Tag Archives: writers block

That Little Voice

AftersightHave you been there? You’re writing your novel and everything is going splendidly. You’ve created engaging characters, built tension, added a sprig of humor in just the right places. Then you hit that spot that you’ve been building up all through the first act, that scene that the readers have been waiting for since the protagonist heard her call to adventure.

You’re writing the scene you thought would captivate, but it feels flat. Everything that’s propelled you to this moment is beginning to slip away and that little voice in your head starts to talk to you: This sucks. Where is this going? What am I doing? All these cool things I have planned for the rest of this book, if I can only get past this scene.

Doubt creeps in. You think, If even I’m bored with this scene, how can my readers get through it? Is this where I lose them?

Suddenly, you’re finding excuses not to write. If you do, you find yourself working and reworking that scene, trying to discover what’s missing, trying to make it shine. It’s not writing anymore. Now it’s work when everything before it came so easily. You’re losing the magic and you don’t know why.

There are things you can do to overcome this. Some people will choose to write, “Chapter 9: Boy Meets Girl” and move on. Others will step back an analyze their story for plot flaws or try to rework their outline. Still other will mentally talk to their characters and let them inform them what’s not working. There’s nothing better than when your characters start to speak.

For me, I get this feeling in scenes when nothing surprising is happening. Characters are saying and doing exactly what you’d expect characters would say and do in this situation. The magic is gone because it feels like a path you’ve been on before, like that last mile or two before you arrive home, the stretch of road that’s so familiar it becomes backdrop.

I ask myself, “How can I surprise the reader? What aren’t they expecting? How can I introduce a roadblock in this route that they think they already know?”

If you’re an outliner, this is going to feel uncomfortable. This might screw up all your carefully wrought plans. But it could just introduce an entirely new element to your story that adds depth and tension to the scenes you already have mentally plotted out.

Think about the novels you’ve read and the scenes that caught you so off guard that you couldn’t believe that the author did that. George R.R Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice series excels at this and drives the story forward masterfully because you saw exactly where the story was going…  But you were wrong.

You remember those times when you were reading and something in the story made you gasp? Those surprises, that masterful slight of hand, is what your reader is going to remember when they close the book and long for your next story.

Challenge yourself. What is the reader expecting? Now how can you screw up their assumptions?

Start with your troubled scene. Now think, What if…

Mastering Astral ProjectionBrian Mercer is the author of Mastering Astral Projection: 90-Day Guide to Out-of-body Experience (Llewellyn, 2004) and the Mastering Astral Projection CD Companion (Llewellyn, 2007). A board member of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association, he is the webmaster of and occasional contributor to Author Magazine. When he’s not working as a programmer analyst or exploring alternate dimensions out of body, he can be found writing novels. He lives in Seattle with his wife, Sara.

Site: http://www.brianmercerbooks.com/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/BriMercer

Twitter: @BriMercer

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Writer’s Block

The NSA FilesI don’t believe in writer’s block. To me, it’s like saying that I can’t complete a thought. I can start it, but then off I go in another direction and can’t find my way back. Or that I can’t hold onto a thought long enough—the length of a novel, for example. I find this writer’s block thing odd.

I wonder if it has to do with my upbringing (doesn’t everything?) For example, a story I remember has to do with the famous writer Harlan Ellison. Well, it’s not really a story, it’s the truth. Harlan used to sit in the showcase section of a bookstore in California (sorry, I forget which one). He’d take an idea from anyone and then sit in the display window and write the story—start to finish.

He was never out of stories. He wrote a lot: short stories, television scripts, novels and novellas. I learned that that’s what a writer does. They make things up, all kinds of things. At a very young age, I picked up that belief and still carry it to this day. Not every story, novel, or poem comes out perfect, nor are they imperfect. Each has its audience, large or small, and it’s not for me to say which. It’s only for me to write the piece. And I do.

Recently, a friend said that writer’s block isn’t about what I think it is at all. That what a writer is really saying is that they’ve gotten their characters into a situation they can’t get them out of. And, that the writer just doesn’t know how to help them.

I wasn’t sure what to say, because sometimes characters don’t come out alive. Sometimes the ending isn’t happy, isn’t tied up perfectly. No life is. And if a writer is pushing the story, then no wonder it doesn’t work. If a writer wants to “know how to help” the characters, then perhaps they’re trying to control too much of the story. So, the story isn’t really blocked, just the plan the writer has for the story. Well, I let my characters take care of themselves, and you know what? They do.

Ten Months In WonderlandTerry Persun writes in many genres, including historical fiction, mainstream, literary, and science fiction/fantasy. He is a Pushcart nominee. His latest poetry collection is “And Now This”. His novels, “Wolf’s Rite” and “Cathedral of Dreams” were ForeWord magazine Book of the Year finalists in the science fiction category, and his novel “Sweet Song” won a Silver IPPY Award. His latest science fiction space opera is, “Hear No Evil”, his latest fantasy is “Doublesight”, his latest mainstream/literary novel is “Ten Months in Wonderland”.

Site: http://www.TerryPersun.wix.com/terrypersun

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When the Well Runs Dry – Part 2

AftersightLast week in Part 1 of “When the Well Runs Dry,” I explored the cause of why sometimes your writing might not feel inspired. I conclude that the reason you might not feel passionate about what you’re writing is that you’re too conscious of your audience and not focused enough on what will please you. To combat this, I recommend giving yourself permission to write what you want to write. When you care about what you’re writing, that feeling of inspiration will return, and that sense of emotion will carry through to your readers.

For some of you, simply giving yourself permission to write what interests you will be enough to find that inner voice. Sometimes it takes more.

For me, writing has grown more difficult now that I have a published novel out there. Now that I have readers, I find myself growing more self-conscious about pleasing my audience and less about what is important to me.

An invaluable resource for me has been the book Write Within Yourself: An Author’s Companion, penned by Author Magazine’s own editor-in-chief, Bill Kenower. Far from a how-to manual, it’s a book of two-page essays that make you think not just about why you’re writing, but why you’re here, and how much of who we are is reflected in what we choose to write and how we approach it.

Having interviewed hundreds of authors, Kenower writes not only from his own perspective but from the perspective of the authors he’s met. In “Practically Done,” Kenower writes, “Life can appear to be divided in two: that which you must do, and that which you want to do. The musts are certain; the wants are optional.”

He goes on to say that there will always be something else you must do. When a friend points out that it would be more practical to write books like John Grisham, make a pile of money, and then write the books you want to write, Kenower points out the impracticality of doing things one doesn’t want to do, writing things one doesn’t want to write. “I usually can [do those things] for a time,” he says, “until the tension between where I want to go and where I am telling myself I must go becomes so great that something snaps and I must start again.”

I keep a copy of Write Within Yourself at my desk and start my writing day by turning to a random page and reading whatever essay falls under my eye.  The book is my daily reminder that in order to be true to my readers, I must be true to my own passions.

Write Within Yourself  is not a guide, but a companion. A guide will tell you where to go. As a writer, only you can know that. A good companion, however, can remind you that forgetting where you want to go is different from not knowing where you want to go. Author William Kenower believes that what it takes to write the book you most want to write is also what it takes to lead the life you most want to live. This collection of essays serves as a companion for those times when you need inspiration. Write Within Yourself will help you stay connected to the writer and the life within you.

Mastering Astral ProjectionBrian Mercer is the author of Mastering Astral Projection: 90 Guide to Out-of-body Experience (Llewellyn, 2004) and the Mastering Astral Projection CD Companion (Llewellyn, 2007). A board member of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association, he is the webmaster of and occasional contributor to Author Magazine. When he’s not working as a programmer analyst or exploring alternate dimensions out of body, he can be found writing novels. He lives in Seattle with his wife, Sara.

Site: http://www.brianmercerbooks.com/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/BriMercer

Twitter: @BriMercer

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When the Well Runs Dry – Part 1

AftersightAll writers have been there. You sit down to write and words are flowing out on the page. You’re moving along, you seem to be getting somewhere, but when you end for the day something doesn’t feel quite right. Your wheels were spinning, sure, but they were spinning in mud. You didn’t really seem to travel anywhere. At least, not anywhere you wanted to go.

It’s a disconcerting feeling, a feeling that you’ve just wasted your time. You know what it’s like when you’re really in the flow of the writing, when it’s inspired, when the voice within is translating The Universe. And that, what you just wrote, that wasn’t it.

Some people might be tempted to call it writers block, but that’s not quite right, is it? You were, in fact, writing.

So you search for a cause, but the cause is elusive. Maybe, I need to do more research on my setting, you think. Maybe I need to do a little more world building.

You know there’s a reason for the malaise, so you grasp through the fog, trying to catch that slippery shadow, but it dances out of reach. Eventually, you conclude that the reason the writing didn’t feel inspired is that there is no one simple cause, and lacking a concrete source of your anxiety, you’re forced to try again the next day, likely with the same results.

I’ve found when the writing doesn’t feel inspired, it’s for one reason: I’m not writing for me. I’m writing for someone else. I might be too conscious of what my test readers are going to think, or my agent, or my intended audience. “What would they like?” I’m asking myself. “What would they want to happen next?”

The simple fact is you’re not really writing for any of those people. Sure, you want them to love what you’ve created, but the person you most have to please, the person you are truly writing for, is you. If not, why do it?

You shouldn’t be asking, “What do they want to read?” The question you want is, “What do I want to read?

Of course you have to keep your audience in mind, but what you really have to ask yourself when you’re writing is what will keep and hold your interest. Once you consciously acknowledge that your most important reader is you, that in order to feel the passion the story must be yours, that’s when the fire returns.

Nothing is more freeing than to give yourself permission to write what you want.

Mastering Astral ProjectionBrian Mercer is the author of Mastering Astral Projection: 90 Guide to Out-of-body Experience (Llewellyn, 2004) and the Mastering Astral Projection CD Companion (Llewellyn, 2007). A board member of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association, he is the webmaster of and occasional contributor to Author Magazine. When he’s not working as a programmer analyst or exploring alternate dimensions out of body, he can be found writing novels. He lives in Seattle with his wife, Sara.

Site: http://www.brianmercerbooks.com/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/BriMercer

Twitter: @BriMercer

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Filed under Brian Mercer, Inspirational, Writing & Editing