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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Kidnapping Your Muse (ConCarolinas 2012 Writing Panel Notes)

"Let me go, plz ;__;" - Charlie is sprawled diagonally in a box that stands upright, with its opening at the top. He clutches the edges, trying to pull himself out. For the record, he got himself in there. © Laura Sheana Taylor, 2012.

Back again, finally. Sorry for the delay, folks. Canada Day fell on a Sunday, so our statutory holiday was Monday ... and, well, not much sleep was had that night. Let alone posting. My rhythm, it was interrupted.

This next panel, "Kidnapping Your Muse", was technically called "Part One", but I never did make it to Part Two (which featured different authors). But this was pretty good. It was about writer's block (if you so choose to acknowlege it), overcoming simply being stuck, and how to keep the inspiration flowing.The responses were very insightful into process!

Again we had a round-table sort of discussion going, so here's what I transcribed.

* * *

Authors: David B. Coe, Crymsyn Hart, Misty Massey, Allen Wold, Faith Hunter 
Moderator: A.J. Hartley

AW – Does writers workshops, teaches
MM – Fantasy writer, Mad Kestrel, pirate magic adventure, on the Magical Words team, MW book
FH – Jane Yellowrock series, on the Magical Words team
DBC – Now also writing as D.B. Jackson – Thieftaker, on the Magical Words team
CH – Paranormal erotic e-romance

What to do when the book we’re writing doesn’t want to be written – inspiration, and more specifically, what to do when it dries up

What do you think about Writer's Block?
AW – gets blocked when his story takes a left hand turn and goes off in the wrong direction, that can be discouraging – when he lets a character down, when he pushes them down a wrong path or make a wrong decision rather than what they want to do – that’s why he’s often stopped writing. So he has to go back and find that place and where he’s supposed to go and then he can continue with the story.

MM – hates the term writer’s block. Two types – 1. The temporary, where she’s stuck at the computer and the words aren’t flowing – gets up and moves, walks around her house; dances; that; 2. Emotional issues in her real life that stand in the way of her being creative – she calls friends and seeks solace, or turns to something completely different from what she’s working on, for forward motion.

FH – Instead of not allowing a character enough freedom, she gives the character too much freedom and they do something stupid. Has to back off, put the words elsewhere, and make the character do what she promised to do in the outline. Also, can’t write when house is dirty; has to houseclean to get work done

DBC – Doesn’t believe writer’s block exists – that term presupposes writing is easy, is supposed to flow, everything should go smoothly from beginning to end – Writing is hard. There are fits and starts and stumbles. That’s writing. This is a hard process. Block is just the wrong word for it.

FH – It’s a creative process.

CH – When creative process stops or dayjob gets in the way, characters are screaming in the air to write them, there’s a spot she gets to that she has to write

AJ – Writing time is circumscribed. Very specific deadlines. Has to produce x words consistently in places to get it done. He’s not blocked, but he’s bored sometimes by sitting in the same place, etc. Has to get re-excited about the book again. Something about the term writer’s block  - it’s a legitimizing excuse for not working.

AW - It’s about not being able to move forward for some reason. There are several different varieties of reasons – You must be able to identify it and then you’ll get unstuck.


FH – does not deviate from outline. If she leaves outline, it gives her trouble. (She only outlines plot points, not how the character feels or reacts).

MM  - Used to be a pantser, let narrative carry her along – tried outlining and is now completely committed. If she’s not sure where to go, she looks at outline. She’ll occasionally deviate if it turns out in the narrative that it’s not a really good idea – She outlines the events, not the reactions.

AW – every book is different. Has written with and without outlines. "Outline" is like “block”; it means different things to different people. The more detailed, the less he can write.

AJ – Outline not written in stone – tells story as he imagines it at the start – discovers things about characters as he goes along – it’s a balance. He may not need the outline in the end, but it gives him faith that there is a story to be told that he can get to the end of. Occasionally he glances down to make sure it still working.

CH – Is a pantser. She just keeps going. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work, and she writes something different.

DBC – Writing a 15 pg outline would be death. Each chapter gets 2 sentences. This is his creative process. It's like a bottle of soda – every time he opens it to talk about it, to outline it , it goes flat. He is sparing in what he does in prepping because that release of energy is his creative process. He re-outlines as he goes along if he needs to.

AJ – Does write a 15 page outline – very loose, and he writes from character perspective so that it reads like  a short story with lots of emotional colour with lots of specifics that are missing. He knows what has to happen in the next 70 pgs, but doesn’t know how it’s going to happen.

Outlines with novels vs. short sotries?

DBC, AW: don’t outline their short stories. The outline is the objective the character is trying to accomplish, whether he gets it or not. DBJ has no idea what’s going to happen, how it’s going to end. Writes with faith, treats it like an adventure. The characters tell him. Misty: outlines short stories. On paper.

AJ: However much outline he does, there will always be a point where he has to create a document, “What the hell is this book about”. What the core of the story is about. What the narrative arc is. This is after writing the story, though.

CH – Doesn’t outline anything, writes the outline in her head and not on paper.

Does the quality change whether you struggle in real life or don’t?

CH – Where your mind is is a big thing.

AJ – They tend to go together.. A miserable day in real life or writing is a miserable day. They're not separate. Writer's block is a sign that he’s lost faith in a story.

When you have a bad day, do you find refuge in your writing to turn your day around?

FH – Sometimes.

AW – If he has a bad day, he can’t write. Except when he gets a very very very nasty rejection.

MM – Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

FH – Writes well when upset if she can find a way to channel that energy.

What's one thing you do when you’re stuck that works for you?

FH: (You mean, other than drinking?)

DBC: Opens a separate file, talks about where the story needs to go. Also goes back and reads what he has so far (even if it’s the whole book), and takes notes.

AJ: Sometimes the act of re-reading gives you faith that it works.

CH: Steps away from the book.

AW: Goes back and sees where he made the mistake. If you can’t get much done, it’s time to stop and go back. 

MM: Moves – dances (exercises). Easiest way to jumpstart her brain. Stops reading what she is writing and looks at something else.

FH – Outlines in a web outline, starting with the main point in the centre, to try to pinpoint what's not working.

AJ – Walks, any time he runs into a part where he’s bored, struggling , or stuck. Doesn’t run. Energizes his body but keeps his brain free. Imagines conversations – the act often helps get the issue figured out.

MM – Does her best dancing when she stops talking to herself. It’s about disengaging the brain. Can think about writing because her body is doing stuff.

DBC – Can’t walk away. When faced with that thing that isn’t working, he pounds away at it until he figures it out.

AW – Ideas come clear to him when he first wakes up, because all of the critical aspects of thinking are eliminated.

AJ – Wrote a problem on a piece of paper and stuck it under his pillow before bed. It worked. Because he was aware of it.

Do you ever have moments of doubt even after completion of the novel?
DBC – Every novel at 60%, he has a serious crisis of faith. Everything sucks. Then he gets over it.

AJ – Neil Gaiman's 3 things : “Produce good work, on time, and be nice and easy to work with. If you have two of those, you can get away with the third.”

MM – Yes, we doubt. The night before her book came out, she thought of better ending.

AW – There’s always another book, another story to tell.

Can you read fiction when you’re writing fiction?

AW – No.

MM – Yes, reads all the time. Tries to save it for bedtime, like a treat for having written. Everybody’s different, though.

AJ – Yes, but things that are different from what he’s writing

DBC: Didn’t used read what he is writing, because he was afraid of similar voices creeping into his head. But at this point he does and he’s glad, and it took him awhile to be comforatable enough with his own writing.

CH: Doesn’t read romance because that’s what she writes.

If you’ve built your world for your novels, do you therefore stop reading in that genre to avoid lifiting ideas?

AJ – Yes, so he doesn’t subconsciously.


  1. Great post, loaded with lots of info. Thank you for sharing!

    1. You're welcome, Candilynn! Glad they helped. :)