We are very pleased to welcome back a special guest to Tuesday Serial. Claudia Hall Christian is the coordinator for #bookmarket chat every Thursday afternoon at 4pm EST. Be sure to stop by for excellent marketing conversation. But the reason she’s here with us today is that she also writes serials and she’s sharing some excellent tips. This is the fourth guest post in a series from Claudia. If you missed her previous posts, now’s your chance: “5 Tips for Writing Kick-Ass Serial Fiction,” “Why Your Serial Fiction Is Likely to Fail and What To Do About It,” and “Serial vs Serialized Fiction – What??” Welcome back, Claudia!
Three Super Ninja Tricks to Unstick Your Serial Fiction by Claudia Hall Christian
You’ve dedicated yourself and your blog space to your serial fiction and suddenly – you’re stuck.
Don’t panic. Everyone who has ever decided to write a story has gotten stuck at one point or another. It happens. In fact, I think a lot of the ‘10 years or 10,000 hours to become an expert’ rule has to do with learning things like ‘stuck happens’ or as I prefer to think of it: “Stuck is merely a rest stop on the highway of unstuck.” Or something like that.
If you find yourself stuck, the first question you should ask is: Am I stuck or is my serial fiction?
A. It’s you.
Stop fooling around and get your rear in the chair. Seriously. You can’t imagine how often “writer’s block” is actually a failure to apply rear to chair and hands to keyboard. Get up fifteen minutes earlier; go to bed a wee bit later; stop watching television; write on your lunch break or get a digital recorder and write in the car. Get to work.
Maybe your life is too lifey right now and you simply can’t continue your serial fiction. Maybe you’re hungry, angry, lonely or tired and need to relieve one or all of those situations. Maybe you got excited and jumped in too early. Maybe you need to live a little more before you can write on a serial fiction schedule.
If you’re at a sticky junction, don’t blame your serial fiction.
Take some time off. Go for a walk. Sleep. Eat good food. Meditate. Talk to someone you don’t like. Read. Get a massage. Play with a child (preferably one you know). Go live a lot so that when you’re feeling ready, you have something interesting to write about.
And relax. All good stories need to be told. Your time will come.
B. It’s your fiction.
So there you are. Your rear is in the chair. You’re typing away and suddenly… your story gets stuck. For a moment, you can’t believe it. Confident it will all work out, you may even shut off the computer and return the next day.
And when you do? Nothing.
Uh oh. What do you do now?
Here are three super ninja tricks to unstick your stuck serial fiction.
1. Add a character:
Everyone has a mother, brother, father, sister, ex-lover, best friend, arch-enemy, boss or even just the perpetually barking dog. (Remember David Lynch made an entire series out of a dog who never said anything.) You have left someone out of your characters’ lives. The question is who? What’s their perspective on the current dilemma? I’ll tell you that some of the greatest characters in fiction are often created because the author was stuck.
Not sure who to add? Check out the contestants from any season of the Biggest Loser. The casting director does a fabulous job of including a variety of people so that there’s someone for every audience. Who’s missing from your cast?
If I’m really stuck, I’ll go to the US Census interactive site and look at the different racial, ethnic, age and housing breakdowns for where my serial is set. You’d be amazed at what will spark your interest. For example, in the Queen of Cool, I learned that Fort Worth has one of the largest populations of Romani (Gypsies). Gypsies? Really? Oh yes, I’m adding a few of them to my serial.
A word of caution: Adding a character is the easiest trick in the book. If you use it too often, you’ll end up with something that looks more like the tryouts for American Idol and not a serial fiction. Use this trick only when you have to.
2. Delete the last three hundred to a thousand words:
It’s ‘murder your darlings‘ time.
Writing fiction, and particularly serial fiction, is all about choices. Your characters can go this way or that way at any juncture. If you’re stuck, it’s likely that you’ve chosen the wrong way for your character to go. That’s like trying to get a two year old to do something s/he’s decided not to do. Everything comes to a halt.
Go back to the last major junction and start writing again. I know it’s painful. Especially when you’re on deadline and you’re trying to get the last bit done. Sadly, if you don’t go back, you won’t get anything done. Chances are, your characters will right themselves and the story will flow again.
You can always hold onto these pieces and use them as ‘pieces of the puzzle,’ side-stories or additions to a later project. You just have to get rid of them right now.
3. Brainstorm with a friend or editor:
Chances are there’s someone in your life who reads your fiction. Stephen King calls them Intended Readers or IR’s. Talk to this person about where you’re stuck. I have a friend I have dinner with once a month. You’d be surprised at the major arguments the husband and our friend have over what’s next in Denver Cereal. It’s fabulous!!
If you can’t think of anyone to talk to, put “FIND SOMEONE TO BRAINSTORM FICTION WITH” at the top of your serial fiction. Readers sometimes have a deeper understanding of what’s going on in your fiction. Mine that resource.
One of my super secret ninja tricks is to ask the audience. When I say, ‘ask your audience’, I mean literally ask them.
We were in a major war here over what to do with a serial killer in Denver Cereal. No one could agree. And I wanted to arrest him, put him on trial, and have justice be served. I’m like that. Rather than continue to war, I got all concerned parties to agree to put it out to our audience. I installed PollDaddy (free edition) and we asked. Man oh man!! The audience came up with stuff I never in a million years would have thought of.
J.J. Abrams says they mine the forums and comment section of Fringe and other TV shows when they get stuck. So I’m in good company.
These are my super ninja tricks for unsticking a stuck serial fiction. What are yours? Leave them in the comment section and we’ll chat about them!
This is an ongoing series about writing serial fiction. The series continues on the last Thursday of every month.
Claudia Hall Christian is an author and a beekeeper. She writes the Alex the Fey thriller series, as well as the crunchy and sweet serial fiction, Denver Cereal. In April, 2011, she’s started a serial about a young widow who loses every thing to find herself, The Queen of Cool, set in Fort Worth, TX, for She is Dallas.