Sarah Anne Johnson

What to do when you get stuck in your writing August 19, 2014

Here are a few tips that might help you.

1. Ron Carlson, in his book Ron Carlson Writes a Story, said that when he hits a place in his writing where he doesn’t know how to go on, he stops.  He does not get up for a cup of coffee or to check the mail. He does not go online to scroll through Facebook or read blurbs on amazon.com.  He sits in front of his computer–or typewriter or pad of paper–and he waits for twenty minutes until he is able to write his way into the next sentences of his narrative. This has always worked for him and it has always worked for me. Twenty minutes. In the chair. Do it. It works..its physical details, on its utter uniqueness it will you back to your story. Not only will it give the reader a new vantage point from which to view your scene but it offers breathing room’ thence returns focus to the intensity that probably got you into this situation in the first place

2. Elizabeth Cox, my writing instructor in my MFA at Bennington College, advised me to look to the side when I’m stuck. There is almost something just to the left of what I’m focused on and if you describe its physical details, its utter uniqueness  will you back to your story. Not only will it give the reader a new vantage point from which to view your scene but it offers breathing room and returns focus to the intensity that probably got you into this situation in the first place

3. Read. It’s that simple. When you can’t find that telling character trait that will bring your character to life, crack open Chekhov or The Great Gatsby to see how it’s done. Immerse yourself in Anna Karenina. Read about hawk-like noses and straight as studs knees, pale blue eyes like dog, and a thin long neck barely enough to hold his head up. Let a favorite author teach how to create just the right details to reveal your characters on the page. Remember, they are your characters, regardless of the scraps you find on the writing room floor.

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What to do when you get stuck in your writing

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Sarah Anne Johnson

Sarah is the author of The Lightkeeper’s Wife (Sourcebooks), The Very Telling, The Art of the Author Interview, and Conversations with American Women Writers, all published by the University Press of New England. Her interviews appear in The Writer’s Chronicle, Glimmertrain Stories, Provincetown Arts, and The Writer where she is a contributing editor. Her fiction has appeared in Other Voices, and she is the recipient of residencies in fiction from Jentel Artists’ Residency Program and Vermont Studio Center. She has taught the Art of the Author Interview Workshop at Bennington College Writing Seminars MFA Program, Leseley University MFA Program, and at literary conferences.

What to do when you get stuck in your writing August 19, 2014

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