Saturday, November 1, 2008

Cracking the Block

I'm sure this has happened to you. You're breezing along through your current WIP and all is right with your writing world. Then it happens. Your fingers hover over your keyboard and won't go back down. You've been blocked. You rack your brain, but the words just won't come fast enough (or even at all). Now what? Fortunately, today, we have award winning-author Ken Bruen to offer some advice as to what he does:

There's an old joke about if you are blocked, picture your bank manager and the words will flow. Then there is Chandler's advice, bring a man through the window with a gun
I'm a little more radical when I'm blocked
I kill someone
Usually a loved character, the impact of that will really get you moving
Or if not that, something to shock the hell out of yer own self, and if it shocks you, it will definitely shock the reader
take a real reckless chance, come out of left field, do something you never dreamed you'd do and watch the block dissipate

There you have it folks. Kill someone {on paper of course ;)} or shock your reader. So how about you all? What do you do to get past your block?

Everyone who comments in the next few days or so will be entered in a drawing to receive a copy of Ken Bruen's latest book Once Were Cops.


Ken Bruen was a finalist for the Edgar, Barry, and Macavity Awards, and the Private Eye Writers of America presented him with the Shamus Award for the Best Novel of 2003 for The Guards, the book that introduced Jack Taylor. He lives in Galway, Ireland.

He is also a former regular at the grog Murderati. If you've never read his posts, you can do so here. They are well worth the read.


Anonymous said...

You rock bro
The best PR I ever had
Thank you so very much
And can't wait to see your book

R.J. Mangahas said...

Thanks for stopping by Ken. The book has hit a slow but steady stride.

davethemysteryguy said...

That's an interesting way to get through writer's block I guess. Oh, and for the record, Bruen's books kick ass.

R.J. Mangahas said...

Gotta agree with you on that one Dave. When you get the chance, you should really check out the posts too.

jnantz said...

Mr. Mangahas,
I've only hit block once, and it was because my book was boring me. So I went back and rewrote it, and I made sure there was quite a bit more action and ass-kicking involved. Took forever, but it worked for me.

Truth is, block has never been my problem. Getting time amid the grading and the planning and all of the other ancillary shit involved in teaching High School is the problem. As such, I tend to agree with the students on one would be much better without all the work. :D

And I'd like to second davethemysteryguy...Bruen's books kick serious ass. Mr. Bruen, you rock.

R.J. Mangahas said...

Jake --- you're one of the lucky one's if blocks aren't a problem for you. There are some writers who just don't believe in it, and that's great. I honestly wish blocking wasn't a problem for me.

As far as school being better without the work: hear, hear!

Sam said...

I really liked The Guards. I think it would be interesting to see a film version of it

SarahWriter said...

Get all the characters together in a white room, sit them down on uncomfortable folding chairs, and ask them what's going on. Don't let them out of the room until they tell you why they aren't cooperating. Write it down.

Helps to have bright spotlights, lots of coffee, no bathroom breaks for the characters, and a collaborator to play good cop/bad copy with... Thanks, Alex.

R.J. Mangahas said...

Hmm. Interesting idea, Sarah. It may just work. Good cop/Bad cop is a tried and true technique.

R.J. Mangahas said...

Who would you cast as Jack, Sam?

Stephen D. Rogers said...

I once started a story with a man entering a room with a gun. Figured I'd get over that block first thing.

AliasMo said...

A deadline. Nothing works better for me at getting past writer's block. My other trick is to do a "riff" from inside one of my character's heads. Flat-out, no stopping, I'm probably going to toss all this anyway, writng for 5-10 minutes. I start them ut with who they are, bio stuff and soon they're giving me their take on the ther characters, what's going on, etc.

Thanks for intriducing me to Ken, RJ. I'll go check out the books.


R.J. Mangahas said...

That's a great way to do it, Stephen. Just get it out of the way. I take it you'll be at Crimebake next week?

R.J. Mangahas said...

Thanks for stopping by, Mo. I'm glad I could introduce you to Ken. His stuff is like poetry in novel form. Oh, and check out the link I have to his blog posts if you haven't yet. Really good stuff.