Sunday, 12 October 2008

Breaking the Block

The name of this blog is a bit of a misnomer.

I haven't been writing.

Infact, I haven't written anything for a very long time.

My contribution to my Story a Fortnight group has been zilch (and I feel particularly guilty about that) and as for my novel writing... what novel writing?

For a while now I've been wrestling with novel #2. Not physically as I haven't actually touched it for months. But mentally. What to do about novel #2?

I'm just not in love with it.

I'm not in love with the plot, the character or the premise.

That's why I found getting those first 20,000 words out such an ordeal.

My heart wasn't in it.

But I was scared to ditch it because it fits so well with novel #1. Well...it's paranormal and that's about the only way it fits. Because, when I re-read novel #1 recently, I realised that what novel #2 lacks is a premise that touches me. Novel #1 makes people who read it cry. There's something about novel #1 that touches people. It explores love, loss, hopes and dreams. It's about selflessness and sacrifice.

Novel#2 is about 'going after your dreams'.

Which isn't a bad premise per se but it's not one that touches me profoundly. Nothing I've written so far has made me laugh out loud or brought me even vaguely close to tears.

And I don't want to write a book I'm not in love with.

I can't.

So I been thinking about an alternate novel #2. A novel that is paranormal but has stronger themes.

And I was scared to ask my agent if, maybe, possibly I could ditch novel #2 and write a replacement.

I shouldn't have been scared because my agent immediately replied saying she didn't want me to write something I wasn't in love with and could I run the idea for new novel #2 by her?

So I did.

It was only a vague idea. It didn't even have a plot.

But she said she liked it. And she liked my temporary title for it.

And I felt heartened and set about trying to think the novel through, trying to work out the plot.

But my brain refused to co-operate and I hit wall after wall after wall. My brain, my creative centre, was empty.

And I seriously started to think I'd never write another novel.

Then, tonight, I got out my 'how to plot' book and read a bit. Still my brain was blank. So I picked up one of the books that I won in Lucy's prize giveaway ("Morality Tale" by Sylvia Brownrigg) and, as I read about a world so far removed from my idea for novel #2 that they couldn't be more different, I had an idea.

And scribbled it down in my notebook.

Then I went back to Sylvia's novel.

And had another idea.

And suddenly...suddenly...almost magically...I knew what replacement novel #2 was about. I know what the premise is and it explores themes that really touch me.

I don't, exactly, know what the plot is yet but I know what emotional journey two of the characters need to go on.

And I feel like a huge weight has been lifted.

And I feel a teeny, tiny bit excited.

So my solution to beating writers block? Read something totally unconnected to what you want to write.

What are your solutions?

15 comments:

Pat Posner said...

I know that feeling of not being in love with what you're writing. It's one of the worst downs of being a writer.
But then it's great when an alternative begins to bubble; I'm so glad it's happening for you.

JJ said...

I think that's all normal, but I'm really glad to hear that you're excited about the new idea.

liz fenwick said...

Kate H had the same problem at the begiing of the year and ditched 30k. Sometimes it has to happen and I don't think anything is lost by it because you now know you have to write something that gets to you. This is good and its progress.

I do think reading books that are very different from your own is brilliant way to take yourself out and see good writing anf plot as distinct from your genre.

Finally the thing that kick starts me is D Maass Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook. His example and questions really make connection in my thick head.

Good luck with the new story and I'm so excited for you!

Captain Black said...

This is a great story of overcoming a barrier. A source of encouragement to those of us who suffer from blocks from time to time.

My solutions are very similar to yours, i.e. go and do something unrelated for a while. You need to let your brain mull things over for a while, without trying to force it. For me, exercise can help with this. I go for a run and let my mind drift. It's amazing what I come up with sometimes. Staring at a blank page definitely does not work.

One of my other tricks, is to write some short stories. Occasionally, with a bit of re-factoring, I end up being able to use one as a component for a novel in progress.

Well done again for finding your own solution.

HelenMH said...

I think just going off and reading is a great solution. In a way I don't think it matters what it is as long as it's good. Well done you - it sounds like it's going really well.

Debs said...

Oh well done. Sometimes we think too hard about something and the act of letting our brain go off on another tangent can open it up to other ideas.

L-Plate Author said...

Welcome to my world! :)

It's not easy trying to work with something that isn't gelling. I've abandoned so much this year but I know by the ideas in my head around the new one that every word has been worth it.

I am so excited and that's what we need to be. We put our heart and soul into a book, so hey, forgive us if we go off on a tangent every now and then!

Good luck! x

Paige said...

I'm all blocked up.

I'm currently rereading Angels and Demons and that's a million miles away from what I want to write... yet I'm still blocked up. Yikes!

I think I'm going to have to do a 'Kate H' and ditch what I've got and start again.

I'm going to think about that tonight. Glad to hear you're up and running again!

Tam said...

Good for you - glad you're feeling more on track. Don't ditch the old novel #2, you'll use it someday :-)

KayJay said...

So interesting to read all this and get the breakdown of how it all happened in your head. It has really thrown some light on my second kids' book that I'm struggling with finding a voice for. I need to fall in love with it and fast! I think because I've been trying to write an action story I have neglected the emotional side of the book. I'm discovering that I have to have that investment in a piece of work, even if it is not the primary theme of the book.

I have also been doing a lot of thinking about the scariness of finishing my first draft of adult novel #1 and worrying about fledgling ideas for novel #2. How can I get that same emotional hook? Book #1 feels like it was about 15 years in the making, because it is My First Novel. Have I really got it in me to write another one?!? Well, you've given me some inspiration and ideas...

Fionnuala said...

Its a weird world that we writers live in. I'm not sure if its harder to write novel 2 when you've had a success with novel 1 (immediateley more pressure) or like me if you are probably going to have to resign novel one to your own book shelf - can I write a better one? I think my book two is better but I'm still blocked - what if I do all that work again , another year.....only to end up with another book nobody wants to publish. Its hard to banish the negativity completely and I think thats what creates the block as well as those points you mention. You DO have to love the themes and the characters for them to begin this life of their own. x

Zinnia Cyclamen said...

A few pages of a 'how to' book usually does it for me. I loved 'The Delivery Room' but haven't read anything else by Sylvia Brownrigg, so I'll put 'Morality Tale' on my very very very long list, near the top though as it seems to have magic powers! So glad you're back on track.

DOT said...

How exciting.

I love that feeling when an idea suddenly drops into place and you know its perfect but are still wary of prodding it too much in case in breaks.

I find you cannot hunt an idea down directly. The more you try to attack it head on the more elusive it becomes.

Distraction of one form or another is always the solution. While you are doing something else your subconscious is busy at work making connections and suddenly a thought will pop into your head.

Leigh said...

Oh, the best ideas have got to be those that just arrive, from God Knows where, and God Only Knows how.
Very excited for you, Calistro.
I'm really glad you've got yourself such a good agent, too; she's a star.
x

womagwriter said...

I find if you need a solution to something, anything, and you're stuck after thinking about it too long, the best thing to do is stop thinking about it altogether. In your case reading something completely different did it. For me, stuck on a work problem perhaps, going out to hang washing on the line (joys of home-working!) or load the dishwasher will probably help me find the solution.