Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Writer's Block and Other Stuff - Jolene Navarro

Jolene Navarro here. Checking in from the Texas Hill Country. School is out and I don't have a schedule. LOL. The calendar has no meaning to me. For these two months, I get to be a full-time writer and get lost in my stories for hours at a time.
The other day I hosted a workshop at my local library. A question comes up that I hear often. What happens when you get writer’s block? When it became difficult the brain will look for things to do that take less energy.
One of the best teachers I’ve ever had in my writing career was the fabulous Alexandra Sokoloff. Her advice was to make a list. List work great.
Jolene Navarro, Jodi Thomas, Alexandra Sokoloff, Sasha Summers

If I get stuck I make a list of the things that could happen next – at least twenty. I know the first few are obvious, the next might be a little too crazy but by the time I get to the last five I usually have something new and fun to work with.
Alex also breaks down story structure in movies.  When I was writing a Texas Historical (Lone Star Bride) where a girl disguises herself as a boy to go on a cattle drive I studied Tootsie. What happens at the turning points and how they were handled. On the surface, my Texas cattle drive and Dustin Hoffman’s Tootsie doesn’t have much in common. But they do share a common problem. The main character is in disguises in order to get a job they want. I think it’s better if the genres don’t even match.

She also suggests having a question about your story and think about it before you go to sleep. Your brain loves working on problems while you are checked out. There are those wonderful mornings I’ll wake up and want to get back to the story right away.
In my upcoming story, Lone Star Christmas I was struggling with the heroine's guilt. I knew what it was but had to find a way to show it without hitting the reader over the head. My couple knew each other as teenagers and wasn't sure where they met was working. Some discussion and options and it all fell into place. It's like the sun popped out from grey skies after weeks of darkness. The choir sings and your story clicks. 
My favorite was of getting back into my story in meeting with other writing friends. We can talk over the phone, meet for a meal, meet at a library or bookstore. The best is when we get to go on a weekend write-in (or lock-down). Brainstorming and talking through the problem with other writer’s is the best. This will always get my writing moving forward again.
West Texas Writers' Academy 2018

The first week of this month I was in Canyon Texas at the West Texas Writers' Academy. A full week of brainstorming and writing. Best vacation ever.
If you want to learn more for Alexandra Sokoloff she shares some great advice on her page

What do you do when you get distracted from your goal? Do you have tricks to keep you focused?


  1. Great post, Jolene. Lots of good tips. Inspiration often hits when I'm in church. I'm not thinking about the story, but God provides an insight that always works. The shower is another place where ideas develop. So figure! :)

  2. I love it when a story problem gets solved during church. For me most of the time it happens in Sunday School during small group discussion.

  3. When I get stuck in the writing I talk a walk or a bath. I do lists too. I’ll have to check out Alexandra’s advice. Thanks for the info.


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