Clearing the Writer’s Clogged Pipes


26229875-image-of-a-young-journalist-sitting-at-the-table-for-a-typewriterPersonally, I don’t believe in Writer’s Block. There is no such thing in my book. Yes, there are days you just can’t get moving, but completely blocked? Nah. That’s an excuse. You have to push through, like Roto Rootering your pipes. Most of the time this occurs during the saggy middle (which the Sisters have posted about several times), because we are all jacked up about beginning, and then energized at the other end about finishing the damn thing.

Just one woman’s humble opinion.

Advice abounds: take a walk, distract yourself, write down other ideas, work on a different project, meditate, clear your head, take a nap(!), or whatever is advised on a passive level. Then try these proactive steps to actually work with your characters and get them to open up and to, excuse the expression, flush out your characters and your plot line. Add some excitement by going through these exercises in your head, and, if you are so inclined, writing out the scenes to cement it. Just get it moving and you’ll be on your way in no time.

1)   Have your protagonist come out of left field and confess something that adds a dimension to her character. It should not have anything to do with the story itself, something in her past that colors her outlook. Did she hit a child in a fit of temper? Lose somebody else’s child? Have an accident and run away? Damage somebody else’s property and hide it? Find something your goody-two-shoes did that shows a crack in her character. Develop it. Use it to define who she is in your mind. You don’t have to use it unless it moves the story forward, but just knowing this is in her psyche can unclog the pipeline. Sometimes I do this by sitting like a therapist, pen in hand, legs crossed, with a steno pad in my lap, and actually interviewing my character. Somebody call the men in white jackets.

2)   Ask a question that’s unanswerable and see how your characters deal with it. Put yourself with all the characters in one room a la Hercule Poirot. Start asking inane questions. Who’s going to say something without thinking? What is it going to be? Who will gasp and clutch their chest?

3)   Have your character walk through a process: “Start at the beginning. You were here…” Where was she standing when something momentous occurred, what was she thinking, doing, saying? What was she doing with her hands? How was she dressed? Get into minute detail and something will pop up. Play detective if you have to.

4)   Pick a fight. Back to the interviewing technique. Get into it with a character by egging them on, pushing them to the edge to get an answer. Why did they go there? What was their motivation in taking a certain action? Script it out. Something pops up from him that you didn’t think of. Play word association games with your characters, go for the jugular. Get them to confess, to talk, to plead, whatever will move the story forward.

5)   Have a heart-stopping that-didn’t-just-happen shock right there in the middle of the book. Remember Gone Girl? Exactly halfway through the book I, and, I suspect everyone else who read it, stopped reading, eyes focused while the shock ran through my body. The story was going along nicely until – BAM – the surprise hit you dead on and then the race was on to finish it and see where it went because it came out of left field and you weren’t sure which way it was going at that point. Brilliant.

There are lots of ways you can slog through and get moving again. Roto-Rooter it with these suggestions. You don’t have to make it part of the story, just use it in your own head to keep things moving along. Before you know it, the pipes are clean and the story moves smoothly to its inevitable end.

Writers’ Block? Nah. Just move it along…




Author: Kathy Weyer

Kathy Weyer is a reformed Human Resource executive and Marriage and Family Therapist. She has worked in several hospices as a grief and bereavement counselor.

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