Tag Archives: authors

Why do Writers – Go Blank

Hello Dear Reader

Go Blank

In this third article of my short series (I have no clue how long it may run), I have decided to tackle a problem. Blankness. Some people do not think that writers have blocks, others know them only to well. Therefore, the first part of this is, do writers go blank.

parchment-memories-blank-paper

I have to say, from my own experiences the answer has to be yes. The mind is an amazingly complicated, it has to be given all it does. The phrase ‘My mind has gone blank’ can be misleading I would say. Parts of your mind can go blank, you can forget a person’s name or that cup of tea you were making. Sadly, there is the very destructive and heartbreaking conditions of dementia and alzheimer which strikes without a care. What I am looking at here is different.

Many times I have sat writing a blog or parts of my books and suddenly found I could not think of the next line, let alone a word. I had in effect, lost the path my story was taking. I could not see which way go and neither could my characters. Here is where it might sound strange. Many writers look to their characters to ‘tell them’ what they would do next. They believe that the characters are alive and in print they certainly can appear so. Some people consider the writer or author as the person who uncovers the story rather than telling it.

So who has the blank? The writer who can’t see or the character that can’t remember? Take the man in the café. He is, as always, sitting alone trying to write a simple paragraph to his novel. If we listen in, we can hear his dilemma.

“As my hero turns the corner he is faced with … I have no clue what he is faced with? I don’t know what sort of steam punk creature this will be? Is it a mechanical steam-driven robot or a man using a clockwork thing. And what sort of thing would it be?”

Clearly there are a few issues here. Some might say there should have been a plan about what the hero ran into next. Some would say, has he run into enough for the day? Either way, it’s a blank moment. Now the problem is how long do you stay put trying to work out what the thing is? Stay too long and you could become worried or panic and create a rust-bucket of a monster which falls apart at the first stare. If you skip over the problem and pretend he has beaten it, are you prepared to go back and rewrite what did not happen?

There are also the start-up blanks. These happen when you plan your day, ready to write pen held firmly, crisp white paper waiting for words. Then … nothing. No ideas or worse part ideas. You want to or need to write a new poem to complete a collection. There is nothing forth coming. Do you write random words in hope it generates the wisp of an idea or even a line of poetry? Tricky. There are exercises that helps free the brain and the mind or both. Writing random words may well allow you to clear that block. Using things like magnetic poetry words can work as well. You can even create your own version by simply writing lots of words on a piece of paper, cutting them up and randomly picking them from a tin or hat (purple in colour).

That might be enough to help you forget what it was that caused the block. What if you can’t even figure out what would make a good short story? Random words may help but you need something more concrete. Take our man again, he has decided to start a new short sci-fi story. The problem is what?

“A fresh start, new story, competition to enter. What shall I base it on? Robots, time-travel, the future? The competition is for a short 1000 word sci-fi story but they don’t say what sci-fi! My mind has gone blank.”

Actually, his mind is full of sci-fi he just can’t see the aliens from the robots. Which leads me to another form of blankness. It is not that you can’t write it’s just the subject is so vast. Help is at hand. One idea is to use a random subject generator. Here is what one might look like;

Number Period Number Style Number Style 2

1

Future

1

Robots

1

Aliens

2

Pre-historic

2

Space Travel

2

Derelict 

3

Modern

3

Time Travel

3

Planet

4

Post-nuclear

4

Aliens

4

Base

So what would you do. Well, very simple really, pick a number from 1 – 4 (or more if needed) from each of the three categories. Then check the table and see what it gives you as a start. This is not a new concept, it has been used in role-playing for many years. The old D-10 dice rolled in hope of something interesting for a character is very much still around. Even an electronic version can’t take away that fun element. You can also use this to help rid yourself of that annoying writers block. It might not be the best plan but then again it may just get you going again.

Our intrepid writer, sitting in the café, realises this could be his way out. It is not a block as such more a dilemma at this point. As I said, too many robots in his mind. As we join him once more, we can see how this exercise plays out…

“Ok, I have rolled the dice three times and drawn, 4,1,2. If I look that up what do I have. Post-nuclear, robots and a derelict. Derelict what? Is that all I need? Ah there is an idea. What about the last robot that comes to life years after a nuclear attack. It could become sentient and go in search of others. Brilliant!”

And so his writers block or confusion is gone. The outline of a new story has begun and our writer feels refreshed let alone relived. I am sure there will be other times writers go blank for no good reason. Most of the time, it’s how they get themselves out of that crazy maze trying to find the happy path of words. Some use exercises, some use music, some just sit staring into the empty reaches of space. Whatever it takes, the path is always there.

Tagline “I have no idea what to put here…”

Why do Writers …

Hello Dear Reader

Write Alone?

After my first article about why do writers write, I decide to ask another question of both myself and others. I know what makes me write, but why do I and others write alone? What is the joy and pain of sitting without contact for hours on end. But is that the real case?

Most times, a writer creates their own worlds, characters and more. In order to write you have to sometimes forget the real world to enter your own ‘real’ world. This is where a writer is often never alone, sometimes lost mind you, more so than in the real world. No matter how short or long the work is, there is a world of sorts. Each piece has a doorway to allow both writer and reader to enter.

This in itself is its own world. Although this is a work of fact, I am imagining what many other writers might be doing. To do this, I have to create my own world and populate it with what? Straight away I can be creative, take the writer who once more is sitting in the café. He is surrounded by people, yet is sitting alone. As soon as he opens that document, be it on a computer or paper, he can either enter an on old world or create something new. Therefore in theory he is not alone. Yet to be alone in the real world allows a writer to use those around him to create the imaginary world. Sounds like a migraine I can tell.

Writing alone means you are in control of what you create up to a point. Why? Again I guess it goes back to what a writer is trying to write. I, for example, once wrote a poem about a girl on a train station platform. She was sitting alone on the floor in a doorway trying to be unseen or so I decided. You see, I saw alone in my thoughts about the poem yet not alone with others who I was travelling with. The girl was alone and I created in my poem my view.

Sometimes, you have to write with another person, say on a script for a film or television show. To do that the group have to agree the world, the boundaries and parameters. Writing with others for me, means having some control taken away. You could not suddenly introduce a fire-breathing dragon into Victorian period drama, unless it was sci-fi. There are always exceptions of course. Authors do work with others one example is Clive Cussler who with others has produced a huge range of adventure novels. I often wondered what it would feel like to try to write a story in someone else’s universe. In order to do that I would imagine you have to understand the said universe in detail, even better than the originator. How would they feel if you found something new in their favourite character? Should you even try? Take one iconic figure, James Bond as penned by Ian Fleming. He did give some details about Bond, how he acted, his job and some of his character. Now we have new books written by others, should they change his appearance for example? Have they the right to change what someone has created?

Clearly you can play in another world to a point. But these days there is much more than just a book to consider. Copy-write attempts to protect those worlds. Yet fan fiction is found in many corners of the interweb often crossing boundaries without a care. I tried to write one particular story regarding Doctor Who. It took me almost ten years to complete. I started it due to making a daft bet that I had a better idea than someone else. Never make bets like that. I knew the universe I was entering, I was alone in my writing but felt the years of other writers as I built my story. Let alone the various characters I had at my disposal, I still had to create some of my own. When I finished it, I felt very happy. It needs work, it needs reviewing and more but I completed something.

Now I have my own worlds, my blogs and more. I still write alone as I am now in the café. Only I can see what my worlds are until I let them loose. It is an odd feeling, surrounded by people no-one paying attention as I write.

Why do writers write alone? To allow everyone else to be surrounded by their imaginary friends.

Tagline: “Are you sure it’s ok to open that book?”