Monday, May 9, 2011

I'm Stuck. Now What?

So you have put down thousands of words. A hundred pages or more have your amazing prose containing all the virtues and passion the Great American Novel should have. Then it happens... You sit down to write and you type one word, maybe three, and it ends. What so effortlessly spilled from from your mind, to your fingers, through the keyboard and onto the electronic page, has now stopped. Where did it go? 

If this is the first time you have experienced this then you will laugh it off and grab a beverage. When you return to your writing place, you will likely continue forward and stumble through until the next time it happens. My cure for this in the past was to wait a few days and then, like many unpublished writers, I would "start something new just to prime the pump". Problem is, I would rarely go back to the old WIP and it would languish, starve and die a slow death. The result was dozens of unfinished works. So many great ideas but no discipline to see them through.
If you suffer from this same problem, then I empathize with your situation. There is no magic cure. No know silver bullet to fix the habit/problem. I can tell you what finally worked for me.
My book RISE OF MAGICK (samples at link) was less than 100 pages in and I got stuck. My normal would be to roll it around for a while, then start something new. I was about to do this very thing when I had a different thought. I broke my own rule. I handed the 80 some pages to my wife. I asked her to read it and give me her opinion. Keep in mind, she doesn't read fantasy but she agreed to read the pages. 
The next day I ask her what she thought. She tells me it is interesting.
 I asked her, "Do you think it has legs?"
"You mean, do I like it? Or are you asking if I think there's a plot?"
"As far as a book about magic and monsters, it's pretty good. Just not my thing. As far as from a technical perspective, I think you might have something there."
That's all I needed. Her degree is in English and I trust her insight and intellect. So I decided to buckle down and tough it out. I would not write a word or draw a picture not related to this story. My block lasted for eight months. Luckily, I wasn't writing for a deadline or anything. So I waited and thought and imagined the world I had found.
One morning, BAMMO! I realized the night before I wasn't dreaming about Tarzan. I was dreaming about Tarver, the protagonist from the RISE OF MAGICK! And there it was, all neatly packaged. 
I grabbed a piece of paper from under a magnet on the fridge and wrote the details I remembered. It outlined the rest of the book and gave me book two also. I was dumbfounded. The remaining 500 pages (edited way down since then) rattled off in just a few short months.

So what do you do when you are stuck? There are more methods than I could possible put down. I suggest trying out several things.
What do I suggest not doing? Don't ignore it. Don't start something new. Don't give up. Don't let that living, breathing world die. Find a way through the fog. Step back and get a fresh perspective.
Brief suggestions of what to do:
Try starting a new chapter.
Write detailed character sketches.
Write a short story about your main character in old age. Then ask them what happened.
Ask others how they overcome the problem

All in all, I say that we can handle writer's block in a number of ways. The key is finding that intrinsic motivation to overcome it and not give up. Once you conquer it, you will have a feeling of satisfaction few things can provide.

Until next time.... WRITE!

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