An Author's Journey Part 4 - Around the Block

Now, THAT'S an intriguing title. Yes, we, as authors, have been around the block. Not like that, you sicko. As authors, there are times that our characters take on a life of their own. We write and guide them through the situation we put them in, now really knowing the outcome. If we know the outcome, we don't know the details of how they reach it.

In part 3, I mentioned that the characters sometimes take a turn that we didn't expect. They get themselves in a jamb that we're not sure how to get them out of. We've never been in that jamb, but they have and it's our job to transition them into safety, deeper into trouble, or (cue the dramatic music) certain death. We're powerful like that. In all three scenarios, that transition is sometimes extremely difficult and we think. Then think some more. And think again. Enter, "writer's block."

We feel guilty for abandoning our characters, when our characters and the story abandoned us. Imagine standing in chest-deep water. You're facing against a river's current. It's not strong, but strong enough that you have to lean into the current to avoid being swept away. We're in the same place. Now, imagine that where you have to get to is a football field's length upstream. You walk, but the current is too strong. You try to run, but your feet move more than your body, and in the opposite direction. That's kind of what writer's block feels like. The more effort we put into it, the more we feel we're slipping backwards, and sometimes, we do. The length of time varies based on hundreds of possible factors. Our day job, our domestic responsibilities, illness and countless other variables that negatively affect our creativity.

A rough outline helps. While writing The Ghost Between Us, it wasn't about getting Toby out of a situation he got himself into. It was the boring time between scenes when I first experienced it. BAM! Dramatic ending to a chapter. BOOM! I totally knew what was going to happen next. CRASH! But that part couldn't connect with the chapter I just finished. The setting was completely different. The mood needed to change. I spent four days considering how I would transition to the next scene without typing or writing a single word. I did't love the result, but some of the book's fans did. One fan said, "Pete could describe watching paint dry and it would be fascinating." Toby cut his grass, cleaned the house and did mundane things that a lonely person would do. He vacuumed just to have vacuum cleaner lines on the carpet. BOOOOORIIIIIING! But while he did that, he had time to think, which was the last thing he needed. He reminisced about cleaning with his wife; a task he hated to do, but would give anything to do it for his widower now. It gave me another opportunity to express the relationship they had while she was alive. I also do this full-time. I've heard of other authors that spend weeks with writer's block. The struggle is real. When they pick up the book again, I imagine they would have to reconnect with their characters before continuing on.

From Parts 1 through 4 of this Blog title, we've talked about the journey of writing, focused primarily on fiction. Depending on the genre, it can take an emotional toll on an author. To imagine my wife gone while writing The Ghost Between Us was the worst thing I've ever thought of on purpose. In the next entry, I'll share with you the journey I took when I wrote One Hundred Seventy Days: A Caregiver's Memoir of Necrotizing Fasciitis and Cancer. If you want a preview of the emotional cost of writing a memoir, find 29 minutes before Monday's Entry to see the interview I did to bring awareness to the terrible disease, better known as flesh-eating bacteria.

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