What You Don’t Know Can Save Your Writing: Guest Post by Sonia G. Medeiros

Hello readers!  It’s another blog hop of the Life List Club!  I have the fabulously funny and intelligent Sonia G. Medeiros with me today and I can be found blogging at Gary Gauthier‘s talking about crossroads.  Then, you can enjoy your cup of morning coffee and read the other Life List Club posts by clicking on the names in our sidebars!  We love to chat, so strike up a conversation in the comments, you’re sure to hear back!  Take it away, Sonia!

What You Don’t Know (Can Save Your Writing) by Sonia G. Medeiros

Writer’s Block (noun): a (possibly imaginary) condition afflicting writers, characterized by severe word-constipation; symptoms may include extreme procrastination, uncontrollable weeping, hair loss, blank stares, and binge drinking/eating.

I’d like to be one of those folk who states, without the slightest hesitation, that I do not believe in writer’s block. And I do know that it’s more psychosomatic (emphasis on the psycho) than anything else. But, when I’m staring helplessly at a blank screen/page, it seems pretty real.

The thing is, if it exists at all, writer’s block is only a symptom.

Alrighty then, mis smarty pants, what’s the disease?

Fear? Could be all sorts of fear that gets in the way of our creative flow. Fear of failure or success. Fear of change. Fear of fear.

Maybe it’s the inner-critic who won’t shut up. You know that guy, the one that’s always telling you that you’re gonna suck anyway, so why bother? Always wanting to correct the work before it’s done…which always makes the muse stomp out in a huff.

Or maybe it’s a result of not taking care of our bodies or the creative self.

But sometimes writer’s block is not about fear, the inner-critic’s filibuster, or a lack of self-nurturing. Sometimes it’s about what you don’t have for your story. About what you don’t even know you don’t have. The catalyst that will start your story’s chain reaction.

A story is like a living thing. It needs a skeleton (structure), flesh and blood (plot and characters) and a soul (that certain something that makes the story gel). Take away any of those things and the story falls apart.

Those of us that tend toward the pantsing end of the spectrum may struggle more with structure. Sometimes we just get it and sometimes we don’t. And, when we don’t get it, we often don’t even know what we aren’t getting because we’ve relied on the creative flow to carry us through.

A thorough and ongoing study of structure is the sure cure. Larry Brooks Story Engineering, Jack Bickham’s Scene & Structure, and James Scott Bell’s Plot & Structure are all invaluable resources for any writer, whether pantser, plotter or pantsing-plotter (like yours truly).

If character and/or plot are ailing, the cure is likewise more studying (and you thought you left studying behind in school). Making great characters or gripping plots isn’t a cookie-cutter process but the elements that make both great can be learned. Victoria Lynn Schmidt’s 45 Master Characters and Story Structure Architecht and Christopher Vogler’s The Writers Journey are great resources.

And if it’s the soul that’s missing? What then? That’s a little trickier. There are no writing craft books (that I know of anyway) that can tell us just what that something is. All we can do is give it some brewing time while continually asking ourselves “what do I need to make this story work?” The answer can come from anywhere, especially from where that’s least expected, so a whole lot of keeping-our-eyes-peeled is in order.

So when it feels like writer’s block is not such a myth, take a deep breath, screw your courage to the sticking place and hunt up the reason. Kick the fear in the butt, tie and gag the inner critic, love yourself and then pull out your latex gloves and give your story thorough exam. And, when your creation lives, cackle like Dr. Frankenstein…just because.

Have you ever been completely stuck in a story? What was holding you back? How did you overcome it?

Sonia G Medeiros is a writer of fantasy, science fiction, and horror. She’s the author of more than a dozen short stories and flash fiction pieces, blogs at WordPress, and is working on her first novel, a dark fantasy. When she’s not wandering along the tangled paths of her wild imagination, she wrangles home life with one fabulous husband, two amazing, homeschooled children, a part-alien half-chihuahua and two cats who battle each other for world domination.

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17 responses

  1. I haven’t had this problem, yet. I do sometimes have to walk away from the story and write or do something else to kind of revive my brain. But, I agree, without the bones it’s damn hard to add any flesh to the story!

    1. That’s my problem right now, a good idea, no bones. Carry on girls, I’ll be over in the corner scooping up my dream puddle…

      1. That’s exactly where I was a few months ago. I never really thought about structure as a separate technique that could be mastered. Learning about it converted me from a complete pantser to a pantsing-plotter. Playing with an outline has let me add in that missing structure. But it does take some time. You’ll get there, Jess! And thanks for hosting me. 😀

    2. Brewing time is important. Sometimes the story just has to simmer on the back burner for awhile. Let the muses work their magic. 😀

  2. […] back with us, reminding us to respect our elders. I’m hanging out with the funny, perseverant Jess Witkins talking about the dreaded (and possibly imaginary) condition of writer’s block. You can find […]

  3. It’s no fun being stuck, Sonia. I can definitely relate. Thanks for the recommendations. I’m definitely going to follow-up and check them out.

    1. It’s a terrible feeling. The relief comes when you realize it’s not just that your creativity has somehow dried up but that your story needs something. If you keep asking yourself what it needs, eventually you’ll come up with the answer. To me, that’s much more hopeful than stressing about writers block. 😀

  4. Oh, yes. Usually, mine happen in working through pivotal moments near the end of a story. What a deflating and frustrating experience! Although I must say, the sense of triumph when you can work through it is amazing : ).

    1. You’re currently my idol. You’ve truly accomplished so much in the past 6 months with us and my goal is to role model after you. To complete small projects and submit for publication and to improve the relationships of the ones I love around me. You are a superpower, Pam!

    2. Very true. Plus, I’ve learned so much from each block.

  5. I was blocked creatively after my daughter was born with what I figured out later was post-partum depression. It was a dark, dark time for me.

    What snapped it was taking all the expectations off and doing SOMETHING writing related for just 20 minutes a day. That was just over a year ago and I came out of it with the energy of 3 writers. There’s something to be said for the peaks that follow those sorts of valleys in our lives.

    1. I like that goal. 20 minutes a day. I started something like that a year ago where I had to sit still for 15 minutes a day. I didn’t HAVE to write, but I couldn’t do anything else during that time. Imagine that, I usually wrote something…for more than 15 minutes.

    2. I can imagine dealing with that is rough. I think having a new baby and then a toddler can be zapping for the creativity. You’re using so much creativity just dealing with the daily details. Especially when they get to be toddlers. LOL.

  6. I, too, am a plotting-pantser, and several months ago I came up with the name “plantser”. When I have been stuck is usually when I don’t know where the characters are going. I can see them milling about, waiting for direction. Now when I’m stuck, I’ve learned to take a second (or an hour) to figure out where they are going or what they need to be doing, and then I seem to be able to move on.

    1. “Plantser.” LOL. I love that!

    2. That HAS to be my next plan. I’m also going to dig out the plotting aids I picked up last year from the Madison writing conference. Since I’m starting over with a new WIP I need to give some good thought and organization. Thanks Lara!

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