May 19, 2015
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Oooh. Lucky episode 013. Or unlucky, if you suffer from
triskaidekaphobia. And I hope you don't, because I think you'll
enjoy this episode.
Help! I've written myself into a corner!
We've all been there. That point where you realize a scene's just not working. Or where you realize that your character's motivations don't match the action you need him or her to take. Or where you realize your outline sucks, or that you've been writing an extended idea and not a story.
You've written yourself into a corner and you have no idea how to fix it. Well, I don't want you to be in the corner. The corner sucks.
Here are seven ways to get out of that corner.
Go back and your novel and search for the last place you didn't
feel lost. This will help you find the "wrong turn" you took, or
the mistake you made -- wherever things went wrong. Delete
everything after that point (or, less drastically, copy-paste that
chunk of text into a new file called "Leftovers"). Stephen
King calls this "killing your darlings." And I know, it hurts. But
sometimes you need to cut off the hand to save the arm.
Throw a weird twist in there and see what happens. This means that you must give up your iron control over the plot -- you must stop caring for just a moment and be willing to see what happens. You can do this after having completed method #1 above, or all on its own.
Realize it's OK to deviate from your outline. Sometimes we get into a place where our own ideas (or adherence to what we think is best) can limit us. Crumple up your outline (or tuck it neatly away into your "Leftovers" folder) and free yourself to imagine a new route.
Re-examine who your characters are and determine what they would do leading up to a given situation -- not what you want them to do. Put yourself into your characters' shoes, flip on the empathy switch, and be willing to let your characters surprise you.
Sleep on it. You might just be frustrated and burned out. If you are stuck, either take a nap or go to bed and let your mind heal itself. Just make sure you start again the next day -- otherwise, this is known as quitting. I don't want you to quit.
Meditate. Turn off your computer and give yourself the time and the space to think. Writing isn't all active production -- sometimes we just need to sit and reflect and know it's okay to sit and reflect. Go for a walk. Take a shower. Doodle as you watch the pigeons strut along your window ledge. Have some tea. Clear your mind and see what happens.
Ask for help. I KNOW. I am really bad at this, too. But sometimes it can really help to have someone you trust take a look at what you've written and offer suggestions or insights. Do not ask this person or these people to solve your problem for you -- only you can do that. But they can help point out weak and strong points within your writing and give you a fresh outlook or a new idea you hadn't considered.
The trick to all of this is that you cannot be unwilling to
change. Only when you give up your complete control over this
messy, organic work will it begin to work for you.
The book of the week.
This week, I read The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R. Carey.
Without spoiling it for you, I can tell you that it's about a little girl who lives in a facility where she is treated very poorly -- and then you find out why.
This book is very intense and extremely gory, and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone with a weak stomach. But if you're looking to dip your toes into the horror genre, or if you're a horror fan looking for a literarily complex new work, please check this one out.
With a compelling heroine, complex characters, a bone-deep humanity, and heartbreaking twists, The Girl With All The Gifts was a fast-paced horror/mystery/survival drama and all around pleasure to read.
Keep up-to-date with my reading exploits on Goodreads.