Saturday, July 18, 2009

Get Busy or Die

My groups have been discussing writer's block this week. Some great ideas have surfaced as well as some really wonderful suggestions for how to get the ball rolling again when the ideas just piss off and abandon you.

I've flirted with writer's block from time to time. Nothing major, you know, didn't write for one maybe two years at a time. Of course, that was pre-nanowrimo. Still, it's always there in the back of your mind. Now I panic if I can't think of the next scene in two minutes. Progress.

It doesn't matter, though, because I've solved writer's block... yes I have... permanently. Through much investigation, experimentation, and rumination...(and other ations as well) I have established a precise formula to end the torment of writer's block forever. It's appallingly simple. You see, whenever I catch a faint whiff of hesitation, or more accurately whenever I stop and realize I have no idea where to start again, I just look my characters dead in the eye and announce, "Get busy or someone's taking a bullet."

I mean it, and they know it. I'll translate into something that makes a little more sense. When I'm stuck, I either write a sex scene, or I kill someone. It's therapeutic, really, and it works.

Okay, I didn't really investigate, or even invent this. I stole it from Art school. The concept anyway... let me take you back. I'm standing in an industrial looking room surrounded by other students, covered in various paint splashes and facing easels with looks of intense concentration on their faces.
I'm stuck. Hey, it happens. The painting is all right, but it's not done and I have no idea what to do next.
Enter the Art School Prof. (don't get me started)
He approaches, stands a few steps behind me and gives me the ol' "hmmmmmmmm" in the most pretentious and condescending tone possible. "hmmmm"
I wait. He steps forward and asks me what the last color I would put into the painting is. This is not going to end well, I think. But I tell him. Sure enough he grabs the paint tube and squeezes a huge blob of said undesirable color in the middle of my canvas--from the tube.
There, he says as if he's just solved my problem. And he walks away.
I really miss Art school.

The point is, it worked. Despite my bitching, it worked. Solving the mess he'd made improved the painting in spades.

Why? Because by doing something extreme, not to mention irritating, he'd re-engaged me in the painting, albeit by force. So now, when I lose that passionate engagement in my story, all I can think of is "do something extreme." Do the last thing you want to do and then fix it.

You probably don't think writing a sex scene is extreme. Read my post on Speculative Friction and you'll understand. I don't like doing it. I also HATE killing off characters. Still, high conflict makes good fiction and I've found that if I'm stuck, the story usually has gotten slow, stiff, (ahem) flat and boring.

So I choose: sex or death, and get the ball rolling. Now, I don't always keep the scene. It really doesn't matter, the point is to get the text flying onto the page again. I also usually pull my punches at the last minute. The curtain closes in the heat of passion and opens again on the next morning (hey, it's my book) or the bullet misses any major organs and my character only ends up in the hospital. Still, the keyboard is getting a workout again and the plot has new twists to sort through.

Off we go. Writer's block solved. Conflict is good.
Write the last thing you want to do at that moment, the worst thing you can think of, and then fix it. Or don't. It's your book.
And I'm no Art Prof.


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