Writer’s Block?

If I search this blog it tells me that by January 14 of this year I was already stuck for the ending of my current novel. That means that I’ve been stuck for over six months.

The four novels I’ve completed (three successful NaNoWriMos and one 3DayNovel) all came in around 60,000 – 70,000 words (the 3DayNovel finished at 23,000 and was expanded later). This current WIP stopped at about 65,000 words and now has over 70,000 in the main document, plus some bits for later insertion. It feels as if it should be complete with another 20,000 – 30,000 words.

The NaNoWriMos were all complete as first drafts after 30 days. This WIP began over a year ago, has been stuck for over six months, and yet the ending eludes me. Does that qualify as writer’s block?

I could finish it, if I had to. I was headed toward an ending when I decided to put it in neutral because if I continued to write I would have been committed to that version and I’m not confident that it was the right way to go. The more I wrote, the more difficult it would have been to dump 20,000 to 40,000 words and take it another direction.

Some of the things that I’ve tried:

  • used sticky-notes (listthings.com)
  • analyzed, in note form, the major characters
  • interviewed all but one of the major characters — using a best friend/journalist/shrink to ask questions — as a means of doing a psychological analysis of the personalities and to spend more time with each characters’ individual voice
  • listed any and all possible endings, and as many slight variations or combinations that I could think of (dozens and dozens of possibilities)
  • wrote an analysis essay, as if I were a student in a literature class writing an essay about the novel
  • reviewed the backstories and existing storylines to see if I can copy or build on one of those. There is the main story plus two chunks of backstory from the protagonist and one chunk of backstory from her mentor
  • built numerous tables and spreadsheets to chart similarities and parallels between stories and characters and situations

And now,

  • writing a blog post analyzing my situation

I’ve left one of the major characters plastic, malleable, and only vaguely defined. He is the victim of the crime and I don’t plan for him to ever appear in the story, at least not alive. At this stage in the writing I need him to remain flexible because his personality needs to fit the plot that I choose. That, of course, is part of my difficulty because were he clearly defined, the crime options would be narrowed. Odd, that the specifics of the crime depend more on the investigators and perhaps the family and friends of the victim than on those directly involved; the victim and possibly even the perpetrator(s)?

My artsy inclination is to make the victim as much a doppelganger of my protagonist as possible, tying their stories together for comparison and contrast. That was my thinking at the inception, except not to the degree that I’m considering now. I can make his story a copy of her story but the opposite, strengthening her story by telling his, and let the reader see how they are at once the same but different. There are logical options for doing this, well within the range of what I know about gambling and what I’ve researched about immigrant kidnappings.

The other good option would use the jealous/money-hungry guardian choice, with or without the victim’s co-operation, with or without the mentor’s complicity, or alternatively, the mentor’s manipulation by the guardian. This convolution is probably the plot that best satisfies a typical mystery reader’s expectations because it has hidden motives, duplicity of some characters (opposites again; character charged with guiding is bad, victim may be complicit, mentor may be bad or outwitted), and twists.

Maybe I can do both, some combination of the two.

But one element I’ve lost is that I wanted to force the protagonist, through the course of the investigation, to relive some of her own story, to make her travel through her past again to get to her future. Because that element is missing, she has become an observer. A questioner and an instigator, to be sure, but not a physical or emotional participant. She’s not accomplishing, re-experiencing, evolving, making the hero’s journey, she merely develops confidence and skills to be a better Poirot, a better Marple, a better Holmes than she was at the opening, and in the process, solves the mystery. But that wasn’t the primary purpose of the novel.

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