Dispelling the myth of Writer´s block.
Writers don´t get writer´s block. At least in the sense that you have nothing to write about? Utter nonsense. A writer can always see the twist of a situation, the irony of the crazy things that human beings do as they cruise through this life, the tragedy, comedy and horror all around us – it is all gist for a real story teller / inventor.
So what is this Writer´s Block phenomenon?
There are a number of reasons why a writer may suffer from the kind of mental / creative constipation known as writer´s block.
A past success or failure may cause a writer to be unsure of him/herself.
Too many options
Lack of motivation
Pie in the sky dreams
Writing for the wrong reasons
The list goes on and on.
In my case, I get blocked when a story refuses to come out. The idea is there, some scenes are there, I have a juicy ending and some characters etc. but the details refuse to reveal themselves.
I rarely get blocked for any other reason. One of my positive habits is the fact that I write in two languages (English and Spanish) and deal with Fiction and Non-fiction. My yearly cycle is something like this:
6 months in planning phase for a novel – this begins from the spark of a novel until I have a complete written plan with scenes, chapters, characters, plot points, motivations, settings, symbolism etc. laid out. I am a strong believer in planning out a novel since that is the only thing that works for me and saves me from writing myself into a corner.
6 months spent writing the novel.
During the entire year I am also managing other projects. Some of my English stuff is slowly being translated into Spanish. I am creating dual language books for students of both languages. I have a line of textbooks for Spanish students of English as a Second language. I have a number of other projects in various levels of development.
During this time I also maintain this blog and another for promoting my English Tutorial series.
So as you see, I am always writing and always have something to work on. I do not believe in the rule of writing some garbage everyday as most writers do. I prefer to write something of value. But if that works for you, great. It is not far from my method. The difference is that I believe that forcing a story to come or chasing inferior story ideas is exactly what causes Writer´s block in the first place.
But let´s say I get to a point where I have been beating a story idea around, have the characters and all the plot points that I think are important and still, the full details of the story just won´t come …. what to do?
Sadly, a great number of writer´s that I´ve heard of have taken the CREATIVE out of Creative writing. So get creative with it. Get crazy. Whatever it takes to make that story come out. Get the juices flowing.
My standard method, as I explained in a previous post, is to work out the details in Free Mind. Then I transfer them to an MS Word document that has my title page, dedication, copyright page, table of contents etc. and I´m ready to go.
This is a great way to almost see your story laid out. Chapter by chapter you can imagine the flow and pace.
But what if that´s not working? Let´s say for example you have 5 principal plot points plus and beginning and an ending. Ok. So let´s choose and arbitrary number of chapters. I chose 50. Lay out your word document with Chapter 1,2,3,4,5 at the beginning of each page. Now place a note on the first page that explains what will happen. Place a note on the 48th or 49th chapter to explain the conclusion (giving yourself a chapter or two for the final resolution bits) Now place notes on the aproximate place in the story where your different plot points will occur.
Now we have the beginning of a plan.
For each of these notes, there has to be a logical lead up to the event and a logical conclusion. Add in those ideas before and after each of the plot points.
Wow. If you did all that you now have, instead of 5 plot points and a beginning and an end, you know have 18 chapters planned. We are making progress. Each possible lead up or consequence to your plot points doesn´t have to be carved in stone. Write down many possibilities. As a matter of fact, each and every item, action, reaction etc. in every scene and / or chapter should be looked at from every possible angle. Is this where you want your story to go? Is there some other, more interesting creative way you could tell the story? Is it predictible?’ Is it like something you´ve written before? Shake it up?
Step back from your plan and take a breather.
It may be an hour or it may be the next day but don´t lose any momentum you have built up. Get back to it.
Read what you have written. You may decide that you need to do a bit of research to fill in some of those other chapters. Don´t get bogged down. Make it quick. Find what you need and repeat the process. You now have 18 or so chapters planned out. Repeat the process. What would have logically come before the chapters you have already planned out.
You make have to shuffle things around, change and reorder but slowly but surely you are going to see more and more story and less and less holes.
What if it still isn´t working? I suggest trying another medium. Paint the storyline / plotline on the wall in red paint. Make a movie of your story with MS Movie Maker using still graphics you collect from Google Images . (This could come in handy later when you want to create a promo vid for your soon-to-be-bestseller.)
Try doing all your planning while you are riding the bus. Plan it out on your cellphone.
Get crazy. Break your old patterns in order to stimulate the creative process. Eventually your story is going to reveal itself. There may be a few gray areas but soon you will start to see where you want your story to go.
Then begins the actual writing of the story. One thing that is a benefit of my method is that there is no reason you have to get bogged down. If you cannot get started, then don´t start. Why not go ahead and write the ending first? You know your story – you have an idea that the end will be at about chapter 48. You know who the players are and what is going to happen.
And if you have done any writing before, you know that it doesn´t matter because a lot of what you write in the first draft is going to get tossed in the edit phase anyway. The trick is to get the first draft down. Now you have a skeleton and you can fill in the viens and skin and muscles and tendons later.
So this post is just a bunch of suggestions. This is how I do it – my process.
Surely I have discarded the possiblility that REAL writer´s block exists and that there are writers out there who are suffering and cannot write a word. Just as there are real musicians who suffer stage fright.
Seeing as the writing world is about as competitive as any field could possibly be, I believe I´ve done my part here today to help some writers avoid that deep dark pit of not being able to write. At the same time, I have to take the slightest bit of pleasure in knowing that somewhere, some INDIE Author is busting his / her neurons because they just can´t figure out how to write the next ´50 Shades of Gray.´
Well thank god for that. I really can´t help there and after all …..
What am I, a Saint?
David Gordon Burke