May 28, 2011

Breaking through writer's block

A correspondent recently asked whether I ever get writer's block.

"Hammer Fist" by Gerville Hall
Not as such, I told him. There are times I don't feel like writing, or when I don't feel like writing what I've been assigned to write. I usually just muscle through it, especially in the latter case. That's one good thing I learned in the news business. If it's your job to write about GDP growth, you write about GDP growth, even if you'd much rather be shopping.

The hardest time I ever had breaking through was writing the fight scene in Alara's Call, when Alara is captured by enemy soldiers. In the original version, It went something like: They fought for a few minutes, and then she was knocked unconscious.

An editor firmly informed me that was not acceptable. I had fallen into one of the classic blunders (see No. 24).

I needed to describe the whole thing, blow by blow. I didn't want to.

It took a whole afternoon, and a couple pots of tea, but I did it. I would write a sentence, get up, pace around, try to visualize the fight, go back write another sentence, repeat...and periodically realize half of what I had done was crap. Rewrite. Repeat. Wore me out.

And the story is much better for it.


  1. It's an amazing fight scene. You did well, grasshopper.

  2. Thanks -- I'm glad you think so!