I was asked a question on Goodreads the other day, and in answering it, I scrolled through the other answers I’d given. I updated what I was writing now, but looking at the answer to “How do you deal with writer’s block?” I thought of so much more to say.
What I answered then.. and left on Goodreads (so far, at any rate):
I confess that so far I haven’t really suffered from it. Shelving Victor’s story [Bravo Victor] for a few years was a form of it, but I wrote other stories while that one was maturing.
Sometimes I don’t know what to write next, which is another form of block. Then I re-read what I’ve written so far, and ask what happens next. Getting the words down is the key thing. If they turn out rubbish, they can be edited. Whole characters can be edited!
But I’m lucky – I’m not under pressure to write “the next blockbuster in the series” by October. I think I might get writer’s block if that was the case. I’d recommend writing a 1000 word flash fiction challenge to freshen up. 🙂
That’s not the whole story, of course.
I was thinking about the experience I’ve had with this year’s Camp NaNo and decided that was also writer’s block at the start, born of
- not being clear of my story
- trying to do too much
- fear of failing
and probably a few other internal dramas.
This is where the hard graft of authoring comes in. You have to work out what you’re doing and do it. That’s a kind of problem solving exercise. It needs you to examine questions like:
- What IS the story?
- Is what you’re doing with this series sensible?
- What other ways could you do it?
- What do your readers like about your series and are you still doing that?
The story I seemed to be trying to tell was Willoughby’s life story. Well, that’s not necessarily interesting as a book. What are the exciting bits? What challenges does he face; what decisions does he make, especially the dumb ones? How is he going to grow as a person – if he’s perfect from the outset, readers won’t take to him unless he has some amazing redeeming features, like sparkling wit (which isn’t my strength). My strength (I think) lies in adventures and twists, so what is Willoughby’s adventure and how does it twist?
And that’s when I realised I was doing too much. I couldn’t shoe-horn all the rest of the series into two books. The bit that I set up in a flash fiction in 2013 really does belong in the books, but it’s not in Willoughby’s, and it’s not in the finale. So that’s another book. And then there are mini-adventures that I like and have done on the blog or the princelings website that don’t fit anywhere, but support and inform other parts of the series, and could well fit in a compilation of key events before the last in the series… which I actually started four years ago. I stopped because I realised I had to know what happened before then.
So it wasn’t so much writer’s block, as someone inside me telling me I was doing it wrong. Rethink it. Take a different approach. Trust your instincts.
So I suggest, if you are suffering from writer’s block, take a look at what you are trying to write and ask why you are stuck. What are you stuck with? If it’s a key scene but you know what happens before and after, write the before and after. Maybe you’ll discover it’s not the key scene after all. If your questions are like my ones above, you’ll soon sort your problem out – even if it does mean another book!
This is an Insecure Writers Support Group post for August. If you’d like to join up, or hop round other amazingly helpful posts from other writers, just go to insecurewriterssupportgroup.com, you’ll be very welcome!