06 April 2009


Writer's Block. For those of us that depend daily upon our 'muses' to provide us with fresh content, it's a pretty scary term.

But here's the thing: I don't actually believe in it. Oh, sure, I believe in being blocked - but I don't believe the reason is ever that vague, nebulous idea of "writers' block". I don't know about you, but usually when I'm blocked, it's because my brain is trying to tell me something about what I'm writing - trying to tell me that Something Is Wrong.

Most recently, I've been suffering a month-long block on my wip, Jesscapades (an urban-fantasy suspense novel, whee!). And two days ago, I figured out why.

As regular readers will know, I spend a hair-tearing weekend back in February replotting the storyline for this novel; I plotted to the end only to discover the MC became someone I hated - which happened with The Project, too. But unlike The Project, this was a story I wasn't willing to give up on. I'm pretty determined to make Jesscapades work.

So I replotted, and after much frustration, figured out how to make my MC less morally reprehensible, and realised what was causing the unbalance in my storyline (you can see pictures here).

But I was still blocked. No matter how much I tried to convince myself, I just couldn't start working on it again.

And then two days ago, I figured it out. The scene I was up to was a very crucial scene for the entire novel - in fact, it's the inciting incident - and I'd started it wrong. This totally stalled me out, because it caught me in a deadlock: did I push through and keep writing, knowing the scene was wrong, knowing I'd have to scrap most of it in edits? Or did I restart it, and lose several hundred words from my precious word count?

The idea of cutting words was terrifying; the thought of writing something I knew I'd cut was heartbreaking. So I ignored it all. For several weeks. Without even knowing that this was what the problem was.

But once I realised what the problem was, I had a *facepalm* moment: it's a first draft. You're allowed to write it like NaNoWriMo. That means you don't cut anything, even if you know it's rubbish, and it's allowed to count in the word count. Instead of cutting, you just cross it out and start again.

And so I did.

Such a simple, simple solution to a month-long, frustrating block. Aren't I a clever bunny? *rolls eyes*

So. Wanna know how the scene was supposed to start? Kind of sort of something like this. :)

The rushes of adrenalin every time she’d caught a glimpse of someone turning a corner had faded; the unknown faces in the street no longer all looked like Tara. But still, it had only been four days. She might still be alive.

Jess leaned against the stone-block wall of an alley and tilted her head up to see the sky. Blue, bright, clear. It ought to be raining. At least then there would be some way for Jess to express the pain and anger burning in her chest, and the clouds could cry for her, since she couldn’t.

With a sigh, she closed her eyes, and slumped to the ground, resting her head on her knees. Why Tara? Why? And what on earth had happened?

People go missing, thought Jess. I know that. But not Tara. Not one of us. Realising the illogicality of her thoughts, she added, Not someone who knows the streets so well, anyway. Not by accident.

And there was the key factor, the one that scared her more than anything else: not by accident.

What had Tara done? What had she been involved in that had caused her to go missing for four days without a trace?

Jess squeezed her arms around her legs, knowing that the answers weren’t going to come, and determined just for a few minutes to put the whole matter out of mind.

I should have watched her more closely. It’s my fault.


Beth said...

Glad you figured out what the problem was, Inkster.

I figure my writer's block is me getting stressed. I think, "I need an idea! I need an idea!" and freak myself into a brain-lock.

Good luck with the rewriting!

Lady Glamis said...

Yay for knowing your Inciting Incident! And your Inciting Incident character. :D

I think that most of the time this is where "writer's block" comes from - you lose sight of where your story really started and where it needs to go. If you know, and you keep your focus, it makes it that much easier.

Congrats on cutting and starting over. I know it's hard, but oh so worth it, as you can see. :)

Great scene!

ElanaJ said...

You're totally right about the reason for the blockage. Great post!

Eric said...

I can completely understand what you're saying here. In my current WIP, I had to completely re-invent my antagonist because I came to the point (halfway into the novel no less) where I realized his entire makeup would not work realistically with where I wanted him to go. I spent a week and a half running ideas through my head, but I came up empty. Finally (yesterday) when I decided to stop thinking about it, inspiration hit and I am in a position to recreate him as a completely new person, one that will finally fit within the story framework without destroying the original intent. Funny how things work out, huh?

Rana said...


Usually, I just have to power through my blocks.

beth said...

Excellent--isn't it great when you can figure out how to solve a problem in the ms?!

(And I'm with you on the definition of writer's block)

Merc said...

Glad you figured out the first draft mantra: it sucks, just write and fix it later. ;)

(I know, I know, I still run into Perfectionist's Block all the time, sigh. I've been trying to just slough through and get a few shorts done--it hurts us, it bites, precious. :P)

I don't think there's writer's block as an actual thing, per se, but blocking that show up for a variety of reasons on a particular story. Perfectionism is a big one for some of us, as I'm sure you know. :P

Glad you managed to get over it, Inky. Shall I poke you to just write if you get stuck again? O:)


Inkblot said...

Beth - I so understand. I'm GREAT at doing that too myself too o.O Actually, that's one of the great things I learned from ThinkSideways - how to encourage ideas to come without killing them by stressing. Pretty cool.

Glam - Ha, losing focus. Yes, we both know that quite a bit of that had happened! :D Thanks for your help :)

Thanks, Elana! Nice to see you commenting :)

Eric - I'm so glad it worked out for you. It's the most frustrating thing in the world to get halfway through and realise your protag isn't right :S

Rana - I've pretty much learned that for me, powering through is counter-productive. I usually end up with a bigger mess than if I'd just stopped and listened to my brain in the first place! :D

Beth - YES, it is SO good to have that moment where things 'click' and you know what's wrong and why :)

Merc - yes, perfectionism kills me if I'm not constantly alert. Poking would be appreciated :)

Thanks for a great round of comments, everyone! :)

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