Pantsing a Novel: Using Community to Overcome our Walls

Hey friends!

I hope you enjoyed yesterday’s video because I have all kinds of great things to share about how we can use community to overcome hitting the wall.

I firmly believe that writing (and life in general) cannot be improved without community. If we write inside a bubble, it never gets better and if we always only depend on ourselves to think through our writing jams, we will stay jammed for nearly forever.

A writing community is the best way to keep improving in your writing because within your community, you have readers, fellow brainstormers, critiquers – all kinds of people that you need on your writing journey. Not to mention that writing a novel is probably one of the hardest things to do. It seems like fun and like a good idea when you start and the first 10 or 20k words just seem to fly off your fingers and you think ‘why do people think this is so hard?’ and then you hit it: the wall.

Every idea sounds bad.
Your character up and did something you didn’t expect and now you have to figure out how to get out of this jam.
Every sentence seems to be the dumbest thing you’ve ever written.
No matter how long you sit at your keyboard, you can’t get a single word onto that page.
And on and on, am I right?

Hitting the wall is SO HARD and SO DRAINING and SO DEMOTIVATING.

I’ve had the pleasure this week of working with a new writing friend to get past the wall. I was writing along in my fantasy story when all of a sudden, my main character up and got herself kicked off the boat. The ONE THING she needed in order to reconnect with the other two main characters and now she’s stranded on some remote island chain with no intention or means of getting to where she needed to go.

I was seriously stuck after writing that scene. I really liked it. I still do like it. I think it brings drama, tension, questions, and it formally introduces the race of some characters we’d been introduced to for some time but don’t know anything about. This is our chance to learn about them, however, it doesn’t change the fact that in order for this story to end, I need all my main characters together again!!

Enter writer friend.

I beta-read for him a while back, probably made him really depressed because I wasn’t the kindest (even though I know now that I could never be as ruthless again because I’m getting to know him and I really do like him!), but nevertheless, he graciously took it and we continue to be friends.

So writer friend, Richard, and I had a good conversation about getting past this block. He threw out ideas (because he’s read most of this first draft of the story) and I took some and rejected others and between the two of us, we were able to come up with some semblance of a plausible storyline to get all my characters back together that also doesn’t even waste some of the extraneous character development I tossed in there back when I didn’t know what I was doing or where I was going.

I’ve also been so inspired by my fellow writers in my group, Author’s Tale, as they write and work on their own stories. I’ve had brainstorming threads within this group a couple times and I always walk away ready to write again. I’ve never once dealt with disrespect within the group because we are truly here to help each other out!

The thing about writing alongside other people and brainstorming with them is that their bad ideas are completely capable of inspiring a good idea in you! I can count a number of times where I’ve either experienced or seen a brainstorming session among writers give the author an idea they NEVER would have come to on their own. I’ve seen authors reject idea after idea, refining what they’re looking for to come up with a brilliant new plan.

Friends, we can’t do this alone. We need other people around us.

I love this passage from Ecclesiastes 4:

Again I saw something meaningless under the sun:

There was a man all alone;
    he had neither son nor brother.
There was no end to his toil,
    yet his eyes were not content with his wealth.
“For whom am I toiling,” he asked,
    “and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?”
This too is meaningless—
    a miserable business!

Two are better than one,
    because they have a good return for their labor:
10 If either of them falls down,
    one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
    and has no one to help them up.
11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
    But how can one keep warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered,
    two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.


Together, friends, we can accomplish that which we could never accomplish alone.

Who is in your community? What does it look like?


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2 thoughts on “Pantsing a Novel: Using Community to Overcome our Walls

  1. Howdy, Cari. Thank you for your post.

    For the last couple years, I struggled with my loss of community. I saw it as lost; never to be found, nor recovered. I yearned for it.

    Last week, God opened my eyes to my narrow definition of community. Funny how He lets us walk a path shrouded by shadows before allowing the sudden expanse of green grass and sun rays to grant an “Aha!” moment.

    I’m in the midst of building a community and seeking where community exists.

    I agree with you, “A writing community is the best way to keep improving in your writing….” I’m a member of Compel. I’m also making the effort to meet fellow writers in my area; face-to-face.

    Thanks, again!


    1. I just joined COMPEL recently too! I should have added that in there!

      Having been a writer all my life, it’s only recently I’ve discovered and begun to build a writing community. For some reason, that had never occurred to me, but now that I have one? I’ll never go back!

      Thanks for sharing and I hope you are able to build a solid face-to-face community as well!


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