This writing prompt is inspired by some questions posed for Goodreads authors to answer. I thought about my response, and thought it be great to share with you all aspiring authors out there! And anyone interested in how I went about writing A Stranger in France, Not Just for Christmas and Code Redhead- A Serial Novel.
So when I think of writer’s block in the traditional sense, I think of a writer sitting behind their lap top with a blank page, with a blank mind- they don’t know what to write or how to start. I don’t personally experience this type of writer’s block. I don’t mean this in a cocky way either, it’s because I’ve personally found a way to avoid it. But I’ll be honest I do experience lack of discipline/ sticking to my own writing schedule I set, this is mainly due to life and being a busy mama. But when I do sit down to write, in between being a mama and work I’m never blank. Generally speaking, the former experience is what I’ve read and heard most writers experience. How do I avoid this common type of writer’s block, that is so damaging to a writer’s productivity and even decreases their chances of finishing their novel or short story? Simple…
I have some form of detailed plan, I know what you’re thinking we all plan our storytelling ideas, hmm yes but the key is detailed. Before I even write “Chapter One” at the top of my blank page when I have a novel or short story idea I do the following:
- A detailed mini synopsis of EVERY chapter.
- A detailed character profile for EVERY character, especially those who take centre stage.
- Drum up two possible endings for the story.
- Drum up a few shockers/surprises/ OMG I never saw that coming twists. (this step depends on the genre I’m writing. I do this for romantic suspense and thriller a lot).
Every writer finds their own way and their own voice, but for me in order to avoid that “shit what do I write now?” Feeling, or find myself at a dead end with my story, I have a full idea of how the story will play out in the start, middle and end, and an idea of what will happen in EVERY chapter for EVERY character. It’s quite a detailed plan. This is step #1 this way when I sit down to write I know what direction I’m going in, just from glancing at my synopsis of where I am with writing. Now don’t get me wrong my detailed chapter synopsis is not set in stone, when I wrote A Stranger in France for one of my characters a scene I wrote just came to me that very night I was writing. It was a creative thought on the spot and it tied in with the story (lucky), so I went off the track I set out on. Another thing I find about this approach is it helps me to think about possible word count, as I know what will take place in each chapter before I even write it and how long certain scenes may play out for.
#2 is just a personal thing, many writers have an idea in their head of who their characters are, but I’m a little OCD. Mainly as I enjoy writing from first person, and try to make my characters pop on the page. (Which can be a challenge as you need to become that character and react to situations as they would, not yourself). Due to my personal writing style, I like to sometimes use I NEED to know my character’s view points, attitudes, likes and dislikes to a T,so I can be consistent when I am writing their POV. But generally I’d say this is good practice.
#3 this is my plan B, in case I decide to move off my detailed chapter plan, just back up! But it also helps me to move in the right direction when writing, to know what to write and when so I don’t experience writer’s block.
#4 I love this part! And it fits with genre I write in and my personal enjoyment of writing. You can’t have a romantic suspense, without the suspense or even a little surprise. You can’t have a thriller without some kind of thrill 🙂 in my humble personal opinion. If I am honest, this is the most enjoyable part as a writer for me, I love building up a little roller coaster to keep the pages turning.
With two out of the three of my published works and my current novel I’m writing now I followed my natural “blue print”, of how I personally avoid writer’s block. I managed to finish a 90,000 odd word novel and 20,000 odd word novella. And hopefully I’ll finish what I’m working on now as a guess this maybe about 60,000-70,000 words. The only time I went off track was when I wrote the short story for Code Redhead – A Serial Novel with twelve other authors … what do you think happened? Yep I got writer’s block LOL. I had my idea based on the writing prompt we were given but no real direction or plan, I was less organised and it took me a lot longer to get into my flow. Why did I not stick to what works? I think, looking back it was because the authors featured in Code Redhead- A Serial Novel only had 14,000 words as a limit for their story- teeny tiny ! So I thought to myself, this will be a breeze. But I was wrong, it was a learning curve for me as a writer. Shorter word count (when it comes to writing for a novel not a blog) means nothing. I learned in some ways it can be more of a challenge, to write an engaging story with a tiny word count you need to focus on the story developing plus balance character development etc. Also when I saw the cover for the book, I went back to the drawing board, originally my story was a nice sweet feel good romance I called it “From London with Love” originally, but the cover of the book did not scream sensible shoes and a nice cardigan when I saw it LOL. No, to me the writing prompt my publisher gave us all, and the cover said to me “Kim, pull out something a little more stilettos and a little black dress for your main character.” So that’s what I did, but not as quick as I would have liked, I did get writer’s block in the traditional sense for the first time! But I over came it and the story changed direction and the characters took on a new direction … eventually.
What did I learn from this? Stick to my natural blue print that helps to avoid writer’s block. Even if you change the story line last moment, at least you have a detailed idea of where you were originally going before hand and can adapt it, rather than just doing what you love … writing, a little blindly and ending up blocked, pressed for time and like argh! Second no matter the word limit 14,000 or 140,000 you need a plan.
So the moral is, ( for me on my journey to published author) that I want to share with you is plan your direction, plan your character’s direction, and then plan some more! Then write… like no one is looking and enjoy feeling stress free and writer’s block free.