Writing When You Can’t

by Normandie Fischer, @WritingOnBoard

This has been a season of I-can’t-write jammed with so many becauses that I can barely keep up with them. Because of family issues—ongoing, messy, time-consuming with a lot of travel involved. Because of sickness—caught during that travel and keeping me quarantined and without energy for too long.

I know you’ve had times like this. I had to back out of my monthly column here at Novel Rocket for a few months. I didn’t manage a self-imposed deadline to finish a Christmas story. I’m chapters behind in my latest Carolina coast novel.

But life happens, doesn’t it?

So, what can we do when life gets in the way of writing?

First of all, we can write.

Now you’re looking at me as if I were crazy. But it’s true. We’re writers, aren’t we? And how did we get that way? By staring at a blank sheet of paper or at an empty document on our computer screen?

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No. We got that way by dreaming. By seeing scenes and hearing voices.

Yes, by being a little crazy. We’re writers because we can’t not let loose all that stuff cramming our imagination with noise.

So, unless we’re wracked by a high fever and a cough that my son suggested would earn me a sixpack in my midsection (it didn’t, I’m sorry to say), we still have a brain conjuring stories.


Which means we can move things along even when we feel as if we’re floundering in the quicksand of time-eating obligations.

First of all, don’t go anywhere without the ability to take notes. I mean it. My husband uses his smartphone. I use a small pad for—

  1. Story ideas.
  2. Dialogue ideas.
  3. New first lines.
  4. Cliffhangers for my WIP.
  5. The perfect ending.

I (of the crammed notepad) promise you that, once you get out of your sick bed or past that forced writing break, these notes will streamline your return to task. Or, if not a return to that WIP, a new start, a new story. The perfect revision. Because you never stopped dreaming, did you?

I jumped back into a new Carolina coast novel (new characters, new friends) with renewed vigor this month, but I also had notes for another book based on a first line that slid into my thoughts during one trip north. Three chapters of that one await their turn, which may or may not come before another Beaufort story takes wings. (I have six chapters written in that one.)

Here’s the thing. Rushing to finish isn’t necessarily the best thing for a story, and sometimes the forced time away will be just what you need to create a better work.  I had six novels published between 2013 and 2017, but five of those had been brewing in various stages of completion over twenty years before my agent sold the first. Twenty years. And, honey, they were so much riper, so much fuller, so much better because of the wait. Because of the time with a notepad or a red pen. I spent the years learning and listening and revising.

The best thing you can do is use your downtime to let the ideas flow, remembering you’re a writer who writes, even if it’s only in spurts of a word or two at a time. And don’t be afraid to wait.

Twilight Christmas

Two orphans. A big sister with Down Syndrome. And a community in need of miracles.

It’s up to ten-year-old Louis to protect Linney from the bad men. He knows what can happen to handicapped kids. He’s seen it before.

Only, it’s getting harder and harder to keep her warm and safe in this old storage barn as Christmas celebrations unfold around them.

And then there’s Annie Mac and her crew, who are involved in the pageant excitement. So is Lieutenant Clay Dougherty, her kids’ faux-father and the man who still makes her yearn for a whole lot more than she’s comfortable offering, especially when she’s plagued by crazy-making nightmares.

So many questions: Can Louis save his sister? And will Annie Mac find the peace she needs? What about poor Clay and the other Beaufort folk?

Normandie Fischer studied sculpture in Italy before receiving her BA, summa cum laude with special honors in English. Known for her women’s fiction—Becalmed (2013), Sailing out of Darkness (2013), and Heavy Weather (2015)—she ventured into the realm of romantic suspense with the release of Two from Isaac’s House. In early 2016, a novella, From Fire into Fire, will continue the Isaac House saga. Normandie and her husband spent a number of years on board their 50-foot ketch, Sea Venture, sailing in the Sea of Cortez, Mexico. They now live in coastal North Carolina, where she takes care of her aging mother. You can find Normandie on her websiteFacebook, and Amazon.