…take a hike!
I don’t mean that in a rude way, obviously. I mean, quite literally, go out for a walk. Disappear into the countryside for an hour or two and let your characters keep you company.
As regular followers will know, I’ve been suffering a bit of the dreaded “writer’s block” recently. I wrote 52,000 words of my third novel as part of NaNoWriMo 2012. I left it until last month in order to finish off my second novel (it’s always good to take a break between drafts). I wrote another 10,000 or so words and hit the biggest brick wall imaginable.
I couldn’t work out where to take my characters. I knew the end point (one of them ends up dead) but I couldn’t see how to get to that point. Everything I’d written already felt rambling and disjointed, with too much irrelevant backstory and filling in of time whilst other POV characters got on with their bit of the story.
I almost got to the point where I was ready to drop the whole idea. So I took a break. And then, when I got bored of taking a break, I tried again. But staring at a computer screen wasn’t exactly inspirational. I had a better structure in mind and a far better opening chapter, but my first POV character was reluctant to let me in on her thoughts.
So, last week, I abandoned my laptop and took a walk. And halfway through the woods, my POV character started telling me what she was thinking. I worked out what I needed to do at the end of the chapter to make her more appealing to the reader. I wrote the chapter yesterday and am happy with it as a first draft (technically my 3rd draft but who’s counting?).
Taking a walk worked so well, I took another one yesterday, after I’d finished the chapter. Again, by the time I was halfway through the woods, I knew how the next chapter should pan out. I haven’t written it yet, but I have more of an idea where to take it than I did 24 hours ago.
All because I took a hike…
For my mental-health followers, I’m not forgetting you. The same lesson applies. I know (believe me, I know) how hard it can be to do anything when you’re feeling depressed. Getting out of bed is hard enough, let alone going for a 2 or 4 mile walk. But (and you have to trust me on this), you WILL feel better for doing it. Heck, even a walk to the shops for your favourite magazine will do. But get out the house and get out your head for a bit. Or stay inside your head but look at things with a new perspective.
When you’re out walking, your mind starts working on things in a whole new way. Perhaps you’ll suddenly come across a solution to the problem that’s been haunting you all week. Perhaps you’ll see a beautiful river or butterfly or whatever, and simply feel that little bit better.