Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Put an End to Writers' Block

This post originally appeared in the Crime Readers' Association when I was *Featured Author* in March. As the readership of CRA is limited, I thought I'd share it here:

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As a Psychotherapist, I’ve often worked with creative people and come across many writers, artists, actors and composers who’ve got ‘stuck’. They feel paralysed, inert and lost - then as a result, they feel frustrated and angry. You can push and push all you like, but it’s hard to make any progress under those conditions. If you struggle with Writers Block, try a bit of self-analysis. In my experience, the first question to ask yourself is, ‘Have I lost interest?’

Lack of Engagement with the Project

You know that feeling – you sit at your keyboard and can’t get started (suddenly finding emails, other people’s blogs, washing up etc, far more compelling). Consider the following. Does the idea of the story light you up or make you feel heavy?

I’m pleased to say, this has only happened to me once. I had to sit back and ask myself what was wrong. Had I lost interest in a character, got bored with the turns the story had taken - or was I fed up with writing altogether? I knew it wasn’t the latter, but when I thought about it, several problems hit me about the plot. It felt too fussy and one section felt ‘added-on’. I was finding one aspect of the story tedious and I needed one of the characters to be less wish-washy and far more definite about something.

One antidote to writers’ block is to return to the original sketches of the book. Go back to square one and take a critical look at the basic material. You may find that the original idea has gone off on a tangent. It could be that the whole premise isn’t strong enough to carry the story through or it might be that one aspect of the story is a dead end or feels flat. Try to be as objective as possible and ask yourself if what you’re doing actually works. If not – that’s fine. You’re allowed to change your mind! Writing is like that – you can take big chunks out and start again. And the great thing is – no one will ever know.

If the plot is clunky – go through your outline and highlight each ‘plot-point’ – that is, each point in the story where something major happens to influence the direction. Then decide whether each one is:
·        Fresh and unpredictable
·        Enough of a twist
·        Dramatic
If you have doubts, brainstorm at least five new directions, for example:
·        The gardener is her brother, but she doesn’t know it
·        The gardener is her brother, but he doesn’t know it
·        The gardener is her father
·        The gardener is the next victim – why?
·        The gardener has had a sex-change

Follow each of them through in your mind – do they excite you? Then find a sixth option!

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In my case, when I felt stuck, I needed to do some serious fixing - I deleted huge sections before I could get excited about the story again. For me, the clue is always about ENERGY. So, ask yourself what you are excited about in your writing. Is it that you’re dying to see how the struggle between two of your characters works out? Perhaps you love the idea of writing a scene where everything is hampered by snow, or you’re fascinated with how your protagonist will get themselves out of a life-threatening situation. If you’re not excited about writing your story – find something – a theme, a setting, a situation, an incident, a character – you are excited about. Then go from there. Don’t write what you know – write what you’re interested in.

If you find you’re not compelled to write anything at all and nothing excites you – perhaps you need a break from it. Take off as much time as you need from it. Read instead or go for long walks. Tell yourself – no writing – for however many days and see how it feels. We all need time to switch off and refill our ‘creative well’.

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AJ Waines is the author of Psychological Thrillers:  The Evil Beneath and Girl on a Train.
Both books went to Number One in 'Murder' and 'Psychological Thrillers' in the UK Kindle charts.



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