When you’re writing a novel, and you’ve set your own deadlines, it’s not as easy to be disciplined. Still, when I’m in the groove, I can write almost as fast as I wrote newspaper articles. Except … sometimes, there’s a block. A rock in the road. And the story keeps running into it. I recently spent a while looking at a rock like that. I’m working on the sequel to Funnel Vision, and though I have a pretty thorough outline, there was a spot in the middle that didn’t have a way through. Because a story can’t just jump from one mile to the next without a reason, just as it can’t creep toward something and never get there (unless, perhaps, that’s the intention, a la Samuel Beckett).
I think it took a weekend away, looking at the changing light on the ocean and the shifting shadows of the palm trees, to realize I’d just have to walk around the rock and see where it took me. I needed to see it from the other side and let the characters choose a new path. And then the story started to flow again.
Remember that old “Saturday Night Live” skit in which Stephen King is being interviewed, typing the entire time, and for one second says he has writer’s block – then keeps on writing? It was pretty funny, knowing how prolific he is, but that state of dedication is enviable. If you’ve read his memoir, you know it didn’t come easy. (And all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.)
Everyone has a different way of writing, and I think I’m learning that my characters feel imprisoned in too much premeditated structure, as do I. So I’m going to try to build my outlines out of balsa wood instead of steel and see what happens … and keep an eye on how the shadows change.