There I was sitting at my desk, words flying off my fingers. Prose flowing from me like, I don’t know, Homer or someone. The hard drive was filling up with my third work in progress. And then.
And then (it still chokes me up to think about it).
And then I hit page 126. My mind was suddenly one great gawping field of white. The characters quit talking in my ear. They had walked off the stage completely. Come back, come back, I pleaded telepathically but all I got was ringing in my ears.
I had no idea what was supposed to happen next.
It was page 126.
So I busied myself with rewriting the first book in the series. Then I messed around with rewriting the second book in the series. And I did a couple of short stories.
So I went back to the writing manuals. Yet another person suggested SAVE THE CAT by Blake Snyder. So I finally bought it, and regret having not read it sooner. I dug out an old corkboard and divided it into four sections, wrote out little index cards for each scene, saw the scenes that weren’t working, came up with a couple of scenes further down the line and it’s all tacked up there on the corkboard. But still, no page 127!
So then I got out David Corbett’s ART OF CHARACTER. It’s a wonderful book, teaching how to dig deep into the character to generate plot. I’m about three-quarters through that as of this writing and getting some really good stuff.
This past July, I went to Book Passages Mystery Writers Conference in Corte Madera, California. Lo and behold! Laurie R. King, author of the Mary Russell series and a zillion other books, said the same thing happens to her in every book. Every. Book. For her, it’s page 130. When it happens to her, she screams (she demonstrated) and then she goes for a walk.
When she comes back from the walk, if she still doesn’t know what’s next, she skips ahead and writes a scene she knows has to happen. Later she’ll go back and bridge the gap. She walks a lot, by the way. Not that she needs to, but perhaps there is a correlation between walking and twenty-five published books.
D.P. Lyle, author of another zillion books and former Mysteristas guest, talked about it at the conference too. He said that sometimes you just have to let your subconscious sort it all out and one morning, you’ll wake up with the solution.
So, more quiet time for me. Maybe I’ll take the headphones off during the bike ride once in a while. Maybe I really will do yoga and not just talk about it.
I’m definitely going back to Book Passages Mystery Writers Conference next year (it will be in September). There’s something about the cozy venue and the hospitality of the bookstore that is so nurturing that a bunch of writers, published and unpublished, feel free to relax, be themselves and open up – if you can imagine that, with magical results. If you’re interested in what happened, Guppies’ September newsletter, First Draft, will publish an article I wrote detailing the event.
What about you, Mysteristas? I implore you, got any other ideas how to get unstuck?