Monday, July 9, 2012

Stuck in the Mud--How to Get Through Writer's Block

Right now, I've been working on a short story for over a week and it's driving me crazy.  I'm stuck at one scene and have been for the last two days.  I've exhausted my bag of tricks, and I can't seem to get unstuck.  Sadly, I'll write a sentence, then erase it.  I rant at my internal editor to back off, but she's planted firmly on my shoulder and keeps pushing my muse off.  I backtrack to see if something took a wrong turn earlier in the story, but nothing seems to work.  I've been here before, and I'll probably be here again, but it doesn't change the fact I can't get out of this funk.

It reminds me of one of the funniest scenes in National Lampoon's European Vacation, when Chevy Chase's character can't figure out the round-a-bout in London.

Yep, that's me.  No matter how many times I try, I can't get to "The End."

One of my last ditch efforts to unblock myself is to visit some of the blogs from which I've learned the most.  After hitting a couple unsuccessfully, I came across deanwesleysmith.com.  I often visit here after a trip to his wife's blog kriswrites.com.  And can usually find something new at both sites that I truly didn't know or quite understand before.

Last January, Dean Wesley Smith gave himself a challenge to write 100 short stories in a year, and starting July of this year, he's taken up the challenge once again.  Now, I'm not nearly that prolific and don't have plans to attempt any such challenge.  I'd like to just finish the one I started last week.  Yet, as I read through his process for the first story, I was intrigued.  I'd heard it before, but he said it again, and it was worth repeating.  Sometimes, you just had to write through the hard scenes, word-by-word, and keep on going, even if you don't know where it's taking you or if it's salvageable material at all.  I've done that before and been pleased with the results, changing some, but keeping most of what I wrote.  It works.

But, it was the next post that really spoke to me.  It seems after he went through his process and published that story, someone took the time to comment to say it had too many typos and mistakes.  The nerve of some people.  Whether it takes a week or a year, every story is precious to a writer.  It's personal, even when it's not.  It's a part of him or her.  So, it was enough to make Dean Wesley Smith want to give up the challenge--after just one story.  I totally get this.  You know why?  Because when you have to work incredibly hard to suppress your own internal editor, any little criticism just throws all that work out the window and makes it impossible to shut that trashy witch up.

I recently finished a manuscript I have serious plans for and have passed it on to Beta readers who have already given me plenty of feedback, even some criticisms.  Now that's all in my head, swirling around like a summer windstorm, and I can't get to "The End" on my current story.

I'll finish this story.  I'm determined to.  And at least now I have a better grasp of what exactly keeps getting in my way.  Just wish my Muse would grow a pair and knock the IE off my shoulder.  Until then, I'm going to do what I know best--power through.  Wish me luck and any advice is always appreciated.

Happy Reading and Writing,

Cherie Marks

4 comments:

Donna McDonald (author) said...

The book I'm writing is Book 14 for me. I'm finding each book brings a different challenge and had different blocks. It seems like I'm getting stuck every other page.

For someone who normally writes 2000 words a day, producing next to nothing is simply awful. All kinds of fears creep in and you start to wonder if the Muses have thrown up their hands and gone to lunch.

Am I less in love with these characters, I ask myself? No, that doesn't seem the case. But they certainly are taking me to some uncomfortable places as I walk in their shoes. They are making me live some fears. I've wondered if that's why it's been so hard.

Your post is very welcome and very timely for me. I wrote past a hard scene today, one I am still not pleased with at all, but I'm pushing on. I'll go back later and fix what needs to be fixed.

My IE is screaming about it.

I'm tweeting this post for the others like us who are afflicted this week.

Cherie Marks said...

I'm glad it helped to hear someone else is struggling to get through a scene (or four). It certainly helped me to know I'm not alone. Thanks, Donna. Always good to hear from you.

Taryn Raye said...

I don't have any pearls of wisdom, but I do have some words to cheer you on- you can bust through this!

I just finished writing #11 a few weeks ago and it was a booger, but not nearly so bad as when I was writing #7- my heroine was peeved at me for putting her in a car accident, which changed everything in her life from her physical appearance, to her career, to her relationship, or lack thereof. She would NOT talk to me at all, so I chewed my lip and gnawed my fingers to the bone and fought with her tooth and nail until the story came out and she finally let me in.

I think there are parts to all writers' stories that come easier and some parts that come much harder than we'd like. A lot of times our outer circumstances and worries and fears get in there, like you said, and swirl around, but sometimes I think perhaps it also has to do with our growth as a writer, so that what we emerge with on the other side shows our growth and improvement. Even if that means we had to dig each word from shifting wet sand sliding through our fumbling fingers just to pluck out the ones we really needed the most.

Don't let it bog you down! You can do this!

Cherie Marks said...

Taryn,
It's always good to hear how prolific another writer is. It makes me hopeful that I can finish the gazillion half-dones on my hard drive. Thanks for the encouragement.