More on that exciting topic shortly…
I had an experience with what one might call ‘writer’s block’ with regard to ‘Dragon of St. Johns.’ I was stuck; I didn’t know where to go with the story. What kind of arc could I take such a young protagonist on? How do I make a story both engaging and safe? Fun but not dull? What the heck happens to these people anyway?
Part of the problem was that what with work being busy and weekends being full, I went about 3 weeks without writing anything at all. Now, I consider writing a hobby, a thing I do for fun, and not a thing to stress out over, so I didn’t beat myself up over those three weeks. However, I noticed as time went on that I was thinking more and more about writing, and missing it. NOT writing was stressing me out. And then when I had time again, I had no ideas. I stared at ‘Dragon’ blankly, bored with it and annoyed. I played around with some old ideas. I wrote a thousand words of something entirely new. I got nowhere.
I read somewhere that after taking a break, it’s advisable not to try picking up where you left off. If you’re out of practice, your material will not feel good, and it will not match what you did before. It’s similar to sports that way: if you miss a few practices, you can expect to perform poorly and feel sore afterwards. You have to work back up to where you were.
So that’s what I did. I wrote with no expectations on myself, no pressure to work on this thing or that or to get anything right. I did my best not to worry about it. I went back to my writers’ group with nothing to read, knowing that being around the group has helped me get going before. And eventually it worked. Preparing for this week’s group, I felt motivated to write something, anything, just to not show up empty-handed again. I’d gotten them engaged with ‘Dragon’ and I knew they wanted more. At long last, new ideas stirred in my mind. On the bus ride over, I wrote whole new scenes, and rearranged others, and finally put together some idea of where the story will go and and what will happen.
I didn’t read it, as it was still an incoherent mess, but there were enough readers that I felt no pressure. And now I’ve got something to work with. I’ll have something to read for next week’s group.
On a similar note, this weekend I finished reading a collection of stories by Leigh Brackett, co-scribe of The Empire Strikes Back. I had mixed feelings about the stories – review here – but something she said in the afterword stuck with me. She’s a pantser; she gets an idea and writes, and figures things out as she goes. That’s how I write too. But, she observed, that technique often gets her into “box canyon[s] with no way up the walls.” This is also my experience. The story hits a dead end and there’s nowhere to go. Her solution was to learn, by collaborating with her husband, something about plotting. She didn’t elaborate on what she learned, but it’s something for me to think about. Having an outline is like having an escape route planned in advance.
The down side is, you need to know the end before you start, which I never ever do. But still, it’s something to think about.
Now, on to the Free Stuff!!!
‘Ghosts’ is now on Smashwords! Download it here – and through the end of summer, get it free with coupon code GR72Q.
Happy reading! And happy writing too, if you’re into that sort of thing.