Monday, 22 October 2018

Overcoming Writer's Block in a Novel

I think most writers suffer from writer's block every so often, and I'm no exception. One of the reasons it happens to me is something I call "writing myself into a corner." This is usually a dead end in the plot, but this time it was a little different.

In my opinion, a good story should keep feeling richer and pull you in deeper as it goes. But something wasn't right in my novel, and it kept becoming more and more "not right" as I kept writing. After a while, the narrative turned so flat that writing it became a chore and I couldn't imagine anyone wanting to read it. But it wasn't the plot that was killing the story--at least not the main plot.

To find the problem, I first analyzed the manuscript and then just let my mind relax to give my creative side a chance to work. Analysis found that there were a lot of important plot elements that required pages of description just so the reader could understand some later event. To keep these descriptive passages interesting, I had put characters into them, making them interact with everything I needed to describe. And of course, I couldn't just have scenes with people doing things for no reason. I had to follow them up with the reasons why they did those things, and the reasons had to advance the plot. Pretty soon I had so many new subplots they were damming up the story and spreading it out instead of letting it move forward.

The solution I came up with was to convert it to a screenplay. The cliche "a picture is worth a thousand words" really fits here. A camera shot lasting a few seconds can replace pages of description and eliminate the need for the extra subplots.

So I copied a streamlined version of the story to my screenplay software, and now it's fun to write again. As I write, the story keeps getting richer and pulling me in deeper.

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