Guest Post: Hysteria by Megan Miranda
Mallory killed her boyfriend, Brian. She can’t remember the details of that night but everyone knows it was self-defense, so she isn’t charged. But Mallory still feels Brian’s presence in her life. Is it all in her head? Or is it something more? In desperate need of a fresh start, Mallory is sent to Monroe, a fancy prep school where no one knows her . . . or anything about her past.But the feeling follows her, as do her secrets. Then, one of her new classmates turns up dead. As suspicion falls on Mallory, she must find a way to remember the details of both deadly nights so she can prove her innocence-to herself and others. In another riveting tale of life and death, Megan Miranda’s masterful storytelling brings readers along for a ride to the edge of sanity and back again.
Writer’s Block! Oh, writer’s block…. You know, I think in my case, writer’s block is really a nicer way of saying “scene avoidance” or “the internet is shiny” or, most of the time (for me), “something is seriously wrong with your story and you need to go back and fix it.”
Some of these issues I’m able to combat with a set routine: Turning off the button on the bottom of my laptop that enables internet access during the 3 hours my youngest is at preschool. Allowing myself to just write dialogue to get through a scene, and maybe capture the emotion (so I feel like I’ve gotten through the scene, at least, even if I’ll need to do significant work on it later).
But when writer’s block is a manifestation of a plot issue, I can’t exactly power my way through it.
One thing I do from time to time when I find myself staring at the same page for days on end is to move on to another project, just for a day or two. Usually, I have plenty of ideas for the projects I’m not supposed to be working on, and working on them gets me back in that “Yes, this is fun,” mentality of writing. Often times, my mind will come up with a solution to the other project while I’m not so intently focused on it.
But sometimes, even that doesn’t work.
Confession: I had a really hard time getting started on the book I’m currently revising (the sequel to Fracture). I would hit chapter 3 and… stall. Over and over. I had a deadline. And I kept deleting words. Part of this was because, while I knew the premise and had a good sense of character arcs, the plot, as often happens for me, is the last thing I see. And I knew there was something not right, every time I’d hit my stride. (But I didn’t know how to make it right.)
So, after about a month of this, I finally found a way to help me over this hump. For the first time, I wrote completely out of order. Completely random scenes, or random conversations I knew would happen at certain key moments in the book. I spent an entire month writing anything and everything in my head related to this story, with no connections—I had no idea what my word count was, or if it would all come together—but when I eventually pieced it all together, I had over 20k words and the backbone of a story (which was also a HUGE relief).
I definitely didn’t end up using all of those scenes, and there was a lot of editing when I went back through linearly, but changing up my process and allowing myself to just get words down, even if they weren’t the next words, or even the right words, opened me up to possibilities. I was discovering my characters again, understanding who they were and what was happening to them all—and I was writing.