Isn't it just.The Cry of the Stuck Author: I'm all impatient now because I started off so well! I want to have the whole plot worked out in a day! Damn it, this story telling malarkey is difficult...
I get asked all the time: what do you do when you hit the wall: the dreaded writer's block? There seems to be
|Could this help?|
If only! Could there be one sweet, secret answer?
I'm not sure I believe in writer's block in the way this term is often used - I see it more as writer's procrastination. Or fear: of not finding the 'right' way. Of not being good enough.
This came up recently with a group of writing friends:
Caroline Green: What do you guys do (the ones who plan in advance) when you have a great idea and are all fired up and a synopsis is pouring out...and then you hit a brick wall and can't see around it at all? Write a chapter and see where it goes? Draw some sort of exciting graphic thingie? Cry?
So here they are:
1. Incubation: patience, grasshopper...
|The pie of destiny may be just around the corner...|
Hilary Freeman: Leave it a while. It'll come to you.
R.M. Ivory: Sleep/dream on it, like Hilary says it will come to you but sometimes you need some time and space away from it. In the meantime you could write a chapter or a scene from it and see what happens.
|Maybe wisdom is hiding in a few of these?|
Ruth Warburton: It depends on the brick wall. If it's something that happens further down the line in the plot, quite often I start writing and let my subconscious sort it out while I write - and often the key is in something to do with their characters which only becomes apparent while I write. Usually by the time I get to the wall it's solved. If it's something more fundamental about the shape of the book or something closer then I agree, it's a sign that it needs to grow a bit more in its egg before it hatches. Pop it back for some more incubation time.
Bryony Pearce: I give it time. My brain always works it out in the end. Did for me today in fact - had been stuck for weeks.
2. Slip into neutral: do something else,leaving your brain time and space to muddle things through
Teri Terry: write a blog. Have a very, very long shower. Make cookies. Or polish your ducks.
|Definite problem solvers, these ones|
Candy Gourlay: When I'm stuck, I read until I'm back in the mood to write. The rule is that the book must be in the same mood, genre, general world, emotional place, as the scene I'm trying to write.
3. Make things up as you go along
Michelle Harrison: Blag it. I hit a wall with the synopsis of the book I'm writing now. I hate giving away everything anyway, even though you're *supposed* to, so I write it in a way that I call the extended blurb which doesn't give all the answers.
4. Attack the problem: be analytical
Cath Murphy: I'm very analytical so I ask myself a lot of questions about what exactly the problem is and try to find an answer that way. Or sometimes I write backwards from the end (if I know what the end is). Or sometimes I give up and open a bottle of red wine.
|A woman after my own heart|
Emma Haughton: Like Cath I use questions. I use a fresh Word document and ask myself questions around the problem and write down all the possible solutions. Sometimes I use mindmaps too, to brainstorm all the possibilities. The answer always seems to emerge.
Sally Nicholls: Look at the things you've already given your characters - hobbies, relations, friends, skills, places. Often one of those turns out to be the solution.
You could even see it as a challenge - my main character needs to find her mum, and she's only got a love of art, a grumpy granny, an obsession with Facebook, two brothers, a cat, a D in maths, a holiday in France last year and a dream to be a ballerina to help her. Set it out like that and you discover she only really needs Granny and Facebook.
I was really fascinated by all of this, as I'd hit a wall recently in my shiny new thing, too. I knew the shape of the story, but there was an event that was crucial, with a specific result, and I couldn't work out how the event took place. The original way I'd envisioned was flawed and I needed a new way. And I tried writing down all the possibilities; I tried making it up as I went along. Nothing was working.
|The wall of fear|
In this instance I woke up from a sound sleep at 2 a.m., and the answer was just there, in my mind. How that I happens sometimes, I don't know! Both incubation, and letting my mind think/dream about it while I'm doing other things, seemed to play a role in this instance. In this case - and this happens to me a LOT - the problem was this: I was focusing on something specific (how to write a scene) when the problem was more general (there was an aspect of the story that needed to tie in, and I hadn't realized it yet).
|The gingerbread of hope|
The trick for me is working out when I'm stuck because I need to stop and think, and when I'm just being lazy. Sometimes just writing and going for it and seeing what happens can work. And I love tackling the how-to-get-from-a-to-b problem by scribbling all the possibilities I can think of with pen and paper: it is surprising how often this makes the answer blindingly obvious. I haven't attacked the problem in an analytical way so much, and I'm intrigued to try that.
But most of all - I'm just surprised nobody mentioned cake.