Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Blocking Writers' Block

by Molly Noble Bull

The first novel I ever wrote was a mystery for children nine to twelve, and I loved writing it. I had no idea what was going to happen, and I thought that made it as exciting for me as for my future readers.
Trouble was, it never sold.
That was when I realized that I needed to learn to plot, and I answered an ad in a writers’ magazine. Send money, and we will teach you how to plot. Guaranteed.
Well, I fell for it and sent the money. I got a manila folder, and inside, I found something like this.

Chapter one:
Jim Turner bumps into a beautiful real estate agent at Wal Mart that he wants to know a lot better. But during their brief conversation, he realizes that she is Sally Bennett, a girl in his class that he always teased and treated badly when they were children. So, he decides to pretend that he is not Jim, he is a cool and mysterious stranger, Grant Housley.

Chapter Two:
Jim as Grant Housley goes to Sally’s office and they strike up another conversation. She offers him a donut, and he is eating it when Bill Snow walks in. Bill has never liked Jim and is Sally’s boss. Bill would know that Jim is not a mysterious stranger in one glance. Jim hides behind a potted plant, knocks it over and races out the back door of the real estate office, looking like a teenager with a sugar addiction and a problem with potted plants.

Chapter Three:
Of course this is not what was written on the paper I paid good money for. It’s the first chapter of a novel I never intend to write. However, it is also an example of an important point. Writing out what you plan to write before you write it is a good way to keep from backing into the writers’ block corner. Been there—done that.

But what if you find yourself in that corner anyway? What can you do to get out? I am currently having that problem with my work in progress; so this solution is fresh on my mind.
In my case, I finished chapter seventeen of my work in progress and pulled to a dead stop. What happens now in the story? I didn’t have a clue.
However, I did have a solution to writers’ block that I knew would work. I had tried it previously.
Here is what I did.
I wrote “Chapter Eighteen” so I would know where I left off.
Then I wrote “Chapter A.”
Under Chapter A, I wrote what has to happen to set the end of the story in motion. Then I wrote “Chapters B, C, D, E and etc until I ended the story. Writing the end of the story before finishing the difficult middle freed me from the chains of writers’ block.
And if it works this time as it has in the past, my writers’ block should be completely cured by the time I go back and write “Chapter Eighteen.”
When I finally do, I will simply change Chapter A to Chapter Nineteen, Chapter B to Chapter Twenty and so on to the end of the book.

Blocking writers’ block is not that hard to do if you know how to do it. My method works for me. Maybe it will work for you, too.

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