By Marni Graff
When my first mystery was published, a friend bought me a gift called “Writers Block.” You may have seen it in stores—it’s an actual small block of pages, and when you flip inside, each page has ideas, prompts, simply tons of ways to keep from getting stuck in your writing. I used it a few times but ended up passing it on to a young writer as I developed my own ways to never face the wall.
When your day’s work consists of facing that blank sea of white pages, it can be daunting to think you must fill that whiteness, but after five mysteries in print, I’ve come up with several ways to avoid sitting down to write, only to find myself staring at the page for inspiration. And I’m willing to share my tricks with you.
- Stop for the day in the middle of a chapter or scene. It’s my most-used pattern. The next time I sit down, I’m ready to plunge right in and finish where I left off. This also gives me time to think about how I want to end that segment to get the greatest oomph out of it; what kind of cliffhanger would work best; and what would be the best place to go next. I do a lot of this thinking when I’m cooking dinner or waiting for sleep to overtake me! And once a scene or chapter is finished, I plunge into the next and stop there, repeating the process.
- Be prepared. The more research and planning I do upfront, the easier the writing goes along. My process is to outline a basic storyline, primarily the beginning chapters, before I start a new book, but I always know my all-important ending—who did it and why—so there are multiple paths I can take to get there through what I call the Muddled Middle. I keep a notebook filled with jottings for each novel, from character bibles to potential subplots, so I have a handy reference to turn to. I am not a writer who completely outlines the entire story before writing, but this helps me along the way and gives me something to consult.
- Write out of order. On occasion it will seem as if my characters are whining, or I’m having difficulty getting inside Nora Tierney or Trudy Genova’s head that particular day. I want to write but I need to take a break from that person. Instead of walking away from my desk, I write a scene I know I’ll need down the road. It’s a kind of treat for myself that way. I still accomplish adding to the manuscript, but I’m happier writing something new, and often find that when I return to my main characters, they’re more pleasant for me to write. Maybe we both needed a break?
These are the three main things I do to prevent a brick wall, and they work well for me. Now if someone would just tell me how to ignore my adorable puppies, Seamus and Fiona, when they want me to take them out to play, I’d have more books in print!
Marni Graff’s newest Nora Tierney English Mystery is THE GOLDEN HOUR, the fourth in the award-wining series. She also writes the Trudy Genova Manhattan Mysteries, as well as the crime review blog, Auntie M Writes (www.auntiemwrites.com). You can reach Marni at: email@example.com or @GraffMarni on Twitter. THE GOLDEN HOUR, as with all of her books, are available on Amazon.com in paperback, Kindle and Audible, and signed copies at Bridle Path Press: www.bridlepathpress.com.
Exactly what I do, Marni!
I do a lot of “write out of order.” All good advice, helpful post.
After a while we all come up with little (or big) tricks to help us over the barriers. Writing out of order if one I’ve been thinking about lately. Thanks, Maddie—I’ll give it a try.