Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Overcoming Writers Block

by Heidi Thomas

“You just can’t get there from here.”

How many times have you heard that direction-giving joke? That line can describe a type of writer’s block. You’ve written up to a certain point. You know where you want to go up ahead. But what do you write in between? I have wasted hours, days, even weeks, trying to figure out what to write next, so I can get to that future scene I already have in my head.

But wait. Who says you have to write in a linear fashion? What if you write out of sequence? Aha! Now, you’ve given yourself permission to write the scene from your head and it flows wonderfully. Another Aha! Questions and solutions actually appear about how the character might have arrived here from there. You’re not stuck any more.

As a writing instructor once explained, to build a bridge, one first needs to erect a scaffold. It’s not a lot different in writing. You have several important scaffold scenes in your story or novel that have to take place

1. The Introductory Scene where the reader meets your main character.

2. A Meeting Scene, where the main character meets another character (maybe the love interest or maybe his nemesis).

3. A Conflict Scene where two characters battle it out, physically, verbally, or in a match of wits. Or the character battles himself.

4. A Realization Scene-the moment the character realizes something about herself that is a turning point. Or realizes her “enemy” is really her friend.

5. A Resolution Scene, where a problem is resolved (not necessarily the main one, but a problem nonetheless).

6. A Final Scene, which may not be your actual ending. An interesting exercise is to write a scene where your main character(s) are old and looking back at what happened, what they learned, how they’ve changed, what they would’ve done differently, etc. That can give you an insight to “fill in the blanks.”

Or write a letter from your main character to yourself, as if this person has just learned you are writing a book about her, how she feels, any advice she might have for you, etc. This can be quite revealing. Sometimes you learn that you have a reluctant character, one who doesn’t want her story told. So you have to figure out how to win her over.

Or The Writer magazine suggests:

1. Write a scene where the main character enters a new place.

2. Take a minor character and write a scene where he/she appears later in the story.

3. Choose a character other than the main character-someone you’d like to know more about, and write a monologue in which she explains herself.

4. Write a scene where your main character has a dream that advances the story.

These scenes may or may not appear in your final draft, but they will help you keep writing and develop ideas.

Raised on a ranch in isolated eastern Montana, Heidi Thomas has had a penchant for reading and writing since she was a child. Armed with a degree in journalism from the University of Montana, she worked for the Daily Missoulian newspaper, and has had numerous magazine articles published.

Her grandmother, who rode steers in rodeos during the 1920s, spurred Heidi to write a novel based on that grandmother’s life. Cowgirl Dreams is the first in a series about strong, independent Montana Women.

Heidi is a member of Women Writing the West, Skagit Valley Writers League, Skagit Women in Business, and the Northwest Independent Editors Guild. She is an avid reader of all kinds of books, enjoys hiking the Pacific Northwest, where she writes, edits, and teaches memoir and fiction writing classes. http://www.heidimthomas.com

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