As legend has it, Mark Twain (may have) set aside Huck Finn for seven years because he didn’t know what was going to happen to his characters next. That’s some serious writer’s block, wouldn’t you say?
So whenever I hit a bit of writing turbulence, I’ll wonder: Uh oh. Is this my Huck Finn moment?
Am I going to have writer’s block for seven years?
This might be why I cultivate a variety of creative projects…because then I’ll have something else to fall back on in case my main project completely jams up…though I really don’t want it to come to that!
I’d rather get myself past the bumpy bits and keep moving onward.
When I wrote Regency Mystery #1, it took a long time for me to finish (ie: years) because I built in the editing process. If I hit a wall or knew a section was shaky, plot wise, I paused and figured out a solution. Or researched the heck out of it.
Like I was some kind of NASA engineer.
One time, I went back and re-wrote the entire first third. I wasn’t moving forward unless the structure was sound.
Solid, like a brick outhouse.
No way was I going to finish it only to find the floor was crooked and the door fell off as soon as you sat down…
So when writer’s block happened, it was a big ordeal. I had to find a solution or the project couldn’t go. No lift off.
That involved a lot of strain and struggle.
It took time, but I always found a solution. Luckily, I never had to wait seven years…
With Regency mystery #2, I’m trying a different approach. Sort of the #nanowrimo approach.
Word count matters. I just want to reach the finish line, FAST.
(80,000 words of gibberish? I’ll take it!)
And I figure if the structure’s a little wobbly, I can shore up the roof and fix the door when I’m finished…
This requires a different approach to writers block because, basically…
there is no writers block!
If something doesn’t feel right, no matter, ignore it, just keep MAKING IT UP!
So far, I have refrained from using alien abductions or time travel as plot explanations. (And no, I haven’t used: ‘it was all a dream’).
But the temptation is certainly there to free-fall into nonsense just so I can have a first draft finished.
This is a new approach for me, and not one I am totally comfortable with.
But I am making an effort, hoping maybe it’ll take less time to fix a first draft after the fact rather than doing a million drafts and edits as I crawl my way along.
We shall see.
In the meantime, I still use these strategies when ever I’m up against those wiggly, panic-inducing ‘I don’t know’s’:
- use parentheses to mark the small bits I need to add to later (see the posting ‘Frame It To Keep The Writing Flowing’ for more info on how this works)
- go for a walk or go for a ride or do yoga or clean house or go kayaking….clear your mind; take a break; stop thinking about it
- approach it as play, just goof around, make it an improv scene, see what happens…you don’t have to keep it if it doesn’t work out…but, then again, you might surprise yourself and stumble upon awesomeness…
- stay open! stay receptive! You never know what might show up!
- maintain a consistent writing practice, even if it’s only 10-15 minutes, set the timer if need be
- work on something else for a little while, but do come back and try again…
I think the key is to…not panic!
Remember, Mark Twain finished Huck Finn… eventually.
It is always good to take help from writer friends. A friend is the first individual I fantasize. Then I just tell my friend what I’m writing about and how I got stuck. I become more decisive when I limit my audience to just one person. And envisioning the explanation helps me maintain the proper perspective to untangle my task. Although it seems too straightforward, it works quite well.