You know in most cases when a person hears Hump Day, they get a euphoric cloud floating around their head. Sure, it still happens in relation to the day job most authors are forced to cultivate to do silly things like pay bills and eat.
But, when an author thinks Hump, it’s all about the middle of their current work in process, or something nasty that has nothing to do with the subject of this blog. Let’s just forget that, shall we?
Where was I? Oh, yeah. The middle of the book. Beginnings are easy. You’ve got the thrill of a new idea burning its way through your brain. You’re hopped up on some weird literary endorphins that course through you like an illicit substance and before you know it, you’ve written three thousand words with ten thousand more bursting from the seams that remain of your skull.
You hit the wall. That grand imaginary wall that stops the possibility of a single word getting through the thickness of your frantic thoughts. Yep, I’m talking about writer’s block. But, when you get right down to it, is it a block? I mean you’ve got the ideas. A ton of them, if you’re anything like me. You see so many paths that your characters and story could take. When you think about it, we shouldn’t call it writer’s block. If we wanted to get truthful about it, we should call it a writer’s traffic jam. We’ve got all these what ifs jamming against each other fighting to get past the broken down Pinto that’s been holding up progress. Because that’s what a writer’s block is. A bad idea that has blown a tire and is sitting in the middle of the interstate of our stories.
Trust me. I’m right.
When we start that blazing beginning, we are so sure we know what our story is about. Come on. We made up the characters. Molded them from the clay of our fevered imaginations. We’ve hijacked a brilliant concept for a story that is both original and tested against any type of storm. Then, both of those things do some crazy stuff, and evolve beyond what we thought they could be. They come alive and go Pinocchio on us. So, we’ve got to sit quietly and bang our heads against the dash…uh, screen, until we figure out where we went wrong and how to make it right.
That’s where all these ideas come from. The neural pathways are jumping with ways to work it out. I know! Have one of the Vamps get bit by a were opossum. Then they can hang upside down by a prehensile tail while they suck the blood. Okay, maybe not that one, but you get the idea. What ifs abound!
What ifs? What’s a what if? A what if is how I describe the act of brainstorming. What if someone does this? What if a zombie apocalypse breaks out? What if I’m losing my mind, and the book is really writing me? Call it literary math, a word problem with the characters represented by X and Y, with the next chapter represented by XY to the nth power. That would make it algebra but I don’t like algebra, so I refuse to call it that.
Let’s move on.
This is the time, if you hope to keep a shred of sanity, you’ve got to step back. Abandon the project, if you will. Not forever, but until you’re not taking things personally. Sometimes, all it takes to get that wrecked idea off the interstate is talking it through with a friend or crit partner. They aren’t emotionally invested. They can see past the hangups that you cling to. Because, you’re clingy, buddy. Hey, I am. You are. We know what SHOULD be happening. Notice the nice caps on that should. Just because you think the next step is an amazing idea, that doesn’t mean it is. Face it. Sometimes ideas suck. Most of the time, we can catch them before they get out of our head, but on rare occasions they just won’t turn you lose. That’s when a new perspective comes in handy. It’s also why as an author you should keep a file for deleted scenes. Just because the idea won’t work where you want to put it, that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be a perfect fit elsewhere.
Never throw out an idea. Consider that a Jmo Rule of Writing.
Ideas are too hard to come by to just toss one away. What might not drive one book, might be just the thing to shoot another to where it needs to go. This might sound crazy, but I’m going to tell you anyway. For me, if I can’t remember an idea, it’s not a good idea. I don’t beat myself up for forgetting this amazing idea I had when I didn’t have a pen handy to jot it down. If it’s good enough to stick in my brain, it’ll be around when I need it. Otherwise, it was just a hiccup in the process.
Getting over the hump, is frustrating, but nothing to go nuts about. That traffic jam is a vital part of the writing process. It’s your subconscious telling you that you’ve lost control of the asylum. Take that exit and stop at Stuckey’s for a pecan roll until you figure out why that left at Albuquerque you shouldn’t have taken has landed you in a five mile backup somewhere around Dallas. Once you figure that out, you just might have a book on your hands.
One last bit of Jmo-therly advice before I go. Never let that traffic jam derail you from following your dream. Writers are patient enough, and smart enough, to realize that anything worth doing, is worth fighting to have. In the end, that’s what writing is. Fighting common sense to make stuff up. If that isn’t the definition of crazy, I’d like one of you guys to give me a better one.
Starting now…. Go!