The Lack of Pen is Mightier Than The Pen

I’ve not posted for some time, partly because of the dastardly construct that is RL, and partly because my latest novel, The Hole In The Sky (let’s call it HITS for short, yes?), had been plaguing me with a sore plot point that didn’t quite make sense, and had caused progress to grind to a halt. During such times it has become my go-to response to start caterwauling that, “I’ll never write again!”

It’s happened before. Roughly halfway through drafting Man O’War I encountered a monumental, insoluble plot point. The strands were too complex, too and I stopped writing for about six weeks. When I finally managed to begin writing again, the resolution to this Meereenese Knot fell into my hands within an hour.

And the same thing happened during HITS. I hadn’t typed a word on it for five weeks before this last weekend, but perhaps the recent sunshine managed to dislodge something in my brain, for the solution fell into my lap a mere thirty minutes after opening the laptop. And it was so elegantly simple (by changing that to that), and took care of so many disparate plot and character strands, that I was especially pleased.

The thing is, the common advice is to “just plough on”, get some words down on paper / screen and deal with the problems later. I’m not so sure that this is actually very valuable advice any more. While the habit of writing is very important to maintain, when trying to achieve an end product, writing for the sake of writing can sometimes be counterproductive. I’ve no doubt that if I’d simply “ploughed on” with the plotlines I had before, then I’d have doubled my workload on subsequent drafts.

It’s not easy to step away from the work, and into the arms of Writerly Existential Crisis, but if you’re struggling, then taking an extended break could be invaluable.

Published by Dan Jones

I'm a science fiction writer and podcaster. My debut novel Man O’War was published in 2018 by Snowbooks, and I’ve had a few short stories published here and there. I also host Chronscast, the official podcast of SFF Chronicles, the world's largest science-fiction and fantasy community. Away from writing I work for the UK Space Agency on a programme of space robotics for advanced satellite and planetary exploration technologies. All of which comes in rather handy when coming up with new ideas for science fiction stories.

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