Friday, September 30, 2016

The Significance of Breakthroughs

Disclaimer: I have a passionate love for GIFs, so I’m going to use a few from Monsters Inc. to help me along in this post. You don’t mind, do you? *wink*

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Do you have a story that you feel like you’ve been working on for the last three decades? Does this particular story tend to get stuck, or act like a rebellious child, until all you want to do is hunt around the internet for pictures of celebrities who look like your characters while you cry into a bowl of ice cream and wait to hear the fleeting wing-beats of inspiration's approach?

Me too.

However, sometimes, we get these things that I call breakthroughs. They can be really big, or really small scale. (And I mean really small scale. However small, it still counts). For example, I was thinking two nights ago about a story I’ve been working on for around five years now.

Five years.

You can imagine how frustrated I get sometimes when it just. won’t. do. anything.

But I found myself in kind of a dark mood, at this moment two nights ago. I’d woken up to a breezy morning that wafted grey clouds overhead and sent a chill gusting inside before I slowly closed the door with a huge grin on my face. (I’m a November baby, so I can’t help but love fall weather). The day stayed overcast and a bit dreary, and I found myself curled up on the couch at the end of it, probably around eleven o’clock that night, with my laptop open, trying to conjure up something to write about. Something substantial. You can only write so many fluffy scenes in a story that’s not moving before you start itching to get to the meaty stuff.

So there I was, a little frustrated and depressed, my face pale in the glow of my laptop screen. I stared at my Word document, fingers poised to type, earbuds silent in my ears. Nothing happened, so I decided to turn on some music.

Now, I don’t know about you, but for me, music and writing are totally connected, practically inseparable. It was a song that inspired my first book at age twelve. Ever since then, I’ve had at least one song, if not a whole playlist, to go with every story I’ve dreamed up. Some of these songs contain lyrics, and some are movie soundtrack music. Some are even movie trailer music (which I will probably write a post about at a later time because I love movie trailers and their music, for reasons).

In this instance, I went to YouTube and pulled up the extended music from one of the trailers of The Hunger Games (which you can listen to here). It’s eerie, with a music box-like melody that builds into a quiet, bittersweet piano-y moment in the middle, then it’s back to the heart-pounding stuff until the end.

So I did the writer thing. I turned the music on and closed my eyes and tried to get into some kind of zone. The zone is never a guarantee – I’ve done this countless times, with countless songs, and it usually doesn’t produce much in the way of breakthroughs.

But sometimes it does.

Breakthroughs, I’ve realized, often come from a compilation of the right amount of desperation, moodiness, music, and sugary, coffee-infused beverages. (At least, that’s how it works for me). Because I experienced a sudden jolt of realization as I was sitting there, imagining little bits and scenes from my story with the music. This realization happened to be something pretty significant to the plot, which is huge for me, because plot is what I struggle with most. I realized a way to get my two main characters where they needed to be, via another character that I hadn’t thought much about before.

So, upon realizing that I’d had a tiny little breakthrough in this stubborn plot, I felt like this:

The next night, I was thinking about this new plot development and what all I could do with it, what doors it might open. As I was pondering, a second realization occurred to me, this one about my protagonist. I read once that every character in your story needs to have some kind of secret (much like they have to want something). I’ve never been into keeping secrets myself, so it hasn’t been a priority for my characters. But.

The realization of the night before led to the second realization that I could now give my protagonist a secret that would affect him, and his relationships with the people around him. It would deepen the story, just a tad. 

And this was basically my reaction, which you're free to interpret however you'd like:

That’s what a breakthrough is. Breakthroughs are those moments where something occurs to you about your story and you realize there’s hope for it. You know, even if it takes you a fourth decade, that you can finish this thing.

Live for the breakthroughs. Write for the breakthroughs. Embrace and apply them when they come.

You’ve got this.

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Are you stuck waiting for a breakthrough in a writing project right now? Have you found any ways to inspire breakthroughs in your writing? I’d love to hear from you!



  1. The story I have been working on is three years in the making. This story is my baby, and I love it to death, but I'm anxious for it to be done so I can read it!!! I finished the second draft six weeks ago and am about to do the read-through...sometimes it's overwhelming??? I'm trying to find ways to create a plot twist, because I know the whole thing is a little predictable? Except /how/. Hmmm. That's where I'm waiting for my breakthrough!!!! But I'll get it. Reading through helps me, and praying. God's been with me faithfully and I know this is the story He wants me to tell so He'll give me the words! Eventually. ;)
    And like you, music and me and writing are like an Oreo cookie. All sandwiched together. It definitely helps me think and keeps me concentrated.
    Wow, this got to be longer than I meant for it to be. :)

    1. Thanks so much for commenting, Emma. I know exactly how you feel! And congrats on a second draft - that's an accomplishment!

      Your wise words are such an encouragement. I said a prayer for you too, about finding your breakthrough (because it really does work!). You're right - He'll give us the words, in His time.

      Good luck with that plot twist!

  2. Thank you so very much Alicyn, for the congratulations and the prayer; I really appreciate it. :) It's encouraging for me to know that God's gonna make my writing successful--even when I'm stuck waiting for a breakthrough--when I follow His leading. :)
    I'd like to follow your blog, but woe is me I can't seem to find the follow button! Can you help me?

    1. You're welcome!:)
      I guess it might help if I installed the follow button. *laughs* It should be up now. Thanks for following!

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Hey there!

    My WIP has been in progress for the last six years; so I definitely know the trudging along feeling. It's quite amazing when those breakthroughs come along, though. My story has changed so drastically from the beginning, but I think I've reached the final product. Just have to polish...

    On a completely unrelated note, how do you add the follow button to a blog? I used to blog years back, but I've just started up again, and I can't, for the life of me, find the follow button...gadget...thing. Maybe I'm losing my mind...I probably am...

    Anyways, you have a lovely blog! Your profile caught my eye because you said you're an INFJ, like me :)

    1. Hey there, fellow INFJ! :)

      Aw, thanks so much for stopping by! I hope to start posting more regularly - I'm still a rookie at this. To answer your question about the follow button, I didn't find it until I noticed I HAD a follower, and when I clicked to see who it was, the page that opened gave me an option to add the follow-button-gadget-thing. I tried to figure it out before that with the help of Google, but wasn't able to. I don't know if that helps you much, but that's the only way I found it.

      Also, congrats on how far you've made it with your story! So cool that you've made it to the polishing point.

  4. Ah, I've definitely been there! :p I too have a story that I've been working on for almost 5 years now, and sometimes, it gets so stuck that I wonder if I should give up on it. But then that breakthrough comes along, or I'm able to change a sentence such that it breathes life into a whole paragraph and I remember what the story's about. Whenever you're down, remember the breakthroughs and eagerly search for the next one. :)

    BTW, I found your blog via your GTW post. Your design is so nice!


    1. Hey, Alexa! Thanks so much for checking out my blog, and for your encouraging words. I noticed your comment on my GTW post - so glad you liked it!