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