Writer’s block is a term, like chronic fatigue syndrome, that covers a multitude of ills. Sometimes it means an inability to begin writing that book, sometimes it means a stoppage in the flow of words or ideas, sometimes it means a lack of desire to write. It is only a critical condition when the blocked writer is on a deadline, otherwise time or a change in writing habits can help.
For me, writer’s block generally means that I have taken a false turn in the story, that I’m heading in the wrong direction. This often happens in the middle of the book when all the ideas that I had in the beginning have been used up, and I need to fill a hole in the plot. The only thing I can do is go back through the story, make sure every action is motivated, every scene necessary, every character operating at his or her full potential. Usually I can find where I went wrong. After I change it, I continue in the proper direction with renewed vigor.
My latest attempt at writing, however, stalled at the beginning. I wrote three and a half pages almost a year ago, then nothing. It seems ludicrous that I could have taken a wrong turn so early, but I must have, otherwise I would be well on my way to finishing the novel. Ironically, it was supposed to have been fun to write, a take-off on the apocalyptic fantasies that have been so popular in recent years. Then why is it so hard to get going?
Perhaps the story isn’t worth writing. Perhaps my characters aren’t strong enough. Perhaps I begin with too many characters or too few.
I decided that the story is worth writing. I have a great hook, high stakes, and a delicious ending. So the problem has to be in the characters. I was going to tell the story from two points of view — a man and a woman who come together in the end — but the problem seems to be that one of their viewpoints is superfluous. Showing both of their reactions to the end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it would be repetitive, like those lawyer books that rehash the entire story during the courtroom scene. Yawn.
The man has the stronger story and will have to make some of the more poignant decisions (for example, he is a devout vegetarian who will be forced to kill to feed those dependant on him) so today I deleted the woman. She didn’t even have a chance to come to life before I had to do her in. Poor thing. May she rest in peace.
Now maybe I can get going on the book.