Ok, don’t go getting your knickers in a twist. I understand that for a lot of us the old writers’ block can be as welcome as the spawn of Beelzebub at a divorce party. All I’m saying is that when you reeeeely think about it, there is more than enough for us to be getting on with that would all go towards building our books, that we don’t actually have to be writing the damn thing in order to help us write it.
How many times have you seen a movie where some author or other has been paid a huge advance for their (as yet unwritten) book, and they decide to hire a wee cottage way out in the back end of nowhere? On the way there, they stop off at the local convenience store (“yore narht frum rownd ‘ere, arr yooo?”) to get all their provisions. Then they get in, get unpacked and get the fire lit, before pouring themselves a whiskey (maybe even a whisky or a bourbon) and settling down at their typewriters where they scroll in a piece of paper, type “Chapter One”, and proceed to sit there for the next 5 days, staring at the page, growing whiskers and smelling like a lift in a block of flats… I must admit… I’ve never been there. I’m not bragging, I honestly haven’t..!!
First of all, bleugh, whiskey…? Even the finest Irish doesn’t appeal to me (disclaimer: Bushmills, this is nothing personal, I’m just more of a lager girl… Also, Auntie Sheila – much respect…) But secondly, and the most important of all the ‘importantlies’ (yes, it’s a word, I just typed it): whoever starts right exactly on Chapter One? And even if you do, don’t you even have the slightest idea what your book is going to be about? Start, middle, end? All the in-betweens? So why writers’ block?? Go somewhere else.
Ok, so you might not be in the mood to write about the party scene just now, or maybe the funeral scene would bring you down when you’re feeling really lively right now, but bloody hell, there’s nothing you can write? Nothing??
Here’s what I do. Now, this isn’t for everyone. I know that. It’s a fact. But I write my book kind of like they film a movie or a TV series, say for example, The Game of Thrones (TM). They don’t film from the start through to the end, because that’s not always the most financially viable. They film all the scenes that are set in the same locations so they don’t have to keep going back and forth. If you’ve booked The Dark Hedges in Co. Antrim, and it’s all closed off, then you might as well spend a couple of weeks there and do whatever you have to do before you move off to another location, no? Of course, it makes sense. With me, I write as and when it suits me to do it according to the mood I’m in. Sometimes I wake in the night and I can’t get back to sleep. So I maybe think about some scenes in my book and I happen to come up with some dialogue that I think would work. The next morning I make note of it and then once I have a chance to, I type it up while it’s still fresh. It might happen at the end of my book, or somewhere after the start of the second half of the middle… It doesn’t matter, if it’s in my head, why shouldn’t I write it?
For example. The very end of my book – as in the very very last scene – is already written, word for word and I’m really happy with it. For now at least. Because that’s the thing. Just because I’ve written it, doesn’t mean that I have to stick to it, why do people think otherwise? Write whatever part of your book speaks to you right now. There’s nothing wrong with that.
What if you simply aren’t in the mood for being creative at all but you have a few hours to spare and you just want to do something, anything to do with your book? Something creative that will add to your story. Here’s what… Do research. Hey! Don’t yell at me…!
Ok, I get it. You’ve done all the research you need to about your book. Really? Have you? So supposing that’s true, delve into a minor character’s life. Give them a hobby, an interest, a quirk, something, ANYTHING that you have to research that might take you the next 2 hours but that might even just give you 2 sentences extra about them that might just be… funny, or intriguing, or I don’t know, creepy. My characters all have different occupations, hobbies, cultural/ethical differences, musical interests, religious upbringings. Make your book as good as it can be. Add shit in here and there. Have you ever wondered what people who pilot hot air balloons have to do? They have the lives of up to what, 10 people in their hands? Surely they have to do some kind of training. Well, Google it and mention it in a scene where one of your characters takes another character on a trip of a lifetime (for whatever reason I don’t know, it’s your book!) It just adds that little bit extra. You can never do too much research, or add too much realism, yes even in a vampire-zombie-rom-com-Anime-documentary…
Another thing that can actually happen is complete and total writers block. You just can’t face writing anything on your book at all. Nothing. No head scene. No tail scene. No character history. No plot frikken point. No bloody sex fecking scene! Maybe you have more than one WIP but the mood just isn’t grabbing you. Ok, so write about yesterday.. Not your book’s yesterday, or your characters’ yesterday. YOUR yesterday. Write everything. In detail. But dramatise it all. Just to yourself. No one else need ever read it (unless it turns into a block-busting best-seller and you just can’t deny the world the pleasure. Hey, it might happen.) Just go with it. You might find that babbling on about the otherwise mundane stuff might get you fired up for the really nitty-gritty stuff in your novel. It works for me…
As an example, here’s the very start of my yesterday (it was a Sunday)… (c) Heidi J. Darman 2017 All Rights Reserved. No Unauthorised Copying or Distribution of the Following Material is Permitted, else there’ll be trouble, let me tell you!…
The whole bed shook as Jake scratched at his ear repeatedly, waking me from a sleep that I had only finally drifted off into after watching the clock until 4:38am. I looked again and could have cried when I saw the figures 6:54am. For a 13 year old Yorkshire Terrier, he really does make an impact. Ever since his half-sister Phoebe was put to sleep in October we’ve let him sleep in with us every night. She was 12, and had been blind and sick for a year with diabetes and various complications resulting from it. They had been inseparable. She was a wee lady. He misses her as much as we do. They used to sleep in the utility room, but letting him sleep with us that first night seemed like the obvious decision at the time. We clearly hadn’t thought it through since he’s still in with us 4 months later, and he’s showing no signs of wanting his own space. Every night, he just makes his way into our room while we switch off lights and lock doors. The fact that he is on heart medication and snores like a bloody train doesn’t help with the human sleeping situation, hence my sleepless nights. I lie awake most nights listening to his breathing, worrying in case he stops, or has a heart attack like his daddy, Fionn, did a couple of years ago. For all the size of him, he’s my big man and I love him to pieces…”
So there you go…. That was how I woke up yesterday… and aside from the sick doggy aspect, it was fun writing it. Nothing at all to do with my book, but I was writing. I think that’s what writers need, correct me if I’m wrong – to simply write. About anything.
Writers’ block shouldn’t exist in your world. If you simply waken up and hear the birds outside your window, write about it. If you fall flat on your face in the ice and embarrass yourself on a Winter’s morning, write about it. If you go into work and you find that someone has chipped your favourite coffee mug, write about it. Dramatise it. Put yourself into it. No. THROW yourself into it. I began here by writing a little bit about my yesterday to try and prove a point, and I ended up getting carried away and having to delete most of what I wrote because it just went off by itself. I was writing. About being woken up yesterday by my dog… We all have those moments. Utilise them. Before you know it, you’ll be writing your book again. Hey. It works for me.
Till next time x
Please feel free to add your own tuppence worth to the topic by commenting in the box below. I’m more than happy for any and all input 🙂