Get Over The Hump Day – Welcome Libby Fischer Hellmann

Ernest Hemingway said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

You may not realize how true this is for writers unless you are one. We overcome tremendous obstacles to create our stories and in the process we learn how to motivate ourselves when things look dim. Today I’m starting a feature called Get Over The Hump Day. I’m going to invite writers here each Wednesday (hump day) to tell us how they stay inspired.

My guest today is Libby Fischer Hellmann, author of eleven novels and as many short stories, most recently A Bitter Veil. You can find her here. You should also know that her book Easy Innocence is free today on Kindle.

Libby is hosting my Get Over The Hump Day post on her blog today. We call it Mutual Bloggeration.

Please welcome Libby!

When the Going Gets Tough…

Funny you should mention this, CJ. I’m in a tough place right now and —well— I’m struggling. It’s not writers’ block per se. It’s broader than that.

Over the past ten years I’ve published ten novels (depending on how you count them) and about twenty short stories. Number eleven is done, and it should come out in 2013. When I think about how far I’ve come, I’m amazed, especially since writing was never on my master plan. I was going to be a film-maker — the Lina Wertmuller of the United States. I had visions of riding off into sunset with Federico Fellini. Life had other plans, though, so here I am.

But I’ve always been a sucker for a story. The most seductive words I know are “Hey I want to tell you a story.” Say that, and I’m yours. So it finally dawned on me that I am a storyteller, whether I’m writing it, filming it, or just imagining it.

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And that’s the problem. I’m just not that excited by the story I thought I’d be telling next. As some of you may know, I’ve reinvented myself in my fiction. I started with an amateur sleuth mystery series, expanded into a hard-boiled female PI series, and branched out into thrillers and stand-alones. The thriller I’m revising now is set in Cuba, and that’s usually the time when I casting around for my next story. It’s never failed. In fact, the siren song of the “next best thing” usually puts me under its spell, and I can’t wait to get started.

This time it’s different. I had written up to page 60 on a new Georgia Davis story when I left her and decided to write three stand-alone thrillers. I promised myself I’d go back when I’d finished. The story isn’t a bad one, and I’d pretty much figured it out in my head. Georgia discovers a half-sister she never knew she had, and that sister is in big trouble. I was also going to bring back a character from an earlier book — the villain who got away.

But the problem is that I’ve been avoiding jumping in. I reread the first few chapters – bear in mind I wrote them almost three years ago – and they sounded flat and boring. No problem. That’s why we do revisions. So I rewrote the first chapter, and it’s better. More exciting. Still, I’m not captivated by the story the way I should be. And I can’t figure out why.

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Is it because I already know the story? Often when I’m writing I love the sense of discovery and surprise when a character does something I didn’t expect and the plot moves in an unexpected direction. But I already know most of the twists and turns in this story.

Is the story itself a little too formulaic, too “PI-driven?” It’s not exactly a new story. Few plots are. (They say there are only two plots in the world: A person goes on a journey, or a stranger comes to town.) But we write anyway, and no story turns out to be quite like another. I suspect that would happen here.

Or is it “story fatigue?” After eleven books and twice as many stories, am I just storied out? Bored with my thinking, bored with the genre, bored in general? Am I finished? All washed up? Do I have any stories left to tell? I don’t know.

Usually when I have writers’ block, I stop writing so that my brain switches from left to right, or right to left (whatever it is). I read a new book by an author I love… I go to the movies… or I talk it out with a friend. (My friend Judy Bobalik can tell you a funny story about that. Just ask her.)

This time, though, I’m not sure what to do.

Anyone have any suggestions?

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8 Comments on “Get Over The Hump Day – Welcome Libby Fischer Hellmann”

  1. cjwestkills says:

    Great Post Libby! I think we all have these times when we get to the middle of a story and we aren’t sure what we’ve got. It’s possible we are in the midst of breaking new creative ground or that we’ve got a dull story we can’t trudge through.

    This year for the first time I put a story in the drawer. I’d written 45,000 words and just wasn’t loving it. I’m sure I’ll come back to it one day. It just needs some more time to marinate.

    My suggestion is that a little time in the drawer may bring you new insights.

  2. Terry Odell says:

    I tend to get stuck when there’s a plot point (or seven) that isn’t clicking, either because it’s too much of a stretch, or I need to do more research. Often, I’ll just stick my characters together and see what happens, even if the scene will end up cut. There might be a plot point or a character reveal worth salvaging.

    Terry
    Terry’s Place

    • cjwestkills says:

      Terry,

      Sometimes when I get stuck it is because one of my characters is refusing to go on. I usually find it is because I’m trying to make them do something unnatural. Good point here! Thanks for bringing it up.

  3. […] have a feeling CJ wanted us to define what “tough” is… so I did. He’s putting up my post on his blog today, and I’m putting up his. (We’ve done this before, btw. Call it a “Mutual Blogeration […]

  4. Ash says:

    I stumbled across this blog today and really enjoyed this post and am looking forward to reading more here. This issue, that all writers face at times, is exactly why I began my site, 53Muses.com.
    I love playing with and learning about creativity and how our imaginations work, plus I’ve always been enthralled with divination and reading cards. I discovered many years ago that reading a regular deck of cards could become a unique brainstorming tool for me, as a writer, and is what I teach now.
    I LOVE the challenge of writing, but as said in this post, it is one tough gig and I so admire authors that can keep producing creative work that keeps us all on the edge of our seats!
    My hope is to continue learning and teaching on how to keep our muse fresh and not stalled out.

  5. Reblogged this on and commented:
    I love CJ West’s ideas for his blog… especially this one where he invites to his site, each Wednesday, a guest blogger. Today, he features Libby Fischer Hellmann. Enjoy!

  6. Interesting post, Libby. Made me realize how little difference there is between what you do and what I do, really! Your story is with words, mine with fabric. Maybe you can jolt yourself out of your “hole” by changing medium for a bit.

  7. […] have a feeling CJ wanted us to define what “tough” is… so I did. He’s putting up my post on his blog today, and I’m putting up his. (We’ve done this before, btw. Call it a “Mutual Blogeration […]


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