Clarissa Johal: Writer's Block Ballet

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Writer's Block Ballet

Writer's block. There, I've spoken the dirty words. Forgive me.
A month ago, I thought I finished the complete draft of Struck, the paranormal horror novel I've been working on. In spite of my initial happy dance however, my characters tell me that the ending just...isn't...right.
So into the Otherworld it goes. One chapter, weeks of writing, deleted with the click of a button.
I trust my characters. Yes, yes, I'll rewrite their stupid ending, but I'm at a loss right now. I know my epiphany will come while cleaning my fish tanks, practicing my ballet, or brushing my teeth. Doing something mundane. But for now, I'm quite mad at them.
Weeks of writing, deleted.

Do any of you have moments like this?

*insistent tap on your writerly shoulder*
"Yes, hello. The other characters and I have decided to inform you that we don't like the ending you wrote. At all. Oh, and that thing you made us do in Chapter 5? Yeah, that's garbage as well. What were you thinking?"  

I can't be the only author who gets bossed around by their characters.

Anyways. My lead antagonist isn't speaking to me, and the ending is kind of up to him. As much as I threaten and cajole, he mocks me with his silence. I've considered baking him cookies, but he'd probably see right through that.
So, writer's block it is.
What to do in a situation like this? I've known some writers that let it roll off their backs like water. I've known others who are thrown into a fit of despair.
For me, it means more time spent on my ballet. I figure if I manage several hundred relevés, I will be in so much pain, that the ending won't matter. Or my paranormal demon will take pity and tell me what I need to do with him.

But for now, I'm still waiting. Excuse me while I work on my pliés. A couple hundred or so should do it.


Patricia said...

Once I've started a book I don't have any problems. It's "starting" that's the problem. I'm stuck in no-man's-land right now and something's holding me back from writing that first word.

Sharon Ledwith said...

When I get stuck, I get up and do something, anything to get unstuck. Walking the dog, going to the dump (metaphorical doncha think?), having a scotch - hey Hemmingway did it - or just watching the boob tube. Then, the answer suddenly comes and boom, the pipe is clear. Great post!Cheers!

Clarissa Johal, Author said...

Patricia--I feel for you! Good luck. Sharon, walking the dog--yes, that would be another thing I do every day! Thanks for stopping by, ladies

Vonnie said...

I hear you. Sometimes things just don't sound right. It's all in the edits. Strangely, I like editing - it's the original story that is like getting blood out of a stone. But to remain true to your voice and your characters you HAVE to change some things. As you say - the nervous press of that horrible DELETE and you're off on a new tack - hopefully.

Clarissa Johal, Author said...

I don't mind editing--I do hate removing so much work, but if the characters say no, then it's a no. Thanks for stopping by, Vonnie!

Unknown said...

It's lovely weather for December here so I've been walking outside a lot. I've also been spending a lot of time on the internet when I should be writing. When the story's not flowing, it's easy to justify doing everything else and hard to get motivated. Must get back to soon as I finish the laundry.

Clarissa Johal, Author said...

Haha, Sara! You sound like me--SO many things to do...yeah, so many IMPORTANT things to do. My husband can always tell when I'm stuck, the house will be super clean.

Rhea Rhodan said...

I think it's a good thing to be bossed around by my characters. Sometimes I have to set the thing aside and work on something else. Maybe start editing, or study another book on the craft. Or just take a break entirely (been a long time since I've done that, though). You do have to be willing to bring out the machete--if you don't a good editor will and that would feel worse. It'll pass, Clarissa, don't worry.

Clarissa Johal, Author said...

Thanks, Rhea! I know it will--rarely have I had it last longer than several days. :) Thanks for stopping by.

Rita Monette, Writer said...

Yeah, those bossy characters. It's especially annoying when they are kids. And you can't really send them to time out, since that's exactly where they have time out. I usually don't have a problem getting a story started. It's right about in the middle when those characters starting having a mind of their own. I know I should use an outline to keep me on track, but that just hasn't worked for me...yet. I keep trying. I don't do plies, but maybe I should make my character do some. It sounds painful.

Great post, Clarissa!

Clarissa Johal, Author said...

Good to know I'm not the only one, Rita! Thanks for stopping by :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Clarissa,

I came across your blog when visiting another friends site. Very enjoyable.

I too have issues with my characters telling me what to do. In fact, I'm doing major rewrites due to the little murderous fiends. My protagonist and his buddies didn't like one of the other characters, thought he was dragging things down. So, they wanted me to kill him. Oh, well, at least I'm not doing time for it, or maybe I rewrite Hell.

I really enjoy your posts and look forward to reading more.

RG Calkins

Clarissa Johal, Author said...

Good to know I'm not the only one! haha Thanks so much for stopping by, RG.

Heather R. Holden said...

My characters boss me around, too. I've had to delete huge chunks of writing--even endings, like you--because of just how fickle they can be. When that happens, I tend to do a lot of flailing until they finally decide to spring a revelation on me! (And that often happens when it's most inconvenient for me, haha!)

Clarissa Johal, Author said...

That, I understand Heather! Probably in the middle of the night, right?

Heather R. Holden said...

Yep, the middle of the night is definitely one of the pesky times inspiration likes to strike! :P