Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Tackle Writer's Block

I’ve been lucky. I’ve only hit a wall once when I was in the middle of ALL I EVER WANTED. And the block came because I’d fought tooth-and-nail against the way the story was supposed to play out. The ah-ha moment for me came when I was running regular, everyday errands and driving in the car. Of course, I ran right back home, fired up my laptop and went back to work. That period of floundering lasted about a week…but it seemed like a month!

I wouldn’t say the period of down time I experienced during Trisk’s bankruptcy battle was writer’s block. I truly hadn’t lost my way, atleast with a book. Though I did feel that I spent months leaping from one wobbly place to another because I had to figure out where I needed to go with my career. That conclusion still isn’t rock solid, but atleast I’ve gotten my act together enough to write!

I’ve heard some people say they fight their blocks, and I think that’s the worst thing you can do. If you dwell on it, the block tends to grow to the size of a skyscraper. So just give yourself permission to let go. Do something that’s not writing related like running errands, doing laundry or even washing the dishes! If you can’t let go completely, have coffee or a meal with writer friends so you can brainstorm about your dilemma. The best way to get over a block is to let your imagination run free. It might not seem like it, but your mind will work the problem out.

Are you wondering what’s a better, hands-on way to tackle your writer’s block?

Turn to craft books for guidance. Reading about how others solve problems can help you determine what’s led you astray and hopefully give you an example of how to get back to where you need to be. Or you can do research! Got an idea for a book you’d like to start next or perhaps two projects that need to be written at the same time? Take a breather and read that non-fiction text as fodder for your next novel. Even if you’re simply reading in your genre, you might stumble across the kernel of an idea to solve your problem. (I’m not talking about stealing someone’s work! I’m talking about being open to inspiration, so it will perk up your gray matter to devise a concept that’s all yours.)

Some writers jumpstart their writing flow by going back and reviewing the GMC of their novel. If you trace the goals of your characters, the motivation that makes them do what they’re doing, as well as the conflicts that keep them apart until the HEA, you will find the spot where your book veered off course. Sometimes it’s something as simple as letting one of the characters take too much control, perhaps you’re in a pickle because you believed a minor goal was the big issue…or maybe you just don’t have enough conflict to start with. You can eyeball these issues with a detailed outline, color coding for characters and doing Deb Dixon’s charts.

If you’ve traced the lines, gone over your W plot, and all your sticky notes seem to be in order, and are still asking what’s wrong you need to take a big step back. Have you fallen out of love with the project or is an outside influence taking you off task? If it’s the first, then start something new. Chances are you’ll soon yearn to be back on the blocked book to tie up the ending or atleast carry on from where you wrote blah, blah, blah. If you have an outside conflict, then you need to be realistic. Is this dilemma something you can resolve, like the time suck of the internet, MySpace, or chatting online? If so, you can give yourself time for those pastimes by using them as a reward for writing. For a bigger issue, you may have to resolve that first, then come back to writing.

No matter how you destress your mind, or make it focus on your book in a positive way, freedom is the medicine to get it to dictate those imaginary details. If your body needs an outlet, then crouch down, rev up and tackle your someone special…preferably on something soft like a bed. Repeat as needed!

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When I’m in a slump I turn to my movie collection! With over 500 DVDs and videos ranging from Aeon Flux to X-men, I’m sure to find one that will get me rearing to write.

3 comments:

Savanna Kougar said...

Skylar, what a great post. At one time or another I've instinctively done what you talked about. Truly, one of the most effective ways to jumpstart, is just go do something else -- and I've always got tons o' chores to get done. Or read something you enjoy. Actually driving somewhere works. Thanks!

Skylar Masey said...

You're so welcome Savanna!

I'm in the same camp as you with the chores :0) They're never ending! (Unless I don't want to eat or wear clean clothes. lol)

And as I tell Lynda there aren't enough hours in the day.

Angela Verdenius said...

Good advice. I took a step back from my current problem and really looked at what was affecting me as well. But I know in the past when I've fought my characters and ended up writing myself into a corner, that I have had to readjust my outlook on the book.

And taking a break is always good - sometimes the solution will come to you!

Angela