Today’s guest blogger, author Max Elliot Anderson, writes fictional adventure stories for middle-grade readers. When you read his techniques for keeping writer’s block at bay, you’ll get an inkling of the zaniness, action, and humor essential for keeping his young audience, especially boys, engaged!
I have to say that writer’s block, or blank-screen-itis, has never visited my writing. And this is true after completing nearly forty manuscripts. But maybe I cheat the system a little. Here’s how.
I write action-adventures and mysteries especially for middle grade readers, eight and up. Before I begin writing a story, it’s been percolating in my mind for a couple of weeks at least. Finally, the whole thing comes crashing in all at once. It’s at this time that I stop what I’m doing, pick up a recorder, and briefly tell myself the story, just as if I were telling it to a group of kids or to my own children when they were young. After doing this, I know the beginning, the middle, and the end.
This gets typed and usually runs eight to ten single-spaced pages. The notes are put into a file and set aside. I don’t look at those notes again until the first draft is finished. I write as I go when it comes to the manuscript. It is only after that first draft is finished that I ever look at it or the original notes. I’m always amazed to see that all the elements of the original story have found their way into the first draft. That has never failed yet.
Then, to get myself into the mood to write, I make sure to do a few things. Around my computer I place several photographs and any props that will help me think about the story and characters. Once, I was writing about the Pacific Northwest and logging. I went out and caught a chipmunk in a drain spout and placed him in a small cage with cedar chips. At the end of the day, I let him go, but I wasn’t finished with the sequences in the woods. So the next day, I went out and caught another one. The sight of the chipmunk and the scent of the cedar helped set the mood.
The next thing I do is to always burn a candle next to the computer. I do this only while writing. I never do it during brainstorming, editing, research, or reading a draft. The candle helps take me to a different place.
Finally, I play mood-appropriate music for the scene I’m writing. If it’s a funny scene, I play comedy. A sad scene requires a single piano or violin. The music brings specific images into my mind as I write.
One more thing.
If I’m writing about a hot place, I like to write in the summer with the air off. If it’s a winter scene, I try to write that scene when it’s actually winter. I have written hot scenes in the winter, but that’s when I crank the heat way up high. I may have to stop doing that with the economy getting so shaky.
All of these elements, working together, go a long way toward setting the mood, conjuring up the proper images, suggesting dialog, and preparing the way to write. And using them, I have never faced a block of any kind. Not yet, anyway.
With recommendations from Jerry B. Jenkins and Bill Myers, Max Elliot Anderson draws on his experience in “dramatic film, video, and TV commercial production” to create exciting middle-grade adventures and mysteries for readers eight and up. Author of the Sam Cooper Adventures series and the Accidental Adventures series, Max has just released six additional middle-grade adventure and mystery books through Book Club Network. You can read more about Max at his blog: https://middlegradeadventureandmystery.blogspot.com/.
Featured image by thegeometricfox