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.