If you DID read that post, you may be asking, how on earth will those action steps help me get going with my work in progress? Perhaps you’re thinking that those steps are all well and good in the abstract but still wondering how they will help you plow through a block.
In order to highlight the steps in action, I’ll share how I personally struggled to generate ENTHUSIASM for a project I’d lost my connection with. This resulted in a difficult start, but I followed the steps I shared in my WRITER’S BLOCK MINI SERIES to fuel my enthusiasm.
First, the backstory ...
I came up with an idea for a thriller last summer. Inspiration usually strikes me in every-day situations. For example, I wrote a short story about a tub that eats things after I lost my razor under the bubbles in my bath one day. (I found it eventually, thank goodness.) So, there I was one night last summer, reading some stuff online, and I totally creeped myself out. I was home alone, and the lights were low, and there were NOISES outside. My imagination was off, and I was already imagining faceless fiends out there fixing to get in. Luckily my husband came home shortly thereafter.
That was all it took for this story idea to come to me. The next day I wrote out a rough and short synopsis and sent it to my agent. He loved the idea. I couldn’t wait to get started. But I was still in the middle of
By the time I got around to revisiting my new thriller idea, all my enthusiasm for the book had disappeared. In my head, I still knew that it was important, and I knew I wanted to write it, but that simmering excitement and emotion that had been so strong the night the idea came to me … GONE.
Here’s what I did to re-establish my enthusiasm for this project.
Step 1: Define the task
I defined my first task as simply plotting the MC POV chapters. I’d worry about the rest later.
Step 2: Remember my WHYS
Second, I already had some of the plot outlined. Plenty of work still awaited me, but it was still way less than if I started fresh with a brand new concept.
Step 3: Chase some rainbows
I re-read some of the stories and articles I’d found that inspired the idea, and I bought a non-fiction book on one aspect of my plot as research. Between all of that, I generated the emotional experience I had when I was inspired, which is also the emotional experience I want my reader to have when they read it.
The last rainbow for me is the same across all books. Once I break through the slow start and settle into the voice of any project, I enter my personal flow. Flow is that state we get into where we are truly engrossed in our task, so engrossed that we lose track of time and lose ourselves in the act of doing. It’s immensely restorative and one of my favorite things about writing: that feeling that I’m not even thinking about what I’m writing anymore, that the executive part of my brain is taking a break, while I let the story out in a rush.
When a book starts slow, it’s the knowledge that my flow-zone is waiting for me as long as I push through that allows me to keep going.
Step 4: Dodge some storms
Step 5: Find the magic cookies
This part was SO easy. Once I got the emotions flowing, I got plotting all the terrible and wonderful challenges I was going to unleash on my main character. My cookies for this book involved: intense tension; playing with paranoia; setting (for example, my character lives in a house undergoing renovation, so I came up with all sorts of delicious ways to take advantage of that: exposed wall framing, no ceilings, lots of supplies, tools laying around—can you say nail gun?); fast pace; fiends wearing SUPER-creepy masks; and TWISTS. The main plot lent itself to one big twist at the climax, but I’d really been enjoying thrillers with lots of twists in them, so I decided I’d throw a few at my readers. I had no idea what they’d be, but I started to let my imagination run wild.
Step 6: Envision success
That’s exactly what happened.
I forewent plotting the villain for the time being and started writing. One simple element helped me conceptualize what I needed to do with my villain, but I wouldn’t have thought of it unless I first wrote out the MC’s story. To me, this is one of the big paradoxes for plotters: sometimes we have to start even if something isn’t fully conceptualized. In other words, even when we’ve plotted 95% of the book, we still have to be comfortable with a little pantsing here and there.
So, that's how you do it ...
This was an ACTIVE process. The block might have passed on its own, but I didn’t want to wait for that. I recognized I was stuck, decided to take an active approach to reframe my thinking and change my emotions, and then worked through these steps.
My hope for us all is that we NEVER get stuck, but since I know that’s not terribly realistic, I hope this example helps YOU see how you can use these steps to rekindle lost ENTHUSIASM.