Friday, October 18, 2013

Fighting Writer's Block with your Characters

by Becky Martinez

Last Saturday at the Colorado Romance Writers tea for Readers a reader asked the writers at our table about writer’s block and it got me to thinking.
How do you handle writer’s block?  Don’t we all feel like we suffer from it every so often? I don’t know about writer’s block, but I feel like there is something stubborn inside me every so often that holds me back from sitting down at the keyboard and keeps me from writing.

Often attending an event like the reader’s tea helps. Spending time with other writers or listening to what readers like about books is enough to give me lots of ideas or get the creative juices flowing.

But other times, my muse can be stubborn. How do I know when that’s a problem? Easy, I find myself doing things like cleaning up my office area or, heaven forbid, running the vacuum every room in the house. If I get to deep cleaning the kitchen, I know I’m in trouble. Time to put down the dust cloth and dish rag and head for my computer.

Usually though, it is easy to do that. For the past thirty years I’ve been sitting down at my computer first thing in the morning and that was even before it had an internet connection. I really enjoyed the idea of a being able to write early in the morning without having the neighbors in my apartment building hearing me at my typewriter.

Think of it as spending time with your characters. Take them out of the plot if you have to and just write a short story around them.  When I think of spending time with my characters, I think of bestselling Author Robert Crais telling us at a writing convention how he loves to spend time with his Elvis Cole and Joe Pike. Wouldn’t you just love to hang out with those guys too?  He gets to do it whenever he feels like it.  Mystery writer Margaret Coel says the same thing. She enjoys checking on what her characters Father John O’Malley and Arapaho attorney Vicky Holden are doing today.
Spend some time with them and ask what their problems are, and you may find yourself caught up in your book again.

Try another project besides your novel, even if it’s a novella or short story. I’ve always been able to work on several things at a time and people ask how I can do that. Well, it’s one thing that keeps me from getting writer’s block.  When I find myself at a dead end with one story, I put it aside for the moment and pull up another one and begin work on that. For instance, when I feel like a shopping expedition, I might work on my Blues mystery where anchorwoman Kimberly has plenty of time these days for shopping and she still has a bigger desire than her budget.

If I feel like traveling to the Northwest, I work on my sequel to Deadly Messages and spend time with Lisa Romero who is on the run in the San Juan Islands.
Finally, if I find myself ready for the old West, I go back in time to 1880 and Johnson Mesa near Trinidad, Co, where I am setting my first western romance.

Will these two ideas work for everyone? Maybe not, but they are there for you to consider. New projects, old characters – both can help to get you back into your writing.

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