Writing Yourself Out of That Corner You Just Wrote Yourself Into
There are probably as many ways to get past writer’s block as there are successful writers. Those writers who never get past writer’s block are probably not successful.
Whether the solution is to write through the block or write around it (allowing the piece that is blocked to age) the common element is to continue writing. Keeping the brain working on the block is the only way to discover how to destroy the block, or push the block aside.
First I lost a character for several days. She was supposed to be with four other characters, but never showed up. Then when I was working on another novel I discovered that the wrong person was narrating the whole first half of the novel, and that the protagonist of the story disappeared just as his mate was about to tell him something important.
You’re writing along, painting this beautiful world when all of a sudden you find you’ve painted yourself into a corner. The intrepid writer might determine to wait for the paint to dry and then fix the problem. Unfortunately all those hours staring at the beautiful world they’ve created makes it even harder to go back and fix, and many times this situation can lead to another dangerous writing malady, writer’s block. So the questions becomes, now what?
First, realize that your words are not set in stone! That freshly painted world can be modified much easier now than it can after the writer has stared at it for hours or even days. Don’t be afraid to go back and change directions.
Next, analyze. Is it really a corner, or a door to an even more exciting world? Look closer, are the walls really walls, or a fence that can be leaped? How thick are the walls? Could a swift kick break through them? Imagine what might be on the other side? Look up. Is there something interesting up there? If so, start climbing (every writer has, or should have, a fly suit so they can scale the walls).
Another trick while analyzing is to look at the big picture. Is it really a corner? Or did the protagonist simply take a wrong turn (and would it be fun to see what happens while back tracking)? Speaking of back tracking, search for where the story took a wrong turn. How does eliminating that turn affect the story? Don’t let a minor set back ruin a really good story. Let your characters help you. What would your character really do in this situation? If the characters are not talking to the writer you’re missing out on a marvelous tool for creating fictional worlds. Listen to what they have to say.
Finally write!!! Again, the words are not set in stone (at least not yet). Ignore the temptation to let things sit (save that luxury for the re-writing process). You painted yourself into the corner, now write yourself out. Let go of the notion that the first draft has to be perfect. In this case anything is better than the situation you’re in.
Writing oneself into a corner is not a good thing but it can be the gateway to more adventure. In the movie “Her Alibi” the main character (a novelist) is told that his work is “predictable”. He loathes this criticism, and works to change it. What better way to be un-predictable than to find a way out of the corner, rather than to let the paint dry, or worse yet, never finish the work at all. Escape from the corner is an adventure all by itself. Savor the journey!