Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Being Prepared

Or: how to beat writer's block 90% of the time.

Now, I know there are plenty of people who don't use outlines to write, but I assure you, this method works as well for "panststers" as it does for outliners.

You wanna beat writer's block?  Go back to your character profiles.  It's as simple as that.  Everyone's book has a theme, whether overt or subtextually.  And those themes, especially the subtextual themes, come about as a result of character motivation.  So when you hit writer's block, just ask one simple question: what can I do to either fulfill or block my character(s)'s motivation?

Remember, your protagonist(s) AND antagonist(s) have motivations, and one of those should rule your narrative.  That's what drives the plot forward.  What would they do to further their goals?  And more importantly, what can you (or the antagonist, or universe) do to make that difficult?  Or impossible?

I reached a blockage point yesterday while outlining (and this is one reason I advocate for at the very least a small amount of outlining), and I thought, "What does my character want, and how can I make this scene matter?"

All I did was return to a protagonist's profile, look through her motivations, and pick which one I can exploit to increase tension for the story.  Turns out, I managed to plan a scene that will work around three of her motivations.  AND it moves the plot forward.

And for those of you screaming at me, "Giles, you just got stuck on an outline.  What if this was the actual novel?"  My response is, "I'd do the EXACT same thing.  And I WILL.  Because I know I'll get stuck when I sit down to write the actual manuscript.


  1. The Wife1:43 PM

    I am very glad to know that I've been teaching my students a smart way to write! Outline your heart out!

    1. Outlining is important, but not absolutely necessary. What's more important is knowing where the writing ENDS. How you get there is part of the fun of the process. And that's where the small planning pieces come in. Characters move the story forward, regardless of the outline. :)

  2. Good advice, Giles. I several hundred friends comfortably living in binders, file drawers, and, maybe not so comfortably, hiding behind the bits and bytes on my gear -- all happy to jump up and tell me a new story when I slow down. Ah... but there's the rub... they all want to tell me a NEW story.

    But I've found that if I listen politely, it doesn't take long for them to get back on track.


    1. Glad to hear you have characters planned out :) But never forget, they're your employees. They have SOME leeway, but don't let them run the show!

      And thanks for dropping by. It's nice to see commenters who don't speak very often :D