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.

Collision: Football and Storytelling

Those of you who write know that writing comes to invade much of your life. You see an expression on a face in a crowd and think about how you would capture it in words. You see a news item that makes you add a twist to your plot. Putting words around life becomes a constant. Which brings me to football.

A few days ago, I read the beginning of my fourth novel to a critique group. One of the members said. “I like the beginning, but then you take me into a biotech development hub. Interesting, but it slows the story down.”  I was contemplating that comment, going back and forth about whether to cut the offending section.  I took a break to watch a University of Florida football game. (If you’ve lived in Gainesville, Gator football puts a stamp on you, even after you leave.) I was half thinking about my writing dilemma when Florida captured a Tennessee fumble, or seemed to. There followed a half-dozen video replays, shots of refs conferring, several minutes of ads, replays, conferences. Finally, a decision. By the time, I had lost track of the game. I had just read an article in which a sportswriter talked about the new safety rules and technology that made it possible for millisecond, millimeter measurements slowing the game, destroying its rhythm. The writer credited falling viewership on the delays that alter the rhythm, which is to say the emotion, of the game.

The same is true is true about writing, it seems to me. Like football, there is a rhythm to a story, and that rhythm needs to be ever-present in a writer’s mind, because rhythm is an important component of the emotional bond between the reader and the story. That bond makes the reader turn the page.

Looks like that bit about the biotech incubator is out. I loved writing it. I worked there (well, not the fictional one) for several years. I know the people, the structure, the kind of events that go on … and I neglected rhythm.  

Maybe I’ll get a chance to put it in later.