Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Overcoming Writer's Block

A Twitter friend asked me how to overcome writer's block. So I thought I'd blog about reasons a writer might get blocked and ways to overcome this malady.

1. A lot of time I find writers get blocked because they haven't done the character and plot work required to know where the story is going. I find I stall or slow in writing when I'm not really sure where the story is going or if the characters are not acting consistent. If I don't know what the character wants in the story, if I don't know the story question, or enough of the details of the journey, if I don't know the lie the protagonist believes, or the dark moment of his past that shadows his present, then I'm not going to really know what drives the character through the mucky middle.

Resolution: If you're stuck, go back and do some character work. What does the character(s) want? What's the lie he believes about life, himself, God. What does he want? What's the story about? What will the protagonist be able to do at the end they can't do at the beginning? What's the epiphany? Dig around deeper in your character's heart. Once you do this, figure out where you are in the story, where the character is in the story, and figure out your next scene.

When I'm unsure where to go next, Susie Warren might ask, "Where are you with the lie? Have you confirmed the lie?" Or she might prompt me to make sure I've had enough reaction to a plot point. For example, if my protagonist just learned her husband had an affair, I need to make sure I've emotionally and physically played out the news well.

2. Inciting incident. Make sure you have the right inciting incident. Meaning, what's the right event that launches your story? In Dining with Joy, the event that launched the story was Joy learning her producer sold the show to another production company. And he didn't tell the new producer Joy couldn't cook. The inciting incident must launch the character on the story journey.

Resolution: If you're stuck, evaluate how you're starting the story. You might have "too much ramp." Meaning, you started the story too far back.

3. Too much backstory.

Resolution: You might be bogging down and block because you've written too much back story. Go back, review your work and delete back story. The pages will read quicker and you might see something new in the story.

4. Change the point of view. You might be telling the story from the wrong point of view.

Resolution: If you have more than one character telling the story, change from the heroine to the hero in the "stuck scene" and see how the story changes.

5. You're holding back the big reveal moment. In Dining with Joy, I always thought Joy's black moment would be when she was outed on national television. So, the middle of my book was bogging down because I was holding back. I wasn't at the right word count! So, I had to go back to my character work: the lie, the dark moment from the past, the thing Joy could do at the end she couldn't do at the beginning. The middle of the book was being outed on television. The black moment was losing everyone she loved.

Resolution: Go ahead, write your big reveal moment. Don't hold back. You can figure out what happens next after you do.

6. You too close to the story.

Resolution: Take a break. Think. Read. Relax. Pray!

7. You might not have enough emotional depth.

Resolution: Dive deep! Surface fast. Every novel is about characters. Even mysteries and thrillers. Make sure you're writing about a person. Not an issue or your own soap box, or your own story. Create characters! Tell a story!

Hope these help! Writer's don't need to be blocked. When all else fails, stick with it. Just start writing and see what words come! A lot of time writers over think and try to write the scene perfect from the start. Haha. Fergetaboutit. Write. Then rewrite.

What about you? Have any tips for writer's block?

1 comment:

best website builder said...

I find that when I'm stuck trying to write something, I go back and look at what I just wrote. Then, instead of moving the story forward, I take the same scenario and write it in another character's perspective. This allows me to keep "those creative juices flowing" and also develop other characters and make more than just the main character dynamic and round.