Friday Links #19 – Writer’s Block

It was the best of weeks, it was the worst of weeks. I experienced some tough sledding right out of the gate on Monday morning thanks to what I can only imagine was a lightly pinched-nerve in my lower back. It flared up late last week and all but left me permanently hunched-over in agony as I pushed back from a restaurant table Friday night. That night’s sleep, in my tent mind you, was tortuous. Every toss, every turn a masochistic test of endurance: how much pain could I stand? Oddly enough, the only time my back didn’t hurt was while mountain biking the next day.

The mornings are still painful — it’s only been 8 days since the flare-up began (originating from an oddly-placed pillow on the chaise in my office) — but the discomfort has mostly subsided. Alas, no more sympathy back rubs.

But even when I was able to bring myself to sit at my desk this week, I struggled. I spent three writing sessions chopping away at a single scene. A scene I’ve yet to finish. It’s shifted, it’s veered away from my initial idea (for the better, I believe)  but I just couldn’t ever get the ball rolling. I’d push it inch by inch and sit back, hoping it would retain some momentum, only to watch the action on the page sputter and die.

I don’t believe in the idea of writer’s block, only a lack of preparation. And that’s exactly what happened here. I outran my outline. I had an incredibly detailed outline for the first twenty-something scenes. Some would say it was ridiculous to even call it an outline, as it was more like a free-flowing first draft. And from those pages of brain-vomit, I was able to quickly pick out the chunky bits and arrange them into something far less grotesque.

(Yes, this is a horrible metaphor. I apologize.)

The other thirty-something scenes? The outline consists of just a couple sentences of where I wanted the story to go. I thought it was enough. It wasn’t.

But all wasn’t lost. I also brought my revised opening scene to my new critique group on Wednesday and was pleased to see it met with a very helpful mix of praise and criticism. Better still, the group helped me realize that a critical aspect of my story needed to be at least hinted at in the opening scene. In my efforts to have a slowly-uncovered big reveal, I was running the risk of performing a bait-and-switch on my readers.

Subscribers to my newsletter will learn more about this in this month’s update. On with the links.

Bookish Links

  1. 5 Reasons You’re Experiencing Writer’s Block – Susan Reynolds put this excellent article together about the myth of writer’s block. Okay, maybe it’s not completely a myth — I stand by my earlier statement that it’s largely caused by a lack of preparation — but writer’s block may be a symptom of other issues you aren’t even aware of. A great read.
  2. How to Write Multiple Antagonists – I don’t believe I ever linked to this article by K.M. Weiland before, but if I did it’s worth repeating. Using her entertaining novel Storming (a fast read) as an example, she discusses tips and pitfalls for how to structure a story with multiple antagonists. My novel has two, three if you count the environment. Her tips have proved helpful.
  3. If You Use Double Negatives in Your Writing, You’re Not Incorrect – Phrases like “it’s not impossible” can sometimes drive me crazy. Sure, I know what the person is saying, but still. Come on. On the other hand, as Baihley Grandison’s blog shows, there are phrases that, while filled with double negative gymnastics, actually succeed wonderfully in conveying a softer kind of response, particularly in dialogue.
  4. 7 Types of Violence You’re Picturing Wrong Thanks to Movies – I want to believe most of us are smart enough to already know this stuff, but it’s still a fun read. If you’ve ever thought landmines behaved like a booby trap in Raiders of the Lost Ark or that a car door can stop a bullet, this article is for you.
  5. For Me, Traditional Publishing Meant Poverty, But Self Publish? No Way – I’m going to link to this article without further comment other than to say I agree with it a lot more than I don’t. Ros Barber has gotten more than enough feedback from this piece, but I think every aspiring novelist should read it. And remember the first two words in the title when you do.

Bonus Link

The Cons of Living on Orcas Island – My wife and I have been visiting Orcas Island 2-3 times a year since moving to the PNW in 2002 and we recently made an offer on a piece of land out there. There’s still some kinks to work out involving the rocky, sloping nature of the property and driveway sight-lines and excavation and septic feasibility and probably a few more things I’m not thinking of (we may change our minds, as we have another 10 days to decide) but in our research, I came across this wonderful article by Marlis Sandwith. And yes, the cons are really pros.

Post Image by Cali4beach, used under Creative Commons.

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