When in doubt, bury someone alive.

By Joe Moore
@JoeMoore_writer

“When in doubt, bury someone alive.” Edgar Allan Poe was purported to have said this as one of his five essentials for the betterment of a story. Although it’s never been confirmed, poe_cleanedeven if he didn’t really say it, he should have. So let’s figure out what Mr. Poe might have been suggesting. My interpretation is that there is always a solution to a writing issue. And one of the biggest issues new writers (and old) have is getting stuck without an idea what to do next. Poe suggests doing something drastic.

I don’t like to use the term writer’s block because I don’t believe it exists. But like most writers, now and then I wind up in a dark room with no doors. Usually this occurs in the infamous Sagging Middle as Clare so expertly discussed on Monday. Whether the idea you thought would work doesn’t or you hope the answer will emerge from the ether, you need a way to solve the problem.

So when you get stuck, what can you do? Here are some suggestions that I’ve used. Perhaps they’ll help you, too.

  • Change your writing environment. I have a home office with a desktop PC. I also have a laptop. Sometimes I need different surroundings so I grab my laptop and move to another room or outside. Just the act of breathing fresh air can fire up your brain.
  • Listen to music. Often I write to background music, usually a movie score (no distracting lyrics). But sometimes setting down in front of my stereo and rocking out to my favorite group can clear my head and refresh my thoughts.
  • Get rid of distractions. TV, email, instant and text messages, phone calls, pets, and the biggest offender of them all: the Internet. Get rid of them during your writing time.
  • Stop writing and start reading. Take a break from your writing and read one of your favorite authors. Or better yet, pick something totally out of your wheelhouse.
  • Don’t decide to stop until you’re “inspired”. I’ve tried this. It won’t work.
  • Open a blank document and write ANYTHING. It’s called “stream of consciousness”. It worked for James Joyce, Virginia Woolf and Marcel Proust. It can work for you.
  • Write through it. Beginners sit around and hope for a solution to come to them in their dreams. Professionals keep writing. The solution will come.
  • Finally, do something drastic. Bury someone alive. Works every time.

Fellow Zoners, how do you get yourself out of a writer’s corner? What drastic measures have you taken to keep the story moving?

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What Do You Do about Writer’s Block?

By Elaine Vietswriters block4

My grandfather was a security guard. He worked weekends, holidays, and nights when temperatures plummeted below zero and frozen winds blasted the empty parking lots. He never said, “I don’t feel like guarding the warehouse tonight. I’m blocked.”
My grandmother babysat. She never said, “I’m not watching those brats today. I’m blocked.”
When I spoke at Fort Lauderdale High School, a student asked, “What do you do about writer’s block?”
“Writer’s block doesn’t exist,” I said. “It’s an indulgence.”writers block3Writing is a job, and working writers cannot afford writer’s block. It’s a luxury. Pros know that inspiration won’t strike like lightning. We can’t wait for it to hit us. We have to write.
I wish I had a dollar for every day I didn’t feel like dragging my sorry carcass to the computer. I could retire.
But I write because it’s my job. Even on the worst days, I love being a writer.
Many former newspaper reporters become mystery writers, including Michael Connelly, Kris Montee (PJ Parrish), and me. We’re trained to respect deadlines. Writing is our work and we sit down and do it.writers block1Early in my newspaper career, I told my editor, “I’m blocked. I can’t write this story.”

“Write something,” he said, waving the blank layouts. “We have pages to fill. We’re a newspaper, not a high school theater program: We can’t leave blank spaces on the page with ‘COMPLIMENTS OF A FRIEND.’ ”
Some days, the words flow, gushing in fertile streams. I feel alive and electric. Other days the words trickle out like water in a rusty, clogged pipe.
But I still write.
What do I do when the words don’t come?

flowers-for-algernon-daniel-keyesI remember what Daniel Keyes, who wrote Flowers for Algernon, said at a speech:
“When I feel blocked I start typing – anything,” he said. “It doesn’t have to make sense: ababababsjsjsjfjfjfhhshshshkaka.
“Then I start typing words. Any words. The first words that come to mind.
“Next I start writing sentences. Again, they don’t have to make sense. But I keep on typing and eventually they do make sense and I’ve started writing. I may throw out ninety percent of what I wrote that day.
“But I wrote.”
You can, too.

winged pen
Win Killer Cuts, my 8th Dead-End Job mystery set at a high-end hair salon. Read about Helen Hawthorne’s wedding. www.elaineviets.com and click Contests.Killer Cuts

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