Whether or not it’s truly writer’s block, sometimes you get stuck. Maybe you don’t know where you’re going. Maybe the characters are giving you trouble. Maybe you know your characters and where you need to go, but you’re not sure how to get there. Whatever the issue, sometimes you’re looking at your book and curing the idea that brought you to this point. Especially if you’re stuck and one a deadline. Cause, you know, that’s TONS OF FUN.
In case it wasn’t obvious, that’s where I am right now. Stuck and on deadline.
Granted, it’s not a tight deadline yet. I still have wiggle room. I also have a pretty strong lead. Most of the first draft is already done (thankfully), I just have to figure out how to piece the rest of it together. Which is why I love editing so much better than drafting. When I’m editing, I’ve already made it past the worst of these puzzles and the crossroads where I could split off in a thousand different directions. Options are nice, but they can also be paralyzing. Maybe that’s what’s paralyzing me now.
Whatever the problem is, I have to figure it out, push it out of the way, or go around it. I’m diving into the second book in The Dream War Saga again today and I will finish it before deadline. Because I refuse to let it beat me!
A friend posted this on Facebook yesterday and I think this story scares me more than anything else I’ve read in a long time. Mostly because it could happen so easily to so many people.
On 25 January 2006, officials from a north London housing association repossessing a bedsit in Wood Green owing to rent arrears made a grim discovery. Lying on the sofa was the skeleton of a 38-year-old woman who had been dead for almost three years. In a corner of the room the television set was still on, tuned to BBC1, and a small pile of unopened Christmas presents lay on the floor. Washing up was heaped in the kitchen sink and a mountain of post lay behind the front door. Food in the refrigerator was marked with 2003 expiry dates. The dead woman’s body was so badly decomposed it could only be identified by comparing dental records with an old holiday photograph of her smiling. Her name was revealed to be Joyce Carol Vincent.
Carol Morley, a filmmaker and London resident, found a short article about the strange circumstances surrounding Joyce’s death in a newspaper someone left on the tube. The article contained very little information and didn’t even include a photo of the woman, but the article stuck with Carol. She wanted to know more.
Now, years later, Carol has produced a documentary called Dreams of a Life about Joyce Carol Vincent. She spent years tracking down people who knew Joyce and interviewing them. She collected photographs and anecdotes and bound them together into a beautiful piece on the isolation still possible in a world that’s constantly connected.
THIS is what I mean when I recommend finding inspiration in the world around you. No matter how outlandish a fictional situation seems, chances are you can find a real life moment with even more impossible circumstances. Finding the spark that sends you on a quest for answers is only a matter of time. And having your eyes open wide enough to see it.
To read more about Carol’s quest to tell Joyce’s story, read this article. You can also watch the movie trailer here or play it below.
Sometimes you’re not blocked so much as stuck. For example, I have about twenty-five different novel projects because random bits of dialogue and setting pop into my head, but only seven of them contain more than a couple scenes. Sometimes these incomplete ideas are because I haven’t invested time in plotting the story, but sometimes I just get stuck. This isn’t always the same as writer’s block (the difference for me is when I’m blocked I can’t write ANYTHING, but when I’m stuck I just can’t write anything for a particular project), but how do you get unstuck?
This article from Writer’s Digest showed up in my inbox a little while ago and it offers a few different ideas to move you forward. The author specifically talks about research, conflict, and genre switching to help open your mind to possibilities, but these aren’t the only possibilities. Switch POVs and try writing a scene or two from a different character’s eyes. Try writing a scene completely unconnected with the story where your characters have to deal with an extremely odd situation (OMG! Where did all those tiny ninjas come from?!). There’s no wrong answer, but that’s really because there’s no right answer. No solution is guaranteed. On top of that, the solution that gets you unstuck on one project might not work on your next. Also, you should try a few different methods, but don’t let yourself get distracted researching cures for writer’s block. Sometimes a story isn’t working because it doesn’t work. If that’s the case, you might be sitting there forever if you don’t one day realize it’s time to throw in the towel.