Saturday, 23 of September of 2017

Nonfiction Monday: Writer’s Block

I’ve heard all kinds of things about writer’s block. I’ve heard that it’s a myth. I’ve heard that it’s the convenient name for the difficulties that result from whatever happens to be keeping a writer from focusing at the moment. (Call this the Ebeneezer Scrooge hypothesis: my writer’s block is an undigested bit of beef, a fragment of an underdone potato!) And I’ve heard the more mystical version, that it’s a force that comes along from time to time and that must be appeased through any of a number of superstitious rituals.

Having spent a lot of my leisure time playing games that involve lots of die-rolling, I understand the impulse in otherwise rational people to build up little rituals around the things we can’t directly control. Take a look at my dice some time, all lined up neatly and turned to display their maximum value, and you’ll see what I mean. But I’ve never found a satisfactory way of dealing with writer’s block, rational or not.

I’ve been banging my head against the next Fixer installment, off and on, for almost a year now. In a very real way that’s what caused me to go dark on Digital Busker itself for so long. I had decided that the next podcast needed to be a Fixer installment, but I couldn’t get it written. Feel free to point out how it’s better to put up something you hadn’t planned on writing than nothing at all. Maybe my brain will process that simple fact someday. Anyway, since the podcast is, in my mind, the flagship piece of the website, being stuck on that translated to being stuck on everything else. It wasn’t until I started working on my Month at the Museum application that I started really getting the itch to post something, anything, again, but even that’s getting held up by my block on Fixer.

So here I’m trying something new–I am going to try to exorcise my writer’s block by talking about it. If you recall, I had just gotten to the part of the story where the protagonists are separated. We followed Ransom for a while, and learned a little more about his Deal, but stopped in the middle of him trying to help some people he met along the way. I know basically what I want him to do about Thrist and Wren’s problem, and how it will work, including the hints that the action will contain about the Builders, the Rule, and some things in the world that I haven’t yet named. So I could write that.

I could also check in on Ursula. She disappeared, remember, at the end of Fixer 3, right before Eric and Fixer were captured. I know where she went, whom she’ll meet there, and what she’ll have to do to get back. There’s information about Ursula, the world, the Rule, and the magic system wrapped up in that plot as well. So I could write that.

The last thread there is of course Fixer and Eric. I want to follow them in their captivity for a while. Fixer will try to escape, and although at this point I don’t plan to let him succeed, he’s a pretty capable guy so he might just outsmart me. There are hints about the Rule, Eric, and even Fixer wrapped up in that plot. So I could write that.

The problem is, with the exception of the Fixer/Eric plot (which I decided to leave for last for tension/pacing purposes), I’ve already tried writing them. Ransom’s plot has been started and scrapped a few times, with two different viewpoint characters, and Ursula’s got about as far as the place where she diverges from the rest of the cast before sputtering out. I’m not really sure why I’m having so much trouble moving forward. It’s possible that my outline isn’t detailed enough–this is the first part of the story where the outline is actually important on an installment by installment basis. Always before I just knew which way they were going and wrote the journey. Now I have to juggle three different timelines and make sure everybody has the opportunity to meet up, and that’s more complicated than what I’ve done before. It isn’t really all that complicated objectively, especially not compared to the stories I hold as examples of the level to which I aspire, but it’s more complicated than what’s come before.

Perhaps I need to think more simply. I haven’t tried writing Ransom’s plot from Ransom’s point of view yet. I don’t really want to; I want to have a chance to seem him through the eyes of a character who doesn’t know him, and get a sense of how scary a were-bear can be. But neither Ivan nor Lord Nyard are speaking very eloquently so far. Maybe I can write it from Ransom’s point of view and then use that to write other points of view, either as interjections or as a new draft. It’s a thought, although part of me quails at the extra time being added to the project.

Something’s better than nothing, though, right?

Wish me luck. And if you have any sure-fire block breaking techniques you want to recommend, drop them in comments!

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