By Anne Louise Bannon
Knowing how many of my writer friends genuinely struggle to get their novels completed, it would not be politic, as they say, for me to complain about getting stuck. After all, I am rather prolific. I attribute this to my obsessive nature and my background in journalism, which means that I am used to spending hours at a keyboard relentlessly producing copy.
But getting stuck happens to all of us, including me, and that’s where I’ve been for the past two months. It is not a fun place to be. I’ve had the bare bones of this story in my head for quite a few years, actually. I know my first scene or two (I do most of my writing in my head, long before I start banging keys). So you would think that it would be no big deal to write the first bits, then fill out the outline, then get going. Right? That’s my usual process and I’ve learned to trust it. Not with this book.
This, by the way, is not a complaint. It’s just a reality and I hope that what I share here will help you get through being stuck. After all, if someone like me, who produces a lot, can get stuck, then when you do, it doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with you. It just means that you got stuck and you will get unstuck. It happens to every writer I’ve ever met.
Fortunately, I learned early on that sometimes the best way to get unstuck is to do the exact opposite of what you’re used to doing. Like I noted above. I have a process. I have learned over the years that it’s what works for me. It’s just now working now with my current work in progress.
I’m a straight through kind of writer. I start at the beginning of my story and write it all down, chapter by chapter. It’s beginning, middle, end, done. I do not start in the middle of the book, write my scenes out of story order or anything like that. If I get hung up on a bit of research, then my writing stops until I’ve resolved it. I can’t keep going and go back to that scene.
Only this time, the last two scenes of my current work-in-progress got to me and would not let go. Hmmmm. So I wrote the last scenes first.
I have never, ever done that before. But you know what? My plot is coming together. The characters are bugging me and their essential conflicts are starting to play out. I should have an outline in another couple/three weeks, then it’s just banging keys until I’m done.
I don’t know if I will ever do this again. I know my personal style and trust that it will see me through as it has so many times before. But shaking things up isn’t hurting, either. I don’t know how much I will re-write those last couple of scenes (I know of one bit that I forgot to add and will probably add it shortly). That doesn’t matter. The ball is rolling and I’m unstuck.
It soon became clear that the creative outlet I desperately needed a to replace this grievous loss was to return to my lifelong passion for writing. I moved to the west coast to study screenwriting and won a number of awards in competitions. Egged on by my writing teacher’s encouragement, I published my first novel, which won the Fiction Prize in the Direct from the Author Book Awards.
Author Anne Louise Bannon’s husband says that his wife kills people for a living. Bannon does mostly write mysteries, including the Old Los Angeles Series, the Freddie and Kathy series, and the Operation Quickline series. She has worked as a freelance journalist for magazines and newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times. She and her husband, Michael Holland, created the OddBallGrape.com wine education blog, and she co-wrote a book on poisons. Her latest novel is book four in the Old Los Angeles series, Death of an Heiress. She and her husband live in Southern California with an assortment of critters. Visit her website at AnneLouiseBannon.com or follow her on Facebook, (https://www.facebook.com/RobinGoodfellowEnt/).