Last night at the Writing Races speculative fiction author Gary Kemble shared his approach to writing and some tips about what to do when the story stops flowing.

Planning

I used to be very much seat of the pants but I generally like to have an idea of how the story ends these days.

I had too many experiences where I had 2/3 of a story but couldn’t finish it. And for novels—I definitely plan. Even though pretty much everything ends up changing.

I think you’ve got to have a plan, but be flexible.

That’s how it is for me, anyway!

Research

I did quite a bit of research before starting the current novel I’m working on—Skin Deep—it involves tattooing so I went and visited a couple of tattoo studios and did quite a bit of reading about bikie gangs (another aspect of the story).

I still found myself researching well into the writing process though. What I tend to do now is collect ideas. Usually just in my head. And then I try and fit them together, like a puzzle. (I think I got this idea from Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’.)

So I might have a range of concepts and a range of characters and locations—and then in my head I try and fit them together and see what I think works.

Getting Stuck

But if I’m really stuck, I just tell myself that the world isn’t going to end if I get it wrong! I can always come back and rewrite the end of the story. (Especially if it’s a short story)

Even in Skin Deep, I ended up stripping out a whole storyline.

Sometimes, when things aren’t working, you just have to suck it up (and then roll your sleeves up). The perfectionism thing can be really hard. I’ve had to battle the inner critic many times (as I’m sure most writers do).

I just keep telling myself that unless I keep writing, I’m not going to get any better!

Here’s a couple of links I’ve found really useful:

Cory Doctorow’s ‘Writing in the age of distraction’, which is about strategies for carving out writing time.

And this post by Tobias Buckell, ‘Writers and pellets’, which is about how writers tend to get mixed up between goals (things you have control over—for example finishing a short story) and milestones (things you don’t really control, like getting a story published).

For more great insights follow Gary on twitter.

Thanks for a fantastic Race, Gary!

Next week we will be joined by romantic thriller author Helene Young. So get inspired and join us online next Tuesday (October 18) at the Writing Races.

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