Blocked or Bored?

AC Flory1
AC Flory

The very first article I ever wrote for Indies Unlimited was a tongue-in-cheek look at writer’s block. Sadly, it wasn’t as funny as I would have liked because I don’t really ‘do’ funny. This time around I’m just going to speak from the heart.

“I have had writer’s block for close to a year, and it was horrible.”

Don’t get me wrong, I have written screeds of words this last year – assignments, articles, blog posts etc – but my creative writing has been stalled. Every now and then I’d get a rush of inspiration, but it never lasted more than a day, and then I’d be back, staring at a blinking cursor that would not move.

I told myself I was distracted by real world problems. Things would improve once I stopped worrying about this or that. Yet all the while, I knew I was skirting the truth. Yes, I was distracted by a great many things, but the elephant in the room was something I could not admit – I was bored. Not with the act of writing, but with the story itself.

Part of the reason for that boredom lies with the pantster process itself. I always start with a couple of characters and let their personal stories unfold. So far so good. Sooner or later, however, I inevitably reach a point in the story where something more is required. Enter The Plot. But pantsters don’t outline in advance so if the story is to have a tight, believable, interesting plot, it has to grow out of the characters and the world in which they live. A plot that is imposed on top of the story will always fall flat. Always.

And this brings me to my Annus Horribilis. Hey, if Latin is good enough for the Queen, it’s good enough for me! [And that concludes this brief moment of comic relief.]

So, there I was, trying to massage a plot into shape, and getting nowhere. Then the real world stepped in, and I stopped trying.

The only reason I can talk about it now is because it’s in the past tense. I’m writing again, but my ‘block’ didn’t just wear off. It ended when I realised why I’d become bored with the story in the first place. Instead of letting the plot grow in an organic way, I’d tried to make it happen, and in the process I’d missed some fairly obvious things.

What things? Well, I needed to get my main character into a place called the Quarter, so I came up with a plan that would do the job. Unfortunately, I made my hero’s life too easy. Success followed success and all was going swimmingly, until the well dried up. It was all too easy, too neat, too predictable. In a word it was boring.

Once I finally admitted what the problem was, I went back to the very beginning, and really read what I had written. That was when I realised that the Guard at the entrance wasn’t stupid. It wouldn’t let Kaati [the main character] just stroll in. And with that small epiphany I basically decided to rewrite most of what I had written. Some of the scenes will be worked back into the story, but the whole thrust has changed. Now the plot is driven by the constraints of the world, and the personalities of the characters themselves. And they’re happy again, as am I.

I can’t guarantee this approach will cure writer’s block, but if your writing is stalled, and nothing else has worked, it’s worth a try.


26 thoughts on “Blocked or Bored?”

  1. Wonderful post – thank you for this. I’ve just recently come to a similar conclusion regarding a work-in-progress. I’m not able at this time to figure out what it needs so I’ve set it aside and begun a different project. Hopefully someday I’ll figure out the missing ingredients and be able to tie it all together.

    1. Ugh – you have my sympathy. And for what it’s worth, I think you’re doing the right thing. A few months away from a story can really bring things into perspective. Hope you find that missing ingredient soon. 🙂

  2. I know all of these feelings well. I am a pantser and a discovery writer. I will always be most engaged when I am digging through the story and learning new things.

    Enter the story I have been fighting with now. I thought it was written but it fell flat. As I have dug through it my mind has been blank because the story is written, there isn’t anything new.

    Well, at least until I realized I was missing scenes. So now I have written through about another 3000 words and I am still not done. But it has been a slog fighting against my nature to find these missing pieces. But I am close, soon I have the fun of ripping through and correcting the various areas affected by the changes I have written in now.

    1. Oh yes! But discovering those less obvious scenes gives a special kind of joy because they’re the most unexpected of all. 🙂

  3. You have echoed my plight almost to the letter, AC. I had put it down to having some financial worries, overwork, stress, the invasion of real world issues, and all the usual, handy excuses, but you’re right, AC. I have always been a pantser. Oh, I start with an outline of course but in the main I usually just have fun discovering the story through inspiration and getting caught up in the adventure.

    Thank you, AC, I’m not yet out of the woods but you have helped me find some light in the darkness.

  4. As a plotter, I should keep my mouth shut, shouldn’t I? 😉

    I’ve written a couple of short stories recently without plotting them first. Heck — what for? It’s just a short story, right? But inevitably, writing a short story takes me longer because I get stuck. In the most recent one, I wandered off on a lengthy tangent that was threatening to turn my 1500-ish-word story into a novella. I had to step away from it for a few days ’til I could figure out what went wrong. Then I had to dump a couple of hundred words to get things back on track. I may have to start outlining my short stories, too….

    1. lol – even plotters are welcome 😀

      If it makes you feel better, we all go through that re-evaluation in the middle. It’s not always a bad thing though. Maybe we’ll meet in the middle one day!

  5. Great post, and I’m so happy you’re writing the story again. I’ve become a bit of a hybrid pantser later, but I still worry sometimes about getting bored by having an outline!

    1. I think we all have to work out where the story is going, eventually. The only question is when – before? or during? Whatever you’re doing it’s working so keep doing it!

  6. Ahh, Kaati is lurking – good to hear 🙂 But yes, I mean to write something, a short story or story blog post then I overthink, look at my WIPs, and it’s all too hard. As in life sometimes it’s fine to take a road trip with no limits, and others are better with a road map.

    1. What a great analogy, EllaD. When I travel for pleasure I love just going and seeing where the road takes me. Of course a soft bed and a hot meal at the end of the day are also rather important so a bit of planning is necessary! lol

  7. Am very happy you’ve got that sorted out, A.C. Like Lynne I’m more of a plotter than a panster, but I’ve had lots of those moments too, and know how you feel. Good luck with the rest of the story!

  8. However you solved the problem of the writer’s block, I’m glad you did. The thought that you’re writing again is wonderful, especially if it sees my favourite story completed, albeit somewhat differently.
    xxx Stupendous Hugs xxx

  9. Glad your writing motor is back up and running!

    In addition to blocks, I’ve discovered that BREAKS are part of my process. I need to walk away for a few days, or a few weeks, in order to gain perspective at certain points in a long form project. I used to panic when I felt myself pulling away from a novel or novella, but now I know — it’s a break time.

    Since I adore our Vintage Egg stories, I’m glad you are writing fiction again!

    1. You’re brave. Breaks still scare me, even though I know I need them.

      Hmm…! Thanks for reminding me. I haven’t written a short for quite a while. 🙂

  10. Such a great post, AC. As many others said in the comments, I’ve been struggling with that whole, GOD THIS IS SO FREAKING BORING NO ONE’S GONNA READ THIS crap (b/c I was bored with it). Then I started talking plot with my hubby and my hangup was so incredibly, stupidly simple I couldn’t believe it. Yay. Now if I can only carve out enough time to write those simmering scenes…

  11. I’m glad you sorted this out and are writing again.
    I outline but will happily go where the story leads me. Characters need to face struggles otherwise the plot is boring, as you discovered. I read a book where every time the author got stuck with the plot she killed the character who was in the way of a happy ending. Boring and predictable.
    Thanks for your perspective.

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