Writer’s Block. We are warned that we all get it, that the solution is to, well, write. Put the words on the page, even if it feels like a slog. The advice often sounds as if writer’s block is like “the wall” in a marathon. By mile ten, most people have used their circulating blood sugar and have to dig into reserves in the liver. By mile twenty, “the wall,” the liver’s depleted, and we get into the ineffable, gauzy advice about reaching deeply into one’s self for the last 6.2 miles.
All of which makes sense for marathons. At least for the ones I did. I mention this because I came to a halt, a standstill, in my novel #5, which I’m calling Cyberstorm. I tried the forging ahead thing, and it didn’t work. It took me a while to realize that I needed to understand my characters and my plot ideas better than I did. Once I settled on some details I’d overlooked, the words began to flow again.
A question I hear often in critique groups is, “Is this moving the story forward?” An ancillary question is where to insert backstory … the events before the time of the story that contributed to its direction or, more often, a character’s development.
And we writers are told by a thousand how-to books that we need to grab the reader in the first line. Get things moving. Bottom of first page is too late.
I have been reading two stories in my critique group from gifted writers who work humor into every line. I keep feeling pressured by conventional wisdom to suggest moving the story forward.
Then I began reading Deacon King Kong, by James McBride. Literary fiction, to be sure, so anything goes by way of structure, but the book starts with the obligatory precipitating event—but then gives the reader twenty pages of double-over-laughing backstory. Which brings up the question: Why do we read, anyway? For pleasure, right?
I guess I’ll cut back on the cookie-cutter critique and just enjoy my friends’ prose.