Before I get started writing a story or novel, I always have those parts which excite me. You know what I’m talking about. The inspirational part driving the whole thing in the first place. The Spark. The Beautiful Mistress. Maybe it’s a character arc or a climactic scene that changes everything. Maybe it’s a big, surprising reveal in the story. Somewhere along the way you come up with an idea and say, “That’s it! Wouldn’t it be so cool to write that scene?”
Well, you’re 50,000 words into the story and you finally reach the penultimate moment. It’s all come together for this one part. It’s your time to shine. Your time to make it a magical piece of writing.
But, suddenly, you buckle and collapse under the pressure. Writer’s block takes hold. The one part you were waiting to write, your beautiful mistress has metamorphosed into a gargantuan eight-tentacled slug beast with gallons of slime falling off of its gelatinous flesh.
Recently, I’ve been wondering why I haven’t been more creative. For a long time, I’ve been able to churn out tons of ideas for stories. I’d put them in my notes and log them away for later. Those ideas have slowly faded. Nothing would come so easily. Maybe I’m just in a dry spell, I thought. You can’t always have inspiration 24/7. It’ll come. Just be patient.
It never came back.
In fact, it started creeping into my writing life as well. I haven’t had writer’s block in a long time, probably not since college. My writer’s block lasted over a month. For me, that’s not acceptable.
So, what was wrong?
Previously, I wrote about how I defied rules and structure in my writing in Fooled by Mr. Keating. Some might call this style “post-modern” writing and I certainly had my head entrenched in that school of thought. It was not to my benefit. I think it makes sense to dig a little deeper. Let’s talk about plot structure in fiction writing.
Before we get into it, I want to make clear no potential genre novelist wants to be a post-modern writer.
The Dead Poets Society is one of my favorite movies of all time. Even as a young kid I remember enjoying it. Robin Williams performance as Mr. Keating electrifies the drama, bringing passion and heart to a story which could have fallen flat. In the movie, Mr. Keating has several iconic scenes which argue against stale, passionless writing, but rather encourages all artists to not be bound by rules or structure. In essence, Keating’s message to his students and to the audience is: Be free.
Many successful (and unsuccessful) authors have to make a choice about what camp they’re going to sit in. Usually, though, that choice is made for them. When an author writes a fantasy book, and it becomes successful, he’ll forever be known as a fantasy author. It would behoove him to keep writing fantasy if he wants more success. These genre authors are usually scoffed at by elitists and pretentious writers. Which, I shouldn’t have to say, is pointless and cruel.
However, when I first began writing, I never intended to be pigeon-holed, come hell or high water. There are writers who love a genre so much they never want to leave. Others, like myself, would rather just be a writer and leave it at that. But most writers start out not wanting to write one genre but are forced into like I mentioned previously.