Overcoming Writers Block by Heidi Thomas

Dreams1x1.3You just can’t get there from here.”

How many times have you heard that direction-giving joke? But often that line describes a type of writer’s block. You’ve written up to a certain point. You know where you want to go up ahead. But what do you write in between? Personally, I have wasted hours, days, even weeks, trying to figure out what to write next, so I can get to that future scene I already have in my head.

But wait. Who says you have to write in a linear fashion? What if you write out of sequence? Aha! Now, you’ve given yourself permission to write the scene from your head and it flows wonderfully. Another Aha! Questions and solutions actually appear about how the character might have arrived here from there. You’re not stuck any more.

As a writing instructor once explained, to build a bridge, one first needs to erect a scaffold. It’s not a lot different in writing. You have several important scaffold scenes in your story or novel that have to take place (there will probably be more than one of each of these scenes in your book):

1.    The Introductory Scene where the reader meets your main character.

2.    A Meeting Scene, where the main character meets another character (maybe the love interest or maybe his nemesis) This is another form of Introductory Scene.

3.    A Conflict Scene where two characters battle it out, whether physically, verbally, or in a match of wits. Or where the character battles himself.

4.    A Realization Scene-the moment the character realizes something about herself that is a turning point. Or realizes her “enemy” is really her friend.

5.    A Resolution Scene, where a problem is resolved (not necessarily the main one, but a problem nonetheless).

6.    A Final Scene, which may or may not be your actual ending. An interesting exercise is to write a scene in which your main character(s) are old and looking back at what happened, what he/she/they learned, how they’ve changed, what they would’ve done differently, etc. That can give you an insight to “fill in the blanks.”

Another interesting exercise is to write a letter from your main character to yourself, as if this person has just learned you are writing a book about her, how she feels about that, any advice she might have for you, etc. This can be quite revealing. Sometimes you learn that you have a reluctant character, one who doesn’t want her story told. So you have to figure out how to win her over.

A recent article in The Writer magazine talked about writing out of order. The author made similar suggestions to the ones above, such as:

1.    Write a scene in which the main character enters a new place.

2.    Take a minor character you’ve introduced and write a scene where he/she appears later in the story.

3.    Choose a character other than the main character-someone you’d like to know more about, and write a monologue in which she explores or explains herself.

4.    Write a scene where your main character has a dream that advances the story.

5.    Make a list of at least five crucial scenes that you think will be important for the story/novel (see “scaffold scenes above.)

Any one or all of these scenes may or may not appear in your final draft, but they will help you keep writing and develop ideas.

Have fun, write on and defeat that Writer’s Block! (Now, I just have to take my own advice.)

Raised on a ranch in isolated eastern Montana, Heidi Thomas has had a penchant for reading and writing since she was a child. Armed with a degree in journalism from the University of Montana, she worked for the Daily Missoulian newspaper, and has had numerous magazine articles published.

A tidbit of family history, that her grandmother rode steers in rodeos during the 1920s, spurred Heidi to write a novel based on that grandmother’s life.

Cowgirl Dreams is the first in a series about strong, independent Montana Women. http://www.HeidiMThomas.com

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5 responses to “Overcoming Writers Block by Heidi Thomas

  1. Great advice! I haven’t tried writing my novel out of order lately, as a whole project. But just yesterday, because I wanted to try something new, and experiment, I rewrote the beginning as a scene that takes place half way in the novel. Then I plan to jump back “Seven days previous…” I hope it goes well! Good luck with your writing too!

  2. Beth, Sounds interesting! You never know what’s going to happen when you do something out of the ordinary!

    Happy writing!
    Heidi

  3. You never cease to amaze me. I love all the stuff you post on Facebook. Keeps me up with what is going on in your writing activities. Keep up the good work.

  4. Heidi, you have given me some great ideas for moving forward when blocked by uncertainty as to how to get there from here. You’ve defined what I’ve been stuck on in my newest novel. I’ve made the opening, introductory scenes that set up the conflict, and I know something of where I want to go, but have been struggling (but not writing) with the bridge between the two. Today, I’ll skip forward to a new scene that will provide an eye-opener for the main character that will begin to change him. Thanks!

  5. Pingback: Breaking through the block « Craig Lancaster | A Mind Adrift in the West

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