Hang in there, little buddy. We’ve all dangled from a fraying rope over that same pit. Every writer has his or her fatal literary flaw, whether it be time management, structuring plot, writer’s block, Pinterest — the list goes on. I personally struggle with outside distractions (Another video of a cat stuck in a cardboard box? I’d be crazy NOT to watch it!), sticking to a linear plot structure, and constantly rummaging through the pantry to see if a bag of chips has magically appeared in the five seconds I was away. Today though, we’re going to look specifically at plotting, outside distractions, and writer’s block.
Plotting: Stick to Your Guns
So you’ve started a new story. Huzzah! It’s an exciting place to be, but beware, it’s a long rode to that final period. Not everyone likes to plot out their story piece by piece, some prefer to sit down and go at it without a specific direction in mind. If that’s you’re style, awesome! I approached fiction writing that way for a long time. The more I’ve written though, the more I’ve realized I’m the kind of person who needs a bit more structure. This doesn’t mean planning page by page, or even chapter by chapter. Sometimes it’s just breaking down the story in your mind into a beginning, a middle with several distinct plot points, and an end.
Often though, I get overexcited about certain plot points and start skipping around like a crazy person. And so, we’ve come to our first pit. Skipping over scenes with the intent to come back to them later can be dangerous. It creates literal holes in the story, and if I’m not careful I sometimes find myself building a rushed, poorly constructed bridge across the gap. So if you’re the type of writer who needs structure in plotting, I would recommend sticking to your guns and plowing through tough scenes rather than taking your chances with a grappling hook.
Distractions: Munchies, Phones, and the Internet
A writer’s gotta do what a writer’s gotta do, even if that means skipping the cat video. There are a lot of things out there to keep us busy, things that try to lure us away from our laptops and notebooks with lovely promises of entertainment. A lot of the time, it probably works. This pit is going to be tricky to cross.
The best advice I can give is this: Keep snacks and drinks with you while you work, leave your phone in the other room, and do your best to resist opening irrelevant tabs on the internet. The internet can be an unbelievably valuable writing tool for inspiration, spelling, fact checking, the works, but it’s a bit of a “keep your enemies closer” situation. Know when to use the internet as an asset, but don’t underestimate its addictive powers.
Writer’s Block: Lord Help Us All
Um…uh…yeah. This pit’s got alligators and poisonous snakes, and all you’ve got a rope that’s about to snap. Get up, stretch your legs, and take a walk. Paint something. Call a friend and ask what he would do in your character’s place. Dang it, go ahead and indulge yourself. Watch that cat video. Maybe it’ll teach you how to claw your way out of your own metaphorical cardboard box.