I don’t tend to get writer’s block often. When I do, it is usually because of one of two reasons: I don’t know enough about the world/characters that I’m writing about or that I know too much about the world/characters I’m writing about. Sort of a paradox, I know, but that is how I work (or don’t).
I love world building and spend quite a bit of time mapping out timelines, cities, and pre-story events before I ever start writing. I often daydream most of the story out, experiencing it in my mind before I try to capture the essence. But inevitably, I find a point in my writing that enters a moment that fell between the idea cracks.
It can be as simple as a character I haven’t named. I don’t know why that one stumps me so badly. I tell myself that I can name s/he later but no, I need to know NOW. A name tells me so much about a character such as potential ethnicity, country, or tribe, even a bit of the personality. Stuck on a name, you’ll find me on a break surfing random name generators, tea magazines (don’t ask), or reading the label on anything within site until something clicks. Then I’m back into the story.
Sometimes the block is a scene as the story moves from one pivotal point to the next, but the two need to be bridged. I often use the trick of describing the environment, writing what is happening with the knowledge I can edit out the extra stuff later. That usually does the trick. I think that simply the act of writing and forcing my way through the sticky part gets the ideas flowing again.
But recently I ran into the other sort of block, the one where I have TOO much information. And I was stuck for two weeks. It was horrible.
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Rule of Fire, the forthcoming sequel to Born of Water, is at the editors. I still have the final book in the trilogy to write, Spirit of Life. I’ve mapped out a lot of it, writing down plot threads that need to get tied up. But I want to be ready for when the day comes that I leave the story line of my epic fantasy trilogy behind (admittedly probably not forever, I really am attached to them and their world!). So I thought I would spend April writing short stories about my next set of books, a dark dystopian tale tangled with a whiff of futuristic scifi!
I’ve been itching for a more “adult” storyline than Born of Water became and this next book is percolating in my blood. The great thing is that the main book(s) are based on a novel I already wrote but never published entitled Deliberate Action (my writing group will recognize the name). It needs to be cleaned up and my writing is so much better now. I’m very happy I never attempted to self-publish it!
I already know the characters. I know the plot though the short stories are going to be set before the rough novel. I thought, “Great! I’ll jump right in and whip off a couple of stories and then move back to Spirit of Life.” I sat down, got half a page in, and hit a wall.
The first time I was stuck, it was because I realized I didn’t know quite as much as I thought about the world and events. Sure, I knew the characters and the significant events in their lives. But in a dystopian world, things have gone wrong. Very wrong. I needed to know why, what, and when that happened.
Out came the story journal where events are roughed out. I developed where the first short story took place, pulled out maps, thought about events. Eventually, I felt like I had a solid hold on where I was going and why it all had to happen that way.
I still couldn’t write a word.
My mind was full of everything that needed to be said in those 5,000 to 10,000 words. The plot is character driven even though it is an action scene. Prior events complicate emotional ties. The world is topsy turvy and lands in a new order by the end. So much had to happen and be said and I wanted to say it all in one giant spew of information. But to build tension, to create a story, the information needed to be released in little bits, actions needed to develop and consequences realized. I was so stuck, it was maddening. I spent oodles of time on Twitter rather than staring at my blank screen.
Finally, I gave in.
I sat down and just wrote out everything: all those useless thoughts and premature ideas of the main character. After one giant mental soliloquy, action started again and events unfolded. I was writing again!
I know I’ll have to go back and edit out 90% of that page, but hey, that was pages ago now. And that is what editing is for! I’m just happy to be beyond this stumbling block and hope I’ve found a technique I can use in the future.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go blow up a building (fictionally, I swear!).