Block Writers Block #1

Writer’s Block. When you can’t quite think of… um… huh?

In my opinion, writers block is not seeing the forest for the trees – or not seeing the manuscript for the words. It is a giant, metaphorical, hardback book plopped down right in our path. We can’t climb over it. We can’t go through it. All we need to do is take a step back, and find a different path around.

writers block1

Block Writers Block, Tip #1: BE EXCITED!

  • Always be excited about the scene you are working on: if you’re not excited to write it, you’ll find yourself forcing the words and the plot. That feeling of ‘Ugh!’ will come through, and the reader won’t be excited to read it. If you’re not in the zone, and feel like you are forcing the writing process, STOP! Instead, spend some time researching for the scene, the characters, or the plot, and add in something new that will reawaken your excitement.
  • It may be that you are so NOT EXCITED that no words come out at all. Here is where you need to sit down and look at the stalled scene. Ask yourself what is happening, what is the point, and what your character wants to get from this scene. THEN REVERSE ALL THOSE ANSWERS! Whatever it is the character wants, have him/her also want the exact opposite at the same time. Turn the plot upside-down and create internal conflict in the character. This will add a new vigour to your plot. It will make you think outside the square, and it will get you onto that different path around the great, big, blocking book.
  • Remember, EVERY PAGE needs to be exciting enough to take the reader through a few hundred pages! And in my opinion, CONFLICT = EXCITEMENT. Write that down. Chant it to yourself. Get it tattooed on the back of your hand. But most importantly, FOLLOW IT. Insert some level of conflict into each page of your novel – whether it’s internal, external, sexual, psychological, physical or mental; whether it’s understated or exaggerated, it doesn’t matter. If there is conflict, there will be tension and fast-paced reading.

In this scene from my novel, Dove, Japhy is fleeing to Canada to escape being drafted into the army. It is obvious that all he wants to do is get across the border to safety, but what if he also wants to fight in the very war he is trying escape from?

I watched Ahn as she wove her way through the tables, smiling at every single customer. And then I turned back to see Japhy sitting forward with his face in his hands, hair curtaining his eyes.

‘What’s wrong?’ I asked.

‘I’m scared.’ His words were barely a whisper, but they boomed loudly in my ears. Even over the scraping cutlery I could hear his fear. ‘I’m so scared, Fiona.’

Fiona? He hasn’t used my real name since the night we left our innocence and our old selves on my bedroom floor.

I sighed and leaned back against the booth, which was suddenly as hard as truth beneath me, and I squirmed uncomfortably upon it. ‘I know,’ I said, and took his hand in mine. ‘I’m scared, too.’

‘What do you have to worry about?’ He peeked up at me. ‘It isn’t your neck they’re after; it’s mine. I’m the one that’s been drafted!’

‘Because, you idiot, if I lost you, I’d lose myself. You are my life!’

‘I don’t want to go to Vietnam,’ he hissed. ‘More than anything else in the world, I don’t want that. I don’t want to die.’ He turned to face me directly then, and I saw his eyes glisten. ‘But I feel so guilty. These people are suffering. I should be doing something to help them. Instead, I’m just running away and protecting myself. I’m a coward.’

‘No!’ I squeezed his hand. ‘It’s not as if you are taking the easy way out! You are giving up your entire world. We both are. We are leaving our home, our friends, our family, and we can never come home. Those boys who go Over There, it may be hell for them, but at least, once it’s over, they can come back. They can see their families again. We can’t. We are sacrificing our whole lives in order to save them. Don’t you think, for one second, that you are coward, Andrew. As far as I’m concerned, you’re the bravest person I know.’

Please comment below or give examples of conflict in your own work…

About MH Salter

Melanie Hyland Salter is the author of Doorways, A Rose By Any Other Name, and the popular Freedom Series - the first instalment, Dove, being shortlisted for the Impress Prize for New Writers 2013. Her fast-paced fiction, and high-tension plotlines play with imagery, metaphor, and poetic rhythm to create passages that flashbulb in the reader’s mind, while her moral themes encourage readers to question the way they live and appreciate what they have. The short stories in this anthology have won first prize, been published in Dark Edifice, and were Highly Commended by the Australian Community Writers Inc and NYC Midnight's Short Story Challenge 2014. Melanie holds a BA in Writing, and a Diploma of Professional Writing. With a loving husband, who happily takes care of the household so she can write, Melanie lives in Adelaide with her three kids, two dogs, an army of cats, and a sheep named Harry Potter.
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