Thursday, May 20, 2010

Busting the Block

Writer's Block
At one point in my life, I didn't believe in writer's block. I was a plotter, and nothing was impossible if it was planned in advance. Now I know differently. Block happens. There's always a chance that some mental stumbling block will occur. Mine is stress and depression in this faltering economy.

I've tried various techniques when facing the block. There are many, and you have to try them all sometimes until you find the one that works. Here are my list of no-fails. I believe others may have more.

1. BICHOK (Butt in chair, Hands on keyboard)-- Sometimes, just making myself sit there and try is a good start. I have trouble just getting my butt in the chair and will make excuses. (It's too hot, let me start this load of laundry, I just need to run this one little errand, etc...)
2. Just Fifteen-- I'll set an electronic timer and promise myself that if I try for just fifteen minutes and can't come up with anything, I'll give myself permission to go play for an hour and try again later. More often than not, in fifteen minutes I'll slap off the annoyance automatically because I'm now deep in the story.
3. Character blogs-- This works very, very well for me. Sometimes I need to sit back and let the characters speak to me. So, I'll set up a blank doc, name it their blog, and let them tell me. This is how I came up with the wildly successful "Flash Point" story, which I'm proud to say is well on its way to outselling even "Room to Play." Tig's blog was an experiment that literally became the book. I've been shocked and surprised at what comes out onto the page. A vampire has told me he was a murder victim, a hero has expressed his pure rage at the hand fate dealt him, and a tramp female let the lady she was inside out.
4. Swap POV-- Let's say you're writing a scene and you're sure this character is the one to tell the tale, but it just won't come out. Try writing it from another perspective. Sometimes the villain wants to speak, or perhaps the sidekick has more angst than you thought. You don't have to include it. Let go and see what happens.
5. Skip it-- For me, sex scenes are a royal pain in the tush. Seriously, they can take me three days of solid sweat, blood and tears. When I am just not interested in sex right now, I'll insert my "Sixteen Steps" notations, fill out what I want to accomplish or note what positions/kinks/angst I have in mind, and move on. This has an added benefit. Sometimes the characters will reveal something else in their personality later you can include, like the wild thought of "I wish he'd tie me up and gag me." Also, this can include a foreshadow of later events, such as an offhand comment like, "I hate high places" and the hero later finds himself on top of a skyscraper with the nasty choice of a risky jump or certain death at the hands of the villain.
6. Play with your toys-- I have a set of artist's mannequins I use for visuals. Sometimes, I need to set them up on the dining room table and create the visual representation of the scene. There's nothing more joyful than remembering the dog followed his mistress into the bedroom with the hero, and now the hero must contend with the big brown eyes staring at him over the edge of the bed and the growls. "She likes it, Rover! Really!" Giggling heroine must convince Rover she really does like it while hero fumes, etc. Then hero trips over the bench she keeps at the foot of the bed, etc. Hey, the living room has a fireplace...have the mage light it before he ravishes her...hmm...Ooops they knocked over the coffee table by rolling around on the floor like that...
7. Research-- Go to the library or whatever is needed. I took a trip to a fire station, visited a natural history museum, and even took a trip to the zoo to study animals for my shifter stories. The zoo is horribly expensive, but a day at the zoo gave me so many shifter ideas, I was making notes on my napkins while we had lunch at the zoo's excellent restaurant. I was sunburned, sweaty, and so tired I fell into bed that night, but the next morning I dove for the keyboard and actually forgot to get a cup of coffee. (Don't faint.)
8. Desperate times...need a vacation-- This is my last resort step to writing. I give myself permission to goof off. I hate doing this, but I'll put away my writing stuff and give myself a week off. Then I call up any one of several folks and take a mental health break with the most insane person I can think of at the moment. For me, that means a trip to the beach and squishing my toes in the sand. That's my "recharge my batteries" day.
9. On Hold--My final step is the most difficult to do. Give it up as a bad story. Let's say you were trapped into writing a story based on a half-assed idea you happen to have mentioned and someone jumped on it. Sometimes those half-baked ideas just don't work out, no matter how much you try. I have three stories I'd love to write, half done and sitting in the hard drive. They won't come out, no matter how I try. So, they're waiting on hold.  Someday, maybe I will write that Atlantis story, or the pirates, or that weird-ass sci-fi. Clearly, not now. 

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