Nano Prep – Forks and Blocks

As promised, today’s NaNoWriMo post is addressing the infamous “Writer’s Block” syndrome and tricks of how to get past the nuisance.

Writer’s Block is a psychological condition where the thought process refuses to start; or, the story line sticks at a common place and the writer can not think past the plot point.

In both instances of these cases, some authors suggest taking time away from the work and letting your brain do something else. Einstein worked at the Patent Office, letting his mind wander while doing menial tasks to open his creative cortex for creative thinking.

Yes, I just compared you to Einstein. You’re welcome.

Others, myself included, found the “sleep on it” method of writer’s block repair somewhat faulty. Meaning, the results come with mixed percentages of success. For me, I use a different approach altogether.

However, please be aware, as with all advice in writing, take ANY and ALL strategies with a grain of salt. Use them when needed, however don’t let it change how you work unless you find superlative results. For example, yesterday I mentioned “to put your editor and heckler away for the entire month to help write your daily allotted amount of words.” Someone emailed me mentioning they prefer to edit yesterday’s work to get motivated and in the proper mindset to continue writing. This is excellent advice and a great point: advice is not written in stone and should never count as law. Just because Neil Stevenson or Terry Pratchett works and writes a specific way doesn’t mean every writer should – everyone (especially creative people,) have their own patterns and platforms that work for them. Use and look for advice when needed.

My advice for breaking writer’s block is something George R.R. Martin uses: Plot Forks. According to Martin, every scene, every conversation, and every conflict written has many points where the story changes. This could come in the form of dialog, a decision the characters make, a choice in someone’s death or life choice, if someone chooses to marry or accept a quest – any decision chosen in the story. These “forks” are where you choose a different outcome than you did before and make the outcome opposite. Begin writing an alternative scene – just from the fork forward, and compare the fork-artfirst and second versions. Next, ask yourself three questions:

  1. Which is better for your initial idea for the story?
  2. Which tells a better story?
  3. Which version is more entertaining to the end reader?

After you chose the answer to these questions, go back and re-read the outcome to what you wrote. After seeing the difference in the story – even if you kept the original – it now gives you a perspective of what “might have” happened on a different side of things.

And remember you can do this with any and every choice in the story. Every minute detail from what clothes the main character decided to wear the day the asteroid hit California, to having the kidnapper kill his victim before the drop off to the cops instead of leaving them in a burning building with a cell phone…

The choice is yours.

This technique also helps during editing when you feel something doesn’t sound “normal.” It helps to give the story different views or larger proportions when you want altered states of vision – but I plan on talking about that at a later date.

-Chris

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