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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Getting Past the Snorlax: Holiday Malaise and Writer's Block

Writing is hard, ya'll. So hard that I am, in fact, affecting a Southern accent to demonstrate the general malaise that has settled upon me. The aforementioned malaise is also why this post is a day late.

Whether your holidays are over or are just kicking into gear, it is pretty much universally accepted that the holidays are draining, mentally, emotionally, chronically, etc. etc. I love the holidays, don't get me wrong. But ever since there's become this expectation that I have to contribute to merriment in ways other than just showing up with an eager, smiling face the whole thing has been a lot more work and a lot less endless wonder. Who knew food didn't just appear fully cooked, amirite?

Still delicious.

What I'm getting at is that, after the frenetic go-getter-ness of November, a little bit of the magic is gone. The whirlwind of ideas and plot lines of yestermonth have been replaced by little more than intermittent thoughts passing by, "Maybe I should try to write today."


But this blog doesn't exist solely for me to whine about my own malaise (It isn't? Oh, my brain is telling me it isn't...) it exists for me to pass on the lessons that I've learned the hard way about the path to the finished novel. And one lesson I've learned the hard way MANY time over is that sometimes you hit The Wall.

There are many ways to get to The Wall. "How do I get from point A to point B?" "Why would my character do that?" "What will my character do next?" "How should this novel end?" "Why isn't this long enough?" "How do I make this longer?" But, inevitably, The Wall is tall, wide, and seemingly insurmountable. Not to be too droll, but, simply put, The Wall is made of Writers' Blocks. *ba da cha*

The Wall, exacerbated by The Holidays, is intimidating. Sometimes it seems best just to give up and let it sit there for a while until it decides to move. But The Wall is the Snorlax of the writing world. It's not going to go away on its own. You're gonna have to grab your Poke-Flute and get playing.

(What the hell is she talking about? Is that  Pokemon reference? is she trying to be cool?
Poke-Flute? What is she, 50? That game's like a thousand years old ...)
But Blog-Lady, didn't you say we shouldn't force ourselves to write if we don't have anything worth writing? Yeah, I may have said something like that. But I'm not contradicting myself. Because what I'm telling you to do now to overcome The Wall isn't to just throw a bunch of words and effort at it. Everyone knows no matter how many times you try to engage to Snorlax, nothing new happens. What you need to do is strategize your way around The Wall. You need the proper instrument to get over it, or get it out of the way.

And is this instant, your Poke-Flute is an outline.

"Nooooooo.....!" you wail is dismay. "Not that! Anything but that!"

Come on, now. Outlining isn't so bad. And it is necessary. When you're stuck in a rut, trying to figure out what happens next or where you can add more in, blindly throwing down words isn't going to be productive. You're going to need to sit back, examine that situation, and plan your way out of it.

So grab a cup of cocoa. Snag a handful of Christmas cookies. Curl up in your favorite chair, take up your comfiest pen and a fresh notebook and get to work.

Questions To Ask When Outlining Your Way Over The Wall

          1. How did we get here?
          2. Was the story built properly to get to this point?
          3. Where do we want to go from here?
          4. What needs to be said?
          5. Which character is the proper vehicle for the action?
          6. Is the plot driving the action or is the action driving the plot?
          7. How would I react if this happened to me?
          8. How would my character react if this happened to them?
          9. If I was reading this, would I understand why it happened? Where would I expect it to go?
          10. Is the task at hand suitably difficult for the character? Too easy? Too hard?
          11. Are all of the characters present contributing to the story, or are they just spectating?

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