And Now for Something Completely Different

keith-margos-murder-mystery-dinner-at-matteos-los-angeles-caI hate to admit it, but I think I need a break from Narrator. I haven’t written at all in the past few weeks, and I need to write something or I will explode. SO. I’ve decided to write an anthology of three murder mystery short stories. I’m hoping that writing this will help me in the Narrator department as well.

All of the stories will be fantasy (of course). Two of them will be related to series I want to write after Narrator. The first is set in an alternative 1910* England, where magic has been outlawed. I’ve already got a great mystery lined up for it. The second is a little murkier since my plans for this series have undergone many iterations over the years, so that’s definitely in the TBD category.

The third short story isn’t based on a future series, unless I want to turn it into one. It’s an off-shoot of the Supernatural fanfic I’ve been playing in my head these last few weeks. I specifically designed this “episode” to not rely on the Supernatural mythology so that I could easily turn it into an original piece. Again, great mystery lined up, if I do say so myself.

Now, why murder mysteries? I enjoy them, but never thought of writing one. Then when you consider that the Supernatural-inspired story is already a murder mystery, and my 1910 series is already a thriller/mystery series, the common thread is plain enough.

I’m also going to try putting my new technique idea into practice. Scrivener has a “screenplay” mode. My theory is that a) it will be easier to let the action flow, and b) it’ll help me curb my tendency to expand the crap out of my plot. Seriously, I always get stampeded by subplots. It’s ridiculous. So sticking to a 45-60 page screenplay should nip that in the bud, right?

Hopefully working on this anthology will begin to allow me to work on Narrator again, and I’ll just switch back and forth for a while. Wish me luck! *crosses fingers*


* What? No, I didn’t set it in 1910 so that a few books down the road I could set one on the Titanic. Why would you think such a thing?

Jennifer A. Johnson is a newly published fantasy writer thanks to The Adventure of Creation anthology. She's still revising her first novel, but you can sign up for her free newsletter to pass the time.

How to Break Writer’s Block

cameraOnce you admit that you listen to the voices in your head and write out what they’re saying (aka that you’re a writer), the inevitable question is: where do you get your ideas?

Most writers will facetiously-yet-sincerely reply, “Everything.”

Because getting ideas isn’t the hard part. Not the initial ones you’re thinking of, anyway. The hard part is when you’re mired in the middle of your novel, with no idea how to get your characters out of the mess you made for them. When you go to write and your mind is a complete blank.

Now, there are tons of ways to get the juices flowing again. You’ll find advice everywhere, from amateur and experienced alike. It really just comes down to the individual author. The method that usually works for me is a stream-of-consciousness brainstorm. I basically write out a conversation with my Muse, tossing ideas back and forth. Alternatively, I do the whole “do a rote activity and let your brain churn in the background.”

But sometimes, like over the last few weeks, neither of those methods work.

Now, you probably don’t remember, unless you creepily remember everything I post on social media, but several weeks ago I had a really cool Supernatural-inspired dream. And I woke up before I found out what happened next. So, being the cool person I am, I decided to find out by continuing the story. Ever since that dream, I’ve been running the story in my head, creating new monsters of the week and even establishing a season-long arc. (Over-achiever, much?)

It’s been pretty great, watching the story unfold. Even better, I found that it’s a fun way to pass the time during otherwise boring activities, like my commute or daily walk. I throw different situations at the characters and let them react however they want — and since the characters are so well defined, it’s pretty easy to set on auto-pilot. Everything just flows so seamlessly.

The other day, I realized I should try this with Narrator.

I had one troublesome scene where I only vaguely knew what I wanted to happen. I’d managed to figure out things up to a certain point, but anything past that was just wide brushstrokes. So I started at that point and encouraged Calder and the others to play it out like they were in a movie. No delving into thoughts or anything, they just needed to be actors for a while.

That immediately made the action flow better, and I just let the story unfold the same way I let my Supernatural fanfic unfold. I did have to “rewind” a couple of times to fix some logic or increase the tension, but that wasn’t too difficult.

And it worked!

I was able to see how the situation played out, in a way that made sense, and I got some great ideas. And I mean some great ideas. I wanted to take a picture of my notes in triumph, but if you managed to read my chicken scratch you’d unwittingly see spoilers. (Sucks to be you, I guess.)

Anyway, this particular writer’s block seems to have broken. The next hurdle is going to be trying to write everything down and hope the Muse doesn’t make a sharp left turn and throw all of this under the bus. *crosses fingers*

Jennifer A. Johnson is a newly published fantasy writer thanks to The Adventure of Creation anthology. She's still revising her first novel, but you can sign up for her free newsletter to pass the time.