Tied in Knots

I have not been plagued by writer’s block. I generally skipped over the myriad blogs, papers, podcasts, and articles about it feeling vaguely superior.

Then I ran into a wall with my current novel, Fatal Cure. The plot is complex. I’m a hybrid writer … I do outline, but only broadly. Within the broad limits of the outline, I’m a pantser, letting the character and situation drive the story.

Nothing seemed to come together. “Write, just write something” didn’t work; the something I wrote was clunky and uninspired. Frustrated, I tried more outline detail: spreadsheet detailing what who was doing to whom and when, calendar of events, and so on. Nada. Rien. Zip.

Finally, just to do some writing calisthenics, I picked a character and a situation in the novel and forgot the outline … And, of a sudden, the writing flowed again, and the outline seemed to make sense.

Feels like the time I almost capsized a canoe … frantic countermoves to try to offset the oscillations. No forward progress. But when I stopped trying to control the situation, the canoe settled down … and then I could make forward progress.

Show and Tell

In our Zoom critique session this morning, we of Crème de la Crime got into a discussion of when to show and action or emotion and when to tell.

The oft-repeated direction is ‘show, don’t tell.’ Like any rule, particularly any rule in writing, it’s made to be broken.

Show is usually better. More action, and it calls on the reader’s imagination, which we authors hope draws the reader into the story.

But …

As our member Karl pointed out, sometimes it takes a paragraph of show to carry out what a sentence of tell can do.

In the end, Greg rewrote the Serenity Prayer thusly:

God, grant me the focus to show when it's warranted,
the brevity to tell when appropriate,
and the wisdom the know the difference.