Monday, May 9, 2011

Writer's Block, What's the Cure?

Happy belated Mother’s Day to all the moms! (And to all of those who want to be moms)


I’m not sure when it started, and Lord knows I’m ready for it to be gone, but I just can’t get anything on the page that makes me happy and conveys what I want to say.

I’ve been working on the first chapter of my new SWAT story for about four months and I’ve only got about two thousand words. It is beyond frustrating!!

The hardest thing about writer’s block is that I KNOW where the story is going. I have a plot all planned out in my head. I have my characters clear and concise in my head. They just don’t want to come out and play with me!!

When I sit down to write, I find a hundred other things to do instead. I mean when folding laundry and cleaning toilets sound enticing…something is very wrong.

Normally, I can drag a notebook out and just start writing by hand to get things going. Usually once I have something flowing, I can transfer it to the computer and then I can get several thousand words on the page.

It isn’t working!!

The blank notebook page looks just as daunting as the blank computer screen these days, and that’s never happened to me before.

I did learn a technique at RT last month when I took my favorite workshop of the conference. It was a hands-on workshop where the moderator gave us a first line and then passed around bags and we had to draw slips of paper out. On the slips of paper (there were three different bags – one for each category) were a place, characters and descriptions (the last two we had to draw three different ones). Now with all this in hand, we were instructed to write a “great first page” in the genre that we normally write.

This might have been an easy task…if the details weren’t so insanely obscure!
The opening line had to be “The blood dripped slowly down the wall…” which considering I enjoy my man in uniform, I immediately thought it would work with a cop. Then I drew my first slip of paper and got my location – a wedding. Okay, this could still work, right?

My mind was racing trying to figure out where this was going to go. I had a plot already working in my head. Until I drew my three characters: a mountie (man in uniform!!), a hooker (okay still can make this work.), and a Rotorooter man (?????). Every idea that I’d been so proud of had completely flown out of my head!

I thought that I could still make this work. But of course, I still had three descriptions that I had to draw out of the bag and use in my story. The three that I pulled out were; tiny, dyslexic, and bowlegged.

We had about 20 minutes to write, and then we all read what we had to the others. I was actually really happy with what I wrote (though you won’t be seeing anything from me about a dyslexic Mountie and a bowlegged hooker!).

I did absolutely love this exercise, though! And after doing it, I was able to finally finish a short story that I had been working on for MONTHS! But how do I recreate that? How do I honestly come up with these kind of things without skewing them in my favor? I don’t know that I can…

So in an effort to maybe find something else that will help break this horrible cycle of sitting down to write and ending up doing everything else I can think of instead, I want to know - what’s your cure for writer’s block?

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  1. What a cool writing exercise! I think the words will come soon for you--maybe they just needed some time to percolate. Or maybe this isn't the time in your life for the SWAT story? Hope you work through it soon. Jen xx

  2. When my words don't come, it's usually because I'm preoccupied with something else, or I'm pushing too hard. When I ease back and take things slow, everything falls into place. One thing I do that really helps is to break from whatever WIP I've got going, and write a short story. My crit partner gives me three random things that have to show up somewhere in the story and I go from there. I usually keep the word count to 10k or below, though my last one ended up around 15k. It's lots of fun, drums up a ton of ideas and kickstarts my creativity. Maybe try something like that?

  3. Whenever I get stymied, I write something else. Anything else. Something that sounds completely fun and useless and has nothing to do with my story. OR - I write a free narrative, stream-of-consciousness to get into the heads of on of my characters. Nothing that will go into the story, just something to get the words flowing.

    Or read blogs. Ha! Good luck!

  4. I agree with Susan. I put the keyboard down and get out pen and paper and hash out a completely new story. I let my mind flow and bounce some ideas around. hen that is out of my system i find I am freed up to tackle the story I am currently working on.

    Gabriella Hewitt

  5. Great blog topic on writer's block. When I get stuck, I usually read or write something else...poetry, lyrics, journal entry or a character study. LOL. Have a great Monday!

  6. Wow...all great ideas!

    Thank you all for the suggestions. I have a writing session tomorrow and I think I'm going to try the writing about something completely unrelated. Who knows, maybe that will turn out to be my next book and my SWAT boys will have to wait??

  7. Y'know what gets me toilets. Ha! Cleaning of any kind really. It's so freaking boring my mind naturally starts moving in more creative directions. Oh, the places that notepad has been!

    I'm with you on the slooooow progress w/ the next WIP though. :(

  8. your picture shows what happens in my house. We have 3 cats and if you leave your laptop open, you'd come back to crazy FB postings , sent emails and the computer gasping for breath.