If you’re stuck on a story, or just want to mix things up, try making a Story Starter Grab Bag.
You can be a Plotter or a Pantser (or something in between)– be as structured or as loose as you’d like, but set yourself a timer of 3 minutes for each of the following lists, and write down as many things as you can think of:
Themes/What the story is about
Images you can picture vividly
Now cut up the lists and mix the slips up in a pile (you can make a separate pile for each list, or mix all of them together).
Then set a timer for 10, 20, or 30 minutes, draw three slips, and write. You’ll discover connections you hadn’t noticed, and see your story from new perspectives– and you just might solve some plot problems or writer’s block.
Austin Kleon writes about “A Bag of Words” in his blog post (referencing Linda Barry and Ray Bradbury). When I lead the Grand Marais Writers’ Guild each month, we always start with a free-association word list based on an image, choose from the list, and use those words in a couple writing exercises. I liked the idea of a Bag rather than a list– it reminds me of the party game, Popcorn, that’s sort of a cross between Charades and Twenty Questions. And I like the randomness of drawing slips of paper, like drawing cards from a fortune teller: I like trusting my subconscious or some other unseeable force to point me in the right direction (and you can’t be blocked about what words to choose when you don’t get to choose them).
For longer writing projects, like novels, things can get stuck in a rut: write chronologically, figure out the problem in Act 2 before moving on to Act 3, is this a single novel or a trilogy?, etc. Using slips and words/phrases brings us back to seeing the story; when you can see it, you just have to write down what’s in front of you.
What happens to an unfinished NaNoWriMo project after November? Here’s how I’m recommitting and getting back in the writing groove with a new February 8th finish line.
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On Writer’s Block jumped into my box at the Friends of the Library Book Sale.
I was wary– I’ve done The Artist’s Way, this could be old territory.
But Victoria Nelson had me Aha-ing with every chapter.
Primarily, she says that a block can be the sign of creative integrity.
It shows up and halts all activity when the Ego is trying to muscle the Soul/Unconscious into something that isn’t quite right.
We should use blocks as guideposts.
Stop and uncover what is at the cause of it.
What is the resistance?
I know this, but it was powerful and helpful to see it all written out so matter-of-factly.
A block safeguards the work until Ego can handle it.
A block stops you from digging around to see if the seeds are actually growing (an act that would kill the garden).
A block is a sign of creative health, not ever of failure.
I’ve been stuck in a manuscript for about a year.
It’s been sad and frustrating: What if I never get back to it and all those beautiful characters languish and then just shrivel up and disappear, like those forfeited souls kept by Disney’s sea witch, Ursula??
But I’ve also known that I just had to wait, that there was something I was missing without which I couldn’t carry on writing the story.
Then, in the midst of musing that someday I’ll write a seven-book series akin to “Harry Potter” it hit me:
What if Daphne not only doesn’t have to leave Extraordinaria in a month but she spends seven years (and seven books) there?
What if she actually doesn’t have to grow up too soon?
What if it’s a better deal (and bigger adventures) than Narnia?
Somewhere in this big house I feel a door swing open.
A breeze blows through and stirs the air.
The story moves, flutters, begins to wake.