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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » I'm blocked.

   
Author Topic: I'm blocked.
MattLeo
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Blocked blocked blocked blocked.

After generating 60K words in 30 days in August, I've written almost half as much as much in September, but it's garbage that's going to be useless scenes that don't fit into the plot (see the characters go shopping for clothes). When I sit down to write a scene, I can't write until I've settled some irrelevant detail. What was Kate's wedding band made of? Is palladium-iridium hard enough for a gal who's got her hands inside machines all day, or perhaps a ruthenium-cobalt-indium alloy. I want the novel to come in at about 100K words, so there isn't even *room* to say "ruthenium-cobalt-indium alloy".

I'm blocked. Blocked blocked blocked blocked blocked.


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RoxyL
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I'm so sorry MattLeo. That can be terribly frustrating. I must say, though, the fact that you think 30k of anything a month is slow, and you can produce 60k of material on a good month - well, wow.

So, my very humble advice: take a break. Do something totally different and recharge your creativity muscles. (I just had to watch a documentary with my son on the National Park service when I should have been writing. The images were astounding, and nothing I could have dreamt up. Definitely inspiring and will add detail to my WIP.)

Can you just put a big X for the kind of ring and promise to fill it in later? Does that work for you? I do it for all kinds of things, names (which I get hung up on), missing parts to conversations I can't quite figure out, etc.

And lastly, maybe what you think is garbage in the end will help flesh out your characters. If nothing else, any writing will help hone your skill no matter if the final words go anywhere or not.

Mental block is no fun, but just knowing what I do of you, I bet it won't last long. Best of luck (and skill and determination).


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Robert Nowall
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Sympathies. I haven't written anything since August, but that's just a matter of doing other things---I hope.
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genevive42
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First of all, no words are ever wasted. Even if you don't use them, you can learn something from them. And if you're writing useless scenes, I wonder if you've lost the direction of your story. What do the characters have to accomplish next to get to their final goal? Do you have a clear idea of what the final goal is? Even if you're a pantser, it's a good idea to know you're ending.

Just a guess, but if I had to recommend anything, I'd say do just a little outlining to see what you need to accomplish between where you are, and the end. And if you have an outline, flesh it out a little more and figure out what scenes you need to make happen.

And I agree, that a break, even if it's just a day out to the park, is never a bad idea, especially after the number of words you've been churning out. Relax. Breathe. You can do this.


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Teraen
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I get stuck on miniscule things like that in my writing as well. My solution is to write notes to myself in the middle of writing so it doesn't slow me down because I know I will come back to finish it later when editing:

Bob the Main Character spun his (make up an alloy) ring on his finger. He had been waiting for her now for over 20 minutes, and he couldn't help but think she was making him wait simply to annoy him. (Or should he be relieved at it? Maybe he should have this scene back in chapter two?)

Just then, the door opened.

"Doctor Jones will see you now." Said the receptionist.


Anyways, you get the idea. Try it out and see if it helps.


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MattLeo
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Genevive -- I've outlined, but I picked the low-hanging fruit from the outline in August. Now I'm stuck with writing the kinds scenes I hate doing: the ones that tie different parts of the story together. Generally I skip over any kind of a scene whose whole purpose is to get from point A to point B. I think those are generally not very good scenes. But in this case I make a big deal about who the protagonist was stuck at A, and the plot of the story requires the reader to understand certain world-building details about space travel which are better shown than told.

Taeran -- I'm just just avoiding doing these scenes, I think. I suspect my hatred for writing those kinds of scenes is turning me against the words as they come out.

So really what I have to do is resolve to write the scenes, even though they're garbage, then go back and fix them.

[This message has been edited by MattLeo (edited October 01, 2011).]


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mythique890
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You may have resolved this, but a tungsten carbide ring is (so far as I've heard) the hardest ring you can get. It doesn't even scratch (titanium does). My husband has one. But he doesn't wear it to work (road construction) because wearing rings that can get caught in the machines they use is a risk that could lead to missing fingers, hands, or worse. I know the same is true of most or all of the married guys on his crew and of his other friends who work with machines. Maybe your character takes her ring off while she works? Then it could be made of anything. Anyway, like I said, you probably already have that resolved, but I wanted to share my thought, just in case it helps.

As for the real topic of this thread, I'm also sorry to hear that you're having a hard time. Could you spice up your "transition" scenes a little? Add something in each of them that you're excited to write (a nugget of world building, some fun character interaction)? Then getting through them might be easier. I can't move forward until I know all the crazy little details, either. Good luck!

[This message has been edited by mythique890 (edited October 01, 2011).]


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MrsBrown
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Hands inside machines? I'm worried for Kate already.

I second the comment about taking rings off, especially for working around machinery. I had to remove my rings once when I was on a tour of a particular workplace where there were tight spaces; it was built to be utilitarian, not human-friendly. Just catching a ring on a doorway in passing could have caused injury, up to and includng a lost finger. They wouldn't let me in with a single scrap of jewelry, and of course no sandals or anything like that. Interesting environment, geared to house machinery rather than the people who used it. People learned when to duck, how to work in very tight quarters, and where to stand out of the way when others needed to get by.

Oh, and I couldn't wear rings when working on a machine that wraps a braided coating around wiring harnesses, or when rinsing dirty dishes in a metal trough at a college cafeteria kitchen, or when throwing clay pots.

Transition scenes can have new tension or a reminder of existing tension, however small, so long as it supports the story's pace. Do these transition scenes feel like they are stopping the story or slowing it down?

I feel your pain.

[This message has been edited by MrsBrown (edited October 01, 2011).]


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LDWriter2
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Speaking of wedding bands, I haven't worn mine in years because I work around machinery too much. Put of the reason was when an astronaut- John Glenn maybe or other famous one-- tore his finger off when his wedding band got caught in a car door. And mine is Gold or a good portion of it is anyway. And I do mind that.



As to being blocked.

I am right now. In a novel I'm trying to finish I need to decide how my MC confronts the bad guy, She already is in the guy's lair but is he in the same room, if so does he banish her to the basement, do the start fighting as my original plane was, or does he leave thinking she isn't a threat for one reason or another? If they fight how do I get her down the basement? The idea is that they have a scrimmage to start but the real fight doesn't start 'till later.

I think I have the answer and will be going with the original idea.


But that leads me back to Matt. Sometimes when I am blocked I find that the story has taken a wrong turn somewhere. Usually it got changed from the idea I had when I first thought of the idea or just that scene. When I change it to my original idea the block is cleared. Sometimes I have to go with my heart, I can't make up my mind and so I sit see what I feel about what way to go. Usually when I do that I find my heart has a favorite scene or way of doing the scene.


[This message has been edited by LDWriter2 (edited October 02, 2011).]


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MartinV
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Matt, just put the writing off for a week. Don't even think about it, if possible. You might just be burned out.
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Robert Nowall
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I think it was Neil Armstrong who caught his wedding ring and tore a finger off. (I remember this 'cause of a joke way back on "SNL.")

We had that argument at the post office, where policy and rules forbid the wearing of jewelry around the machinery we work on. The argument we put forward is that a "wedding ring" is not, per se, jewelry---it's the visible symbol of a marriage and if someone wants to leave it on and risk it, they should be accomodated. (Not me; not married.)

Not that any of that has much to do with being blocked...a footnote to the main story, I guess...


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KayTi
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Try the "three months later" method. All those in-between scenes that you're fighting writing? Write the transitional phrase/sentence or two that gets your characters from point A to point B and see if the reader has enough info to survive at this point.

Could well be that the reason you're blocked is your brain is saying "THIS IS BORING!" and ... of course, if your brain is saying that, your readers probably would too...

Or just sit down and write garbage. Know that eventually you'll stop writing garbage. I remember one female writer I like said she would sit down and literally type "I am writing garbage, this stuff stinks, it stinks to high heaven, like the smell of rotting fish mixed with cat pee and a bit of vomit all together..." and on she'd go until she got tired of writing about garbage and just would start writing the real stuff.


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shimiqua
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I found a fun trick when I was writing my nanonovel. Whenever I am blocked on how to start a specific scene, I start describing the scenery. Usually I find something that gets a character moving, which gets the scene moving, and planting myself firmly inside the scene is really helpful. You can always edit out extraneous description.

Works for me.
~Sheena


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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MattLeo, maybe you should check out the link (to Michael Moorcock's advice) in this topic:

http://www.hatrack.com/forums/writers/forum/Forum1/HTML/007025.html


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Robert Nowall
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Neglected to mention my favorite technique for working through a block. I lifted it from Theodore Sturgeon. I write one page a day. I go back to the typewriter---it really doesn't work on a scrolling-down word processor. When I reach the end of the page, I stop, even in the middle of the sentence. That makes me rarin' to go, eager to return. By the time I've finished, the block is over and I can go on---either something new right on the computer, or revising the typewritten manuscript.

Not that it's applicable now...circumstances have shut me down, and I'm sure I can resume afterwards, which'll be week-after-next---circumstances permitting.


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WriteRebekah
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I'm rather blocked, myself. I've got 20k of a story--and while I still love the story, I've already sort of reworked significant parts in my head. Not to mention I'm considering switching POV from third limited to first.

But instead I sit here, day after day, staring at a blank Word doc, not writing a thing. (Well, plenty of things; just work-related or other things, not story-things.)

Studying all your ideas very, very closely. Also reading lots of articles about writing. Basically, doing anything but writing.

Sometimes* I just drive myself crazy.


* Nearly always


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pdblake
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When I get blocked I avoid writing like the plague. For some reason trying not to think about it somehow 'unblocks' it and, before I know it, I'm tapping away again.

Though I am a stickler for outlining.


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Jeff Ambrose
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Guess what, ya'll -- YOU ARE NOT BLOCKED!

Every one of you who said you were blocked got onto this website, typed in a bunch of words to make coherent sentences. If you really had writer's block, you couldn't do that because you couldn't write.

One of two things has happened.

First, as OSC might tell you, your subconscious knows there's a problem with your tale, and it refuses to offer up the goods until that problem is worked out. I suppose, in this sense, you are blocked -- but it's just on this one project.

Second, you might have allowed yourself to make too big a deal out of what you're writing. In other words -- you're allowing your critical voice to have a say in what you're doing. You've become worried about writing the perfect story (no such thing) or worried about whether it will sell (out of your control) or what your spouse or mother-in-law or friends might think (probably nothing).

The fix is simple. For the first kind of "block" (if you want to call it that), go onto another project. Write a short story or two. Get your current project out of your mind for while. Then come back to it fresh. This method has worked for Louis L'Amour, Isaac Asimov, and Jack London among others.

For the second kind of "block," I recommend doing what Robert said: write a page a day, no more. Do this for one week. No matter how much you want two pages, just write one. On week two, write two pages, and no more. Just force yourself to do it. Week three, three pages. Limit yourself. Do not go over your quota. Slowly, week by week, work yourself up to your normal production rate. This simple act of writing is the best way to get your critical voice to be quite.

Best of luck.


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shimiqua
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Eat more fiber.
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Brendan
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quote:
I've outlined, but I picked the low-hanging fruit from the outline in August. Now I'm stuck with writing the kinds scenes I hate doing: the ones that tie different parts of the story together. Generally I skip over any kind of a scene whose whole purpose is to get from point A to point B. I think those are generally not very good scenes. But in this case I make a big deal about who the protagonist was stuck at A, and the plot of the story requires the reader to understand certain world-building details about space travel which are better shown than told.

I can have the same difficulty at times. When I do, I look at the purpose of each scene. If I can't combine more than one purpose into a specific scene, I condemn it as a weak scene and try to work out a second, concurrent purpose to strengthen it.

In some ways, I think of a story in a similar way I do chess. Some information (moves) is rigid, forced to be located at a particular time in the story (most of plot on the outline). Other information I can place anywhere (a lot of scenery, millieu and character definition, which are similar to strategic moves in chess). Some further information is a mixture of the two - it is required by time y, and after time x, but can be delievered anywhere within that period (specifically character development, idea development). It is these latter two elements that I tend to pair up with the duller plot scenes.


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