Friday, August 15, 2014

Writer's Block Advice from Stephen Bly

Stephen Bly (1944-2011) wrote over one hundred books. But before he became a writer, he wore many hats (including his cowboy one). Some of his roles were farmer, city councilman, pastor, mayor, antique collector, author, speaker, writing mentor, husband, and father. Writing wise, he was known for his westerns. 

I (Jill) had the privileged of hearing Stephen Bly speak at a writer's conference in Oregon years ago. During his keynote address, he gave ten tips for writers who are stuck. I wrote them down because they were equally brilliant and hysterical. 

According to Mr. Bly, when he asked himself, “What am I gonna do now?” he considered this list of ten things:

1. Shoot somebody. This will catch the reader by total surprise.
2. Introduce an obnoxious new character who will really tick off your protagonist.
3. Go to the quirk, to the flaw, of your main character. Ex: Bad temper, someone asks about the scar on his face, his trick knee gives out, etc.
4. Lose something important. Adrenaline flows when you lose something.
5. Embarrass your protagonist.
6. Have the protagonist kiss the wrong girl. This annoys the reader.
7. Put the protagonist in a hopeless situation. Ex: A bomb. A deadly diagnosis.
8. Have a crucial side character disappear.
9. Start a rumor about your main character.
10. Go to the attic. Uncover something mysterious. A locked box. A letter from Matt Damon. A gun that’s the property of the LAPD. 

How do you deal with writer's block?


18 comments:

  1. I sometimes just sit and try to think of something. It might not be the best scene in the book, but at least you're working on it. I have a fantasy writer friend, so we can text eachother and come up with ideas of eachother :)

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    1. Emily, I do that too! Writing friends are awesome! I was stuck on my book yesterday and starting texting my friend asking for ideas. While I was texting her, the idea struck me before she even had a chance to finish brainstorming with me. I'm not sure I've ever finished a book without brainstorming with her at least once!

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    2. That's awesome, you guys. Writing friends are the best!

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  2. I grew up reading his kid westerns!! I didn't know he died :( I used to read Nathan T Riggins stories to my sisters AND my parents. We loved him!
    Those are some epic suggestions and totally hilarious because I can remember reading all of those instances in the books he wrote and it was crazy.
    For writers block I usually just start writing down the first thing that comes to mind. Even if I know it's awful and I won't keep it permanently, I write it down. I don't worry about grammar or how it fits in the plot. Usually within a scene or so I've got some creativity flowing and I'm able to steer the story in the direction I want.

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    1. Sounds like a good way to keep yourself productive, Maddie. And I wish I'd read more of his stuff. I'll have to find some more of his books.

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  3. Wow, that post definitely got my mind turning with ideas and a good laugh. I think a lot of authors of the books I have read actually used some of these ideas! I feel inspired to write again, seeing that I haven't ben for days :(. Thanks for the post, Miss Jill!

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    1. It does spark ideas, doesn't it, Mickayla? Makes me want to put an attic in my castle...

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  4. Dealing with writers block...well...that is when I just read. Then, I can't feel guilty about putting another book above my WIP. ;)

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  5. Depends how bad it is. Sometimes I just have to spend a couple hours away from my WIP and/or brainstorm. Sometimes, if it's really bad, I take a few days and completely ignore my WIP. Either way, distancing myself usually sorts the problem out.

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    1. Mine is pretty much the same way. I just remove myself from it and it gets better after a while.

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    2. I've done both of those things before. Washing dishes can be a big help because it gives me time away from the computer keyboard to daydream a little.

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  6. WOW. I read the Crystal books when I was little, and, I confess, I still occasionally pull them out and reread them. They were written by Stephen and Janet Bly. I have never heard of him elsewhere, and I was so excited to see his name in this post!
    :)

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  7. I laughed at number six. "Have the protagonist kiss the wrong girl. This annoys the reader."

    So me! I hate when that happens!

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  8. I love this! Thanks so much for sharing ^ ^

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  9. Oh, I like these! I also heard, if you are stuck, have someone walk in with a gun. They don't neccessarily have to shoot someone but it could help move the plot along. (Not shooting someone, just carrying the gun... :) )

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  10. My favorite one here is the protag kissing the wrong interest. It just has so much possibility for confusion, plus annoying the reader intentionally is always a bonus. xD

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