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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Author Insight: Problem Solving

When you hit a snag in your story,
how do you overcome it?
(Sorry this post is so late today. I try to put it all together in advance and Blogger eats it. Just my luck.)

"I let it ride until it unknots itself. Sometimes I jump forward and write past it, and occasionally the answer will be there. Or I work on a different project. Anything to keep the words moving." - Tiffany Trent, author of the Hallowmere series.

"I don't often hit snags because my characters drive the story (generally). When I need to puzzle my way around a problem a character's suddenly created I take a brief break--maybe a nap, maybe get some coffee, listen to a particular playlist or take a drive." - Shannon Delany, author of 13 to Life: A Werewolf's Tale.

"I jump to another part of the story or I talk it through with my critique partner. I very seldom get up and leave the computer. I'm a pretty determined person and like to work through it." - Denise Jaden, author of Losing Faith.

"Chocolate pudding and fresh air. I've worn grooves into the sidewalk of my neighborhood from pacing." - Victoria Schwab, author of The Near Witch.

"Think. And journal, and talk with my best friend, and find something else to do, and process and pray and think some more. Eventually, through some force of serendipity, the answer comes—mostly when I’m about to sleep, or showering, or some other highly inconvenient time. Perhaps it has something to do with shutting down the conscious mind and letting the threads weave themselves together." - Holly Cupala, author of Tell Me a Secret.

"I usually have a whole list of stuff I need to do – research, other scenes, editing – so I let the snag go. I just tell myself it’s not going to work that day and let my subconscious mull the problem in peace. Usually, within a few days, the perfect solution will pop into my head. (Which is why writers must always carry a notebook.)" - Amy Brecount White, author of Forget-Her-Nots.

"I send the draft to Margie. It's one of the perks of having a writing partner--the two of us are never stuck at the same time. But for people who don't have a WP, I think it's helpful to step away from the draft. Listen to music, see a movie, just get out of your writing space. Another helpful trick is to skip the part you're stuck on, and just move on to another scene or chapter." - Kami Garcia, co-author of Beautiful Creatures.
"I usually take a pen and paper and then actually start writing out whatever the problem is. Such as, 'I don't know what to do with this event. It's fun but not really important. Maybe if I spice it up and link it to another chapter I can keep it. But what if...'" - Alexandra Diaz, author of Of All the Stupid Things.

"The best fix I’ve found is driving…with really, really loud music playing. I can’t explain it, but it clears the head. Usually while I’m driving I can sort through whatever I’m stuck on, and the story fix I was looking for just…appears!" - Kimberly Derting, author of The Body Finder.

"There are two types of snags. One is a real snag, and one is a snag that's completely fake and made up in my head. As I write more books and get more experience, it becomes easier and easier to tell which one is which. Usually because the made up snags come at exactly the same points in a book and play out exactly the same way. As soon as I get to the middle of the book, my brain will freak out, decide I'm doing it all wrong and I need a new outline. And possibly to delete everything I've written so far and start over, but not always. But it does demand a new outline. So I make a new one, possibly changing the plot, the bad guys, the love interest, etc. I spend a few days stewing over this, come up with something completely stupid, and then write a few scenes of this new plan. If I'm lucky, I realize it's not working right away. I look over the old stuff, realize my mistake was straying from the original plan in the first place, and get back on track. Since I know this freakout is coming--it's inevitable; it just happens that way--I can ignore it now, go, "Oh, sure, brain. The outline sucks. I'll get right on that, I promise," and then wait it out. A day or two later, I will have come to my senses, no problem. However, not all snags are in my head, and nine times out of ten, if it's a real snag, then I have to backtrack. Usually it's only a couple of scenes that have to go, maybe only one. If my outline is strong, then it's probably just a scene gone wrong, not an entire plot point. I just have to find a different way to show it. So I go back a scene or two, rethink how to go about it, and try again." - Chelsea Campbell, author of The Rise of Renegade X.

"I need some wood. Okay *knocking on wood with one hand while I type with the other* no serious snags so far. If I’m lacking in motivation for a scene, I scan my daughter’s iPod for the right song. That’s usually all it takes." - Lisa Desrochers, author of Personal Demons.

"I pull myself out of the story and outline possible scenarios." - Rhonda Hayter, author of The Witchy Worries of Abbie Adams.

"Usually by putting the manuscript away for a little while before tackling it again." - Leah Cypess, author of Mistwood.

"Wow, okay, I have a *lot* of tricks for dealing with this but my main ones include writing letters to my characters and trying to get them to tell me what they want, and IMing with my crit partners and trying to explain what my characters want. One of these things is guaranteed to produce a solution eventually." - Brenna Yovanoff, author of The Replacement.

"Talking out the issue with my husband, reading books, incessantly calling writers I know to kvetch, eating ice cream." - Swati Avashti, author of Split.

"I push through. I hit snags all the time, probably at least once or twice a day. If I’m really stuck, I sometimes revisit the outline to see whether something major needs tweaking, but I never just walk away and wait for inspiration to strike; that’s the best way to ensure that a novel stays unfinished! I also try and pay attention to why I’m stuck. Am I bored? Well, maybe something exciting should happen! Depressed? Well, maybe the characters need to have some fun!" - Lauren Oliver, author of Before I Fall.

Come back Thursday to learn how the rest of the authors persevere after running into a problem.
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