Wednesday, April 21, 2010

R is for Redirect

A few years ago, I took a writing class taught by a guy who wrote teleplays. He worked on cop dramas and was quite successful despite the grueling demand for 20-26 episodes all requiring a fully formed story.

One thing he used to say was that there was no such thing as 'Writer's Block', just wrong turns. He said that if you are stuck in a story, or novel, or play...that the best thing to do is to go back to the section where things were flowing. Redirect your thoughts from making it work…to finding out why its not.

When did the writing transition easily from head to hands to paper? What scene were you writing when you were in, 'The Zone'? Chances are, the very next section is where you went wrong.

I took his advice with a grain of salt. After all, he only wrote hour-long episodes and I wrote 400+ pages...yet I've found through several books, that his advice was sound. Whenever I get stuck I go back to when it was good, and I usually find a misstep right after.

Did the hero and heroine reconcile too quickly? Was the dialogue unfinished...or revealed too much too soon? Did the decision to kill off a character or push them into the background hurt the flow? How about the characters, did I write them against personality or motivation and their actions don’t ring true?

Another trick he gave to us was to redirect our thoughts by working on something completely different. I usually have two or more novels in varying stages going at the same time. Sometimes all it takes is to redirect my conscious gears on one thing so that my subconscious percolates.

What about you? Do you have any tricks for redirecting a project that is stuck or feels wrong? I’d love to hear about it. Until next time…Go Write!

Photograph by Dano, Uploaded on September 11, 2006.


Lorena G. Sims said...

What that guy taught you about redirect our thoughts can also apply to our daily lives. When something goes wrong and made it hard for us to move on, we shouldn't dwell on it, instead, Redirect our thoughts to what was then and to positive things, will help us move on..

The Alliterative Allomorph said...

I have two projects going on at the same time that are completely different. One memoir and one fiction - so that one forces me to remember facts, and the other forces me to be creative. Whenever I get lost, I switch to the other project. Works wonders :)

Gregg said...

Redirect is great advice. It can work in any aspect of our lives. It is that which keeps from being either stuck, or from giving up. Great thoughts!


I went through a bad patch in life and read some self help books, I was taught that when I felt negative to redirect my thoughts on to something happy in my life, do this over and over again and within a short time all I could remember was the happy time, it took a wee while to accept my lot in life but I thank the person who wrote that book.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That sounds like good advice to me! Usually my wrong turns were a slip of character.

sarahjayne smythe said...

Great post and great advice. Thanks for sharing it with us. :)

Marjorie said...

I enjoyed reading this post, because I am trying to educate myself about the whole writing process. One day i think I will be writing something longer than what I do now.

Sophia said...

I agree with the 'redirect' idea and wrote about doing something similar several days ago over on my blog. I was struggling to write and discovered the reason was because the previous day I'd made a character act out of character. After I figured out a more suitable reaction it became a little easier to continue on.
- Sophia.

Ellie said...

I love this post! I redirect when I get frustrated with crafting, things aren't coming together as I hoped.
I go for a walk, camera in hand and
get some distance between me and my
frustration. If that doesn't work, I visit my fav blogs and escape my world, for awhile! Love this~

arlee bird said...

My main WIP stalled at the end of NaNo at the end of last November. I took the advice of putting it on hold, though as it turns out it has now been on hold much longer than I had planned. I truly got sidetracked. Now when I go back to it, if I'm still up against a blockade I'll use some of the redirect considerations to see how I can get things back on track.

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Elizabeth West said...

Very good advice. I do this when I'm skating; if I get frustrated working on something, I stop and go do something that I like.

In writing, sometimes it's not so easy; I've got two things right now that I'm stuck in both! Auugh!

Lucky I've got the blog challenge to help me redirect. :)