Saturday, December 1, 2012

Where's Your "Wall"?

Photo courtesy of ccmackay
No, I'm not talking about your Facebook wall.  *G*

We writers all have a "wall". I was talking recently to another writer about it. She compared writing to running a long distance marathon. At some point, when running (or even walking), you hit a wall, that point where you just KNOW you can't go any further. You need to quit.

Photo courtesy of click

The "wall" in writing is, as I've discovered, that certain word count or range we have to reach before we can finally get our minds into the writing groove and things flow the way they should. And it's seldom child's play. Sometimes the story helps. Sometimes it gets stubborn and pushes back.

My "wall" is right around 1,500 words. Sometimes I'll get a few hundred words in, or even 1,200 or 1,300 words in, and think "That's it. I'm done. I can't go any further. I just don't have what it takes." Just like a marathon runner. BUT, just like a marathon runner, if I can keep going, push past that wall of "I'm done", I get a second wind, get into the rhythm and flow of the story, and I can generally go for hundreds or even thousands of words without stopping.

Sometimes, getting TO that 1,500 word point is a special form of torture. I eke them out a half dozen words at a time, maybe one or two hundred at a time if I'm lucky. But they come slow. If I quit before I reach that 1,500, it can be hours or even days or weeks before I pick up my writing again due to discouragement or simple lack of "inspiration." If I discipline myself to plant my butt in my chair and push the words until I reach that point, the flow suddenly breaks free and the story generally writes itself.

"But pushing makes for stilted writing," you may say? Well, yes, it often does. But who publishes their first draft anyway? All of us writers edit what we write. We all have to refine and deepen our stories beyond what we get with the first draft. So anything that's stilted can be remedied then. So the problem with the first draft having stilted sections is what exactly? (Take a hike, perfectionism.)

The benefit to pushing through the wall?  I have 1,500 words I wouldn't have had before, plus whatever comes afterwards that flows so nice and easy. And I don't allow the fact I'm sick, tired or simply not inspired to stop my writing in it's tracks. This is how I can have a good day with over 7,500 words written. If I let the wall win, I'm lucky to have 1,000.

There's one fact to writing. Writers write. We write when we're well, sick, happy, sad, wide awake, tired, inspired or totally uninspired. We write. Period.

(By the way, for those who are curious after my post from last week - I did finish my NaNovel on the morning of the 24th with just over 80K words written in November. I decided not to stop there since I'd set aside November to write and started a new novel the evening of the 24th. I certainly didn't have time in November to finish it, but I made some wonderful progress on it.)

So where's your "wall"? And how often do you let it win? Have you found any tactics, like many marathon runners seem to, that help you push past it? (Thanks again, Terri, for the perfect analogy!)


  1. Interesting food for thought. I didn't know I had a wall. I do know that I must write awhile to get in the "zone." After reading this, I'm going to watch closely and see if my zone is just beyond my wall.

    1. Until I started actually tracking how many words I write in a day and doing 1K1HR runs, I'd never given it any thought (never even occurred to me). When I started writing on a very consistent basis, that's when I started noticing that I definitely had a "wall" I had to push past some days in order to reach my "zone" where the story flowed without feeling pushed.

  2. I agree with Deanne. I've never hit a wall in terms of word count.

    My wall is usually a scene where I don't know what to write, or I know what I want to write but can't figure out how to write it because it's just some vague concept like "bad stuff happens."

    Or fatigue. On days when I go to my regular job, I hope to be able to write an hour before work in the morning. On days when I'm home and writing, somewhere around the five hour mark is my limit before my brain is fried. If I'm in that eking out five or six words at a time mode, I don't get many words for the day.