Monday, March 24, 2014

Breaking out of writer's block

Have you ever gotten "stuck" somewhere along the way in a story? You know, where your characters have run away with the you and messed up your outline, or you've fallen into one of those dreaded "plot holes" and you can't see your way out?

pothole photo: pothole P1000631.jpg

At our March meeting, Faye Roberts graciously shared her method for getting "unstuck." (Thank you, Faye!) The process she demonstrated has been rolling around in my head for two days.

She calls it "clustering," and it's probably familiar to most of us — whether you call it brainstorming or mind mapping or free associating — as a device for coming up with ideas before you start writing. I learned it in college English for writing reports and research papers. I've used it to write articles for the local paper. I've even used a variation of it at the beginning of a story. But I never considered applying this technique in the midst of a story to recover from sagging middles, missing muses, plot holes, or runaway characters. 

Instead of going back to the beginning and starting over (which is what I tend to do when I get blocked, and then I get discouraged) pick up at the point where you're stuck. Grab a piece of paper (there is actually brainstorming software available for those of us who like to do everything the newfangled way), and a pen, and start somewhere. The name of a character, the current setting, etc., and start asking questions.

What's wrong with Character A? What happened to get her in this situation? How does she feel about it? What can she do to solve the problem? And so on... Every answer will lead to more questions, and pretty soon, you've dug your way out of that pit with a pen! 

And that's the reason I love getting together with other writers. Sometimes you just need a little help, a little encouragement, a little edification, a reminder, or a new idea. That said, please check out our new calendar widget on the right for information on upcoming meetings. (The next one is on April 26, at 10 a.m., at the Artful Cup in Grand Junction!)


  1. I second it! It was very refreshing! My writer's brain has re-awakened. Thanks ladies for the fellowship!