At last month’s meeting of the Long Island Writers Group, we discussed methods of breaking through writer’s block. One of our members mentioned how talking with someone about her assignment or writing, explaining what it was about, helped her overcome her block, because helping it make sense to someone else helps it make sense to you.
I agree. Just yesterday, I visited my alma mater, Hofstra University, to chat with one of my professors, who continues to be so supportive of me and Baby Grand two years after graduation. I mentioned that there was something about my main character, Jamie, that seemed to be missing and that I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.
“Tell me what happens to her in the book,” my professor said.
So I did. I traced her path, from beginning to end, and explained in generalities her transformation and the ways she was different by the end of the book.
As I was talking, it was like the proverbial light bulb went off. I was able to visualize in my mind what I needed to do to make Jamie’s journey clearer in the reader’s mind and make her more relatable. I think in my rush to finish the book, I gave my main character short shrift when she deserved a longer moment in the spotlight, a proper ending to her story.
“You need to say that. Make the reader feel that. Exactly what you just said,” my professor said.
This isn’t the first time this kind of thing has happened. On many occasions, my husband will ask me what I’m working on, a freelance assignment, and I’ll tell him casually and in the process come up with a killer lede or an interesting angle that I have to run and jot down before I forget.
Talk it out. To someone else. Or even to yourself. I can’t tell you how often I’ll be talking myself through a scene while driving my car or in the shower, and I’ll suddenly have a breakthrough.
You’d be surprised at what you can learn about something you thought you already knew.