I laughingly refer to the years before I officially started my novel, A Bump in the Road, as The Blocked Years. As in, I had serious writer's block but I didn't even know it. Part procrastination, part "I don't have anything to write about," the idea of writing a book seemed very, very far off.
I thought once I started my book, it would be a cliched smooth sailing. Ideas would constantly flow through me, I'd be finishing first drafts in two weeks and writing like four books a year.
About ten pages into the book, reality welcomed itself back into my life. There were more than a few moments writing that book (and moments writing my current book too!) where I didn't know how to fix something. And everything just stopped. And my inner editor started to whisper, "It's not good enough. It'll never be good enough. Just give up and spend your time reading People magazine, OK? That's a much more worthwhile pursuit."
Yet I continued on. Because I found that inevitably, a few days (sometimes weeks) later, I would be driving in my car and a little plot band-aid or minor alteration would pop into my head and All Would Be Right With the World Again. So I kept writing.
But I found the best thing to do in those dark days between problem and solution, was to keep a close connection to the manuscript. Reading through, doing spell check, formatting, etc. Because I find that the more time I spend away from a book, even just a couple of days, the harder it is to jump back in and get into the writerly groove.
But what if the solution doesn't present itself? Well, then I try a few more things to get my Muse to talk--like making a soundtrack for the book, watching movies with similar plot threads or characters, or even writing a query letter for the book (EEK!). And if there's still radio silence? Well, then it's time to play the "What if?" game. As in "What if my character stayed with her old boyfriend?" and "What if she has two sisters instead of one?"
And, just so you know, it's totally normal in the middle of all this frustration to ponder this question: "What if I just deleted this entire file from my computer so I never have to look at it again?"