Writer’s block is the real deal. It happens to everyone, me included.
There are no escaping life events, day jobs, or the multitude of other things that can take a writer away from the computer and their story, which makes coming back to a book you stepped away from ten times harder than starting a new one.
Other writing sages will state that a writer finishes what they start, that you can’t edit a blank page and I agree. So, how do I stave off the urge to just never get back to work? Character Templates and a Plot Outline.
Both of these tools help me find my place in a world that I’ve become unfamiliar with. I’ve had medical emergencies *cue Star Trek transporter sounds*, promotions at work, busy children’s sports schedules, and half a dozen other reasons to walk away from a story. When it’s time to crack those knuckles and get back to words on the page knowing what my story is supposed to be about helps a ton.
Character outlines help me understand the people I’ve started creating all over again, grounding me in their emotional needs, wants, and whys. There are all the little details there and the back story that can inspire a decision or reason for something. Not to mention some big things, like what color the hero’s eyes are. If you’ve walked away from a story for three months, it’s easier to look at notes than try and use the find feature on a word document.
As for a plot outline, reading notes about what is supposed to happen in a certain chapter gets me back to where I need to be. I may not have all the details on paper, but a place to start is better than no place at all. And if you don’t have time to re-read half the story, it works a little faster for a memory jog.
Often I hear people tell me how an outline stifles their creative process, how it limits scope and locks a writer in. An outline is not the end all, be all. It’s not going to kill a story if I break from the outline to explore an idea.
For me, the outline provides more freedom.
I discover new ideas partially through a chapter or the characters decide they need to take their clothes off sooner than planned. I let them drive the story, allowing those decisions or thought processes to play out. The outline gives me a chance to get back on the highway, off the scenic route I just took because I wanted to see the world’s biggest ball of yarn.
My outlines originally started out simple and have evolved over the years. Sometimes they can be fifty five pages long, but they help get an overall idea out of my head and into a format I can work with. Some people describe it as storyboarding. Others include images or follow certain formats. My process has become a little more time consuming than it used to be, but I am producing richer stories because of it.
I think people run scared of outlines for a multitude of reasons, but it’s helped me avoid writer’s block in some of the most extreme circumstances. I can say I used to be a firm pantser and have become a better writer using outlines for characters and plots that help me find a road to follow without destroying detours to see the sights along the way.
Love this? Check out Landra’s new class!
True Colors by Landra Graf
Five years ago, Rose Roberts won a Pulitzer prize—and nearly lost her life at the hands of a stalker. After severe anxiety derailed everything, she is about to lose her career and her stalker is on the loose.
Following the murders of his wife and daughter, ex-cop, Jeffrey Dixon, finds himself in need of a windfall to save his home from foreclosure. Searching for a solution, he doesn’t expect to run into the woman who made his loved ones’ killer an overnight celebrity. Or to be offered a job.
Rose, now desperate, is willing to pay whatever price, if he’ll agree to act as her bodyguard and be the subject of her next article. Without any other prospects, Jeff accepts her job offer and moves in.
Becoming emotionally entangled with a woman who wrecked his grieving process is the last thing he wants, but as weeks drag on and the threat from Rose’s stalker becomes very real, Jeff finds his protective instincts triggered. He won’t lose someone again.
As their attraction grows and their barriers drop the exposure will leave them questioning everything they hold on to.
Sometimes, the only way to see someone’s truth is to expose the things they fear most.