Writer’s block is an opinion-divider. Some writers say there’s no such thing. Others are afflicted by it regularly but come to know that it’s part of their personal creative cycle. For me, I’ve found that writer’s block is a bit of a coverall for the times when I’m unsure.
My blocks fall into these reasons:
- Being overwhelmed by decisions – from the hair/eye colour of a character, to how they react in certain situations, how they chose to control their story, the essence of their character, how the plot will go, how the story will end. When there are so many things to decide, I succumb to decision fatigue, something I’ve only felt before when renovating a house. By the time I came to pick paints, I no longer cared.
- When I suffer from the ever-lurking imposter’s syndrome, I freeze. Every word feels clunky, every sentence feels devoid of life. It’s when my inner critic comes out and fills my head with ‘this is all rubbish’ chat. Frustratingly, I understand that this is what is going on, but out-thinking her takes some manoeuvring.
- When I know for real something’s not working. It may be the combination of characters doesn’t gel, or the plot doesn’t hit the points it should or for some yet-to-be-determined reason, the voice doesn’t feel right. Whatever the reason, I stop writing because I know the pain of a major re-write or complete plot overhaul and I want to sort out the problem and so spare myself that pain.
I always believed that writers fall into two main categories: the plotter and the pantser, the planner and the see-where-the-wind-blows-you-er.
But there are variations within this – the detailed plotter and total pantser being the two extremes with a whole spectrum between. It may mean knowing the beginning, middle and ending of your story or the key twists, it may be understanding your character and letting them lead you, it may be plotting only a chapter or two in advance or it may be editing the previous chapter before writing the next. All are valid – you find what works for you and your current story.
But how does this help when you are blighted by block? I guess it’s being honest with yourself about what’s stopping you; if you don’t know your character well enough it’ll show, if you’re dodging the decisions, sit down and make a load of notes. Face up to the problem.
This blog is brought to you by an unhappily written first draft. It is a story I’ve been returning to between other projects and struggling with. The story is good, there’s enough about the characters to carry it and it’s hooky. But it has got me thinking about how good a first draft really has to be. Can everything really be changed in edits, or does there have to be some spark, some intrinsic story energy present from the start?
Possibly you have to write a wrong draft before you know what a right draft should look like. Perhaps you need to try one of the story permutations before you know if it’ll work. The lesson I am learning (again) is that sometimes it’s best to write it wrong, then see how to fix it. If there are no words, there is nothing to fix. Even wrong words are better than no words. Either way, this coming week I’ll again be testing the theory that a story is made in the edit.
Image courtesy of Freepik.com / jannoon028