Inspiration, Shifting Isles

How the Grinch Stole My Writer’s Block

I haven’t really written much of anything since November. That’s a heck of a long and frustrating dry spell, especially since prior to that I’d been writing like mad (I wrote the first three books of the Shifting Isles series in as many months). About a month ago, it occurred to me that the reason I was so stuck was that I couldn’t connect with the main character in Book 4. I just couldn’t get inside his head for the life of me. There was nothing about him that was relatable or familiar for me personally, so all the writing felt wooden and uninteresting — which would certainly translate to wooden and uninteresting for my readers as well.

Once I realized that, I took the 50,922 words that I had managed to accumulate (read: scrape together) in that manuscript and deleted every single one of them. Started over. Went back to outlining and reconsidered every aspect of the plot.

So, for the last month, that’s what I’ve been battling. I went over my plot points, moved around some key scenes, found some nifty connections that I hadn’t considered before, built up a darker backstory and history between the characters, etc. With each new discovery, I felt better and better about the direction the story was taking.

But still I couldn’t quite fully connect with the main character.

Yesterday, while trying to turn my outline into a manuscript again, I was halfway through the opening scene when I got stuck again. I just wasn’t feeling the character, and I couldn’t figure out what it was going to take to really get inside his head.

It didn’t help that my office was a disaster of distracting noise…

(Wait…hold on…now we’re getting somewhere!)

So I had this character in a stressful situation, made worse by a growing headache. The frequent migraine was an element of the character from the very beginning of the thought process on this manuscript, and it rolled right into the new and improved version, so I just ran with it.

Of course, when it comes to writing a plot, you want to put obstacles in your character’s way, right? And what must certainly make things worse for a character with nasty headaches?

Well, light and sound, of course. Those always did it for me. Migraine = anything above absolute silence and perfect pitch black is just too much.

So I threw in some harsh lighting and an array of noises (slamming doors, people talking loudly, rush hour traffic, etc.), all to make things harder for my character when all he wants is to get home and treat his poor, throbbing head.

All he wants is to get away from all the noise, noise, noise, NOISE! (Thank you, Mr. Grinch)

And there it was. The entire key to unlocking my connection with the character, to make him more relatable, to make him seem more real to me. That little bit of myself that I could inject into him so that I could really get inside his head.

Noise sensitivity. Simple as that. And that was all it took. From there, I went nuts, and the first two chapters just exploded out of me. By giving him that one little element, he finally became real to me, and so much easier to write.

How I didn’t catch onto this sooner is beyond me. I’m constantly complaining about the amount of noise that surrounds me. On a daily basis, I’m assaulted by machines running, talk radio blaring, people chewing loudly, computers humming, people talking…

And people talking, and people talking, and people talking…

Seriously, why must people talk so damn much? And about nothing! And why must people assume that I have nothing better to do than sit and chat or listen to their incessant chatter? Why is it so inhuman of me to want to simply sit in peace and silence? Seriously, people, shut the mouth and pick up a book, for the gods’ sakes!

I really ought to be the Grinch for Halloween.

People talking: Hate. Hate. Double hate. Loathe entirely!

*deep breath*

Alright, rant over. But there it is. That little thing was all it took. Now I can finally make some progress on this book. I was seriously starting to freak out that the whole series was going to come to a grinding halt, but we’re back on schedule!

So why am I sitting here writing this on my work computer when I should be churning out manuscript pages on my laptop, you ask? Well, I may have accidentally deleted some files from my laptop, so it is currently in the capable hands of my trusty computer tech (thanks, Rob!), trying to restore the files. Thankfully, I didn’t manage to delete any story files (phew!).

So why not just try to write some pages on this handy work computer, you ask? Well, I may be a little bit of a habit fanatic, and writing on any other computer just isn’t the same. The shape and feel and level of the laptop is part of the writing experience, so I have trouble getting in the zone on any other computer.

I’m feeling a bit lost at the moment, quite frankly. Sort of like my child is out and expected home any time now and I’m anxiously pacing, waiting for that front door to open…


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