The Big Pause

23 Nov

by Savannah J. Foley


(cross-posted from my personal blog)

Recently I read this article by Jaye Wells, and it cleared something up for me about writer’s block and how I write.

Usually when I’m working on a novel I encounter a point I call The Big Pause. It occurs 75% of the way through the story, when all the meat is out of the way and all that’s left is to write the big finale.

I stop.

I tell myself it’s because I don’t exactly know what’s going to happen next, and how can I write it if I don’t know what to write, but that’s not really the reason. I know how it all ends up. I don’t have a firm grasp on the details, but I never do for any scene. Somewhere in all the work it just magically comes together.

But the above-mentioned article pointed out what was really going on: The Big Pause is my moment of fear. It’s the point where the book is about to turn into a reality. Soon it’s going to be a finished product, not something I’m just working on for fun. I’m going to have to show it off. Be responsible for its perfection. And that’s scary.

But not the only thing that scares me. The biggest reason I have a Big Pause is that I’m afraid what I’m going to write is total crap.

I don’t have this problem in the first three quarters of the book. As a friend once put it, I write really clean first drafts. I’m not saying everything comes out sparkling, and there have definitely been some scenes I’ve had to cut or seriously modify. But to put it in perspective, for the sleeping beauty story there was only one scene I really struggled with. One that got completely rewritten out of a whole book.

So when I have to face the prospect of writing just to get it done, I freeze up. I love the idea of writing messy and cleaning it up, or maybe I love the idea of getting into that mental space where you know, as the creator, exactly what needs to go, what can stay, and what just needs to be fixed. But when the moment comes I really struggle with writing a sentence I’m not happy with the first time around.

(This is starting to sound like I’m not capable of editing, and let me say that’s definitely not true. After everything I’ve gone through with NAMELESS I feel confident in stating I absolutely know how to edit and mix things up 😉 )

I also read recently that procrastination is sometimes defined by fear and guilt. The fear that once the story is complete it will have to actually BE a functioning, sellable story. The guilt that it’s not moving fast enough, that it’s maybe not as amazing as I’d hoped.

My Pause usually lasts a few weeks, and by that time I’ve gestated the issues in my mind well enough to know how to sprint towards the finish. But I don’t want that to turn into a habit. I want to learn to let go, and give myself permission to write the story clearly not perfect, because it can always be fixed later.

It can always be fixed later.

That’s what editing is for, after all.

I now declare The Big Pause officially over!


7 Responses to “The Big Pause”

  1. Victoria Dixon November 23, 2011 at 9:24 AM #

    My Big Pause always seems to happen jumping from the beginning into the middle. Like I’m unsure of what happens next. If I have a “candy bar” scene – something I want to write later in the book – that’s helpful. I can jump to it. I’m currently stuck on one project, though because I don’t have enough research material to make a jump to an undetermined scene. I only have vague notions of what will happen. I think I jumped the gun on starting the book. 😦

  2. Michelle November 23, 2011 at 9:31 AM #

    Thank you for writing this article because it is exactly what I am going through @ this moment with my novel. I’m at the end, everything is coming together, I know what to do but…I just haven’t. And I know it’s because I’m terrified and after reading this I feel better. It stables my anxiety to know that other writers are going through the same exact fears as myself. Now back to finishing the blasted novel.

  3. Julie Eshbaugh (@JulieEshbaugh) November 23, 2011 at 12:16 PM #

    Savannah!!! You are so great at putting these strange writerly phenomena into words!! Thanks for another great post. You always leave me ready to roll up my sleeves and get back to work. 🙂

  4. Nell November 23, 2011 at 1:40 PM #

    I get The Big Pause too, but at the beginning of the story, I always write the first few chapters and then I freeze up. Thanks for the lovely advice. 🙂

  5. jubileewriter November 23, 2011 at 2:23 PM #

    I can relate to the big pause. It isn’t just for novels. Thanks for reminding us that fear can do that. As your mind is sorting out the ending you are not really completely paused. It’s more like having your foot on the brake and gunning your engine while waiting for the red light to turn green. When you finally go its fast and furious and full of fresh confidence.
    Cindy Huff

  6. Arianna Sterling November 23, 2011 at 4:56 PM #

    Mine basically happens right around the stage yours does: when the book is almost done. I even told a friend the last time I hit Pause that I was scared to finish the book. Scared to get to those last scenes and type THE END.

    She told me to suck it up and write.

  7. renate November 24, 2011 at 9:57 PM #

    I love that you posted this at the end of NaNoWriMo, when I am dithering around avoiding my climax/resolution stuff. I think this is exactly why I so rarely finish a story…

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