Many writers will begin working on a novel and get “stuck.” They’ll lose interest in writing that book. Award-winning author Orson Scott Card spoke about this problem on our Apex call last week and pointed out that most of the time, it’s not too hard to get unstuck.
There are a few reasons why writers develop “writer’s block.”
You started a story a while back that felt important and vital to you then, but you’ve matured, and it just doesn’t move you.
When that happens, write something else. Your head and your heart need to be in agreement. Many prolific writers suggest that when you feel thrilled by a story, you should apply your butt to a chair and hammer it out in the heat of passion.
The truth is, two years from now you might not feel passionate about the piece, but it will be done, and the story can often be thrilling audiences long after you’ve grown tired of it.
Sometimes you’ll have an idea for a story that you’re not ready to write.
You may feel you need to experience more. For example, I’m writing a story set in Fiji. I’ve been there twice on research trips but need to go for a longer visit—say three months, to do more research. It would be ideal to hammer out the first draft on location.
I’ve seen writers who want to write a story from the point of view of a “wiser” person, and the writers have a lot of pondering and maturing to do before they go to work. Tolkien said that he got his characters to the Mines of Moria, and for many years they all sat at the gate, waiting to enter. I’ve sometimes wondered if he really just needed to think about it, to try to write the book from a wiser perspective.
Usually when an author feels blocked, it is because something in the story is malformed.
When you study a story, it is much like peering into the innards of a fine watch. When you hold a Rolex in your hand, it feels weighty and precious. It runs with such precision, it seems simple.
But when you open the watch and peer in its innards, you discover a myriad of small moving parts: gears and coils and springs. And what in the world do the jewels in there do?
When I’m asked to help fix a story, I ask myself questions like, “Is one of the characters busted? Is your hero really heroic? Is she growing in the right way? Is she properly invested in the welfare of others?”
Or your villain, is he frightening enough? Does he strike the reader as being convincing, or is he one dimensional?
Is a vital scene missing? Or has the author thrown in pieces that don’t quite fit or even belong. (This last one is very often the case.)
When you discover you don’t want to write, it is normally because your subconscious is telling you something is broken.
At that point, you need to reimagine the tale. First, go back a bit and figure out where you went wrong. One old writer used to advise going back to the past two or three writing sessions and just “throw out the garbage.” Get rid of it entirely. It’s easier to rewrite it than it is to figure out where you began drifting off course.
Warning: most writers hesitate to throw away bad work. They fear losing something precious. But treat stale work the same way you treat spoiled food. You wouldn’t eat a moldy burrito, would you? Sure, you could scrape off the mold and down it, hoping it doesn’t kill you, but why bother? You should be just as eager to dispose of broken scenes as you are moldy food.
Go back and find the vital healthy parts of your story, then move forward.
In most cases, these pieces of advice should get you back on track, but be aware that sometimes there are real physical reasons why people can’t write. These may include clinical depression (which can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or seasonal affective disorder), but can also be caused by brain fog, anxiety or stress. So look to your story first, but if you have chronic health problems, you might try talking to a doctor. The solution might be as simple as taking a copper supplement or reducing your gluten intake.
Link to Robert Zangari’s Kickstarter which has already funded but is now working on meeting some cool stretch goals: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/lokpublishing/epic-fantasy-novel-the-prisoner-of-tardalim?ref=c1590g
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Last week we heard from Terry Brooks and Orson Scott Card. It’s like a traveling conventions with bestselling authors, editors, publishers, agents, and artists. Throw in thousands of dollars in free writing workshop and live writing groups, and we’re trying to create the best value for writers on the web, at only $19.95 per month or $209 for an entire year.
Whether you want to break into the publishing field, level up to bestseller, or begin selling more books than you’ve ever imagined, in Apex you’ll find the writing classes, motivational tools, and support group you need.
Go to www.apex-writers.com to learn more.