Thoughts on Writing

Anything having to do with writing, from the technical to the casual observation.

Hey, It Works!

Apologies for the delay, folks.  I was having issues with the server connection timing out last night and couldn’t post as scheduled.  That issue is now resolved (yay!) and I’ve posted Episode 25 of Spartans: The AWOL Squad.

DID Isn’t Forgotten

The first chapter of His Revenge, the fifth installment of Descent Into Darkness, will be posted as soon my timeline stops rewriting itself.  This was something I encountered with His Command, where my starting point for the story kept resetting itself as the plot developed — and I realized that there were a few things I needed to seed earlier than the original first chapter despite all my outlining.  Unlike that previous instance, however, I’m lacking backlog to post while I work out the kinks.  Thus AWOL has made a reappearance in the posting schedule.  Please be patient with me while I work this out and enjoy the offering.

Most of the kinks I’m dealing with surround a new character, one who is scripted to play a significant role much later on.  His backstory is more in-depth than some of the characters I’ve introduced, his motivations heavily rooted in certain events of his past, and while the details are vital to his portion of the story, they do draw attention away from the focal character(s) of the series — Ba’tvian, or, as some see it, Ba’tvian and Nerisse.  Because of that, I’m contemplating writing a short story for just this character for online posting.  It would relieve His Revenge of the burden of introducing a new character, and may just straighten out those kinks I keep running into.

We’ll see how it goes.  Until next time, happy reading.

Another Year Begins…

…and I don’t know that I’ve ever been so pressed for time.

Update Schedule Is Up…Sort Of

We have an initial draft of our content update schedule posted here.  We’re still compiling it so please bear with us.

There are several things we’re dealing with this year that we haven’t had to deal with before.  In June 2012, Trinity Gateways became an LLC which was great, wonderful, fantastic.  Yet it means more work: taxes and annual reports to be filed with the state to name the top two.  Some of this couldn’t be started until Janauary of this year, which means that we — especially me — have been really busy.  So busy, in fact, that I’m behind on my writing goals and that’s reflected in my portion of the posted schedule.

So apologies to those of you who are awaiting more Descent Into Darkness.  I’m working to get to it as soon as I can.

Newsletter Submissions

We are still accepting submissions for the next newsletter.  We’re looking short or flash fiction, poetry, or articles relating to writing, reading, publishing, or story-telling in some way.  Please see our Submissions Page for more information.

Only A Writer

I was recently promoted at the dayjob.  Yay!  It means more duties.  Boo.  Lol, that said, I took it because I was already doing most of the work and wanted the raise that came with the new title.  The raise comes just in time to pay for car repairs; one of the drive belt tension wheels has deteriorated to the point that the belt has come off.  Having this happen while driving to work downtown is not fun in the least.  I’m going to give those moments of sickening panic to some poor character later down the road.  Another character will get my disappointment and resignation of not being able to enjoy that new raise.

Only a writer would torment fictional people this way.

A New Descent

The abridged rough draft of His Command, the fourth installment in the six part series, has been launched. You can read Chapters 1 & 2 HERE.

His Beast has been taken down completely, save for a few sample chapters. The unabridged version of Descent Into Darkness: His Beast will be released as an e-publication on 5/6/12. For anyone interested in reading the unabridged versions of His Own and Her Lord, the first two installments of the series, they are currently for sale at most online e-retailers, such as Amazon, Smashwords, and Barnes & Noble.

Juggling Isn’t Always Easy

As you might already know, I’ve been loaded down with mandatory OT at the day job, which has greatly impacted the time I’ve allocated to writing. Thankfully, it hasn’t impacted my posting schedule. While my writing productivity hasn’t been the greatest during the last few weeks, I’m happy to report that I still have content to post, and that the amount of OT has been decreased. The OT isn’t gone – I wish – but has lessened. Hopefully, I can get back on track with writing soon.

The thing about juggling is that you have to absorb any shift in the established routine you’ve set for yourself. Not only is it akin to being thrown an extra object to juggle, the bloody thing’s a different weight and shape. It messes up the routine, and you find yourself fumbling with the objects as you attempt to keep them in the air. Try as you might, you will occasionally let one fall to the ground.

It’s frustrating. When you’re suddenly handed 10-15 extra hours to work at the Evil Necessity, it almost always means losing a “free day” – time you’ve slotted for some serious keyboard pounding. That loss might mean a dropped ball, and you may not have the time to pick it up off the ground and work it back into the juggling routine.

There are ways to handle it. You can short yourself on sleep to write, grit your teeth, bear the extra load, and pray that you’ll be able to make your goals, or, if given the option, refuse the work. Weigh your options, analyze your priorities, and make your decision.

Writers don’t give up, don’t give in, and don’t set our writing aside. We find the space to compromise, the time to jot down as many words as we can, all the while dreaming of the “big break” in publishing or winning the lottery so that we can pursue our true calling. Sometimes we have to make the really tough and onerous decision to cutback on writing (not give it up, just do it less often) in favor of the day job. It’s not an easy one to make. For those who make it, it’s temporary, brought on financial/economic necessity. Yet once the need for it passes, they go back to writing like they used to.

It’s the never-ending tug-of-war, one that we can’t stop participating in – at least, not until we’re writing full-time. Once we stop the tug-of-war, we stop dreaming. We stop writing. Whole worlds die in that instant.

That’s something I refuse to let happen to mine. What about you?

 

Villains

A lot of authors give the reader a glimpse of the villain’s viewpoint. It makes the story more interesting, gives the author an opportunity to torque the tension or intrigue. It’s also another hook to encourage the reader to keep going.

Many readers, myself included, find villains fascinating. Whether they’re somewhat sympathetic villains or outright bastards, people want to know what they’ve done, how they think, and what they’re going to do. We want to see how far over the line they’ll go – and how they fall.

This is especially true for me. Here’s a ‘for instance’ for you: I love true crime. It’s not the murders or a killer’s depravity that hook me into watching whatever true crime shows I can find.  It’s the fact that they did it, why they did it, how they think about what they’ve done, what they’re psychology is like, and how they were caught in the end. I always root for the good guys (because I’m not a sick bastard like some of these people and I like seeing ‘good’ triumphing over ‘evil’) but at the same time I study the bad guys. Serial killers, murderers, terrorists, and con artists are real world villains that showcase all the potential characteristics you can use to make your own fictional villains.

At this point, I’d like to interject something. People say that it takes a twisted mind to write fictional stories possessing sadistic or horrific aspects. This is not in the least true. Nothing can be as sick, twisted, perverse, and outrageous as real life. All I did was give those sick, twisted, perverse, and outrageous aspects of real people – whom I don’t know and don’t want to know – to a character in a fantasy story. That does not, in any way, mean that I am sadist who condones these kinds of acts. What it means is that I’m a resourceful writer who is building a villainous character who needs to be as believable as I can make him.

That character became Ba’tvian Delthanurk of my Descent Into Darkness series.

Originally, I wasn’t going to focus so much on Ba’tvian. I knew I needed to lay out his background, develop him more fully. I wrote a few scenes that were meant to capture Ba’tvian’s basic personality, things that I could go back to as a refresher whenever I wrote his character into a story. Those scenes took on a life of their own. That was great because it meant that Ba’tvian did as well.  In fact, he developed into one of the best villains I’ve ever created.

Today, I was listening to Writing Excuses Season 1 Episode 7, which happens to be on the topic of villains. (Yes, it’s an older podcast but I hadn’t listened to it before and the series is entertaining.) Howard Taylor said something that struck a chord with me: that to make a relatable and interesting villain, he makes the villain a hero in his own story.

When I wrote those scenes with Ba’tvian from his POV that is what I’d done. I’d made him a kind of hero.

He’s no one to emulate. He murders, rapes, corrupts, and desecrates as he moves through the world. Yet he possesses several qualities attributed to heroes. He’s achieving a dream. He’s fighting against the odds. He’s gaining supporters – only a few, granted, but they are still supporters. Ba’tvian is an underdog struggling to take his rightful place in the world. Yet he is, and always will be, evil. That, and how he goes about achieving his goals, is what makes him a villain.

I love truly evil villains. They have no compunctions about being ruthless, expedient, or coldly logical – whether it concerns their people, families, allies, or enemies doesn’t matter. The truly evil villain is willing to sacrifice everything accept himself. They are the ones who can do as they please, be who they are, and not have to worry about pretenses except when it suits them.

They also don’t mind my using them to slay fictional representations of real world irritants. That, to my mind, is one of the perks being a villain’s writer.  (Everyone needs an outlet, right?)

A while back, there was a trend in entertaining media where creators revealed their villains to be sympathetic characters. They explored how they came to be villains, why they did what they did. Some had regrets, others didn’t. Regardless, they maintained their villainy because of curses, pride, revenge, or the innate ability to keep making the wrong choices, etc. In some cases, villains were virtually stripped of their villainy.

While the back story and origins were intriguing, as a reader, I always felt as if the villain had been reduced somehow. I understood him now, I felt sorry for that rough patch he went through as a kid. It could even seem as if society was bent on making him fit into the villain’s mold, paring away at any redeeming or likable qualities his character might have possessed until what he became was all that was left of him. It didn’t excuse his later actions, but it did undermine his impact on me.

I was determined that this would not be the case with my villains.

Descent Into Darkness: His Own happened accidentally. Those scenes I mentioned a bit ago evolved on me. I found myself writing more, fleshing them out into a full-fledged story. I tried hard to make Ba’tvian into a villain the reader could relate to, yet see him for what he was. I battled sympathy and understanding with arrogance and hatred. I made him victimize others, corrupt others, and did my best to show the reader his horrific/sadistic tendencies. I strived to make it clear that he understood the difference between right and wrong, good and evil, and that he chose wrong/evil willingly.  I did this because this is one character I want my readers to love to hate.

Ba’tvian Delthanurk is a man who despises weakness in himself and will use the weakness in others to reach his goals. He is selfish, hard, rotten, determined. He willingly embraced the path he’s on, knowing what it meant. There is no one else he cares for. All others are means to an end, toys or tools for his pleasure, or just meat.

How much more evil can a villain get?

And yet I love this guy. I love that he’s evil, that I get to build him up, that I can watch his destiny unfold. His fate – well, you’ll have to stick with me and my series to find that out. I will say this though: he will be much deserving of it when his time comes.

The higher they rise, the harder they fall.

Long Term Planning

I’m a fly-by-the-seat-my-pants kind of writer.  I don’t work with an outline when creating a first draft and I don’t summarize many of the chapters ahead of where I’m at in the story.  I know where I start, where I end, and everything in between tends to happen as I need it to.

Descent Into Darkness is proving to me that this approach no longer works.

The novella series is a precursor to a mission of conquest in the world of Einlienn.  I knew that from its inception, so knew where the series would end.  The whole point of the series, actually, was to establish my band of bad guys, develop their characters and motivations, and then move into the trilogy that I’d already started writing.  (It’s a horrible thing, to start a book and then realize you don’t know half the characters as well you need to.)

So His Own began.  Of the rather large cast I had in play for the trilogy, I only the backgrounds of a handful by heart.  Ba’tvian Delthanurk was one of them.  As a VIC (Very Important Character), that’s to be expected.  I started with him because almost everything hinged on the choices he’d made.  In so doing, I was able to establish the origin of Nerisse se li Astorae.

Nerisse was unique.  She’s a character that’s slated to undergo an extended change, or series of changes, before finally morphing into something else altogether.  (Yes, I know I’m being cryptic but I don’t want to give it away.)  I actually had a lot more in the way of notes on her than I did Ba’tvian, but only the vaguest reference as to how they met.  His Own flowed in such a way that I barely thought of how to integrate their meeting in Her Lord; it just came naturally into the story.

His Beast wasn’t the same.  Though it’s still in progress, I’ve had to do a rough outline for the latter of the story which was not the case in the first two.  Now that I’ve closing in on the story’s conclusion, I find that I have to do the same for the next three in the series — the three that finish Descent Into Darkness and lead into that aforemention trilogy.    For each one, the ante has to go up.  For each one, the cast number increases.  Added to that, I have to line up with 300+ pages of already written material that happens down the line.  That’s a lot to plan out, a lot to keep track of.  If I didn’t give myself some kind of long-term guidance, I’d derail everything and end up doing re-writes until Judgement Day.

I’ve gone that route before and it’s not pretty.

So I put in the extra effort.  Enter the essential tool of the long term planning writer: the story bible.

I’ve been compiling this one for a while now.  Mostly, it contains a glossary, notes on places, people, things.  I have countries, governments, economies, and geographical features outlined.  I have excerpts of history, quotes from religious texts (from my world, not the real world), and the foundations of a far-reaching mythology.  My character write-ups are here, and now so are my story summaries and rough outlines.  It holds everything I might ever need to reference in order to write in that universe.

Of course, things will change as I finish the series, but not in big ways.  The little things aren’t noted in the bible.  It covers my major and minor plot points, but not the locations — those will likely fluctuate and I can add them in as I write.  I have little side notes included concerning character motivation and developing flaws, things that may come into play before Descent Into Darkness ends and definitely will once I get back into the trilogy.

Maybe I went a little overboard in how much information it contains but I love world building.  What can I say?  Playing god in my fictional universe is fun.

So long as I keep thinking like that, this long term planning thing doesn’t feel like the work it is.

Killing The Reader

As a writer, I try to pay attention to anything that I don’t like.  If it has repetitive words, a monotonous narrative, flat characters, a plot that’s a horizontal line instead of the ascending arch, too much of one element or not enough of another – whatever it is, if it’s something that makes me pause in my reading and think, “that’s off”, I make a note of it.  Why?  Because I don’t want to make the same mistakes.  I don’t want my readers to walk away from my work without finishing it.

Worse, I don’t want them to be so turned off by it that they’ll never read any of writing again.  That’s what I call killing the reader.

Recently, I was reminded of one of the very few times I purged an author from my personal library.  Now understand: I’m a confessed bibliophile, a collector of books I love.  I have a reputation among family and friends for not letting go of any book that comes into my hands.  I treat my books like you might treat antique crystal that’s been passed down through the generations – as precious and irreplaceable.  And I revisit them.  Each book gets read once; the vast majority get read multiple times.

Yet I took not one book, but one author, out of my library.

First, I’m not going to tell you her name.  There are reasons for that.  1) I’m a professional and have desire to bash anyone else’s work simply because it isn’t to my preference.  2) She has a large fan following and I have no wish to alienate her audience.  3) She’s became something of a brand name now; who am I to knock her success?  However, the biggest reason is that she has worked extremely hard to be where she is today.  I won’t undermine that.  She’s earned it, in her way.  That doesn’t mean that I agree with what’s she’s done with her writing, but it isn’t my place to judge.

The catalyst for the purge was the introduction of an overwhelming element in her work.  Her early books were great.  I was as much of a fan-girl as others out there, chomping at the bit for the next book to come out.  Then I noticed the growing trend, wondered at it, tried to stick with it, and finally gave up.  The trend was sex.

Sex sells.  There’s a lot of market data to support that statement, and this author’s continued popularity is proof of it.  For myself, I’m no prude.  Sex isn’t normally a turn off for me when it comes to reading.  Yet when a book’s plot seems to have been regulated to mere staging for the fornication, with the characters’ development suffering for it, I can’t stand it.  As a reader, I need a good plot, solid characters, a logical flow of action.  Sex, romance, danger, it all adds spice to the mix.  This author’s series started out with all of that. 

Then something went (for me at least) horribly wrong.

The main character’s dynamic trajectory swerved way off the course that had been set in the first five books.  She is now ‘sleeping’ with various partners, not just the two men she’d been caught between as of book 2.  The placement of some of those scenes doesn’t make sense.  It felt to me as if the plot had become an excuse for the eroticism.

The sex, what this author did with it, killed me as a reader.

Because the books are part of an ongoing series and have little to no resolution as the main character’s personal life, I found that I couldn’t even keep the books I liked.  The plot would be resolved, but too many other things were left open-ended.  Each time a saw the books on the shelf I thought of wasted potential.  The characters, the setting, the story-lines introduced in those first volumes had held such potential.  That potential hasn’t been realized, hasn’t even come close.

I loved those books.  As a reader, it felt like someone had broken their promise to me, the one they made when they put those words to paper.  It hurt.  Finally I decided that I couldn’t keep them. 

I remember them, but not as the books I’d read and re-read.  I remember them for what they became.

There have been other authors I walked away from, others who ‘killed’ me as their reader.  With them, I never got past that first story.  That’s okay.  Not everyone will like someone’s writing.  I’m sure there are people out there who can’t stand mine.  As readers, we’re entitled to likes and dislikes.  If a writer doesn’t catch a reader, it’s not a failure.  There will be someone else who will become a fan, and making that connection is the hardest part of the job.

Fans are a writer’s life-blood.  They’re what keep us going when things look bleak, what have us stealing time from where we can in order to jot down a few more lines of text.  To lose a fan because my writing morphed into something completely different from what s/he first read…it’s the worst kind of betrayal a writer can make.

I hope that I have never killed a reader who was already a fan.

Spooky Empire: Horror Blogging & Social Media

First, let me apologize for not getting this entry up sooner; it was supposed to have gone up yesterday, 10/15/11.  I had most of this drafted out already but needed to finish it up and proof it.  However, yesterday was also my birthday and I got sidetracked by friends and family.  So you’re getting today.  Please forgive me.

The Horror Blogging & Social Media panel was held at 7pm on Friday, 10/7/11, the first day of the convention.  I was a panelist, along with Kevin A. Ranson (MovieCrypt.com and author of The Spooky Chronicles), Stephen Biro (author of Hellucination), LJ Gastineau, and Scott Kenemore (author of The Zen of Zombie and Zombie CEO).  Scott moderated, doing an excellent job of keeping us on track as we discussed how we, as writers, used social media and blogs, why we used them, and what we found worked best.

For the most part, the consensus was that social media was a tool to get promote ourselves and our work.  We discussed how using various social networks, such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+, could reach a broad swath of an author’s potential audience.

Personally, I’m not a fan of social media.  I prefer face-to-face contact, but I do not, in any way, discount the importance of social media as a tool.  There is only one drawback that I really object to: the amount of time it all seems to take.  There ways around this, however, so I’ve no excuse for not using the tool.

Facebook allows you to link your FB Pages to your Twitter account, so that anything posted on FB will also hit there.  Twitter, in turn, can be linked to your LinkedIn account.  That’s three of the major social networks and you have only to post on Facebook once for that post to appear on all of them.

For WordPress users, there are several plug-ins that will do that the same.  One will publish your update messages or new blog entries to your main Facebook profile.  Another will do the same on your Facebook Page, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Buzz, Delicious, and many more.

All of this drastically reduces the amount of time I spend updating social media accounts.  I don’t need hours on end, I don’t need a check list.  That makes me happy.

I do budget time for social media.  I try to get on there every other day, spending 30 minutes to an hour checking things out, responding to comments and status, etc.  It takes that long because I like to read blogs, which I lump in the same time slot.

If I didn’t do all of this, I wouldn’t be able to sell anything.  Advertising works for a reason and social media is an advertising venue.  More, it’s free advertising.  As to what I’m selling, it’s not just my fiction, it’s myself as an author, as a brand.  It’s important to let people know that Doris Ross, Author, exists, that I have published works out there.  If they don’t know, they won’t seek out my stuff and buy it.

So even though I’m not a fan of social media, I’ll use it.  I’d be stupid not to.

Blogging was the other topic of the panel.  Kevin A. Ranson stated that an entry that includes something relating to currents events will increase the number of visitors.  Tying that into whatever you’re blogging about will enable your blog to get picked up by the
search engines and place your blog higher on their list of results.  Scott Kenemore mentioned that a major attractant for a blog is frequent posts of new content.

Speaking for myself, it’s sometimes very hard to come up with new content regularly.  I have a day job, I write content for my website and work on projects for  TrinityGateways.net.  I’m juggling book writing and social/family time (hey, everyone needs some down time) in among all of that.  Time is a commodity that I sorely wish I had more of.  If I had the time, I’d blog every day.  I don’t have the time, so I blog when I can.

Whether the issue is time or inclination, not all writers can blog or deal with the social media regularly.  During the panel, an audience member asked that.  Steven Schulzman gave the answer: if you can’t or won’t do it yourself, find someone who’ll do it for free or hire someone to do it.  It’s that important.

Another subject that was thrown in was reviews, which often show up in blogs.  We all prefer good reviews, but even bad ones can great publicity if we use them right.  Stephen Biro intimated that his first independent author release, The Dead Baby Joke Book, got such bad reviews and generated so many complaints that he actually made sales after his book was banned from Smashwords.  People wanted to know what was so bad about
it so they went out and bought it.  (Humanity is a fascinating and sometimes strange species.)

Yet using select quotes from a bad review can generate positive interest.  Something that says “This book is the greatest piece of crap I’ve ever read” can be modified – and still be a quote – in this way “This book is the greatest…I’ve ever read”.  So long as the omitted words are replaced by the handy ellipses (the “…” for those of you unfamiliar with the term) it’s still a legitimate quote.  So if you ever get a bad review, don’t blow up at the reviewer.  Smile, thank them kindly, ask for permission to use their review, then make your quote selections carefully.

As for good reviews, handle them like the gold they are.  Include them, or links to them, in your blog.  If there enough room in synopsis field for your book on, say, Amazon, include that review there as well.  People like to see a good review for a book as much as the author does.

That wraps up the panel on Horror Blogging & Social Media.  No, it wasn’t specific to horror – other than the authors who were panelists – but it was still worth going to for writers who just starting out or considering venturing into the somewhat daunting world of online media.

A Great Day Just Got Better

Those who know me are aware of my coffee addiction.  It’s a trademark of mine, one that my fellow authors, LJ Gastineau and Tricia Sparks, tease me about occasionally.  In fact, LJ drew a comic that featured me as a shambling zombie seeking out not brains but my morning coffee for last year’s September/October Trinity Gateways.net newsletter.  While I don’t see myself as a zombie before coffee, I find that the writing flows so much better if I have a fresh cup of coffee beside me as I work.

So it should be no surprise that I do a lot of my writing at coffee houses.  For years, my coffee house of choice was Starbucks, simply because it was close to home.  Now, it’s Coffee of Roasters of Florida.  They remember my face, have my order memorized, and take the time to ask about my progress in whatever I’m working on.  I love this place.  More, I love that it’s just down the road from where I live.

Every day I spend at Coffee Roasters is a great day.

I’ve gotten to know a few of the regulars since I started coming here and I’ve made a few sales simply by talking with potential readers.  Today, one of those readers came up to me to compliment me on my e-book novella, Descent Into Darkness: His Own.  We didn’t speak long as he had errands to run and I had new material to write, yet those few minutes he took out of his day to tell me what he thought were precious to me.   I don’t know if he follows me online, but, Bob, if you’re reading this — thanks so much for making a great day even better.

A writer will not always get glowing praise or compliments.  There will be people out there who don’t like or understand your work.  Some will react so negatively to it that they’ll post flaming reviews, tear apart your story, and tell other people that you suck.  That is, unfortunately, par for the course.  A writer has to expect that, be prepared for it.

However, there’s one nice thing about all the trash that may be thrown at you: when you get those gems, the positive reviews, the reader who takes the time to say, “I really enjoyed your book”, they become very valuable to you.  You treat them like treasure, appreciate that someone appreciates what you do.  And when the going gets tough, with the trash words piling up, you can take out those memories, pull up those reviews or comments, to remind yourself that it’s worth the effort.

So, for you readers out there, if you like someone’s work, tell them.  A few words of encouragement goes a long way on the hard road of writing.

Who Do You Read?

You may have heard that every writer needs to be a reader.  It’s true; how else can you know what sells, what doesn’t, and what the current market trends are if you don’t look at what’s gracing the shelves of the local bookstore or planted on a website retailer’s page? Reading is how you learn, is a way to get inspired, is one avenue you take to relax.  It’s a shift in gears when you hit the wall, one that entertains.

You’re supposed to read as a writer, and not just within your own genre.  I write fantasy and horror.  I read a little of everything, from science fiction to fantasy, from horror to romance, from cozy mysteries to thrillers.

Here’s a sampling of the authors I read: David Eddings, Anne McCaffrey, Robert McCammon, Mercedes Lackey, J. D. Robb, James Patterson, Tad Williams, Piers Anthony, Lincoln Child, Douglas Preston, Nalini Singh, Eric Nylund, Greg Bear, Lyndsay Sands, Joann Fluke, Andre Norton, Barbara Hambly, and Jim Butcher – just to name a few.

Now I ask: who do you read?

Hitting The Wall: Writer’s Block

Have you ever sat down, looked at a blank page, with either fingers on the keyboard or writing utensil in hand, and came up with nothing to write?  Has it ever happened to you when you know exactly what needs to happen, how, and to whom?  If you are, by some miracle, able to wring a few sentences, maybe a few paragraphs, out of the depths of your
soul, do they ring true to your story?  Do they fall flat, sound hollow, land short of the mark?  Does every letter you put on that page get there only through extreme mental effort?

Some people call it writer’s block.  I call it hit hitting The Wall.

There are many ways of dealing with that Wall.  You can walk away, do something else for a while.  When you come back, you might find that wall gone, as if the thing had sprouted legs and walked off.

You can work at the words, the scene, the characters – pounding at the work as if that keyboard, pen, or pencil you wield was a sledgehammer.  Keep at it long enough, hit it hard enough, and The Wall might break down, fall to pieces.  Then you climb over the
rubble and keep going.

Other times, you find that The Wall isn’t a block in the road to writing so much as a fork.  It’s so big that you don’t always notice that, if you walk a ways to either side of it, you can walk around it.  You’ll get to where you’re going with the story; you just have to change the route – the scenes – in order to get there.

Then there’s talking.  The expression “talking to a brick wall” takes on new meaning when that wall is blocking your path.  Talking to it, to thin air, to someone else (who can then talk back to you) out loud about The Wall and your story can sometimes enable you to remove the obstacle – either by going in a different direction, busting The Wall down with force, or simply vanishing it because you’re seeing things from a different perspective.  The human brain is a complex organ, and even though they may be the same words and concepts, speech is processed differently from writing.  It’s a difference that you can work to your advantage.  Speak the words, explain the concepts.  It’s not important if someone else is listening to you.  The important bit comes in when that other portion of brain begins to interpret what you’re saying; it can sometimes pinpoint the problem for you.

Another tactic to dismiss that pesky Wall is a change in scenery – not in the story, but where you are writing it.  7 times out of 10, I hit The Wall when writing at home.  Whether it’s being there is due to distractions, lack of focus, or stymied perspective doesn’t matter.  It’s there.  By going to a coffee shop — just switching locations – I’ve removed it from my path and can keep going.

The Wall exists.  Every writer experiences it in one form or another at some point.  It’s built of bricks, of stones, looming over you like a giant, taunting you with its mere
presence.  The stones or bricks can be made from anything – mental fatigue, an undeveloped plot or character, the need to research more, distractions, stress, unrealized story potential, clichés, your mood and/or attitude, the kind of day you’ve had, etc.  Discovering the nature of The Wall can be helpful in getting rid of it, which makes
it a lot like a household pest, really.  You have to identify the type of pest in order to buy the right thing to make it go away.  Once you’ve found a solution that matches the issues The Wall represents, you can move forward.

There is one thing, though, that is extremely important when dealing with The Wall: never, ever give up.  Walking away is fine but you’ve got to come back and deal with it.  Remember, The Wall may block your path, but it is, in the end, only an object.  Objects can be destroyed, moved, manipulated.  You’ve just to keep at it, find the right ideas, the right tools, the right words, and tear the bloody thing down.

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