Thursday, 10 September 2009

When a Plot is a Place Where Weeds Grow

I feel like the urban gardener who can't find his allotment (wait for the pun). I have all the seeds I need, good tools and a bucket full of horse poo, but I've completely lost the plot.

Right now I'm just sitting here in Heartburn CafĂ©, chewing on my writer's block and mixing my metaphors, but that won't answer in the long run. They say that the way out of writer's block is to keep writing, but I have now written 30K words on top of a completed first draft (a sci-fi thriller about visiting the past), looking for ways to fix the story. All I know for sure is that I have a strong premise and interesting characters but a flawed story. What's needed is a bold move – a complete re-write. What I'm doing though is floundering about and drinking too much coffee.

Here's some free advice for would-be children's novelists: It doesn't matter how unusual your approach is, time-travel will always play havoc with linear tale-telling. And mess with your head. Best stick to vampires.

And now back to my block. Mustn't get any on my nice shirt though.


  1. I don't know if you've seen this before, but I watched it a month ago or so and it struck a chord - very true.

    I thought you might enjoy it ... or it may just waste a few more minutes while you are waiting for the creativity fairy.

    Be careful though: once you get in to these TED talks it's a long slippery slope to get out (if you are interested, check out Ken Robinson's talk on school and creativity. Good stuff!)

    As for time travel and linear story telling - I think the fact that time travel does mess with your brain and makes your head spin is precisely the reason it's so fascinating! It engages you and makes you think.

    Anyways, thanks for the blog - it makes for enjoyable reading.

    Matt (en Canada)

  2. Hello, Matt. Thanks for commenting, and thanks especially for that wonderful link! I'm particulary pleased to find out that it's not all my fault, and the Tom Waits story made me laugh out loud. I've had moments like that, but not the wit to shout it out.

  3. So what have YOU got living in the wall? A daemon, a genius or a house elf? Whatever it is, I hope it pops out and helps you finish eating that large slab of writers block, so you can both get on with the job! xxx

  4. After a slight disappointment that it wasn't actually an episode of Father Ted, I settled down and enjoyed listening to Elizabeth Gilbert. Thanks Matt.
    I must now go and open up a new onglet to find out about her work. Nice lady.
    bisous to all and all in Canada,

  5. Hey, hang in there. What helps me is talking to a friend about why I'm stuck and then in the process of talking about it everything works itself out and I leave the conversation rejuvenated and ready to write.

  6. I exorcised all my time travel daemons reading Niffenegger..she mentioned in a n interview somewhere that she had two timelines running parallel on her wall - one linear and one disjointed (said it helped having only one character skitting in time whilst the other was all forward moving)...also said she could use computer to work out time travel plot for her now....? Maybe worth contacting her? :) Not actually very helpful, am I?....dum de dum...but that's what I'd do, after my brain had imploded!

  7. Thanks, Rose -- yes, it's great to hear from

    Thanks also, Anita -- I agree that it can help to get a problem out in the open and have another opinion on it. Coffee anyone?

    Rachel, I'll look into Niffenegger. What I really need is to find some strong human interest that can survive all the temporal flitting about, a way to inject a little warmth into the intriguing yet souless situation. Many thanks.


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