I was sitting at my computer the other day, trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my current work in progress. I was facing a horrific case of writer’s block. I didn’t know what was going to come next. Usually I do, or at least my fingers do, even if my brain hasn’t quite caught up yet (that’s how it feels sometimes).
Nothing I was doing was working, and the only thing I could think of to do was to rewrite my last chapter. I didn’t really want to, but I wanted to write for another hour or so, since I knew I wasn’t going to get another chance in the next couple of days. How was I supposed to write for another hour when I had no idea what to write?
I’ve investigated a lot of techniques, listened to how other people handle writer’s block, and tried many things over the years, usually to some degree of success. Nothing was appealing to me that day, though. I wasn’t in the mood to go play solitaire or other mindless games on my iPhone, I didn’t want to brainstorm or doodle, I didn’t want to go do something else and take away from the time I had scheduled to write. I was stuck.
Then I thought of something I had considered and disregarded a month or so ago, when I was reading a lot of blog posts and articles about different points of view in writing and different tenses and so on. Now, I think first person and third person – and all the subtypes in between – have their places. It depends on the story. My first novel, Into Fire, and its subsequent sequels which have yet to be published (it will be a trilogy) is written in first person. That’s how it came out of my head; the main character was telling the story. However, I have other stories half-written or otherwise, which are all in third person.
The thought that had popped into my head at the time was how switching points of view could change a story. It would allow you to accomplish different things, while limiting you in other ways.
As I thought of this, it was (to use cliché) like a light bulb illuminating a darkened room. I immediately scooted back up to my computer, opened a new Pages document next to my currently open work in progress and started typing again from the beginning of the chapter. The change from there: I started writing in first person.
It wasn’t easy. I had to think hard about how things came out on the page. The end result, though? I filled two more hours with writing, and I figured out how the story was going to get where it needed to go.
I’ve already retyped that section of my novel back into third person and gotten well past it. I’m happy with the result, and I’m doubly happy that I have another weapon in my arsenal to transcend writer’s block in the future. If you have any other ideas for beating writer’s block, I’m always happy to hear them. Hopefully this one will help you, too.
I like to have two projects on the go. If I’m stuck on one, I move to the other. If that doesn’t work, I drive half an hour out of the city, and sit.
I like to have two or three projects going at the same time, too, and that does help a lot of the time. Thanks!
I can’t work on 2 projects at the same time! I already have enough difficulty forcing myself to center on 1 piece of work – that, together with lack of time … I need an intensity in my work (on 1 project) in order to advance.
My most regular ‘writer’s block’ comes when I haven’t been working regularly. But on the whole, with my ‘The Last Beautiful Republic’ (more than 1,000 pages of it!), I had one technique that was foolproof … I would be sitting around, feeling sorry for myself, “I don’t know what to do, where to go”. Then, I’d just think to myself: “You know him, what would Jude do now? Leeman talks a lot, what would she say here?”…
And bingo! The writer’s block melted away.
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