Pink Heart Society columnist Barb Han is talking about what she does when writer's block hits and she needs to kickstart her word count...
There’s nothing worse than staring at a blinking cursor in the middle of a page about halfway through your best-selling-novel-in-the-making manuscript with absolutely no idea where to go next. You’ve created a compelling setup, interesting characters and a cursory plot.
Until now, you’ve been ticking along fine and you can’t wait to get started on the day’s work. It’s morning (because you always do your best work in the a.m.), you have the caffeinated beverage of your choice, and you’re eager to get going. Ready. Set. Go.
You stare at the screen and nothing happens. It’s like your fingers are stuck on the home keys and your brain has left the building.
With a deadline (by contract or personal promise) looming, you can’t afford to be stuck.
This can happen at any point in the writing process. So I’ve developed a few tricks to get the words flowing again. These are a few of my favourites:
1. Give myself permission to write poorly.
It sounds strange (even to me) to say that I give myself permission to write badly, but that is often all I need to kick start my creative process. It’s basically a way to quiet my internal editor who wants to tinker with every word to make it perfect as the story unfolds. But being in my inner-critic (IC) mode shuts down creativity. IC wants to debate everything that comes out while my creative self needs to get all the ideas down, good and bad, before selecting which works best for the story. So, let the bad stuff flow until you can find the nuggets.
2. Interview a character or myself.
This is another one of those ideas that sounds odd but works for me. Here’s a real question and answer from an interview I conducted with myself on a story coming out early next year:
A. Why do you like your main character?
I like Colin because other than being gorgeous he’s sincere. He likes things simple and that includes emotions. He either likes or doesn’t like something. There’s no middle ground for him. He’s decisive. So, he sees things as black-and-white. He grew up wealthy but you’d never know it. All that family money is just zeroes in a bank account to him. He enjoys simple pleasures. Fishing. Reading. Being outdoors. He might say something like: Mother Nature even with her temper tantrums is more predictable than people. He’s honest and he calls ’em like he sees ’em.
Colin’s story is part of the Cattlemen Crime Club miniseries (Stockyard Snatching is the first book in this miniseries and releases late July.).
3. Ask why. And then ask why again. Continue asking why until I get something I can build on.
This is also a good way to dig out fresh ideas because it forces you to dive deeper into your thoughts.
Jane shoved five pieces of candy in her mouth all at once before sitting at her desk.
Because she was hungry.
Because she skipped lunch.
Because her mother is sick and Jane had to go home to check on her. (interesting)
Because Jane loves her mother and has been worried about her. (a noble gesture)
Because her mother is all she has and if anything happens to her Jane will be left all alone in the world. (bingo!) Now, I know enough about Jane to deepen her character arc.
4. Grab a notebook.
I’ll scratch out a scene or plot point on paper to see if it works before grabbing my laptop. It’s an easy way to see what works and what doesn’t before committing the words into my work-in-progress.
5. Find a better writing spot.
She’d love to hear about your tips to keep your writing flowing, or we could just talk about hot cowboys. She’s flexible like that…
A Texas rancher will do anything to protect a woman in jeopardy and the little boy who could be his son…
With the ferocity of a tigress, Kate Williams desperately fights a kidnapper trying to snatch her adopted son from her arms. When rancher Dallas O’Brien sees the skirmish, he bravely saves the infant and his lovely mother. Single and new in town, Kate accepts the handsome cowboy’s offer of a safe haven at his ranch.
Spurred on by their Texas-sized attraction, Dallas and Kate untangle a web of lies that throws the baby’s paternity into question. And Dallas wonders—could he be a father? Could he be a husband? But when bullets start flying, the real question is, will he survive to find out?