to. I aspire to be one of those people. But I’m just not. There’s some oft-quoted line about if you write 1000 words a day, at the end of a year, you’ll have 5 books. Me, at the end of that year, will have 300,000 words of utter crap and maybe one book, if I’m lucky.

    But this is the only secret I know: write every day anyway. Even if the words are utter crap, even if they are terrible, even if they’re the worst spew that anyone has ever put on a page or screen, write them anyway. Last year, after 20 months when every word I wrote was ground out like the steps at the 13th mile of a marathon, I was forcing myself to write every day, crap though it was, when a story came spilling out that is possibly my favorite thing I’ve ever written, funny and complicated and imaginative and crazy. Every day writing it was a joy. It was like I imagine surfing to be, catching a wave and riding high, glorious speed and fun. But you can’t catch a wave unless you’re in the water, and sometimes the water is cold and miserable.

    (I should probably, as a slight side note, mention that the ground-out words, painful as they were, did turn into a book that currently has 60 5-star reviews on Amazon, proving that we also aren’t necessarily the best judges of our own words but also further demonstrating the value of writing every day even when you think it sucks.)

  3. Elinor Aspen says:

    It sometimes helps me get out of a slump to approach writing from a completely different angle. I give myself a short writing assignment with a specific format that is different from what I have been trying to work on, like “write a novella in completely epistolary format” or “write a paranormal romance short story based on the Cupid and Psyche myth”. The structure of the assignment gives me a starting point and helps me focus my efforts.

  4. Cate Ellink says:

    *hands you a huge bag of cookies*

    Thanks for also having slumps. I have slumps. To get through them I walk away from writing for a few days. Stop thinking about what I can’t do, and go do something for fun. Sometimes I go for more than a few days.

    My solution isn’t very professional but it works for me. Sometimes my brain needs a holiday away from words and keyboards and itself.

    Good luck at de-slumping. May your underwater world become clear and warm and beautiful.

    Cate xox