Friday, November 17, 2006

The list

Every writer gets stuck. You hit roadblocks. Hard to concentrate with your felony trial pending, that sort of thing. In the past I've talked about a few ways I've tried to break through it. Taking a shower, dumping the problem on my partner, admitting I'm a fraud and giving up. But I found that fellow blogger, Maggie has compiled a far better list of things you could do. And these are actually helpful. In fact, they're fabulous. And for those that care, her post features pictures of Tahmoh Penikett as well, whoever he is.

Here's the post.

And here's just a sample:

7) This one is evil but fantastic: open a new file and write the thing again, without looking at your current draft, no matter how many times you've rewritten it. Oh, so evil! Because you'll hate it and you'll be so mad and then, oh my goodness, you write something SO GREAT! Because you've been working on that story for so long now, you're so ready to write that thing! You're a pro at writing that thing, but you're not letting yourself write it, only rewrite it.

It's like you've been practicing a piece of Bach. Only you recorded your very first time through, and you've been tweaking that recording all this time. Play it again! Write it again! Let your characters talk. They're sick of having the same conversation over and over. What would they do if they had the chance to live that scene over again?

8) Study something fabulous. This is how they train composers. And I know because I went through this at the conservatory. We studied certain pieces of music so closely that when I hear Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra or Wachet Auf or the others, I almost can't breathe. Break it down, diagram it, watch/read it over and over for the structure of it. Write it from memory. (That is a particularly wicked exercise we had to do. Write Bartok from memory!)

9) Start listing things you love. It's simple but it works really, really well. You can put margaritas on there a couple of times if you want! And Joe Flanigan and Tahmoh Pennikett! And Mt. Hollywood and pizza. Blueberry tea and pink kitty toes. The New Zealand All Blacks and the South African national anthem. Kaylee! Vines. Vintage dresses on Ebay. Amelie! Margaritas! Ben Browder! Bagroll! Anglo-Saxon poetry! Royal blue! Cello solo! The point (and I do have one) is to get back to the place where you remember why you're doing this in the first place. Yay!

10) Write something else. Boy howdy, that works great! I'm sure that 95% of writing-is-not-working crankiness is because you want to be writing and aren't. So write! Write ANYTHING! Write about what you would write if you could be writing and exactly how good it would be, because it would do this and this and this and this and this...and because you're a writer, pretty soon you've worked your way out of whatever knot you didn't even know you had.


Dwacon said...

I just go back to page one of the current manuscript and polish my way to the point of train-of-thought-derailment.

The "write something new" technique is also good.

Anonymous said...

Actor Tahmoh Penikett portrays Karl "Helo" Agathon on Battlestar Galactica. His father was Premier of the Yukon Territory of Canada from 1985 to 1992.

Anonymous said...

Someone put #9 to me a little differently: If you're digging a hole and not finding what you want, then you're justing digging a hole.

Get out and start digging somewhere else.

Anonymous said...

What would they do if they had the chance to live that scene over again?

That's a great way to think about it.

Anonymous said...

Someone with your deep and abiding interest in good television should know Tahmoh Penikett's (Helo's) face in an instant. Battlestar Galactica is so much better than the network stuff you grouse about! If Studio 60 is bad, simply stop watching it, and devote that hour to Galactica instead.

By Ken Levine said...

Everyone says BSG is a great show. Unfortunately, I tried to watch an episode recently and was completely confused. I think, like LOST, you really have to start from the beginning. If I rent the mini-series will that give me enough background? As it is, it's hard to climb aboard a moving train.

Stephen Green said...

#8 is the one thing for me to avoid. Reading something wonderfully written is the best way to convince myself to turn off the computer and never go back.

Anonymous said...

Tahmoh Penikett and Joe Flanigan get mentionned together in the same sentence, my inner fangirl passed out when she saw that googling Tahmoh.
As for getting onto the BSG bandwagon. If you don't want to start watching from the beginning and then through two seasons and of course catch up on all that's aired already from the third one (it's what I did, in under 4 days, but I am extreme). I was making a point, oh right, you could try watching the miniseries and then try and locate an episode called "The story so far" which is basically a very rough recap of the two first seasons. I'd recommend you do it, it'll be worth it. But yeah, if you want to catch up quickly, it is in no means a proper alternative though ;)