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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Brick Walls and Dead Horses

A wonderful friend, colleague, fellow author, and of course my literary Angel, Jo Murphey did a blog post the other day which I would like to put a different spin on.  I will provide the link to her blog post "Dead Horses Don't Gallop".
In her post she comments on when a writer hits a dead end.  Let's face it, if your writing, it is only a matter of time before you muse jokingly leads you into a quiet lonely desert and deserts you.  When you realize you have painted yourself into a corner and the story comes to a dead stop.  You hit a preverbal wall of such proportions only your mind can control the size of it.  Jo gives some ideas as to how to deal with this.  Sometimes the horse is dead.  Sometimes if you're trying to get a horse to drink sometimes you need to feed it some salt and let nature take its course.
Let me explain.
I always start with an outline of where a story is going, the guts and meat of the story.  This is either a good story already or it's not.
But an outline might only be two pages.  How do you turn that into 120,000 words of something that is going to hold a readers interest?
I start my story and I enjoy the walls, I celebrate them when they happen and I have to stop!
This is the truly creative part of the process for me.  This is a chance to twist the plot, add an un-expected twist into the story.  Why would they do this?  How do they get out of this?  What could they do outside the box to get past this impasse?  I put on my thinking cap and go over numerous scenarios in my head to see if I can find a solution to get the horse to drink.  I find salt!
To do this you must think, and to some this is daunting!  I also feel you must have an active imagination.  In my case I am blessed with an over active imagination and I can think about problems of my characters, and in my stories through every spare moment of the day.  I think about upcoming problems before I go to sleep at night in hopes that my Muse and Subconscious fight it out and arrive at an answer for me.  It helps at these times to have another story you're editing or writing to switch to working on while you're solving your current dilemma.
Allow yourself to daydream, brainstorm, and think as far outside the box.  Remember a reader in many cases just wants something New, to be taken somewhere they have never been before.  Give it to them!  Set yourself Free!
Feed your Brain!  I subscribe to a site called Stumble Upon, to browse websites.  I peruse all the twitter posts I receive and see what catches my interest.  I review Google + posts and see what flits my fancy.  I read books of all kinds, to feed my brain with raw new ideas, new ways of thinking about stuff to give my mind material to work with.  I watch people and listen to them interact and get ideas for characters and their current problems that they have to deal with as they are drug through the crap I put them up against in my stories.  It all adds up chaos at its finest!
If you doubt me you must read my newest book "No Rules Of Engagement", which has repeatedly been reviewed as 'Hold on to your Pants', because it takes you through so many twists and turns you don't know if they are coming or going!  It is fast paced, fun, exciting, and a good read.
So when you hit that wall, if it is a good story and you heart and soul says this is your Great American Novel, then make sure that horse is dead before you move on.  Jo was right when she said a writer is more than one story.  I have thirty plus ideas waiting in the wings.  They all will not be books.  Some will be the best stuff I will ever write, but I am waiting until my skills as a writer get to the point I am confident of pulling it off with the grace and beauty the stories deserve.
If you check out Jo's post make sure you read her post from yesterday, which I thought was an insightful different view into the bombing of Pearl Harbor as she is part Japanese and part German.  An amazing mix for a young girl at a bad time in history, but alas, it does give a person a very unique perspective on things.  It is one of the many things I love about Jo!


J.L. Murphey said...

Thomas, thanks! There are times no matter what you do there is no way around the wall. When you have exhausted everything you know how to do (which for me is everything mentioned and then some) and still cannot breach the's time to let the horse die. Killing a story softly by putting it away. Sometimes you can only revise so much and still the story is lacking.

You have to know when to say "enough."

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