Those Ah-Ha! Moments: Overcoming Block
by Christine Locke
Have you ever had one of those moments? I’ve struggled to finish my first series, not wanting to let it go. But I had an “ah-ha!” moment when I understood that the only way to truly own my first series was to let it end.
When I’m starting a new book, sometimes the cursor on the blank page can’t keep up with my typing speed. I like those days. At other times, though, odd problems present themselves. I wanted to finish the third book in The Legacy Series much earlier than I did, but I had another book demanding to be written. I’m sure part of the problem was that I didn’t want to say goodbye to my first series. I even flirted with saying that Out of Place was NOT the final book. The problem with was that if I was having trouble finishing book three, when would I ever finish book four? It was an odd several months, as I stared at the file for Out of Place, couldn’t get anywhere with it, and had to go work on the other novel that was calling me, compelling me, relentlessly demanding that I give it attention.
And then there was the ABNA project I blogged about last week—that was yet another distraction I had not expected.
So how did I finish Out of Place? First, I decided that I would tie up all the loose ends in book three and leave a path open for book four should anyone want that at a later date. Second, I set the task for Camp NaNoWriMo last year. And third, I had a friend read an early manuscript of the book, which is how I knew I made the right decision about the three-book series. In fact, I rewrote the ending based on her reading.
What helps me overcome a “block” situation, whether it’s a block on a project or writers’ block in general, is to GET WRITING. The best writers, and by best I suppose I really mean most successful, write all the time. I’m amazed at how prolific they are. And not everything that they write is “good.” They just keep writing–a lot.
If you read literature about creativity, you find that this is not something unique to creative writing. I’m reading Cracking Creativity, and the book deals extensively with how prolific the most successful creative people are, giving many examples. And Morgan Freeman examined a similar notion in his “Through the Wormhole” episode on luck, “Is Luck Real?” What appears to be good luck is actually statistically probable when you practice a great deal. And how many times have self-published authors shared that, ultimately, the secret to their success is not where they advertise or how many beta readers they had, but hitting a certain number of published books? Even the early, white-hot success stories of self-publishing, John Locke and Amanda Hocking, were extremely prolific rather than the recipients of great literary acclaim. I’ve also seen traditionally published authors mention the importance of a strong “backlist”–books that are already published that keep selling. You have to be prolific to have a backlist like that.
All of this makes sense. Have you ever “discovered” a new favorite author and purchased several of their older books because you liked the most recent one? Or, now that we have this fantastic thing called video streaming, do you find yourself adding an actress’ other movies because she was amazing in her latest? I do.
Creativity might have more to do with determination and discipline than luck or genetics or the blessings of a whimsical muse. If that’s true, overcoming “block,” success in writing, and even making a living at writing could be all about one’s ability to just WRITE. Given an adequate knowledge of story structure, grammar and punctuation, etc., this may truly be the case.
I can say that one of the most liberating experiences I am having in my early writing career is finishing old projects. Even if they end up in boxes under my bed, knowing that my early novels are no longer “unfinished” empowers my current projects. Soon, I will no longer be an “aspiring writer” with unfinished manuscripts lying around in tattered binders. My old stories, for better or worse, will be done. And the experience of completing them is priceless. I have a much better idea of how NOT to structure a novel. (Never again will I just sit down and expect the muse to take me where the story wants to go…that was a big waste of time!) Sometimes I even have an outline. In fact, for next month’s Camp NaNoWriMo, I have an honest-to-God story board.
I’ve learned to remember that bad writing can be fixed later. The important thing is to get the writing done. Get that ending scene in mind and chart a course. Then, Go! It’s not just the vital thing. It’s the only thing.
If I can move my fingers over my keyboard, I’m not blocked. If I can make an outline with colored pens, I’m not blocked. If I can count out flashcards and divide an “act” of my novel into scenes and arrange them on a board, I’m not blocked.
And if I’m not blocked, I can write.
I’m sharing this post on a blog for readers because I’m always interested to know what compels another writer to write. But I also know that many avid readers are writers—or at least, they will be someday. I’m sharing in the hopes that readers will find my own struggles instructive or informative in a way that is useful to them.
As Charlie requested, I’m happy to share information for Out of Place. The manuscript is in the final stages of editing (my beta readers are trying out that new ending). You can check my blog for information on the release. And I do hope Charlie will be writing a review, so keep checking back here as well!
Out of Place
The story structure for Out of Place moves between 1988 and 2012 as a modern-day Carin Mallace seeks the help of her younger self. We will see Carin avenge her father’s death, uncover the sinister plot of yet another malicious Mallace, and watch Carin and Griffin get married on Christmas day. We learn all about the happily-ever-after for Carin’s mother, Amanda, and we learn that Griffin and Carin have a daughter, Christina. In 2012, Christina is 18 and falling in love. Out of Place wraps up loose ends for The Legacy Series while leaving the door open for future books in the series.
About the Author
Christine Locke was born in California and grew up in various locations around the United States as a Navy brat. She was the oldest of six children and today is mother and step-mother to seven. She attended Texas A&M University, receiving her Master of Arts degree in Comparative Literature in 1995.
Christine has worked as a writing instructor, a salesperson, and an award-winning retail manager and management trainer, among other things. Today, she co-ordinates makeovers for a local magazine. She and her husband, Mike, live with their children, two dogs, and two cats in Arkansas.
For years, Christine has been writing novels around her work and family life. Open Door is her first published novel.