Let me explain this week's challenge. Poison in the Pond is a horror novella I released in October 2014. Last week I had the idea to write a sister novella. So I came up with the title for the next in the series, Evil in the Embers, and tweaked a story idea I'd drafted a few months prior, then I sat down at the computer and...nothing. I couldn't get the story started. For the past week I've attempted to get beyond the words Chapter One.
Writer's block is a massive hurdle. I wondered if it was due to the fact I was editing a 120,000 word novel. Writing and editing require different brain activity. Yet Poison in the Pond is a 20,000 word novella, so Evil in the Embers only needs to be 20,000 words. And for the past nine months I've written two full length novels at over 127,000 words a piece. Why can't I write the first chapter to what is essentially a long short story?
I'll go back a little to explain how I typically overcome writers block. In 2010 I had the idea to write a story about an angel trapped in Purgatory. But I could never get the story off the ground. Until I changed it to young adult fiction. The Bird With The Broken Wing seemed to write itself after I changed the age of the characters. I heard their voices in my head, their stories appeared on the page, and the novel was written.
Writers block can be crippling unless a writer is open to change.
Change is key to overcoming writer's block. So I decided to change the point of view of the main character in Evil in the Embers. I'd started the story with a female's POV. Today I changed the main character to a man and within thirty minutes I had written 1000 words . Sometimes the story that we want to write isn't the story the characters want to tell.
If you're struggling with writers block here's a few things you can consider:
1 Change the gender of the main character.
Especially if the writing is sounding cliché, it's time to switch heads. Putting ourselves into the head of the other sex can spark dialogue and setting. It can switch on the creative process and get us using the grey matter in an inspiring way. Writers tend to research what we don't know and its the details in the research that can lead to a more interesting character. If you started off with a female, change to a male and then observe male behaviour. And vice versa.
2 Change the age of the characters.
If you're stuck and you're writing about teens, make them adults. There are enough hurdles when it comes to writing YA such as kids can't drive and you kinda want to avoid parents in the storyline, and kids don't have money and you need them to buy ghost busting equipment, and kids have curfews and you want them to track down the bad guys after dark. Same goes if you're stuck writing adult characters, then maybe adding the complexities that teens face is just what your writing needs to get that boost.
Okay, you might want to write a paranormal story, but if it's just not working then maybe writing the story in a contemporary manner or vice versa may be the trigger to unlocking the flow of writing. Although, a word of caution about switching genre. You tend to have to stick to one. so if you're having writers block while writing fantasy, try sci-fi or urban fantasy. These are sister genres and won't alienate readers, but to be fair, a good book cover will tell your readers what sort of book it is. As will the blurb.
4 Change the length of the story.
Poison in the Pond began it's life as a novel. First penned in 1996, it was around 80,000 words. But when I sat down almost twenty years later to edit it, I realised it was horribly written. I also didn't want to keep it novel length. It was when I decided to cut out all the crap that the excitement and suspense took off. I've often heard people ask how long should a novel be. the answer is as long as it needs to be. Philip K Dick, the author of Do Androids Dream Electric Sheep has had most of his works tuned into movies yet all of his works are short stories. The story is as long as it needs to be. Too little can leave out important detail, yet it can leave a reader begging for more. Too much and you can bore a reader. They never beg for more if you bore them. And if you do decided to go with short stories, there's nothing stopping you from releasing them in a collection.
5 Change who is telling the story.
Have you ever started a story and the sub character's voice sounds more interesting? so why do you stick with the main character who sounds wooden when the sub character's life sounds awesome. Maybe you should get him or her to tell the story instead. another word of caution here. Sometimes we need the sub characters to be awesome so they can move the story along. I occasionally hear from readers that Jett should be the main character in The Bird With The Broken Wing. On one hand they have a point. She's feisty, independent, everything I want to be. But I need her to move the story along, not be the story. Think Han Solo. He rocks space the way Errol Flynn rocks the high seas as a pirate. Star Wars is not about Han solo. But Han Solo pushes the story along. If you want to read more about sub characters who steal the show you can read my blog article here.
What are some ways that you overcome writes block? I'd love to hear your suggestions. Please leave a comment in the comment box.
About the author:
Not one to accept being put into a box, D L Richardson writes speculative fiction for readers who likes a twist in their tale. She now has six books published and is working on an apocalyptic series and a dystopian novel.
You can check out her more about books at her website www.dlrichardson.com