Monday, February 4, 2013

Momentum: not just for Super Bowl teams

If you'd taken a drink every time someone said "momentum" in yesterday's Super Bowl game, you would have been unconscious by the end of it. The Ravens had it, lost it during the power outage, then the 49ers picked it up, but they didn't hold onto it long enough.

I think there's something here for writers, too. Earlier in the day, I'd met with my local writing group, and we'd discussed how we break through writing blocks. Here were our conclusions:
  1. Diagnosing writers' block helps us break through it. We get stuck for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it's because we don't know what happens next in the story. Sometimes we know what needs to happen next, but we don't know how to push our characters to that plot point. Sometimes we can't figure out what our characters would do in their current situations. As with many things, understanding the nature of the problem helps us solve it.
  2. Regaining momentum is key. Those of us who got together yesterday shared a variety of tools and strategies that we use to restore a derailed story. Some people write journal entries from the characters' perspectives. Others play with random story generators, Story Cubes, or cards to add something new to a stalled scene. Still others may make lists related to the characters and action to think about what events might logically happen next, what characters are thinking about at a certain point in time, and what new conflicts and catalysts these inevitabilities could create. The old fallback for other writers is to just write SOMEthing, ANYthing, and figure out later if it works. We all agreed that these strategies may get us writing material that we won't actually include in the finished product, but they get us writing, and it is immensely easier to generate good material once our fingers are already in motion. Sometimes it's only by exploring what doesn't work that we see what does.

"So then there's... um... a sheep and a turtle making scary shadows around a wigwam. Yeah."

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