This month’s Round Robin conversation – Yes, I’m back to doing these after a rather long hiatus – poses the question of what we like to do when our writing stalls and if it helps us get back on track. Granted, I took this a different direction, but if I’m being honest… I’m not sure any of us are ever really free of a stalled story. It lurks and hounds us wherever we go.
STALL STAGE #1 – Identifying The Problem
All was well in the quiet house. The cats had ceased their attempts at usurping the keyboard and the dog lay subdued across the writer’s feet, lending their support to the writer’s endeavors in as unobtrusive a manner as possible. For the writer’s part, she was content. The words were flowing. She had an inkling of where the story was going and her characters were amusing – at least to her.
She hoped they would amuse others.
And then her fingers stopped moving on the keyboard, her mind a sudden and horrible blank.
It was as though the anti-muse had snuck into the writer’s sanctum between one word and the next, and breathed a horrid gas of indecision straight into the writer’s face. The words stopped flowing.
Fingers poised above the keyboard, the writer had a fleeting panic that maybe the words would never flow again, but in the next instant she shoved that thought away. She was a practiced hand at this now and she recognized the anti-muse for what it really was: her subconscious had spotted a mistake somewhere earlier in the draft.
STALL STAGE #2 – The Brain Dump
With the laptop closed, and the dog freshly walked – said dog is in a love-hate relationship with the anti-muse as the appearance of that spectral visitor does inevitably mean more walkies, and after proper homage has been dealt to the cats – best done with a brush, there’s really no better way to appease those monsters – the writer settles back into her chair. She draws out the precious notebook, its coffee-stained pages and scribbled notes her first hope of overcoming what has stalled her writing.
She turns to the page titled Brain Dump and proceeds to read everything she knows about the world her story is in: the tidbits she knows about her characters, the breadcrumbs that may lead to larger plots, the setting, and the rules of the magic system. All of it is here, written in various ink colors because the Brain Dump has been with her since the beginning, from the moment the great idea sparked, and she has been adding to it all along.
Reviewing the Brain Dump reminds her what she set out to do. She highlights things now that she had forgotten to keep forward, and she puts question marks by things she hasn’t used or that don’t feel quite right anymore.
And she thanks Neil Gaiman’s Master Class for teaching her to do this Brain Dump periodically in the writing process, because without it she would surely be beating her head against the keyboard.
STALL STAGE #3 – The Review
Our intrepid writer is tech-savvy enough to own a Kindle that has a means of accessing her work in progress, which she uses now to get out of the desk chair. Lounging as she would when reading anyone else’s book allows her to step outside of her writer-brain. The only difference here is that she can highlight things that need altering on the screen – like the fact that all of her characters either blink or smirk too much.
This is not a quick process.
Many walks are required.
The cats demand homage.
The family complains that they must eat.
Wrist-deep in dishwater, the scrub brush in one hand and a pot in the other, she sees it. The mistake that had been made, the missing moment from earlier in the story, or the fact that there are too many personalities on the page and three characters need to be morphed into one; it’s all clear to her now.
She scrubs the pot and continues with the dishes. The real Muse is back, playing out all the options for how the writer can fix it.
With the dishes dried and put away, the writer makers her way back to the desk. It’s late, but the words need to be captured. She brings out her notebook and turns back to the Brain Dump, this time with her pen ready to make an update. The dog brings her squeak toy a few times and one of the cats tries to lay on top of the notebook while the other chases the dip and swirl of the pen across the page. Who knows where the third cat is.
The writer might be exasperated, but that hardly matters.
The words are flowing again, and the story moves on.
My thanks to Rhobin and her wonderful Round Robin conversations. Have a look at what some of my fellow authors like to do when they need to step away from the page for a while.
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Dr. Bob Rich — https://wp.me/p3Xihq-2CG
Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/
Anne Stenhouse http://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com
Diane Bator http://dbator.blogspot.ca/
A.J. Maguire (YOU ARE HERE)
Rhobin Courtright https://www.rhobincourtright.com/