Where have all the words gone?

It isn’t writer’s block.

Stephen King once wrote about a story “being dead even as the words continue to march across the page”, and I hope it isn’t that, either.

I think all that’s happened is a loss of momentum. I’ve stalled.

The folk-horror work was going well, until I went on holiday. But the momentum was lost, and I can’t get it back. That isn’t to say I’ve written nothing since June: I have, several pages (and several entries on this blog). But they’ve been sporadic. And one of the chapters – indeed a whole subplot – I decided to scrap, because it was making the story lopsided. But then the decision to scrap the subplot showed holes in the main story that hadn’t been visible before. Structural holes. Holes that, if left unattended, cold bring the whole edifice down.

It isn’t terminal, I’m sure. But it’s a pain in the arse. Because this story felt truer, more natural and, because set around (a thinly fictionalised version of) the town in which I live, more relevant than some other things I’ve written.

I don’t generally get writer’s block. Walking and thinking means that when I come to sit down to write, the words are just waiting to be spilled onto the page.

No, I think this is laziness. Because it had been going so well, so smoothly, I hadn’t had to work hard at it. And I tend to laziness. But now I need to work at it.

What I need to do is think at the macro level, not the micro. For some writers I expect that’s easy but I’ve always been a details, close-to-the-action writer, rather than a step-back-and-tell-a-grand-narrative writer, which is why the vast majority of my writing is in short form. Even the Robin Hood novel (serialisation coming soon, folks!) I wrote was stitched together from individual legends.

I was speaking to a friend about this yesterday and she suggested that I write a character piece: something about one of the characters, which would not be part of the story but a free-form chance to explore their motivations, and which in turn would tell me what choices or decisions the character would make. I tend to make my characters fit a situation, rather than have their actions drive a story. This isn’t necessarily the wrong way around, but in a novel it will be magnified, and appear far more contrived than in a short story.

I believe in this story; I think there’s a good concept behind it which I perhaps just need to iron out a little better. Maybe I started it too soon, without considering the rises and falls and arcs of all the characters.

I just need to think it out.

It isn’t writer’s block.

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