A Writer’s Life: Big Rocks II: Electric Boogaloo

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr)

I recently ran into a case of getting blocked in my writing.  It was weird, things just felt “wrong.”  I wasn’t happy with a scene.  Some plot elements seemed off.  Editing earlier chapters felt odd.  I was writing, but it felt stuck.

So I took a lok at how I felt.  I didn’t even to need to use the “Five Whys” because I quickly realized what this sensation was.

It was the Big Rocks. https://www.stevensavage.com/blog/2017/06/writers-view-big-damn-rocks.html

Big Rocks, which I wrote about, are those parts of the story we’re so stuck on they hold up the evolution of the story.  They literally weigh you down because if you changed, removed, or broke them down the story would be so much better.  It doesnt matter how great an idea or scene is, if it holds your story back it should be gone.

Way back when I became aware of them it was a case of plot idead and scenes acting as my big rocks, keeping me from getting going.  Now I had written scenes and chapters and . . .  you got it . . . was unwilling to change them.  *What I had written had become a bunch of Big Rocks holding me back.

Realizing that was a relief.

  • Suddenly two characters that seemed partial became one character, who changed the entire game yet made the plot MORE intact.
  • Thanks to the first item one character gets a hilariously annoying fangirl.
  • A few rearranged and blended scenes made everything flow better.
  • A throwaway Nasty Monster got changed to a different kind of Nasty that set the plot better.
  • Became aware of a lot of subtle themes as I write, and it seems there’s always more.  Now the story includes themes of PTSD, heroism after the fact, and the need for trust.
  • One character who faded away became a bridge to another plot element, furthering the theme of “smart people doing smart things with stupid results.”  I like him so much I may bring him back in a short story.

Writing is never solid.  It reminds me of a story I heard about a martial artist who challenged someone to bend his arm.  This martial artist adjusted his arm and stance ever so slightly, constnantly, and thus countered every attempt to force his arm to bend.  It was like an ever-adjusting flow of water, powerful yet subtle.

So, be that flow, get to your destination by bending whenever needed to get there – and you become both immovable yet adjusting.  You just go around the Big Rocks – and wear them down.

As a side piece of advice, I think cultivating this “flow” attitude early in any piece is needed.  You’ll constantly adapt and adjust, and it’ll become habit.  It’s rather Agile really.


– Steve

A Writer’s View: Big Damn Rocks

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr)

I’ve decided to start blogging my writing findings as I work on my first public fiction novel in ages, “A Bridge To The Quiet Planet.”  Returning to fiction was a bit tough – which surprised me.  I’ve written a lot of stuff over the last 40 years, but not much fiction the last 10 – but I figured all my editing, consulting, short stories, other works, and generator-development would mean I could dive back in.  Boy I was wrong.a

One problem that struck me is what I call “Big Rocks.”  My guess is you suffer from these too.

Ever have an idea, scene, or concept in a story that seems to just resist any change?  Something that seemed unavoidable no matter how much the plot or characters or scenes changed?  A Big Rock in your story is this immovable, immutable, thing that weighs your story down – and you just can’t seem to get rid of it.  Yet at the same time it restricts your ideas and dreams because you just can’t get rid of that Big Rock – it’s part of the story!


I found a huge, huge problem in working on my new novel is that I’d have these great ideas that I’d never get rid of or change as I’d become dedicated to them – meanwhile the story, characters, and setting had evolved beyond them.  I had all these Big Rocks I just wasn’t willing to get rid of, yet all my other great ideas kept running into them.

The solution was to ditch them.  If you have an idea that squashes all your other ideas, this dense ball that distorts the story like a weight on a rubber sheet, that idea is the problem no matter how great it is.

Art is a dialogue, a give-take, a cycle.  Something that stops that cycle by interrupting you constantly is not good.  You’re better off without it and you don’t need it.

We don’t need to cling to our Big Rocks, those giant ideas that limit us.  We need to keep the process of imagination going.  The Big Rocks are best broken down or walked away from – we may find we can make something better from their fragments or return to them with new insights.  Appreciate them, move on, and see what happens next.

– Steve