With NaNoWriMo just around the corner I think it’s time to tackle one of the more common problems writer encounter; Writers Block.
I’ve said before that I don’t believe in Writers Block and I don’t, but at the same time I do. Like I said, Electricians don’t get a similar excuse. But Electricians don’t write do they?
Think of it like constipation for the mind. You want to shit out that hot and sweaty sex scene or that totally not homoerotic fight scene (or some combination of the two), but it’s just not coming, no matter how hard you try.
Well, get ready to lube up your mental sphincter and crap all over that page because I have one weird, fun trick to totally revolutionize how you deal with Writers Block. Yours for only £9.99, sign up now for your free trial.
You work hard at it. That’s it. You do as the mathematician did and work it out with a pencil. Treat your writing like work and all of a sudden you’ll find that you’ve got a lot less Writers Block. Why? Probably because you take work more seriously. You could get fired from work if you don’t take it seriously. Think of your writing like that. You won’t get fired, but you will get your editor and your agent taking it in turn to kick you so hard in your soft bits until you vomit up your own bones.
The best cure for Writers Block is to simply know what you need to write. Sounds crazy I know.
Knowing what you need to write is a much bigger problem for those who jump in head first with their writing, whilst its much less of one for the plotters among us. Think about how easy it is for you to write a few hundred pages about your favourite types of train or My Little Pony (looking at you Mark). Now compare that to how hard it was for you to write your dissertation, your college essays or even a fucking shopping list.
***A quick digression; Plotters and Head-Firsters.
A plotter is someone that plans out the action and the story arch well in advance. To these people very few things come as a surprise in the story because they’ve already worked it out. They know what John McEveryman does next when he sees Ms Hotness-Delicious turn up outside his office with a request for him to find her fiancé. They know that although Ms Hotness-Delicious still loves her fiance she will sleep with McEveryman just to feel needed and loved and be tortured with guilt for the rest of the story. They know why the Balrog shows up. In short, they know what happens next.
Think of it in terms of Saturday morning cartoons: These people are Skelator. Fuck these guys, they want to rule Eternia.
Head-firsters; Stephen King calls people like this Panters because they work best when they’re making shit up as they go along and live their writing life by the seat of their pants. They keep going as past as they can because slowing down means getting bogged down and the work falling apart. King himself is like this. It works for some people but it’s never been my thing.
Returning to the Saturday morning cartoons analogy these guys are Ram-man; dumb fucks that stick their heads down and only look up when they’ve stopped killing. Fuck that guy, he gets to date Telia and has goofie ass legs.***
I’ve done both. I’ve had Writers Block on more cases than I care to count, hell, I’d say that my Writers Block tends to be interrupted by periods or writing rather than the other way around.
My most practical point of advice is to know what you need to write next. Never suddenly realise that the story got away from you and you’ve found yourself with no way of getting from here to there. Never turn around and realise that Hugh Giantsballs has run out of room on the plank and is about to fall into the foamy waters below – unless you know what happens next. Be the ultimate spoiler warning – ruin that shit for yourself! Stride into your writing space and tell your sorry ass story that you not only know what happens, how it ends, what the major themes and conflicts are, but what plot threads are red herrings designed to lull the reader into a false sense of security and which ones are the real deal and only going to be addressed in three books time. Wave your spoiler warning wang in that things face whilst screaming ‘Dumbledoor dies! The Red Wedding kills the Northmen, Bruce Willis is a ghost and Rosebud was a fucking sledge!’
I forget who said it now, but remember this quote; when I can’t create I work. If you are a head-firster and you view creativity as something that only comes about by divine intervention then here is my advice to you;
Before you start, do a couple of character questionnaires. Really know your characters and the situations they might get into. If any of you do roleplaying then roleplay a few potential scenes. Vox the talking robot and Milo te inquisitive chipmunk have gotten into a drunken brawl between four local toughs. Trouble is, neither Vox or Milo are fighters and look like they’re about to get the snot beaten out of them. How are they going to get out of it? You need these guy alive and well for that scene you know you want later. Do they get help from a mysterious third party, do they find out that love conquers all or that friendship really is magic? You have to know what tools are available in your story so that people can do shit like this.
I’d always advocate having a plan however. When you have a plan you can take down Eternia, defeat He-Man, take Castle GreySkull and mount the sorceresses head on a pike. And then you get to turn to the camera, your eye sockets filled with burning fire and say, “Just as I planned.”
It’s worth it just for that.