Writer’s Gap

Everybody knows Writer’s Block. It’s that overwhelming structure that finds a way to wedge itself between you and absolute greatness. It’s miles high, infinitely wide. There’s really no way past it save tunneling right through it, and that can’t be for the faint of heart. To do this, there are tons of tools and recommendations available:

1) Have an interview with the characters
2) Add somebody new. Or a mysterious call.
3) Blow something up. Or kill somebody off. Unexpected heart attack. Car crash. Whatever.
4) Write another section and then see if you can come back to that earlier one refreshed.
5) Engage in some creative writing exercises that put unusual elements together and see if that kick-starts your imagination.

If you’d never tried any of those… No thanks necessary! Enjoy. Hope it helps.

But that’s not what this topic is about. There’s dozens of topics on writer’s block. I even wrote one last year: Breaking Through

This topic is about something far more insidious, and something not frequently talked about. This is something that has the potential to get worse every day, and as it gets worse it will cripple not just your immediate writing, but all the writing you will ever do.

I’m talking about Writer’s Gap. Writer’s Gap is the stretch of time between you putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard… whatever). For some lucky few, maybe it’s hours. Most of us it may amount to a day, the rest of life that crowds in between writing sessions each morning (or night). As long as you keep a regular schedule, you know exactly how far that gap is, and you are prepared to jump it. You know exactly what equipment is needed to bridge that gap.

But what happens when you miss a day? Go on vacation and miss a week? As the gap grows, so does what it takes to get over it. You lose touch with your characters. You lose your train of thought. Your words look like they were written by somebody else. When getting ready to edit, this might be a good thing but in the middle of a draft, it can be a death sentence. You focus wanders, and as you sit down to work on your masterpiece, you realize that there are things you want to change or do. You realize you can’t write in the same voice. You drift. And you put off writing another day.

And then another.

Pretty soon, you’ve gone a month without really getting anything done on the writing front. This has happened to me (and did for the month of February, and has threatened to for March as well). From the number of times I’ve read to keep a schedule in books on writing, I’m guessing this has probably happened to you as well.

I’d like to offer some tips to avoid and recover from Writer’s Gap.

1) Write Every Day.

Sounds obvious, and it’s the thing I read about all the time, but I think it bears repeating. The easiest way to not get into the “can’t get around to it rut” is to write something, anything, each and every day.  Keep the gap something you are familiar and comfortable with getting past.

2) Finish What You Start

This is my problem. I have so many ideas floating around in my head that I start them. Add to the mix the list of competitions and magazines that are constantly pulling in, and pretty soon I’m stuck in a soup of stories. The problem is that as I hop from story to story, I’m not really making progress. I’m re-living the story I’ve written, and get to the same point in my head that I got to when I quit and moved onto something else.

Resist this urge and keep working on the same story.

3) Don’t Edit

Let’s say you didn’t keep to your schedule, and then after you didn’t write for a day or ten, you also started wandering topics. Now what? Pick one and get back to it!

But don’t re-read everything you’ve written. Skim it if you must, but resist the urge to edit while you do so. Your goal is to get back to the writing. So find the end of what you’ve gotten to (or pick a scene somewhere else in the story), but get the ball rolling again.

4) Don’t Judge Yourself

As you dive back into your story, maybe you read what’s there and holy smokes… You’ve got Pulitzer material right there. Guess what? What you start right now isn’t going to be. Like any job you haven’t done in a while, your first trip back to the ring is probably not going to be your best work. It may not even be something you keep. Write it anyways. It is more important to get back in the habit. I promise you’ll shake off that dust quickly and be back on your (future) award-winning story in no time.

5) If You Must Switch, Make It Short

While it is better to stick to the same story for consistency, it is more important to make sure you are at least writing something (as opposed to staring at the cursor and thinking how much you should be writing). But be careful with this… It’s a slippery slope. So when you do write, make sure it is something you can write (and finish!) quickly. Maybe it’s a blog post. Maybe it’s flash fiction. Whatever it is, write and get it over with quickly so you can get back to your masterpiece.

Those are my tips on Writer’s Gap. Let me know if those help out at all, or please share some of your own!

Outsiders

Here’s my entry for this week’s Flash Fiction for the Aspiring Writer.  Enjoy.

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Thanks to S Writings for the prompt.

Outsiders

“Are you sure we’re in the right place?” That may have been the four hundredth time Mary Lou had asked the question.
Barbara Ann looked hard at her, that glazed look she had crafted so well after so many years. “Of course we are.”
It wasn’t a part of town they were used to going to. Things were just… weirder out here. So many bizarre objects and people all around. The big city really was nothing like the farm. Mary Lou had never seen anything like it. They ambled down the street together, trying to take it all in. It just felt… wrong.
“You’re sure?”
Barbara stopped in her tracks. “I’ve told you so many times. And of course the people are staring. We may not be from around here, but I know we’re in the right spot. How many multi-colored cows do you think are out wandering the streets?” Barbara resumed her glassy eyed stare.
Mary Lou stopped chewing and paused. “That’s what I mean. We can’t be the only ones, right?”

(174 words)

Book Review – Jurassic Park

Why I read this book:  Because it’s Jurassic Park?  This book kicked off one of the biggest movie of the 90’s, and I knew something that awesome has to have a great book to be based off of.

Did I enjoy it:  Yes.  It took a little bit to get going, but once it did, it was a “edge of your seat” kinda story that was hard to walk away from.

What I learned from this book: Theme is important, but he was a little heavy handed in having a character that specifically called it out.  I think that could have been masked better, if it needed stating at all.

 

Jurassic ParkJurassic Park by Michael Crichton

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I had seen the movie, and heard lots of friends tell me the book is worth the read, and they are completely right. The book has a more evolved cast than the movie, with more unique characters dealing with more personal conflicts between them. Additionally, many of the safeguards we can immediately jump to in the movie as, “Wow, somebody really should have thought of that” are explained in the book… Painting a picture of just how prepared they were, and why the people of the park were so confident in their plans.

The dinosaurs of the book are fun and outstanding. Crichton has clearly done his homework, and has a myriad of details about the dinosaurs, and parallels to birds. They are advanced, and each dinosaur has its own personality and quirks that keep the scenes fresh.

As a story, the pacing is outstanding, where Crichton carefully and adeptly bounces us between intense moments of desperate survival against the terrible lizards and the equally tense moments inside what should be protected buildings as characters struggle to figure out how to get the park back under control.

The only areas that somewhat drag are the moments when the mathematician (Dr. Ian Malcolm) launches into lengthy monologues that are only a thinly veiled exposition on the theme of the book: Should Man Play God?

Overall, the story is outstanding and the setpiece was well-worth the movie it later became. This is a must-read by fiction-lovers.

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Book Review – Save the Cat

Why I read this book:  This was on a recommended list of books for aspiring authors.

Did I enjoy it:  Yes!  Easily one of the best books on the structure of stories I’ve ever read, and definitely ranks in the top books on writing I’ve read in the last year.

What I learned from this book:  The review below sums it up, but I’d say the biggest takeaways were some of the tips/tricks he expands on, such as “Save the Cat,” “The Pope in the Pool” “Double Mumbo Jumbo” and more.  Lots of great material here to use.

Save the Cat!: The Last Book on Screenwriting You'll Ever NeedSave the Cat!: The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need by Blake Snyder

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The title tells you it’s the last book on screenwriting you’ll ever need. A bold claim, but it powerfully delivers on this promise. I read this book as recommended for authors and went into it somewhat skeptical because it is meant for screenwriters… The lessons contained therein are just as important for authors as screenwriters.

Snyder delivers several powerful tools and insights in this quick read. Several of the important items:
1) Make sure to have a logline (Premise) of your story, and understand what any good premise needs
2) Know how to build your heroes and build change into your heroes
3) Specific tips of things to include or avoid that
4) Specific things to look for when the story isn’t working
5) And my personal favorite: The Blake Snyder Beat Sheet.

Many people will try to tell you that writing can’t be reduced down to a formula, and to a degree that’s true. However, much like there are “no rules to poetry” there really are things that should be kept in mind. Whether you choose to discard those things or not, you at least want to think about them, and Snyder gives us a lot to think about.

Easily one of the best books on writing I’ve read this year, and one that should be on every author’s bookshelf.

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Man’s Best Friend

This week’s flash fiction for Aspiring Writers is dedicated to Juliette – a 6 year old black lab we lost last week to kidney disease far too young.

Here’s the prompt and story.  Thanks to Pixabay for the prompt.

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Man’s Best Friend

Maddox was going to die in this damned building. High pitched shrieks from inside made him step in to investigate. Sounded like kids. He took the stairs down and the whole thing collapsed on him. Now he was trapped in that cellar with no way out, and no one to hear his yells. He wasn’t sure how long it would be before the rest of the squad found him, or even if his air would last that long.

He had already been here for two hours, and all for a damn dog. The shriek he had heard came from some poor mutt that had scurried inside to get away from the hell just outside. Once everything fell, he had been able to push the dog out a hole at the top of the stairs. The act of shifting debris around to get the pup out had collapsed everything even more. And now he was stuck.

Sound above drew Maddox’s attention. He looked up and saw shifting dust and sand falling around him. Somebody was moving the rubble above him.

Light peeked through, blinding him after the hours in the dark.  Dugan’s face crowded out the light.

Maddox wanted to cheer.  “I have never been happier to see your face, man. You’re a real friend for coming back. How’d you find me?”

Dugan’s face creased with a smile.  “We wouldn’ta been able to weren’t for your other friend. Man’s best friend.”

Another face pushed Dugan’s aside… A hairy panting face.


 Juliette, you will always be remembered and loved.  Whether it was being there when my wife was sick, to cleaning up the dinner our kids threw on the floor, to the voice we created for you, and how you recognized when we used it… you were truly man’s best friend.  You’ll be missed.

Two Wrongs

This week’s double drabble for Writing the 200 posted below.

The theme:  Regret

Two Wrongs

Tears rolled down a face she had worked hard to steel against such intrusions. She couldn’t help herself.

Hesitation cut into her. She had heard his three words countless times over the past six months, and each time had been as empty and hollow as the last. This time sounded like the Jake she knew. The Jake she loved. A Jake that loved her.

But should that matter? Of course he was sorry now. He had been caught. Could sorry make up for another woman?

He was on his knees before her. He stared at the floor and apart from the occasional glance up at her, she wouldn’t even know that he was awake. She took several steps away from him, a rush towards the door and stopped herself. He shouldn’t win this time.

She took a deep breath and steadied her resolve. No regrets. She turned back around and saw him watching her, trembling.

He shuddered under her gaze and sputtered out little sobs that reawakened her anger. Had he noticed her sobs months ago?

She wiped the back of her hand against her eyes, destroying her only sign of weakness.

“Sorry’s not good enough.”

She pulled the trigger.

Book Review – The Road Cain Walks

Why I read this book: I picked this up from the critique group I participate in… I had gotten pretty far in my percentage of reviews, and knew I wanted to pick up a novel to critique (knowing it would take more time).  After all, my goal is to publish novels, and providing a critique for one would be useful.

Did I enjoy this book: Absolutely.  I had a few pleasure readings going at the time.  I ended up putting those down and got completely drawn into this.  The characters were unique and real, the plot visceral, the setting… Not a place I’d want to live by the end of it.  (;

What did I learn from this book:  The author does a great job at introducing characters early and then tying them back in later.  He creates a nice circle by the end that I thought was quite admirable.  He also lays his clues in clever ways that seems innocuous when you seem them (IE: They don’t immediately scream CLUE) that could point to some of the truths you uncover as you read.  It also showed me that when dealing with POV characters that don’t know what the reader knows, you have to tread carefully and think about how you describe things so that the reader doesn’t get confused, but at the same time you aren’t taking the reader out of the story (since the character wouldn’t know).

 

The Road Cain Walks (The Long Way Book 1)The Road Cain Walks by Matt Kilby

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The town of Pine Haven, North Carolina is a laid-back small town where everybody knows everybody else. Nothing big ever happens. Author Matt Kilby takes this quaint town and flips it upside down as a harrowing turn of events turns the place into a site of multiple murders… grisly murders with even more grisly implications.

Kilby’s world contains a cast of deep and believable characters driven by motives that speak to every one of us. As the murders continue to escalate, we learn more about the dark backstory of a prison inmate that is somehow tied to these twisted crimes. All the while, we are left wondering whether one psychiatrist can crack the secret before more people are pulled into this terrible web.

The action is intense. Every scene is memorable and fresh, and will leave you thirsty for more. As the mysteries start to come clear, you’ll get a sickening feeling you’ll know where it’s going, and the author will surprise you once again, taking you to places you just know you should have seen coming.

I look forward to re-reading this book and seeing how many items I missed that could have pointed to the gripping conclusion as Kilby kicks off this stunning series.

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