Wednesday, April 17, 2013

On a Version of Writer's Block

I read somewhere that writer's block doesn't exist (it does), and to a certain extent I agree (and it doesn't).  I think when most people think about writer's block they imagine sitting in front of a computer and just not knowing where to even begin.  But it's more than that.  It's perfectionism (face it, you are not going to get it right on the first try).  It's fear (not everyone is going to love what you have to say).  When you can get past these things, I think that version of writer's block is passable.  You fight through it one word at a time.  Words become sentences, become paragraphs, become chapters.  They needn't be perfect.  That's what editing is for (but no one wants to think beyond the first draft - I'm guilty of this myself). 

Yet as I am typing this now, I am writing at a time when I feel the pressure of that invisible block upon me (and maybe part of me is writing this as a distraction from doing the actual work of progressing things).  However, in this case, I know the problem and namely it's Naming. 

Someone said "names are important" and I firmly believe that (all bow to Patrick Rothfuss in acknowledgment of his awesome).  With some characters, all they have is their name.  So, even though I have 3,500 words (give or take) of a first chapter (for now it's a first chapter, but I've already taken a first chapter and bookmarked it for later on) written down, progress has come to a standstill.  Do I know where I want the story to go?  Yes (I have a general direction in mind anyway - sometimes not having everything figured out helps because the characters don't always want to listen to you...  but that's another story).  So, what's my problem?  I haven't named EVERYTHING yet, and I just can't bring myself to write something along the lines of "and the King of (Island Not Yet Named) turns to (Character Not Yet Named) and..." Sometimes you can get by naming something later (hell, this blog is titled Insert Title Here - was titled that...  we will see if the new title sticks), but with the bulk of the nouns you're dealing with unnamed it doesn't really work. 

I already know who the main POV characters are in title, in physical description.  I've started giving them personalities, traits, backgrounds (or have they been giving that information to me?).  They are becoming more than their clothes, profession, political titles (I seem to have a problem with the word "and" at the end of my lists).  Yet I can't figure out their names and without that, the story is behind the block - now picturing my story trapped under a giant children's block of wood carved with various letters (likely F and U are visible).  I've scanned baby-naming books, web sites, movies and novels.  Nothing feels right yet. 

On top of that, the scale of the story that is clawing it's way out of my head is grander than anything I have handled before.  Maybe that comes from all the George R R Martin I've been reading/watching lately (though I would never even begin to compare myself to such a master).  I'm an amateur and I know it.  I have a day job I am fond of (at least I tell myself that to help the days go by).  Regardless, I count at least six POV characters (only two of which have been named thus far), another 10 - 15 that require more in depth characterization (two or three names done), nine land names (one I am happy with), 12 or so ship names (three done), etc. 

Why is writing so hard when we've all been doing it since we were children?  It's work.  It takes time other than the time you spend actually typing (or hand-writing, as I had always been prone to do until not too long ago) the story to research names, customs, diction, etc. (throw an "etc." on and you don't need an "and" anymore!). 

So may this post exist as a reminder to (what the hell are you still doing typing here?! Get back to work!)

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