Experience says that you need to turn off your computer and walk away for a moment. Usually you realize instantly that you have made your character do or say something that is out of character or you have broken the cardinal rule of fiction – show, don't tell, or worse, you have been editorializing - inserting your own personal opinions into a characters thoughts or dialogue, weighing the story down like a two-ton load of bricks.
So you go for a walk or turn on something mindless on the TV or clean your house, all the while clearing your mind so your subconscious can work out the problem. Sleeping on it always helps. The next day, you start fresh by deleting the offending words. Or paragraphs. Or chapters. In this new world of publishing, you have to wear many hats. So you put on your editor's hat and cut. It was good, that stuff you are now deleting. Maybe you save the old stuff. Shove it down to the bottom of the screen, thinking you will use it somewhere else, a couple chapters on. Trust me. You won't. Out of context, it has no meaning and if it was a dead weight now, it will be doubly so somewhere else. Get rid of it. If it needs to be in your story, you will write it again, only better.
True writers block, the kind where no matter what you write just sorta sputters and dies a pitiful death on screen can stop you cold for weeks on end. I got 50,000 words into book five of the Black Bead Chronicles when this happened. I wrote other things. I binge-watched Netflix. I read. I edited.
A couple short stories later - short stories are how I work out dialogue, or relationships, or plot ideas - I figured it out.
Other authors have written about characters taking on a life of their own. I wanted book five to be the last of the series. I wanted a happy ending – well, not happy, exactly, but an ending that put closure to all the threads of all the lives of all my characters. Apparently my characters did not want closure. They wanted a gods-honest, happily-ever-after-ending.
I had just lit a figurative bomb and dropped it in the middle of the main character's life at the end of book four, Trade Fair. How the hell was this going to end well? I wrote a final scene for book five and then stopped. Here was the puzzle. How was I going to take the prologue and make a story that flowed like a river to that end?
A half dozen short stories later, I started writing Black Bead Chronicles again. I still didn't know how it was all going to work out, but I had forgotten that it did not matter. I don't so much write as tell stories, stories with twists and turns that always surprise me. I, more than any of my readers, want to know how the story ends. There will be a happily-ever-after ending. I promise, but it will be later, after all the adventures are done.
Can I say anymore than that? Nope. Which is why I keep writing.
J.D. Lakey is the author of The Black Bead Chronicles. Find her on Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads and YouTube.