Posted On November 1, 2017 by Print This Post

The Writer’s Black Moment by Donna Cummings

Welcome back one of my favorite peeps – Donna Cummings!

Author Donna CummingsAs writers, we’re familiar with The Black Moment for our characters. It’s when things look the bleakest. Whatever they’ve tried to achieve up to this point now seems impossible, forever out of their reach.

I experience something similar with each book I write. It’s usually at the same point in the manuscript that the characters are going through it, close to the end. The finish line is in sight but it’s hazy, like a mirage. It feels like it’s strapped to a rocket and blasting away from me at the speed of light. Or maybe it’s the speed of sound. I just know it’s something really really fast and not heading my direction.

All seems lost at this point. I have no idea how I can finish this story. My initial giddy optimism has fled, leaving despair to keep me company. The Universe gently whispers, “You will never write another book again”, and I nod in acknowledgment…

Hold on.

Have we forgotten that The Writer’s Black Moment is, you know, a moment? If we let this become The Writer’s Black Moment That Goes to Infinity and Beyond – what a horrible example we’d be setting for the heroes and heroines we write.

Because this is also the point where characters have an important choice to make: they can give up, or find the strength to fight all the way to the end.

I know which one we’re choosing, and I’ve got a few tricks to help us out.

The Ole “It Just Doesn’t Matter” Routine

Remember in the Meatballs movie when Bill Murray gives a “pep talk” to the camp kids who are taking on a more talented, better funded team in the upcoming rivalry? Instead of inspiring the kids, he hilariously tells them they can’t win no matter what they do, and they end up chanting “It Just Doesn’t Matter” over and over.

Some days I use that as a mantra to keep from getting worked up about things I can’t change. But it’s also useful when you’re struggling with The Writer’s Black Moment.

Don’t open the WIP that is cruelly taunting you. Open a blank document or notebook instead. You’re just going to write a little something. It’ll probably suck, and it’s going to be the stupidest thing that anybody could ever think of.

But it just doesn’t matter.

It won’t count. It’s like you’re writing on an Etch-a-Sketch and can turn it over to clear it when you’re done. Type or scribble some words. More words will follow. And then other words will join the parade. The funny thing is the latter ones don’t realize they’ve joined up with those stinky words at the head of the line.

Sure, it’s a bit of trickery, but you’ve made it through the part that was stopping you. Delete the sucky, stupid-ish words and keep the good ones. Whenever the words dry up because you’re attaching too much importance to them, start singing “It Just Doesn’t Matter”, and push onwards.

Distract Yourself

The prevailing wisdom is to keep your butt in your chair so you can get those words written, but at some point it can begin to feel like a punishment. Is it any wonder that our brains shut down when the going gets tough?

I’m convinced that words are attracted to a change of scenery. Even if it’s just going into the kitchen to survey the fridge (again), or looking out a different window than the one I usually stare out of when I’m writing.

Our brains are collectors of tidbits that eventually find their way into our stories. So if all they see is a notebook or computer screen, day in and day out…

Yep, the brain is going to go on strike.

Maybe you have to use the distraction as a reward. Tell your brain, “Cough up a thousand words and then we’ll go outside and play”. Or, if you have a recalcitrant brain like mine, it gets to set the parameters. “This is your brain in charge. Get away from the laptop and take me someplace fun if you ever want to see new words again.”

The distraction is definitely worth it. In fact, we should probably call it something besides a distraction. It deserves a spectacular title since it makes that broken-down WIP seem shiny with possibilities once more. Until I think of what that title is, let’s just call it a vital tool in taming The Writer’s Black Moment.

Words Out, Words In

I have always believed that when words come out, new ones need to be put back in. So when I’m feeling hopeless about getting to the end of the story I’m writing, I try to make more time to read. Which is really hard to do because it can feel like I’m letting this WIP do a victory dance in my end zone.

It’s not easy to indulge in guilt-free reading, so remind yourself that it’s an enjoyable way to develop writing craft. For example, I read (but don’t write) thrillers and romantic suspense. Not only are they fun, they subliminally teach me about pacing, and doling out important info, and ratcheting up tension.

No matter what we read, all kinds of information is stored in our brain cells to be retrieved later, usually in an out-of-the-blue “aha!” moment. I’ve solved plot problems while enjoying a book that has situations and characters and dialogue 1000% unlike anything I would ever write – no connections at all anywhere between my story and the one I’m reading. That’s the “words out, words in” writing mojo at work behind the scenes.

And some of the best words to read? Your own. Go back and re-read one of your own stories. Don’t worry that you’ll cringe, or want to rewrite things. I guarantee you will quickly be swept up into the world you’ve created. You’ll read it while thinking, “Wait – I’m the one who wrote this?!” Laugh out loud at a bit of dialogue you’ve forgotten. Fall in love with the magical, unpredictable aspect of writing again.

Most importantly, remind yourself this book tested your resolve once, long ago, but you emerged victorious.

So there you have it, a few of the techniques I use to make my way through The Writer’s Black Moment and arrive triumphantly at the Writer’s HEA (aka “The End”). We can all use more tricks, though, so tell me what works for you!


Join us on Friday for Angela Ackerman!


Bio: I have worked as an attorney, winery tasting room manager, and retail business owner, but nothing beats the thrill of writing humorously-ever-after romances.

I reside in New England, although I fantasize about spending the rest of my days in a tropical locale, wearing flip flops year-round, or in Regency London, scandalizing the ton.


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Where Have All the Scoundrels Gone?

That is precisely what the Dowager Lady Thornham wants to know. She devotes her days to reading every scandalous morsel published about London’s rakes and rogues, but lately it seems they have all settled down and abandoned their wicked behavior.

Fortunately the Dowager has hit upon a new diversion: matchmaking. She has summoned her three nephews to a house party attended by a score of marriage-minded debutantes, and warned the young men they shall lose their quarterly allowance if they thwart her matrimonial schemes.

Three Scoundrel Heroes. One Determined Dowager. Three Unexpected Romances.

Miles – The summertime gathering is a good excuse for Miles to reminisce with his cousins about the mischief they have gleefully caused their aunt throughout the years. The allowance would benefit his upcoming return to Egypt, financing his quest for antiquities, but a bride is not in his plans…until he rescues the beautiful widow Gemma and her pesky cat Snowball from some treacherous rosebushes.

Richard – His resistance to marriage makes him utterly irresistible to the marriageable females in attendance. Unfortunately for them, he is only interested in Constance, a doctor’s daughter who refuses to give her heart again, especially to a charming scoundrel who extracts secrets for a living. When his wooing has little effect, he proves his devotion in another way—with a fairyland hideaway he has created just for her.

William – He is the quiet one that people rarely notice unless he is sketching their likeness. His aunt’s paid companion, Honora, a budding artist, has been both his muse and the source of his inability to paint since their first brief encounter two years previously. A series of secret art lessons benefits them both, and their budding attraction is given a chance to finally blossom.

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4 Responses to “The Writer’s Black Moment by Donna Cummings”

  1. Thanks for having me today, Carrie! I always love the opportunity to chant “It Just Doesn’t Matter”. LOL

    Posted by Donna Cummings | November 1, 2017, 7:17 am
  2. lol…i’d completely forgotten about that movie! Now I’ll have to order it. =)

    What always got me was “the next book”. Bright and shiny, lots of fun characters. It knew how to call my name when I was struggling finishing off a book. And off I’d go, lured by the siren call. Only to run into the same problem AGAIN.

    I do agree about reading other books! And taking a break. Both will give your mind a different direction of thinking and (most times) bam! inspiration will hit.

    Thanks for another great post Donna!


    Posted by Carrie Peters | November 1, 2017, 2:27 pm
    • I’m always getting tempted by “the next book” (aka “the WIP on the side”). It pretends it’s not going to give me heartburn, so that I’ll abandon the first one — I fall for that lie every time!

      Thanks again for having me — it’s always fun!

      Posted by Donna Cummings | November 1, 2017, 6:08 pm


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