If you neglect a writing project for too long the characters go feral on you. That voice you’d been following clams up. The path of the plot disappears into shadows and fog; the magic idea that twinkled and fluttered in your peripheral vision stiffens into a scrap of lifeless cardboard.
That happened to me this year with the sequel to Jumper and the Bones, a novel in the voice of a big hearted but uneducated narrator. My real life has been preoccupied with the deaths of family members and friends; injury and disease distracted me, my energy was consumed by flailing against huge corporate ogres with their blood lust for money and their mindless disregard for honesty or honor. That’s a story for a different day. Today I’m talking about Jumper.
The book is more than half finished. I still like it but I felt stuck. When this happened once before, I let Jumper write a few pages about rain. It had nothing to do with the book. The pages we wrote probably won’t make the final editorial cut, but it helped me reconnect with the narrator’s odd voice. Plus, I think it made him feel better.
Today I let Jumper write about writing. After all, he’s now a published author and I’d never asked him how he felt about that. Almost immediately, my pen started moving across the paper. Once he got that out of his system we resumed our conversation about the book itself and several words got written. If you feel stuck in the same way, you might consider trying this trick. Write something that probably won’t be in the final book.
Here’s what Jumper had to say about writing:
Nobody ain’t asked me for much writing advice or put me on their TV show. They probably got to take people in order, so it ain’t a big deal. About every day they got somebody on TV who wrote a book, and there can’t be that many of us, so my turn is probably coming up. Plus, I ain’t got a phone or a computer for email, so they’d pretty much have to come and knock on my door, which is a lot harder than just sending an email. Once they get done with all the other writers, I’ll probably get that knock on my door. Just in case, I been picking up my socks off the living room floor almost every day and thinking how I’d answer their questions.
I ain’t figured out any magic solutions about how to write. For me, what I do is two steps: I pay attention and then I write it down. Other writer guys on TV got fancier ideas and a lot more steps. I ain’t saying they’re wrong. Lots of them wear cool clothes and say the names of guys I ain’t even heard of, which proves they know what they’re talking about. If you want bonus points for writing, you should probably just do whatever they do, if you can figure it out. Obviously, you should get some cool clothes and say the names of lots of guys. I ain’t ready to get that serious. I just pay attention and then write it down.