My newest novel, All the Love You Write, has recently been released. This isn’t my first book, by any means, but it is the book I’ve struggled the most to write. It’s the manuscript where I stared at my computer screen for long minutes that wielded no results and finally had me switching to other projects or simply turning off the computer to go watch TV instead. It was my first real fight with writer’s block.
Toward the end of 2017, however, I had a sudden flash of inspiration. What if, instead of making the existing story longer, I simply added on to it? What if I wrote the history of the ghost and the tragic romance he’d had back in 1970 during the Vietnam War era? What if I then wrote what happens next in the relationship of Mark and Bethany through Bethany’s eyes? Three related stories, told in three parts. I got really excited about this concept, and I wrote Part 2 of the book in just a few short weeks. The love story of the ghost as the teenager he had once been, told through a collection of old love letters, flew out of me.
I was so excited. I thought I’d have the rest of the book finished within a month or so.
Then I was on to Part 3, and this was where my struggles began.
Bethany is having a hard time with this new relationship. It’s the final semester of high school, and she’s not sure how much she wants to invest herself. They don't have much in common or a lot of time to spend together. Mark will be joining the army right after graduation, and she’ll be going to college. Is it worth it? Sometimes I worried that the reader wouldn’t like Bethany not readily accepting Mark after all he’d done to win her over. I’d stop writing when I felt like she was being too hard on him or making a choice that would hurt his feelings. Was this going to be okay? I didn’t want the reader to hate her.
Then there was the haunting to consider. This got me stuck a few times, too. I had Mark haunted by a helpful ghost in Part 1. There was barely any paranormal activity in Part 2. I needed to keep the ghostly aspect of the story going in Part 3 to stay true to the genre of book I was writing. I decided Bethany would be haunted by a different ghost. This ghost wouldn’t be helpful at all. In fact, she’d be pretty angry and spiteful about how Bethany was treating Mark. This ghost is very protective of the boy. (I’d like to tell you why, but spoilers, you know.) As I wrote, I’d get stuck because there didn’t seem like enough interaction with the ghost to match Part 1. I revised my outline multiple times to come up with how and why this ghost was bothering Bethany. Like I had with Bethany’s choices, I also worried too much what readers would think about this ghost being so aggressive.
But the biggest problem I was having with my writer’s block was the length. My original novella Passing Notes was shy of 60 pages. I did revise it and added on to the ending, but it didn’t get much longer than that. Part 2 wound up being about 100 pages. My original plan was that each part of the novel would be about the same length – the book winding up at between 60,000-75,000 words, similar in length to my other YA novels. This is not what happened. Part 3 wound up at about 180 pages, the entire second half of the novel.
See, Part One, takes place over a week. Part Two is mostly one day of reading letters. Part Three takes place over half a year. That’s a lot of time to fit into a short space. The words took me way past 60 pages and then past 100 pages, and I knew I wasn’t even close to being done. My writing came to a halt. I was afraid to keep going. I mentioned it on my Facebook author page, posting that I’d hit writer’s block because I was worried I was over-writing. A friend teased me, responding that he wished he had that problem. And I know it sounds strange to say that my ability to write froze because I thought I was writing too much, but that’s what happened. I stopped right in the middle of a chapter and let a couple weeks pass. Then a couple months. I worked on other projects. I directed a play. I wasn’t sure if I would come back to it.
Last fall, I read the whole book again from the beginning and decided I was okay with where it was going. I revised the outline for the billionth time and picked up where I’d left off. It was still pretty stop and start, but I eventually got through the whole thing.
Then I had to go all the way back to Part 1, my original story. Details had to be changed: character descriptions, names of people, jobs, and a bunch of other details. Also, as to be expected, I had more revision to do once my editor from Fire & Ice YA Books gave me her notes.
Now the book is out in the world, ready for readers to enjoy and leave their opinions. Some will like it, and others will not. That’s out of my hands now. The thing is, I was paralyzed with worry about what people would think of this book as I was writing it. Over-thinking made me second guess, doubt, and even quit for a while. This is part of being a writer. It takes courage to overcome all those negative inner monologues and keep going. We have to make choices, and then we have to stand behind them. In the end, I pushed through to write the story the way I wanted it. I hope readers will enjoy what I’ve created.
If you’d like to learn more about All the Love You Write, visit the page on my website. You’ll find an excerpt, some review quotes, and links to all the online booksellers.
I’d love to hear from you. If you’re a writer, have you ever struggled with writer’s block? What caused it? How did you get past it? If you’re a reader, do you ever wonder about what was going through an author’s mind when they wrote a book or scene you loved or hated? Please leave a comment below.
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D. G. Driver
Award-winning author of books for teen and tween readers. Learn more about her and her writing at www.dgdriver.com
Author D. G. Driver's
Write and Rewrite Blog
“There are no bad stories, just ones that haven’t found their right words yet.”
A blog mostly about the process of revision with occasional guest posts, book reviews, and posts related to my books.