25 March 2011

Writer's Block

There is a condition called writer's block.  I don't suffer from it, probably because I have less time for writing than I need.  Friends and family might comment that I have never suffered from talker's block either.

I do suffer from feelings of unworthiness which I expect are common to many, if not all, writers.  It's that feeling that whatever I do it won't be good enough, so what's the point?  This can stop me in my tracks and make me abandon whatever it is I'm doing or carry on but take no pleasure from it.

In order to get over this problem the writing technique that works for me is simple.  I write stuff even if it's rubbish.  I write every day, even if it's a tiny bit.  I write what comes to me regardless of what I might have planned to write.

Sometimes I sit down to write with the intention of getting my protagonist from point A to point B.  There are clear steps needed to achieve this that have been running through my mind.  I begin writing and suddenly find my character has arrived at point C without any help from me.  This used to worry me, after all I'm the writer, I'm supposed to be in charge.

It's a question of detail. My favourite authors introduce their characters effortlessly.  A few well chosen words and I have a clear mental image.  They also move seamlessly from one scene to another without need for ticket purchase or stopping to put petrol in a tank.  I have a tendancy to get caught up in all that detail.  Things like the number on the bus, timetables, the names of the bus stops, a description of the driver, of the bus, of each of the passengers.... 

I have learned that very little of this needs to be written but that doesn't mean it's not needed.  As long as I know, the reader can relax in the knowledge that it has all been taken care of and they can be spared the detail.  It's up to me to make sure it all hangs together. 

In the film "Robin Hood", Kevin Costner arrives at Dover, having rowed all the way from Egypt, sets off walking and announces that he will be dining with his father in Nottingham that evening. The author obviously has no idea of the distance between Dover and Nottingham and has certainly never travelled on the East Coast Main Line.  I have to avoid that sort of mistake because readers have the tendancy to assume that if they identify one inconsistency in a story then the rest of it is almost certainly rubbish as well.

One more thing, I am proud to tell you that Christian Pankhurst has raised over $35,000 for children in Japan with the appeal I made in my previous blog.  Well done Christian!  You are a wonderful man with a great big heart.