Friday, November 26, 2010

Writer's Block - What are Your Solutions?

I never really understood writer's block. There are so many different definitions. For me, it sounds like the writer ran up against a big blank wall and they simply can't write their way around it. I've never had much of a problem with the issue. The closest thing that qualifies are the minor stumbling blocks of how do I get my character from point A to point B. But, where a straight path won't do, a crooked path will, and sometimes my character has to go way around the issue to get to point B and beyond.

Where do you come up with the ideas for your next book? When you finish with the manuscript that has consumed all your free time for months if not years, what do you do next? This too is no problem for me. I give myself a rest for a day or two, or as long as I can stand it, and then I go to my 'Ideas' folder and pick one to work on. Where do these ideas come from? You may laugh, but I have really quite vivid dreams and many of my current manuscripts were generated from them in one way or another. Ever since I have started to jot those dreams down, I have accumulated over 25 assorted scenes and ideas. Some of them have seen some development, but most of them are merely the dream as I've been able to paint it on the paper.

Images, information and knowledge can sometimes be difficult to convey into words but I do my best. Last night was one of those nights. I was woken at around 4:30 rather abruptly after feeling a knife rammed into my back. There was no going back to sleep after that, so I got up and wrote down the dream. For your enjoyment, here it is. It needs a little fleshing and maybe some names, but then it's only an idea at this point. I look forward to your comments.



As man expanded into space they left their fantasies and fairytales behind, or at least they thought they did until they ran across a race that called themselves Pixies. That wasn’t exactly the right word, but it was as close as the human tongue could get to pronouncing it.

Pixies were the embodiment of playful trouble, and like their ancient namesake, they could accomplish thievery and pranks of all sorts with a sprinkling of pixie dust and a mischievous giggle. It was because of pixies that humans developed jetpacks that guided with a mere thought and eye lenses that saw into the infrared as well as sound waves.

Pixies, however, were a small agile people, and even with such advancements, catching them was nearly impossible. Pixies were like small children that had been stretched. They were fine boned to the point of looking fragile, and yet lithe and tough like a cat. Their pointed ears and slanted purple eyes completed the picture, making anyone who saw them wonder about the truth of fairytales.

Three men chased three pixies across a planetary landscape, the pixies always just within sight, their giggles leading the men on. These pixies had raided the same outpost many times. Their pranks were never life threatening, and what had been stolen had always been recovered eventually, usually undamaged, but such impunity had to be stopped, and so the chase covered miles each time.

The chase came to a river, as each man burst from the underbrush, a pixie giggled, sprinkled a pinch of sparkling pixie dust, and created a tiny speeder and leapt off into the sky, the human in hot pursuit. The third pixie waited for a second longer, watching, smiling, as her pursuer came close. Then she turned to dive into the water, feigning a near stumble. This time she’d let him catch her; she had long hungered to feel his strong arms around her. She was the reason the raids had gone on for so long. He was the reason she kept coming back.

She got her wish. His jets on full thrust, he caught her in midair. Spinning, he kept her from escaping into the water. She wrapped her arms around him and her legs too. She buried her face in his neck feeling the course stubble of his unshaven chin and the hot pulse in his neck. She pulled herself as close as she could, a hand feeling up the back of his neck, her fingers finding their way into his sweaty hair.

She made a grave mistake though. She didn’t understand human anger. Furious beyond reason, the man ended the chase by plunging a knife into her back. Only then did the man realize all the things that had gone before. She tipped her head back and looked up at him, her mouth open in surprise, now rimmed with blood, her purple eyes gone dark with confusion.

“Why did you let me catch you?”

She gasped a wet breath. “Because I love you.” And then she went limp.

He pulled the knife out and threw it away, then he hastily brought them back to the sandy riverbank, giving no thought to a safe landing, they tumbled and rolled, her limp body clutched in his arms, tears causing the sand to stick to his face.

They had only just come to rest when he heard a wailing cry from above. He spotted one of the other pixies streaking in to land with a sparkle of pixie dust as his speeder vanished, leaving him running across the sand toward them without so much as a bump.

He knelt down beside them as the man attempted to disentangle himself from the fragile creature he had just killed. The pixie touched the blood on her back and looked up at the man. “What have you done?”

The man could only shake his head. One by one, the others landed and gathered around as the pixie produce a small pouch in a shower of pixie dust, and from it sprinkled red pixie dust onto the wound. “If she will live for another minute, she may still survive,” he said as he carefully straightened her limbs and lovingly fingered her hair into order.

She opened her eyes to the glow of a campfire. A soft blanket was tucked up under her chin and around under her head and she felt hot. Sitting across the fire from each other was the slight pixie and the man.

For the first time in her life, she felt a profound sorrow. The pixie loved her with all of his heart. She knew this to the depths of her soul. But she had flirted with a human - a match that could never be.

She rolled over and sat up, pushing the blanket away and breathing in the cool night air. Off to the side she spotted the pile of plunder they had taken this time. The game was done; it wasn’t fun any more. At her movement both men looked at her; the others had already left. She went to the pile and with a wave of her hand and a scattering of sparkling pixie dust that lit the pile for a moment, she added her plunder to it.

The men’s eyes never left her, she had to choose and there really was only one choice. She went and stood beside her childhood friend, resting a hand on his shoulder. She gazed across the flames at the human she’d been able to touch just once. “We won’t bother you again.”

The human stood, as did the pixie; their standoff would not easily pass. “I’m sorry.”

The pixie turned to lead her away but she hesitated. With a parting sigh she said, “Blood is a time for sadness.” Then she followed her companion into the darkness.

The man watched them go, the thin moonlight making them possible to follow only because of their motion, then there was a brief burst of pixie dust sparkles, and they were gone.


Ketutar said...

Love that story :-)

Writer's block is when you sit there in front of the computer or an empty paper and just stare at it. You come up with nothing to write. Absolutely nothing.

I thought it was just words, couldn't imagine it ever happening, but then came NaNoWriMo, and I was there. Staring at the empty screen.

I got over it.

1. I have a writing journal. It isn't very organized, it would be better if it was.

2. I write down my ideas. Where do I get the ideas?

Just like you, I too have interesting dreams. I remember my dreams when I don't try to remember them. I have written down several. Sometimes it's just words, or images, something associations.

I like to fantasize a lot. I fantasize when I walk the dog, when I take the bus, when I wait in line, when I do the dishes and especially when I try to fall asleep. I have written down some of these too.

I write fan fiction. I like taking existing story lines, characters, ideas, and play with them. Most often the fan fiction is unrecognizable, if you just change the most glaring bits, like names and descriptions.

I like reading. I read everything. From newspapers to books, contemporary novels, classics, children's books, any genre. I like watching television. I like movies. I like music. Every now and then I read, hear or see something, just a line, that makes me think. When I search for books at book store, I read the synopsis, and sometimes that makes me think.

The life itself is inspiring. Perhaps a couple of words heard in a bus, an usually beautiful day... things happen. Writers are artists painting with words.

Then there are those book, you know, that make you say "I could have written this better..."
Do it.

If nothing else works, there are several writing prompts around.

3. Then it's just to sit down and write. Even if it is "I am a writer. Writers write, so I write. I write mighty kingdoms and people of flesh and blood, and it is possible that somewhere, somehow, sometime, they live. In another galaxy, far far away from here... there was a little boy who dreamed about flying like his father. His father was an angel, but his mother was a mortal woman, prude and pious, and she was horrified to find out how an angel could desire what by the wicked, lusty people is called love, and she hated what became of this..."

And there you go.

Also, a habit of writing - every day, 2000 words or 10 pages (or what ever goal you have) - makes it hard for you not to write.

Ketutar said...

Dean R. Koontz says in "Writing Popular Fiction" this:
"A writer's block is most often caused by one of five things: overwork, boredom, self-doubt, financial worries, or emotional problems between the writer and those close to him.
If overwork is the cause, stop writing for a couple of days or weeks; when you're ready to start again, you'll know, because the typewriter will no longer appear to be a formidable opponent, but a delightful toy.
If boredom with the piece in progress has slowed you to a standstill, put it aside and begin something new, no matter how close to the end of the piece you may be; chances are, if it bores you, it will bore editors and readers also.
The simplest way to cure a case of self-doubt is to shame yourself without restraint for your lack of confidence and start something new which may, by its freshness, restore your confidence. Don't worry if you go through a dozen ideas before you hit something that gets you going again.
Financial worries must be solved before you can write again, even if that means you-the full-time freelancer-must take a job, temporarily, to keep above water, or you-the part-time writer-must take a part-time job and temporarily forsake writing until your financial position is less
If emotional entanglements occupy your mind and keep you from producing, sit down with your boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife, and talk out the things that are bothering you. Not only will such sessions improve your love life, they will improve your writing as well.
No writer's block need be more than a few days long if he is determined to break it."

S.M. Carrière said...

I've only ever had serious writer's block one; when I tried to stop a character's death from happening. It lasted six months before I finally capitulated.


My cure for writer's block? Let your characters find their own way. If you're truly stuck, walk away for a day or two. You'll find that, rather miraculously, when you sit down to write again, chances are that your characters have made a decision.

This, of course, doesn't work for everyone. It works for me though - every time!

New ideas for stories just pop into my head. They rarely come from my dreams (though I do have vivid, often frightening dreams). Certain scenes from my dreams will make it into my stories though, just twisted around to suit the character and narrative.

Like writer's block, I walk away from writing once I'm done a project. Sometimes I only require a few days, sometimes up to a month. I depends how exhausted I am after a project. It never fails!

Hart Johnson said...

I am quite a lot like you on this domain... I happen to think most people who claim to have writer's block are under the mistaken impression that the writing should 'just flow'--that it should be relatively easy. And sometimes it IS, which reinforces this, but in fact writing is more about persistence and writing even when we don't feel particularly inspired.

When I start a book I fire out of the chute and write madly for a few chapters... and then... well, it gets harder. I used to give myself a night or two to write on some other work and then it would flow again, but i think I've gotten better at just powering through.

A couple things DO block me... acute home stress (we've had money worries recently and if there is some incident, it gets in my way). Querying... totally saps my creativity. (editing, too, though I've accepted I just do one or the other at a time... the querying needs to happen when I am editing, NOT when I'm writing)

I've also had a fair amount of dream input, and I get ideas in other ways... putting them in my folder. But I find I don't turn to it very often, as an idea or three will nag at me fairly persistently at any given time, so it is more a matter of 'which' rather than 'what'--I just finished a YA mystery. The reason I selected it? It was the simplest plot of my ideas and I was doing it for NaNoWriMo so wanted one that wouldn't stop me up.

Anna L. Walls said...

It's great to hear from you, Ketutar, S.M., and Hart. Life's problems can indeed be a major stumbling block in the creative process, but I have found a use for such things as well. Life is life, and for life to show on the page, the assorted problems of life must also be there, woven along under the plot, complicating the issue. The character(s) working past these problems and forging ahead can be a very satisfying balm for the writer as well, allowing him or her to analyze possible solutions and sort through possible results.