Plot Arc and Writer's Block

I do not like confrontation. I dislike conflict. I avoid angry people at all costs. In writing the first draft of my current manuscript, I have noticed this aspect of my personality translating into my writing ability, and I can see how it works and why it’s happening. The hardest thing to decipher is how to get past it.

Most everyone has seen the classic plot arc, a line ascending a page until it reaches the climax, then barreling down toward the denouement. This is an overly simple version, but it works. A better — well, I say better, but what I mean is the one that I use — plot arc archetype is the five act structure, in which the novel is split into five distinct sections with major incidents occurring at certain points along the line. The result is something like this:

What I have noticed in following this structure is that my writing ability, or rather my ability to get the words onto the page without pulling a muscle, acts conversely to this graph. I start off strong, but when I hit that first big plot point, I really struggle to find the right words. I have the image of what I want to happen in my mind, but I don’t know how to express it.

I am at the first major plot point at the moment in my current project, and I’m struggling, getting a page a day, or less, and really straining to push onward. I zoomed through the first 10,000 words over the course of two weeks, but the next 5000 took me the same amount of time as I ascended the slope of the arc. About three more pages and I’ll have reached the peak of that first plot point. Once I finally finish the chapter and get over that hump the words will flow more easily, but that second plot point, more intense than the first, is looming intimidatingly in the distance ahead of me.

That’s what writing is, a series of mountains a writer must climb in order to reach the final goal of a completed project. 

Peace, Aimee


  1. You know, I have all these books on craft, all these notes and graphs and instructions, but what I find works best is to NOT follow a pre-designed path. You know in your heart and soul and mind what a good story looks like and reads like. I find that just knowing what the story is about and how it escalates is enough for me to get the words down on the page. The mechanics of what works and what doesn't can be worked out later with your CPs. Just tell the story you want to tell. You'll know when to raise the stakes and up the conflict.

  2. What an interesting post, and I really like what Nancy said. There is something really important about sticking with your strengths. If moving toward a dramatic, conflict filled climax isn't something you're comfortable with, maybe you're heading toward something else that flows more naturally from your psyche.

    Maybe your type of conflict is different - It may be more internal - sort of like you did with this post!

    In fact, I see a plot arc in this post about grappling with something and putting out some intention to try something new. THAT'S A PLOT ARC.


    On the other hand, if you want to stick with standard, then I want to add that I really admire how perceptive you are about what might need to be examined further.