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By Vicki Hinze
If you don't know your characters as well or better than you know yourself, how can you write how they'll react to a given novel situation? You can't. And so you stumble to that stop without a clue as to how to proceed. And that is often interpreted as writer's block.
The same situation with character holds true for plot. Without a clear path on where you're going in the novel--and what story events you intend to incorporate to take you there, you can write yourself into countless corners, brick walls, dead-ends with no logical way out. And while this too is often interpreted as WB, it isn't. Not really. It's a lack of planning. Of knowing how you intend to get from Point A to B. One way to eliminate this situation is to use a plot board.
Do a synopsis; lay out your chapters and scenes. Then check that plot board for all manner of things. Character growth and development, conflict, motivation, logical succession of events. You can check for logic gaps, natural progression, character consistency. You can check your time line-make sure things are happening in the right order, sequentially. Check your settings to make sure each is compatible with the mood and tone of the scene. You can check essentially all elements of the novel on this board.
In addition to realizing that thoughts hold an enormous amount of power, that creativity must be nurtured and that well refilled to be able to meet demands of putting out, knowing the novel, the characters and their deepest secrets, fears and desires, and having a plot plan, I think it's essential that a writer feeling blocked examine the whole. I mean the whole novel, and more. I mean the whole writer.
First look at the novel. Do you love this book? Does it tap into your emotions? Make you want to laugh, cry, choke the living daylights out of something? Does it arouse your passion? If not, change it until it does. If you don't, then apathy sets in, and you're setting yourself up for more blocks. And for rejections. You can't arouse empathy in anyone else if it isn't put there by you, the writer. If you don't feel it, how can you stir it in others? So get passionate. Write something that matters to you. If you can't do that on this novel, then ditch the project. If your passion is aroused, you'll have plenty to say-and tons of ways to say it. Passion arouses all the nebulous creative juices and they make the work flow.
As a writer, how do you feel about writing this particular book? Are you writing a category novel because you love them, or because you've heard that so many of them are published your odds of breaking into publishing are greater by writing one of them? Are you writing your novel because it's the kind of story you love to read? The kind you've always done and changing is too hard, or intimidating?
Writer know thyself. Know why you're doing this project. And if the reason is anything other than for the joy of it, because you love the story, do yourself a favor. Recognize the odds of it being your best work are shot before you pick up a pen. Why waste your time-this is your life, you know?-working on a project that doesn't matter to you? Feigned interest and enthusiasm is glaringly apparent, and it's as offensive as anything else that is hypocritical. You can't fake it. You have to feel it.
WB is an unforgiving term. It can cause writers a lot of pain and agony. It can have numerous tentacles and each one of them can choke the writer. With each choke, fear and doubt that you'll ever be able to write again, gain strength. But you have the power to work past it. By analyzing each tentacle, writers often find that they're not blocked at all. They love writing as much as they ever did. They've only burned out and not recharged their creative batteries, they've forgotten the value of passion, they've stepped off the trail and gotten mired in the brush.
Well, get a sickle. Hack through that brush and more often than not you'll discover you're truly not blocked; you're suffering phantom pains. Ones that are rooted in exhaustion, splintered focus, too many demands. In structure, discipline, and definition-lost limbs.
The best news is that once you identify them, you can form a concrete plan of action to combat them, and these limbs can rejuvenate. It takes effort, a little indulgence in spending the time and energy to figure out the root causes of the problem. But when you have, you can rejoice because you've worked your way through writer's block.*
______ Vicki Hinze is the award-winning author of 16 books with another 3 currently under contract and hundreds of articles on writing. She's published with Silhouette, Bantam, St. Martin's Press, Pinnacle, and Spilled Candy Books. LADY JUSTICE and BODY DOUBLE will be released this summer. Visit her websites: www.vickihinze.com and www.bombshellauthors.com.