Thursday, September 10, 2015

Beat Writer's Block

I don't believe in writer's block. At least not in the sense that others talk about it. Some writers say when their muse isn't there they can't write. For others if they don't know where to go with the story, or have taken a wrong turn with the plot, they claim writer's block.

The way I see it, the writer has created the block in the first place. Usually through taking a wrong turn with the story. It's not going to go where it shouldn't go. If it doesn't feel right, you went wrong somewhere. Figuring out where that was will usually cure it.

Of course, there is always that emotional road block, which isn't writer's block at all. It's an emotional block. I'm not talking about that particular block today. Mostly because I am not a trained therapist and any advice I could give on that front, might not be at all helpful.

So how do I beat this so called writer's block? 


Read Through Your Manuscript:

Most likely you have taken a wrong turn. There are two schools of writers; plot driven and character driven. I believe it's a mixture. For this reason I always create a tentative outline. More often than not, my characters do not like the plan I have presented to them. They will take off in another direction. I still keep the over all destination in place, but allow the characters to take a different route if needed. Some writers stick to their outline, even if it's not what should be happening. This will undoubtedly throw up a road block. So, reading through what you have written up to date, may help you to see where the issue is.

Dissect Your Outline:  

This is my go to method. As mentioned above I create a tentative outline before writing a rough draft. I don't always stick to it. Almost never, actually. This means I have to create a new outline. Every time. I have to read each chapter, noting what happens and why it is important. I need to know the purpose of each chapter. Every scene must have a purpose. If it doesn't propel the story forward, if I can take it out and nothing changes, then it doesn't need to be there. This also allows me to figure out where I possibly went wrong. Most times I will see a hole in the plot. For me something is usually missing. Occasionally I have also added a scene that doesn't need to be there. For me, this almost always works at deleting that blockade. 

Research: 

In some cases it could be that you simply do not have all of the information you need. By researching the topic you are writing about you could have that epiphany moment. I have even researched for a completely separate project and had a sudden understanding of exactly where I went wrong with the first project. You never know, it could be worth it simply to tweak a different aspect of your manuscript. 

Read: 

Other times I just need to step away from the project and come back to it with a different perspective. Reading something fun helps with this. It gives me a chance to get out of my own head, get away from my characters. It also is fun just because I love to read. I can study what another author has written, how they have progressed the plot, and what the other characters do. I have had a-ha moments when reading where I realize exactly where I went wrong and how to fix it.

I also have a good selection of books on the craft of writing. These can be very helpful tools to figure out where you went wrong. I am currently reading Story Trumps Structure by Steven James. Great stuff, so far. Even though I am not in the midst of a block, it is giving me ideas and I am having a-ha moments a lot more. It's great because at the moment I have a few minutes every day before I pick up my five year old from school to read. I can read short sections and not leave off at a high tension point like in a novel.

People Watch: 

This is a guilty pleasure. I have yet to find another writer who doesn't like people watching. It's fun and, oh man, the material you can gather. When writing for teens it's especially important to know how they interact and talk. They will spot an adult dressed as a teen in books at lightning speed. The best part, though, is that many times while people watching I will get an idea to change something little, and it will make all the difference. In the end, it's just plain fun to do. And people will write off your quirkiness because you're a writer. We're supposed to be odd. Embrace it.

Go Someplace New: 

This helps when there are too many distractions around you. There have been times that I couldn't focus on my writing or my story long enough to figure out what was wrong. I like to find a table at Starbucks, listen to music, drink a coffee, and dissect my outlines there. Sometimes I will take my computer with me. Usually I only take a pencil, a print out of my outline, and any notes relevant at the moment to that particular manuscript. I'm forced to look busy instead of signing along with my music or doing something around the house or moderating an argument between my five year old son and nine year old nephew. You'd think they were brothers with the way they argue. 

Switch Projects: 

This is my last resort. Absolute last resort. And, yes, I have turned to this one. In fact the one manuscript that I abandoned is still abandoned. That was about four years ago. I still have no clue where I went wrong with it. Then again, I'm having a hard time grasping the story goal. I know the opening scenes like the way to BookPeople. I just do not, for the life of me, know the why, or the how of anything else in that story. For this reason it has been shelved. I moved on to a different project. I still think about it from time to time, but I just don't feel I have a good enough grasp on it to give it much focus right now. As soon as I figure out more about it, I will be back into that project. But for now it's not a priority project. Like I said, it's a last resort option for me.

How do you beat writer's block?

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