Carver, Caroline 3

To mark the publication of C J Carver’s latest high-octane thriller Spare Me The Truth, I am delighted to be hosting a guest post from Caroline, that offers some top tips for those sticky moments when inspiration temporarily takes leave from the creative process…

Spare me the TruthThe 5 things I do when I get stuck writing

  1. Don’t panic

Over time, I’ve learned that getting stuck is part of the process. I used to freak out, convinced that if I wrote my way through it I’d be OK but for me this doesn’t work – in this state, I write absolute rubbish.

For some reason, with every book I have two or three spells of writing inactivity, and now I recognize it for what it is: time to take a break and let my subconscious chew the creative fat undisturbed. When I eventually face my computer I’m happy to be there and the words and ideas flow.

  1. Don’t sit around waiting for inspiration

Instead of sitting and glaring at my computer screen, I get active. I go into town, tuck myself into the library or a busy café, and people watch. I doodle. I try to imagine what the more interesting looking people want out of life and how far they’d go to get it. What their greatest fears are. Then I go to a bookshop and browse. I walk a lot. I watch rubbish TV. I give my unconscious mind a good talking to and tell it to keep working on the book.

  1. Go for a drive or get decorating

There is something about movement against the eyes that kicks in the right side of the brain – the creative side. Anything repetitive like scrubbing the floor, decorating, fly-fishing (which I love) and which occupies my body but frees my mind, is part of my arsenal for getting unstuck. Driving does the same thing. Coming back from Sainsbury’s when I’m mid-way through a book is brilliant. I drive through a wood with tall trees and the movement of the trees against the sky does something to my brain because I invariably have my best ideas then. Weird, but true.

  1. Random exercises

If I’m only briefly stuck, like mid-way through a chapter, then there are some tricks I use, like having my next paragraph reveal an unexpected turn of events. Or interrupting the scene with a bizarre new character. I did this one time and the character remained, giving me a whole new angle on the book which was a bit of a surprise. Also, it’s worth checking you’re on track and that your characters are under continual stress, the story moving along, and that each chapter ends with a cliff hanger, no matter how small.

  1. Handwrite a letter from your main character to their nemesis

There is something about the action of pen against paper that stimulates the brain. P.D. James handwrote all her books, apparently. I think there is something about the time it takes to write a sentence that gives the brain enough time to move on that makes this so successful. I’m a touch typist and can write 110 words a minute, which is great when I wrote the final action scene in Spare Me the Truth – no stopping there! – but for more sensitive scenes or when I’m struggling, I always pick up a pen.

C.J. Carver’s first novel Blood Junction won the CWA Debut Dagger and was selected by Publishers Weekly as one of the best mystery books of the year. Half-English, half New Zealand, C.J. has been a travel writer and long-distance rally driver, driving London to Saigon and London to Cape Town. Her novels have been published in the UK and the USA and translated into several languages. Find out more about Carver and her books by visiting her website here Follow on Twitter @C_J_Carver

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