Whether you’re writing your first book or your tenth, whether you’re writing memoir or fiction or non-fiction, you will occasionally encounter roadblocks (which sometimes look a lot like brick walls).
You might have trouble getting your character from one place to another, or from one year to another – a troublesome transition.
Your character could be stuck in a situation with no practical and believable way to escape.
Perhaps you discover a fatal flaw in your timeline, destroying the logical progression of events across six chapters.
The end result? You’re stuck and you can’t find a way out.
Before you delete big sections of prose or feed the whole manuscript to your shredder, one tortured, tear-soaked page at a time, try a brainstorming session with a couple of writer friends or members of your critique group. Even a session with non-writers who read a lot can be helpful. Invite the idea team to sit around your kitchen table, share tea and cookies, and focus on your writing problem.
If your book is partially completed, provide your idea team with a short synopsis. Explain where you’re stuck and why.
I took part in a work session with three other writers a couple of weeks ago. The novelist who needed input is writing a World War II story based on real events. In a project like this, the true story can act like a straitjacket, restricting the free flow of ideas. Since the rest of us don’t know all of the details and have no connection to the characters, we were open to new possibilities, asked questions that led to more options, and built on each others’ suggestions. There were flashes of brilliance among our ideas. There was also evidence of madness. It won’t all be good, but even a silly proposition can lead to a solution.
During our session, the author answered our questions, fielded ideas, and took a couple of pages of notes. It’s a process that works well for a lot of us. It’s worth a try.
Even if you don’t have a critique group, or you don’t live close to a group of writers, you can do a brainstorming session online via e-mail, chats, instant messages, a closed Yahoo! Group, or on Facebook.
If you’ve tried the brainstorming approach to problem solving, how did it work for you?
For more information on developing ideas or working through a plot snag, see these Blood-Red Pencil posts:
Ideas for Writing by Shon Bacon
Hitting the Writing Wall by Heidi Thomas
Stumbling Blocks by Helen Ginger
Need Help With Plotting? by Slim Randles
Blood-Red Pencil Contributor Heidi Thomas also has this excellent post on her own blog: Overcoming Writer’s Block.
Patricia Stoltey is a mystery author, blogger, and critique group facilitator. Active in promoting Colorado authors, she also helps local unpublished writers learn the critical skills of manuscript revision and self-editing. For information about Patricia’s Sylvia and Willie mystery series, visit her website and her blog. You can also find her on Facebook (Patricia Stoltey) and Twitter (@PStoltey).