Friday, December 4, 2009

Writer's Block, Reader's Block, and Georgette Heyer

By Lonnie Cruse

Recently on the DorothyL mystery discussion list the subject of Writer's Block and Reader's Block came up. Great discussion, so I wanted to bring it here to PDD.

For me, the dreaded Writer's Block usually hits when there is something missing in my manuscript, usually something I should have researched and haven't. Therefore it niggles at the back of my brain, preventing me from moving forward until I take care of business. Or it hits when I'm not sure where to go with a character and I'm trying a new direction and the character is resisting going there. I once had to "fire" a character as the murderer in a book because she whined and whimpered all over the pages and flat out refused to pick up a weapon. My characters now know not to mess with me. I hope.

And what fixes Writer's Block? Usually taking a shower, which means I can't write down ideas, so they hit me as fast as the water from the spout. Taking a break from writing also helps. Getting some rest. Taking a walk. Things like that.

What about Reader's Block? Wanting to read and being unable to? The lovely Del Tinsley coined that phrase on DorothyL, sort of as a joke, I expect but it caught on, and readers began chiming in with their Reader's Block. Well, I sometimes have it too. Reader's Block usually hits me after I've read a book with plot holes large enough to build a skyscraper in, or the characters do something totally dumb. You know what I mean: There's a storm, power's out, a killer is on the loose in the neighborhood, and the character goes down into the dark and scary basement without a flashlight or a weapon. Sigh. When I read books like that, it's hard for me to get back into reading. And when that happens, it's time for me to go back to my old favorites.

Sometimes I choose a favorite current writer, like the lovely and extremely hilarious Donna Andrews. Her series always leaves me in a good mood. I have her newest near my bed (I generally read at bedtime or in the car when Hubby drives.) Also have Anne Perry's latest Christmas mystery there.

However, at the moment I'm mostly reading on my Kindle and that's where the Reader's Block rouble actually started. I'd downloaded a freebie or two and they were pretty much worth what I paid for them . . . nothing. Left me with a bad taste in my mouth. Bad taste behind my eyes? I dunno.

I was trying to figure out what to read next when I found a Georgette Heyer romance in my closet that I picked up at Sam's Club and hadn't started. I took it in the car as my new "car read" because it's huge and I wasn't sure I'd still enjoy her, so this was sort of a "test read." A couple of decades ago I read nearly all of her books and loved them, but tastes change, and mine sure have. Bottom line, I really am enjoying that book.

About that time someone on DorothyL mentioned that Heyer had also written some mysteries. Mysteries? Why didn't I know about them? Off to Amazon I dashed, via the Internet, and downloaded a sample. Before I even read chapter two of the sample, I was ordering the book for my Kindle. The book was just under $10, and I HATE paying that much for a book on Kindle, mainly because it's an e-book and not a printed copy. I try to stay in the $5 range when I buy, and I do download all the freebies I can. I can always toss them if they aren't readable. Back to my point.

The Heyer mystery is very enjoyable, my Reader's Block is gone (at least for now) and I plan to buy more of her books. Maybe some kind family member will give me a gift certificate from Amazon for Christmas? Just a thought. (Hint, hint) I blew my birthday gift certificate on Poirot DVDs. Well worth it, but I still need books.

If you are a writer, how do you get around Writer's Block?

If you are a reader, how do you get around Reader's Block?

Please feel free to share, I need all the help I can get. And thanks for stopping by!


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I don't usually have writer's block, but sometimes I don't FEEL like writing. I'll do other really distasteful things (housework) and then I feel more up to doing the cerebral stuff. :)

Reader's block is a great term! Right now I have so many books on my TBR list, thanks to Lesa Holstein and other book bloggers that I think I won't be blocked for a while! (Except with the amount of time I have.)

Mystery Writing is Murder

Sheila Connolly said...

There are some days when the words flow, and some when they don't. So far they've never stopped, thank goodness. If they're coming out like lumpy oatmeal, I'll do something else, preferably physical--take a walk, vacuum up the cat hair, file those endless stacks of paper.

Reader's block...hmmm. I find I have less and less patience with trite, predictable books. Time was, I finished any book I started. Now I give myself permission to stop reading.

Unknown said...

I usually just try to "ride out" the blocks. From past experience, I know I can't force the creative muse and I'll end up hating books for no other reason that I was forcing myself to read.

Sandra Parshall said...

When I'm blocked as a writer, it's always because there's something in the story I haven't worked through and don't understand. Or I'm trying to write something I'm not enthusiastic about. I have to change it so I *will* be enthusiastic.

Reader's block? I'm experiencing that more and more often. If I start feeling impatient with a story, wanting it to move along, and find myself skipping ahead to see if it gets any more interesting, I know it's time to quit and pick up something else. I used to feel obligated to finish any novel I started. Now I'm leaving a trail of partially read books behind me. Life's too short to waste time reading boring books.

kathy d. said...

Definitely not spend time reading boring books. Have read several I liked lately and am reading Elizabeth Zelvin's second book and laughing hard.

However, I get tired by other things and it affects my reading energy, sometimes just veg and watch tv. Then back to reading.

Lonnie Cruse said...

Thanks everyone for your thoughtful comments!