Thursday, April 14, 2011

Overcoming Reluctant Words

There are some days when, for several different reasons, I don’t feel like writing. At all.

I’m not talking about uncooperative, hair-pulling scenes that are difficult to write. I’m talking about times when I sit in front of the computer, have the plot and the scene that comes next clear in my head, but I just feel tired, empty and meh. The words have to be heaved up from a deep dark well within me instead of them gushing or at least trickling out of the spring like they do during high times.

Plus, my character’s unique voice disappears to sip Mai-Tais on a beach somewhere, not even bothering with a nya-nya-nya-see-ya in my direction. Descriptions sound choppy and not cheerful, actions are a boring train of happenings. When my muse drags, so does my character’s voice and actions.

It’s times like those when I’m glad I’m not a published author (yet), having to pound out several thousand words per day to meet a deadline. I have only myself to satisfy and in those moments I’m very satisfied with not writing.

But, of course, I should - and want - to train myself to overcome such wordless moods. There are ways to get that spring flowing again. Others have written longer lists on the same subject, but here are some ways that - mostly - work for me.

1. Skip this scene. Write the next, or one you’ve been itching to do.

2. Add some action. Sometimes, or maybe even usually, if a scene is boring to write, it’s boring to read. So you want/have to shake it up anyway. This doesn’t necessarily have to be action as in and-then-the-ground-gave-way-beneath-Indiana’s-boots-and-he-fell-into-a-Nazi-bunker; just throw your characters an unexpected curveball, like a screaming baby, an angry  friend, a friendly foe, a dead body, an earthquake, aliens from Mars, a giant dwarf, a missing house… you get the idea.

3. Take a twenty minute break, away from the computer (blogging, twittering, facebooking does not count!). Go outside, clear your head. Wash the dishes. Cook and eat a scrumptious risotto. Tend your flowers. Feed the fishes. Rearrange your bookshelf. Do some exercises or yoga. Sing into your hairbrush. Dance with your broom. Anything to relax the mind and delight the soul.

4. Write down what’s occupying your thoughts. If you can’t write because something else is bothering you and taking up your think-space inside your head, write that down first - maybe even keep a diary. The important thing is to spit out that glob of word-congesting mucus, save it in a handkerchief/on a piece of paper so that you can poke through/analyze it later. This really helps me let go of distracting thoughts, because they know they’re not forgotten, just delayed a little.

5. Work on your characters or world building rather than the scene. Jot down trivia about your characters: What is Jane’s biggest fear? Her greatest achievement? What’s John’s opinion on rock music? His favorite color? His special traits? Basically anything that more closely defines your characters and makes it clear why they react to things in certain ways. These specifics might never actually need to be mentioned in the story, but it gives you a better feeling for your characters and I believe the reader feels this. The same goes for the world you’re creating. Even if this doesn’t directly raise the word count of the story, it later helps with voice, tone and development.

How do you coax your deep well to turn into a bubbling spring again?

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