Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Obstacles: A Guest Post By M.R. Merrick

By M.R. Merrick


First I want to thank Paul for inviting me to guest post, it’s officially the first one I’ve done so I’m kind of excited.

Paul asked me to guest post a few weeks ago, and I put it off again and again. Suddenly, I couldn’t think of anything to say. Then my wife mentioned I should write about writer’s block, which seemed ironically…ironic, considering my situation.

Writers block happens to all of us. Artists of all makes run into dry spells where they can’t find the inspiration they once had. Everyone, of course, has their own method of overcoming these obstacles. Some might stare at a blank page or an empty canvas until something comes to them. Others just throw down anything and push past it, coming back to fix things later. Today, I want to talk about what works for me.

EXILED was the first book I’d ever written. I’d never written a short story, a novella, nothing more than a few pages of horribly crafted poetry. You know:

Roses are red
Other flowers are purple
Some are green
But I like blue

Like I said: Horribly. Crafted. Poetry.

I’ve always used writing as a means of venting, but on one particular day, I didn’t want to vent. I wanted to get lost in a world that wasn’t my own. Normally, this would be the point I’d pick up a good book and disappear, but that just wasn’t enough this time. So I sat down to write about this long running idea I’d had in my head: A demon hunter with the ability to control the elements. And my story was born.

I didn’t write an outline, nor did I have a summary, I just wrote. On my journey to crafting a SuperAmazingYouWontBelieveItWhyHaventYouReadItYet story, I ran into more than my share of roadblocks. Where was this story going? Why was the character acting like this? This doesn’t make sense because earlier I said something conflicting. It was a long – and often painful – process. But I loved it.

When I ran into these obstacles, I tried a few different things and searched forums and blogs, trying to find how other writers moved past it. I tired brainstorming, forcing myself to push past it, and I tried just taking time off away from the story. Nothing worked. I discovered the best way break down these walls (for me), was the same thing that made me love the idea of elementals in the first place: dreaming.

Years before this story was born, I used to dream about being able to control the elements. How cool it would be if I could channel the power of water and control the contents of it in a glass. What if vampires weren’t like this, but were really like this? What if I took a classic monster, and made it like this? When I took this method and applied it to my story, things started clicking into place.

I stepped away from my computer and relived the story in my mind, over and over again. From Chapter 1, until the obstacle, I envisioned Chase and Rayna really living the story. When I’d reach the obstacle at hand, it was easier to envision what naturally happened next, as opposed to staring at the pages and deciding what I think should happen. Dreaming about my story brought new ideas, broke down roadblocks, and took my story to the next level.

In writing SHIFT, the sequel to EXILED, this process helped me in such an amazing way, I wrote the first draft in under six weeks, which for me, is an unbelievable feat.

The point is: I stopped trying what worked for everyone else and I found what works for me.

Whatever your artistic craft, you can expect to run into obstacles. Some will be small and you’ll easily overcome them. Others will have you ripping your hair out in frustration. The obstacles are nothing. They’re not important. What’s important is the way you overcome them.

There are a ton of great websites out there advocating writing and/or publishing advice/tips/rules, and there are a lot of them that are useful, but remember, what works for someone else may not work for you, it might however, help you discover what does. And when it comes to art, the rules aren’t rules - they’re guidelines. If we all followed the rules the way they were written, nobody would ever create anything new.

In this journey, learn everything you can about your craft and create the best art that’s in you to create. Obstacles will be there, no doubt about it. Some will succeed in slowing you down, others will make you think you don’t have what it takes, but don’t let any of that stop you. Ever.

Discover what works for you, and maybe, one day, you’ll find you’ve created a world unlike any other. One that people find themselves dying to be a part of.

M.R. Merrick is the author of EXILED, the first novel in his YA Fantasy series which was e-published earlier this summer.  Merrick loves movies, books, writing, and can't function without music.  He believes coffee is a necessity, chocolate is good, and eats cereal from a large salad bowl.  Merrick is currently editing SHIFT, the second novel in his series, which is slated to be e-published in 2012.


  1. This is going to sound weird, but I don't get writer's block. I kind of have the opposite problem. I call it diarrhea of the fingers and/or keyboard.

    It's how you end up with drafts over 400,000 words long.

    Anyway, that's a story for another day. This was a great post, and contains some great ideas for discovering your story even if you don't get writer's block.

    Thanks for featuring him, Paul, and thanks for sharing, Matthew.

  2. No writers block? Ever? That is a gift I would love have.

    Also, diarrhea of the fingers is the best possible description for that. I love it.

  3. Nice post, Matt. I do get writer's block and that's usually a sign it's time for me to take a break from writing for the day.

  4. Best guest post Ever! No, seriously Matt, thank you for your story, your advice, and your encouragement in this post! You're a talented author, and you're funny too! Great post! Oh yeah, and I kinda liked your poem. You had me at "Other flowers are purple". lol ;)

  5. Haha thanks! Yeah poetry isn't my strong suit...unless I'm serenading you with it, in which case the accompanying foreign accent I fake makes it seductive and irrestistable.

    Go ahead, read that poem with a cheesy foreign accent and you'll see what I mean.

  6. That's how I create my stories - I visualize it like a movie in my head. Good first post, MR!

  7. Hey M&M, great post. We have a similar approach to writing, so, no, it doesn't sound weird to me at all. Although, I like to think my poetry is well-crafted;) Exiled is on my tablet, waiting to be read! And since we share the love of the Pebbles...it's all good:) Best of luck with Shift.

  8. Thanks Alex!

    Michele: can't wait to hear your thoughts, I appreciate the opportunity to lose you in my story! If you're willing to share, I do accept Fruity Pebbles by mail. I do however, request you leave the adding of the milk to me.

  9. Thanks to everyone for stopping in to read Matt's post. And thanks to Matt for being here today and sharing some thoughts.

    Like Alex, I also visualize my stories like a movie in my head. I try transcribing what I see to the page. I'm very much a visual learner. But, unlike Mr. MacNish, I get blocked often. It's not so much because I don't know what happens; it is more because I don't like the way it spills out, and that disrupts my flow. I am trying to teach myself to keep going and fix later (though, as I'm learning in the editing process, I hate fixing a mess).

  10. This is great. I'm in a bit of writers block at the moment. I've got nothing. I've written two novels (both in revisions)and have other ideas. I just can't move past one part in my revisions of the one novel I'm trying to focus on. It's scary cause everything goes blank.
    I'm trying to distance myself a little, but it's hard to stay away. I like the idea of just dreaming and letting all the disruptions of what others want done, go away.
    Great post, Matthew, and I will be looking for your book. I'm putting it on my TBR list. Sounds great.
    Thanks Paul for hosting.

  11. Sounds cool, I'll have to check Exiled out:)


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