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“My plot is stuck.”
“I don’t know what the characters do next.”
“What’s the point in writing?”
That slough of despond is familiar to many writers. So familiar that one of its comforts is the fund of advice from those who’ve overcome this nuanced form of writer’s block.
Their counsel usually comes down to fooling your inner critic: that thin-blooded, purse-lipped creature who sneers at every word you scribble. You have to scare them off, wall them up, silence them, so that your words can flow again. It’s not bad thinking. Time enough, when your first draft is finished, for that blend of carping English teacher and the Wicked Witch of the West to do their stuff.
Listen To Your Inner Critic - Selectively
But wait. Suppose, for a second, that your critic isn’t insinuating that you can’t write. What if they’re whispering that you could write fine… if only you were writing the real thing, the thing that you and you alone were meant to write?
And what would that feel like?
For me, it’s like a secret rapture — an experience we hear little about. A love of which I’d no notion through long years when just finishing a story seemed impossible.
I remember how each work would start in a burst of energy, only to end with half-baked themes, stunted characters and a style that seemed trite and passé. Sooner or later (mostly sooner) the text would end up in a filing box.
Waiting for the Right Thing
I was like someone whose belief in an ideal partner has crumbled. But today I know that it’s in these conditions, when you’re bereft of any fun in writing, that the vein can appear. (It doesn’t work like that for dating agencies, but that’s another story.)
Like giving up smoking, the tipping point is different for everyone. In my case the feeling of stasis vanished in an instant. I had always wanted to write something noirish, some kind of PI story, but I liked the ones with female leads better, like V. I. Warshawski or Sharon McCone. Quite independently, I loved central European culture and its history.
My eureka moment came in putting these two together: a crime series set in Mozart’s Vienna. Fortunately, Mozart didn’t apply for the post of MC. Sophie Rathenau did: a woman who wanted to narrate her own adventures.
My first reaction was that I couldn’t do that. And here’s my central point: in the seconds following my next thought - Oh yes I can — she came into my head almost fully formed. Anything I didn’t know about her emerged in the course of the stories. She brought with her a detailed world and a host of characters, and a voice which a number of readers have found striking.
For you the revelation might be a mix of steampunk, Central American cuisine, and modern dance. The only thing that matters is that you truly love each of these elements.
How Do You Know It’s Right?
Being in love, all too often, means not being able to see what everyone around you can — that you’re deceiving yourself about the beloved. So what are the signs you’re in the right vein?
The leap ahead in productivity will be unmistakable. This time the flow won’t dry up. It’s based not on your character, with all its hesitancy, but on those you’re writing. Suddenly there are more story leads than you can follow.
Your habits will change. Scribbled notes on public transport, a stranger’s face appearing on a minor character, snippets of overheard conversation spliced into your dialog. You’ll think about series and know it’s more than a dream.
So How Do You Get Into The Vein?
Not by hanging around for it to show up. The stuff you’re doing now is what you should be doing, even if you’re not happy with it. You’re honing skills that will be vital when the real thing comes along.
I’ll Be Successful And My Problems Will Be Over?
Well, editing will still be tough. Self-doubt will always lour. There’s no guarantee that anyone will like what you write when you’re in the vein. But I do believe that the authenticity that comes from working on the right stuff, stuff that’s been cooking deep inside, will be recognised sooner or later.
So if you feel life is too short to write stuff you’re indifferent to, keep plugging away but admit the feeling. Then see what happens…
This blog originally appeared on Book Marketing Tools http://bookmarketingtools.com