Writers Write shares writing tips and resources. In this post, we share advice from novelist, Tamora Pierce on how to deal with writer’s block.
Tamora Pierce, born 13 December 1954, is an American writer of fantasy fiction. She is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of over eighteen novels set in the fantasy realm of Tortall. She is well known for her first book series, The Song of the Lioness, which began with Alanna: The First Adventure.
She says she gets her ideas all over the place:
‘Watching his nature programs, I decided British naturalist Sir David Attenborough would make a cool bio-mage: he’s the basis for Numair’s friend and teacher, Lindhall Reed.
Watching my mother and sister produce blankets from balls of yarn and crochet hooks, I thought of it as a kind of magic and wondered what all could be done with thread magic.
Wrestling with my best friend’s dove gave me the ideas for Kel’s relationship with the baby griffin in Squire.
Other ideas come from my past obsessions. As a child, I read anything and everything I could find about knights, the Crusades, and the Middle Ages, before moving on to fantasy novels and Arthurian legends in middle school.’
Pierce won the Margaret A. Edwards Award from the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) in 2013, which recognises one writer and a particular body of work for ‘significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature’.
Tamora Pierce On How To Deal With Writer’s Block
“Here are some fixes I use when I get stuck:
- Introduce a new character. A strong character with an individual style in speech, dress and behaviour, who will cause the other characters to review their own actions and motives to decide where they stand with regard to this new character.
- Have something dramatic happen. As Raymond Chandler put it, “Have someone come through the door with a gun in his hand.” (My husband translates this as “Have a troll come through the door with a spear in his hand.”) Machinery can break down; your characters can be attacked; a natural disaster may sweep through. New, hard circumstances force characters to sink or swim, and the way you show how they do either will move things along.
- Change the point of view from which you tell the story. If you’re doing it from inside one character’s head, try switching to another character’s point of view. If you’re telling the story from an all-seeing, third person point of view, try narrowing your focus down to one character telling the story in first person. You can even insert a nonfiction-like world-building segment as a change of pace. Try telling it as a poem, or a play. (You can convert it to story form later.)
- Put this story aside and start something else. Letters, an article, a poem, a play, an art project. Look at the story in a day, or a week, or a couple of months. It may be fresh for you then; it may spark new ideas.
- Talk to somebody. If you have a friend who’s into the things you’re writing about, talk it out with them. My husband often supplies wonderful new ideas so I can get past whatever hangs me up, and my family and friends are used to mysterious phone calls asking about things seemingly out of the blue, like what gems would you wear with a scarlet gown, or how tall are pole beans in late June?
- Most important of all, know when it’s time to quit. Sometimes you take an idea as far as it will go, then run out of steam. This is completely normal. Whether you finish something or not, the things you learn and ideas you developed, even in a project you don’t finish, can be brought to your next project, and the next, and the next. Sooner or later you’ll have a story which you can carry to a finish.”
Source: Tamora Pierce
Top Tip: Learn how to write fantasy. Buy The Fantasy Workbook
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