Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Indie Life: Writer's Block

Welcome to Indie Life. This is a monthly blog hop (every second Wednesday of the month) where the participants blog on anything and everything related to self-publishing. Join us!

Last week, I was struggling with writer's block. I was a quarter of the way into my latest novel's first draft when I hit a wall. I was writing a scene and something was wrong. But I didn't know what. I knew the scene's setting, I knew the characters that had to be there, and I knew what the scene had to be about. It was all there. But the scene was dead. I tried to push through it. I tried polishing the scene. But nothing worked.

So I sat down with a sheaf of notebook paper and a pen. I wrote out questions, asking myself what the scene was about. Not what happened in the scene, but what the scene did for the book. I answered that the scene was supposed to be an echo of two of the novel's themes--confession and forgiveness. And while the scene did echo those themes, it wasn't a quiet echo. It was loud and bombastic. Instead of the ethereal whisper of a violin, it was the subwoofer boom of a percussion backbeat. Strong enough that it was distracting from the plot and themes instead of underlining them.

Then, I asked myself what the scene was supposed to do for the characters. It was supposed to deepen a minor characters, which it did by exposing one of his flaws. But the failing I showed was more of an as-a-writer-I-know-this-character-is-supposed-to-be-flawed-and-I'm-trying-to-make-him-flawed-but-not-too-flawed. And that was the problem, the flaw was half-hearted. It was a speck of lint on black velvet, not a tear ripping through the velvet and the silk lining. I needed a real flaw, a surprise to the reader. I needed to make the reader catch his breath, but still like the character. A much harder task.

Once I realized what function the scene had for the characters and themes, I brainstormed fixes. I realized that what needed to happen was the exact opposite of what I'd written. So I took the scene back to the bones and rewrote it. The words flowed across the page. The scene practically wrote itself. Writer's block was over.

If you're struggling with a scene or facing writer's block, think about the scene/chapter/plot twist's function. Think about the purposes it's serving in terms of advancing plot/character development/themes and ask yourself if those things are all working together in the scene. If not, ask yourself how it's failing those purposes. Once you understand what's wrong, then you can fix it.

So maybe writer's block isn't always a bad thing. Maybe it's just an early warning system, a red light flashing "Hey, dummy, this doesn't work." That's what I'm telling myself.

Other Brave Indie Lifers...

1.Susan Kaye Quinn, Author2.Steena Holmes
3.Claudia Lefeve4.Author Laura Diamond Lucid Dreamer
5.ali cross6.Katie Klein
7.Larry Kollar8.Faith McKay
9.Civil War Horror10.Ansha Kotyk
11.Terri J. Haynes12.The Open Vein, E.J. Wesley
13.Secondhand Shoes, A Novel14.Eclectic
15.Lisa M. Buske16.Sandra Ulbrich Almazan
17.J.R. Pearse Nelson18.Melissa Pearl
19.Cherie Reich20.PK HREZO
21.Victoria Escobar22.J.L. Campbell
23.K. A. Last24.The Murphey Saga
25.Tyrean's Writing Spot26.Suzy Turner
27.Laura Pauling28.C.M. Brown
29.Stephen Tremp30.Jennifer Writes Things Sometimes
31.Capri Montgomery32.Indiscriminate Writes
33.C. M. Keller, Screwing Up Time34.RaShelle Workman
35.J.J. Bonds36.Why I love the indie life
37.A First Look at Indie Life38.Mary Pax
39.Notes from the Jovian frontier40.L.E. Waters~Fantasy Prone
41.The Indie Children's Authors Connection42.Christian Superheroes
43.Ellie Garratt44.Write Me, Kaye Draper
45.Can You Make a Living Writing? (Author Nikki Jefford)46.Michelle Isenhoff
47.Catherine Stine's Idea City48.The Lina Lamont Fan Club
49.Donna Hosie50.Rinelle Grey
51.Word by Word52.Riann Colton
53.Strange Pegs54.Rachel Morgan
55.sarabeth burke56.Writing, the Universe and Everything Writing
57.J.L. Weil58.Meetings with My Muse
59.Planet Pailly: Where Science Meets Fiction60.Janeal Falor
61.Michael Pierce
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  1. I love pulling out the pencil and paper when I need to brainstorm. There's just something about it compared to looking at a blank screen!

    Thanks for participating!

  2. Quite often I find that when I have 'writers block' it's because the story's gone off-track somewhere. Reading back through the whole thing usually highlights the spot and I can start from there.

    Sometimes it means throwing away whole chapters, but in the end it's worth it.


  3. I know just what you mean about the block that's a wall. Those do tend to happen when I get off course. Sometimes if I'm super blocked I need others to help me identify where I took a wrong turn. My writer's group is great at that.

  4. I love your idea of asking those questions! I'm glad you got over the block.

  5. Excellent post!!! We're on the same wavelength, because I did exactly that when I was outlining one of my new WIPs earlier this week. I wrote down a bunch of questions about the characters' motivations, why the country is the way it is, the reason behind the conflict, the psychology behind people's actions. I think it helps push through writer's block and makes for a richer story in terms of world-building.