I have been asked why I’ve started writing so many stories, but seldom (if at all) finish any of them. At the last count I’ve got eleven stories on the go, so I suppose it’s a fair question. And the answer is… none of your damn business, leave me alone!
There are two answers to this. The first is to do with me and my writing style, and how I come up with ideas.
I’m always asking ‘what if’, as in what if three people were waiting at a deserted train station? What if a little old lady constantly brought household items to a charity shop for donation? What if a bus full of passengers took a wrong turn? What if a mother and father lost their only child? What if an author ended up in a world he created? The obvious answers to these questions are instantly discarded by my inner writer, to be replaced by the unexpected, the strange and often the downright weird.
So when I have an idea, I’ll kick it around in my head for a while, looking at it from every angle, and then I’ll write the beginning. I’ll usually run out of steam after a little while, so I’ll put it away and leave it alone. Then when I go back and reread what I’ve written I’ll get a clearer idea of what it’s about and how to write it. Just jotting down notes about the story, characters and plot doesn’t work for me. I have tried doing it that way, but I found that when I went back to those notes I’d lost the essence of the story, lost the spark. I’d forgotten the tone of voice I wanted to use, forgotten if it should be slightly humerous, or dark, or emotional, or surreal, or gritty, or… you get the idea. So I’ll write the first few pages as I want it to be written, so that I can capture all of those elements in the words. Yes, I’ll also write notes about where the story is going, but those first few pages are THE most important ones. To me, at least.
“That sounds like a good system,” I hear you cry. No? Well, tough, I’ll carry on regardless.
If you have a clear idea, then write it. It doesn’t have to be the beginning, that’s just the way I do it. Take Romany Skies (part one of the Sam Creedy Chronicles), I’ve got bits of that from all over the story – start, end, middle, even something that I’m sure belongs in book two. But anyway, write it as well as you can, and if you do run out of steam, shelve it and come back to it weeks or even months later. Sometimes you don’t run out of steam though, sometimes it keeps going, the story dragging you along in its eagerness to be written.
And that brings us to the second answer to the original question – namely, the inability to write.
“Ah, yes,” you’re saying, nodding sagely. “Writers block.”
I haven’t written anything worthwhile for quite some time purely because of personal circumstances. There’s a lot going on in my life at the moment, and most of it isn’t good stuff. As a result, I just don’t feel like writing anything. I’ve tried, I’ve opened up one of my stories with every intention of writing a few thousand words more, but I just end up thinking what’s the point? Why bother? I should be getting my life back on track, not scribbling words. So, I’m NOT blocked, I’m just choosing not to write until things are better. (If I had writers block I wouldn’t be able to write this, would I?)
That said, I don’t really believe in writers block anyway. Sure, there are the rare individuals who wake up one morning, after years of being able to write freely day after day, and are unable to write a thing. Poor souls. Mostly though, when writers say they’re blocked, it’s because there may be something going on in their life which is distracting them. But what it usually turns out to be is just the lack of a clear direction for that particular story.
If that occurs, don’t get dejected if it’s not happening, if the story isn’t coming. Move on to something else, anything else, even the 30 Writing Challenges will do. I say it all the time, when somebody says they’re stumped on a story – “move on, write something else.” Because, ultimately, that’s all there is too it.
I guess the point is not to get hung up on just one story and try to make it work no matter what, and then get downhearted and give up when it refuses to go any further. It might just be the beginnings of an idea, an idea your inner writer needs to work on for a while in peace. So in the meantime, write the beginnings of more ideas. And by write I mean really write, not just jot down an outline with a few plot ideas.
New ideas find it hard to push their way past existing ideas, especially when the existing idea in question has the writer stumped. I guess that’s what I’m trying to say. Let your creative mind do what it does best – create. Don’t hold it back by trying to force it to work on something its had enough of, for now. When it’s ready it’ll go back to the story it wants and finish it off.
So just write. Write anything. Write that you’re stumped. Write that you want to write, write that you’re angry with not being able to, write that it upsets you. Just write.
You won’t be writing for any other reason than you just want to write. Anything. Don’t think about it. Don’t worry about spelling, grammar, punctuation. Don’t even worry about it making sense. Free your mind of everything and just put words on the screen, or on paper, whichever. 20 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour, whatever it takes. And when you’re done, keep what you’ve written. You never know, there may be something useful in there for a later date.
If you do that, you’ll have written something. And if you’ve written something, then you can’t have writers block.
Anyway, enough. If you’ve made it this far, thanks for putting up with my ramblings. Now, haven’t you got something better you should be doing?