You learn most about writing from writing, but I believe it’s hugely beneficial to read and otherwise take advice on the craft. For the past while, I’ve been getting a lot of great tips as well as great motivation from watching the daily Periscope/youTube talks from author and editor Ally Bishop, founder of The Cerulean Project.
Today’s chat was about writer’s block. Ally suggests that if you hit that bit where the words have stopped flowing and slowed to a trickle, you should probably stop – pushing on when you know it’s not working is just settting up for a lot of rewrites needed!
(on the other hand, if you’re writing with motivation and excitement keep going, even if you can see things are wrong – they can be fixed later!)
Instead, ask yourself: how is the tension in the scene you’re writing? If it’s fallen, try looking back at the previous chapter – chances are the problem’s roots are further back than you think.
A common issue that lets tension fall is not having subplots. You should have a beat of action, then let the tension fall to a simmer with a beat of reflection (e.g. in a romance, the first kiss is actually a break in tension). This is where you can switch to the rising tension in a subplot, before returning to build the tension again in your main plot.
Nb subplots are not just ‘other stuff happening’. They should be plots in and of themselves. And for subplots to be interesting, you need to have well-developed characters, otherwise the reader won’t be engaged. In fact, not-working stories are generally down to either a lack of tension, or the characters not being well enough developed.
Finally, if you decide to throw in a monster/bad guy/dead body to up your tension again, ask yourself: how does this further the plot, the subplot, and the character development? You should never chuck in some random event that, if removed, doesn’t alter the story.
(note: any mistakes in the above are entirely mine in understanding/transcribing my thoughts, and not Ally’s).