So here you are again sitting in front of your computer screen, fingers poised for action and…
What do you do when the muse has left the building and all you can hear is the breeze, wafting through the roomy emptiness of your mind?
Easy. You write about the writers’ block. We have trained for this moment. You have powers of description to rival a literary superman. Just go to it and do it. If you are still struggling to form a sentence, and who doesn’t from time to time, then you need to break out the big guns.
Tell the world that you are quickly, happily, joyously, expeditiously, theoretically, honestly and finally breaking through the wall of wordlessness and you defy anyone to stop you. Trust me, any more than 40 adverbs in any one piece of writing and you will scare the most truculent subconscious into submission. If you keep writing the wall will dissolve and leave you breathless but working.
Of course if you carry the adverbage into your functional piece of prose then you need to step away from the computer and take a long hard look at yourself. What’s that all about?
Isn’t that the basic premise of fiction? I spend all of my days writing about people who don’t do the things I say and certainly aren’t in the places I mention. Usually they aren’t even real people. In fact I am a great big “Liar liar pants on fire” most of the time.
The funny thing is that amongst all the fibs, of which there are many, the thing I am searching for is the truth. The truth of what it means to be human. The truth and mechanics of relationships. To engage a reader in a story you have to find the spark of recognition, the place where a reader realises yes I know this, I have lived this, this man is like me.
In order to get to that place your writing has to remain true to your character. Are you trying to make a person behave in a way they simply wouldn’t? Does it ring true? You see people really don’t step outside their normal range of behaviour unless they are placed in extreme circumstances and even then it is unusual.
So figure out what your character’s usual reactions would be and then you will know if you step outside them. If you are going there, do it with purpose and conviction. There are times when you can use this fact to advantage but it must be with a character your audience knows very well and I think possibly several books into a series just to shake up the pace. Part of the truth behind people is that we do things for certain reasons; sometimes we don’t know the reason, sometimes we have some insight. We are complicated and understanding and using complicated characters to get to the truth is just about the highest goal of literary fiction.
Being a writer is a strange and unusual compulsion.
On the other hand it makes life very interesting.
I don’t think there are many other occupations which begin the day with research into diving equipment, loiter around the methods of disposing of a body, and end with a copy piece about Madeira cake.
The hours are often long and the pay is poor. I recommend that for the first few years of throwing words at the world you forget all about working out your hourly rate. On the other hand there is something to be said for beginning the day in joy and completing it in satisfaction. You might not be rich as a writer but if writing is your compulsion then as long as you are allowed to wallow in the words you stand a good chance of being happy.