Call it writer’s block, a dry spell, or anything else, it happens to many writers. It is the dreaded ailment of the pen, the disheartenment of a writer’s soul, without notice, unexpectedly and untimely. It is that break in the connection with the story, like a broken bridge that is hard to repair. Whatever prompts the disruption is unique to the writer, as it is the healing process, the timing when writer and story will be in communion once more.
Writer’s block might feel as falling out of love with the story, or not finding the right angle to continue writing. It might come in the form of disillusion with the story or even the craft, a broken heart of sorts that refuses to pump ink. Waiting and longing for the magic moment only seems to make this disease of the inkwell more acute and prolonged. Ironically, its only cure seems to be time. Drip, drip, drip … the ink flows again.
I guess this post is inspired by the change in weather and the crisp air …
As a writer, I am attuned to inspiration, and it can come from anywhere, anytime, anyplace. An overheard conversation between strangers, a dream, headlines, a person, and sometimes, as lines that pop up in my mind out of nowhere. I call these ghostly lines because these have no context or previous reference, just appear. It may be a phrase, one word, a brief image that suddenly comes, or a banner of words. If there is pen and paper nearby, I immediately make a notation; if not, I make a point to remember as best as I can. Sometimes I do, sometimes I do not. I keep these words or images filed in a little green box for future use. I figure, this came to me for a reason.
For example, once a brief image of a well-dressed young woman from another era suddenly appeared in my mind, and she was saying to someone, “Even the poor have gardens.” I briefly wrote the scene and the line and filed it in my green box. This time, I was in my car, my husband was driving, so I was able to take out a notebook I keep inside my bag and wrote it down. It didn’t make sense at the moment.
Do not ignore your random thoughts and ideas. Those may come suddenly and without reason. Write those because you might be able to use them one day. These might inspire a story, a chapter, or even the ending of a story, you never know. Take these ideas for what they are – useful random bits and pieces of inspiration. Never underestimate the power of your pen.
Most people I have talked with seem to misunderstand what a writer does. Either they think that words are cheap a dozen or that writing a story is easy. A common suggestion is, “Why don’t you write about this or that?” As writers, we tend to draw inspiration from many places, but inspiration is all it is. The original idea must mean something, entice the pen, allure us, arouse our curiosity in order to proceed into the crafting of a story. Sometimes, we agonize over a character, a chapter, or even a single word. Although these suggestions might be well intended, I compare it to asking a farmer how many acres he/she has; you just don’t go there. It is like me asking you how much money is in your bank account.
For some, writing a book is all about money, for others, about fame and recognition, but for a true story lover, it is about everything. That might be hard to explain. If you have ever had an encounter with writer’s block, you know how soul-sucking it is, and how debilitating it is to the mind of a writer. A torment that ink and paper cannot cure. Only the return of the missing word can alleviate the tormented heart and soul of the afflicted writer. There is no time or expectation, only hope and desire. It is a mystery of mysteries, a black hole that consumes words, pen, and writer, for time does not exist anymore, only days without words, empty pages, a crusty dried pen, and innumerable cups of coffee. Days come and go blending into one another, a timeless punishment by the muse who refuses to sprinkle the miraculous ink that will cure the ailment. Until one day … And until then, making peace with writer’s block is a sensible solution.
Writing and publishing a book does not result in immediate sales. If you are an independent writer, you know that. For most writers, the treasure chest doesn’t open wide enough, and if the only motive is to make a significant amount of money, a dose of reality can knock down your pen. Expectations and motive when writing and publishing a book will determine the level of discouragement when sales do not materialize soon enough. The definition of success will also correlate to those two. Do you consider a success writing and publishing the book (s) or will a lack of sales point towards failure? Again, motive and expectations will determine how a writer views his/her success or failure at the craft, and how this will influence future works.
For many writers, absence of sales is enough to discourage them, hence why many never publish again. Money or recognition was a strong motivator, maybe the only one. In the absence of it, writing does not make sense anymore because it is not profitable. Other writers view the craft as a venue to tell a story, to inspire others, and even as an outlet for their mental and emotional health and enjoyment. For this group, money becomes secondary and not a goal. These are the writers that have been writing for many years and keep at it, even when monetary rewards elude them. Their passion for writing supercedes any monetary value or desire for fame and recognition.
In a now very saturated market, those who remain have realized and understood a bigger why, and in the process defined their own success. In that sense, book sales become a sickle and a passion builder.
Signs are everywhere, that is, if we take the time to see and listen. Have you ever heard someone say, “Signs of the times?” It refers to characteristics of a particular era or present time, or even alluding to certain events that are expected to happen, such as “end times” or other. Signs could also be warnings given to us from above before something is about to happen or we are about to make the wrong decision. Different from clues, which take us forward, from one to the next and so on, in order to reveal something or truth, signs serve more as a beacon, a warning just on time.
I have had signs before something is about to happen. For example, on one occasion, I gave a ride to a coworker who was sabotaging me at work, unbeknownst to me. A small glass blown angel that I had hanging from my backing-up mirror, suddenly broke in pieces and fell just as this person sat in the car. I could not explain why and how it happened because it was well secured with a sturdy chain, and the chain remained intact, not broken. Although I found the incident unusual at that time, I ignored it. It was a warning from above, which I understood later on.
In writing, sometimes we use signs and clues when creating a story. Mystery thrillers are a good example. However, one should separate one from the other. Clues take you to a destination, signs warn you about it. Many people refer to these as one and the same, but I view these as different in purpose. I made use of clues in my novel Moonlit Valley, as the main character Rose Carrigan follows a path that reveals the truth. I made use of signs also, such as a warning given to her by Black Hawk, one of her protectors. Signs and clues are sparingly used throughout my novels, which deal with the topics of the Divine and the supernatural. As a writer, I try not to center the story solely on clues and signs. I think these should enhance the story not become it.
Birthright – A right or privilege to which a person is entitled by birth.
Destiny – The seemingly preordained or inevitable course of events.
Free Will – The power or discretion to choose.
(American Heritage Dictionary)
These are topics/ideas that are common in many novels, whether paranormal, historical fiction or other. The Dinorah Chronicles trilogy presents the idea of birthright as central to the series from denial to acceptance to fulfillment. At first glance, these three concepts might appear different or even contradictory to each other, however, these fuel each other, and in the end, the character chooses (free will) to fulfill a birthright and/or what might be viewed as destiny. A birthright might be given but a destiny is chosen by the exercise of free will, whether that birthright is fulfilled or not. In the end, the character finds “self” or grows into the pursuit of knowledge.
The Dinorah Chronicles is available via Amazon in eBook and paperback format.
Most heroes accept their calling, even when they might hesitate at first. They choose to follow their purpose. Their purpose eventually becomes their identity, and if that purpose fails, ceases to exist, even momentarily, the hero/main character loses her/his identity. When the purpose , the calling, the birthright becomes the goal/the existence, it becomes more important than the hero or anyone else, and it usually translates (ironically) in the denial of self, the neglect of loved ones, all for the good of humanity – the ultimate goal. Just like a fire, it consumes the hero’s soul, and takes over everything around her/him quickly. Sometimes the hero finds balance, sometimes not; however, most likely, the hero finds the self along the way.
Sometimes, it happens that a character is brought back, whether from the dead, or back in a series. When resurrecting a character there is always motive, a purpose, and that motive has to be clear, defined, and essential to the story, otherwise, it might not make sense or have an impact in the story.
Why bring back what was once gone if there is no agenda? It is a risky maneuver for the writer, one that can upset readers more than the demise itself. Of course, for fans of the long gone soul, it is a heavenly gift, like breathing life into the pages once more. For the writer, a necessary duty, a risky endeavor, a solemn event.
Heroes are applauded. Main characters are beloved. Secondary/tertiary characters move the plot. Without these characters there is no story. They are the ones who carry the load, chapter to chapter, the bearers of good and bad news, and in truth, heroes and main characters are nothing without them. They support the main character throughout. Have you ever liked a secondary character more than the main? Are tertiary characters disposable? Do they serve a purpose, fill a hole, and are forgotten after their purpose is fulfilled? Are they neglected characters, in a sense? I don’t think so. Inside every tertiary character, however short lived, there is motive, truth, and purpose. It is that last piece of the puzzle, the one that completes the whole picture. Their existence is brief but not without meaning. After all, they appeared in the writer’s mind for a reason. Even if they are quickly out of mind and out of sight, they became part of a chain of events that if broken, disturbs the scene/story.
In these characters defense, they work for their keep, and unlike main characters/heroes, they are not handed a crown from the beginning.