Sunday, July 8, 2007

Assignments Week Seven - Now You've Done It!

Now you've done it... you've dug yourself into a plot hole you can't crawl out of.

The twist in the end that reveals the witch is the princess's sister doesn't work and the spell the princess uses in defense was revealed earlier only to work on inanimate objects. Curses! Time to crumple up the whole thing and start over... or throw it into a drawer and forget about it until the next spring cleaning...


I'm addressing this now because I seem to have dug a doozy. I've created a scenario that will be a bugger to make work properly. Doing so has made it really difficult to move forward. I felt blocked on several occasions last week.

When this happens, I do one of three things (usually in this order):

1) Push through it. Some blocks are more stubborn than others, but truly, if you push, the walls eventually come tumbling down. Even if you don't feel like it, do your warm-ups and keep writing. Even if the writing seems impossible, dumb, and you know you'll have to fix it later, keep going. NO ONE TURNS IN THEIR FIRST DRAFT for publication, for production, for anything. You will have to rewrite it later ANYWAY, so keep sailing until the end.

I was really slogging along one day and then finally came to a standstill. What did I do? I took a shower.

2) Sometimes when I reach a road block, I take a walk or take a shower. I've heard of other writer's doing this. I think it's about doing something rote (hopefully you don't have to think to put one foot in front of the other). I've had epiphanies while washing the dishes, too. It's a space where thoughts can tumble around without consequence. In the secret depths of your mind, you can sift through them without committing to any of them until BINGO! I used this technique this week and it worked. Magic.

3) Change hats. There is writing mind and there is editing mind. Sometimes when I reach a block my brain just feels fried. I've overworked its circuits. So, I put my current new project aside for a few days and spend my writing time editing something else.

DO NOT go back to the beginning of your new piece and begin editing it. This has the domino effect and you'll just want to fix it all. You'll see all the flaws, all the holes, and all the buttons that need polishing. EDIT SOMETHING ELSE, something familiar, something that takes your mind off of your current story so you can come back to it with a fresh mind.

I used this technique last week. I took a four day break from Howler and edited another screenplay (one that just needed some minor tidying up, no total rewrites) and transcribed the rest of my 3:15 poems from my journal. That was refreshing. It really helped, so that when I came back to the task on Sunday, I was much more relaxed.


1) Continue to spend 15 minutes typing up your previous writing exercises. Unless you type extremely fast, or write extremely slow, you should have plenty to type up.

2) Spend 7-10 minutes warming up with one or two of the following start lines:

This is a story about...
(always a good one to come back to, especially if you have a block)
What I'm really trying to say in this story is...
The "holy grail" in my story takes the form of...
By the end of the story my protagonist has learned...
The climax
* of the story happens when...
I'll know this story is over when...

*climax = the crisis or confrontation point, what the story has been building up to, where the protagonist either succeeds or fails in reaching her goal

ADDITIONAL work: If you are having a block and want to try the "pushing through" technique, pick ONE of the above start lines and do the Super Scene Writing Formula from week two OR simply do the exercise two more times, picking a line from the CENTRE of the previous writing and setting your timer 2 minutes longer each time.

3) WRITE! Set you timer for 20 minutes and work on your script (or novel, because I've seen some looky-loo novelists in here). Take a quick break, stretch, pee, warm coffee. Write for 20 more minutes.

Have a great week!

P.S. I was looking up some examples of plot holes and came across this gem:

Howard Hawks' The Big Sleep is a Film Noir classic that has been revered for its overly convoluted plot noted for a major plot hole that has baffled both audiences and the makers and even the writer of the source novel, Raymond Chandler.

In the film, a chauffeur is found dead in his limousine which is fished out of the docks. In a later scene, a character admits to knocking the driver in the back of his head and escaping with a roll of film. However, this still doesn't explain how the driver and his car was mysteriously found in the bottom of the sea. This plot hole was present in the source novel as well and when he was asked who killed the driver,
Chandler's reply was, 'Damn! I don't know either.'


more4dan said...

Ha! The Chandler plot hole is classic (excuse the pun).

I laughed when I read this post because I'm only on week four and have already had several blocks. Especially last week when I really started thinking about whether I can actually do this. Don't worry, I'm ignoring those voices for now and will "push" onward.

Good post.

Now it's time for my shower. ;)

OpenChannel said...

Keep on truckin, Dan.

I call it "slogging" through. I'll talk more about that later.

puddlejumper said...

I totally agree about the doing soemthing else. Dishes works for me too. As does folding and sorting laundry. I always try to keepa big pile spare for those moments of "block"