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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Thursday Spotlight: Cate Masters

Busting Writer’s Block

You sit down in front of your computer, and the cursor is blinking on the screen, as if tapping its little foot, waiting impatiently for you to begin. But you're stuck. You'd started with great ideas and had been typing the words as fast as they flowed from your brain to your fingertips, but then--you became blocked.

Writer's block, I believe, happens for a reason. Rather than let it paralyze you, you must use writer's block as a tool—recognize that your subconscious is trying to tell you that you're not quite ready to commit to writing this story just yet. You need to get to better know some element of your story or a certain character before you can even begin it, let alone finish it.

That's what I did when I became stuck a few years ago. Because the novel spans 30-odd years, I had already researched what happened during those years and created a timeline. But on the timeline, I added notations: what music a character might have liked, what current trends or fads the character may have followed, how s/he might have been impacted by the major events that occurred in the world. Next to each year, I noted her age--obviously, a five-year-old will perceive and react differently to any given situation than a 20-year-old would--as well as what grade she would have been in, noting graduations and post-graduation events like marriages and pregnancies. I also jotted down notes about other events that may have occurred in this character's personal life. Doing this provided a framework that helped me to more fully construct the character and to get to know her better. This exercise was useful for not only this specific character, but for all the characters, giving better perspective and, in general, making the novel richer in detail and authenticity.

Don't let writer's block paralyze you! When it happens, it can also be a signal to step away from a story. Sometimes when we concentrate too hard on a thing, our focus can become too narrow. Stepping away can renew the story, help us see what element is missing--maybe a character wasn’t developed deep enough, or an idea not followed far enough. It's always a good practice to walk away from your story for a little while, so you can approach it again with fresh perspective, and fill in any holes or flesh out characters or descriptions later that might seem a little thin upon a new reading. Recognize that writer's block is sometimes a necessity, a sign that your work needs refinement. Don't fear it-- use it to your advantage. It will lead you to something better in the end.

Cate Masters’ novels, novellas and short fiction appear at The Wild Rose Press, Eternal Press, Wild Child Publishing/ Freya’s Bower and Shadowfire Press. The proud mom of three adult children, she currently lives in central Pennsylvania with her husband, Benji the dog and their dictator-like cat, Chairman Maiow. Visit her online at www.catemasters.com and http://catemasters.blogspot.com, or follow her on Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/Cate-Masters/89969413736?ref=ts or Twitter: www.twitter.com/catemasters.

2 comments:

booklover0226 said...

I've read how other authors have had writer's block; some lasting for months!

What's the longest period of time have you had a writer's block?

Cate Masters said...

I've never tracked it but I usually have many stories going at once. If I get stuck on one, I switch to another, and by the time I go back to the first, the problem usually reveals itself and I work through it. Juggling stories is a good skill. :)