When we set out on writing projects, we all typically have a certain mindset that we enter or certain tools that we consider to be at our disposal. These are tools and techniques that have been useful to us, and which we have relied on in the past. As such, it’s only natural that we would feel a certain loyalty or identification with those techniques. For instance, if you have always outlined your stories, you may consider yourself “An Outliner” and always strive to outline your stories because that technique has worked in the past.
However, there may come a day when the outline fails you. You may find that you can’t seem to stick to your outline, or that your outline simply doesn’t make you as excited or inspired as it did before. It can be easy to carry on and keep using that outline because it’s a tradition and a habit. But, instead, you might benefit from adapting and trying something new. In her recent pep talk for National Novel Writing Month, Veronica Roth discusses this very topic. She says:
“When you reach the place on Manuscript Mountain that makes you consider admitting defeat, and the tools you have used to get as far as you have are no longer working for you, consider using someone else’s tools. Pantser? Try plotting. Plotter? Try literally burning your outline (safely! In a trash can or something!). Perfectionist? Try writing the worst scene you can possibly muster. Strict beginning-to-end-er? Write whatever scene is burning a hole in your brain and fill in the gap later. Whatever you do, don’t hold so tightly to whatever writer identity you have formed for yourself that you can’t innovate, change, and grow.”
I think this is an incredibly important piece of advice if you want your writing to change and grow as you do. If the tools and techniques that you have used in the past are now holding you down, get rid of them! You wouldn’t keep an old toaster lying around and attempting to toast bread with it if it broke two weeks ago. You would throw it away and get a new toaster. If you’re feeling stagnant in your writing, throw away your metaphorical toaster and find a new one to work with.
This goes for your subject material as well as your writer personality or the tools that you use. If you reach a spot on “Manuscript Mountain,” as Veronica Roth calls it, where you cannot progress with what you’re focusing on in your story, switch paths. Find a new way to scale that mountain and reach the peak. Concentrate on a different character, a different viewpoint, or a different plot altogether. Basically, whatever you have to do to make it work and to keep moving forward in your writing, do it! And happy writing!
— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan