Sunday, January 9, 2011

Stuck in the Middle of a Page

While Robert Knightly is on vacation, a few other writers step into his Sunday spot to offer useful advice on writing. This is from Caroline Todd, half of the east coast mother-son writing team of Charles Todd, author of the Bess Crawford mysteries and the Inspector Ian Rutledge mysteries. A Lonely Death was reviewed today in Marilyn Stasio's column in the New York Times Book Review. See more about the team on their web site,

One of the questions we're often asked by readers working on their own manuscripts is, what do you do when you run out of ideas in the middle of a page? It's a good question, and I had to think about it, because there are two answers.

The first is, walk away. Go do something else and clear your mind of the problem. Wash dishes, mow the grass, go shopping, call a friend, whatever you enjoy doing. I've had some of my best ideas while mopping the bathroom floor! And that's not on the list of something I enjoy. Whatever, give it a rest. Soon you'll feel the answer coming.

If it doesn't, go back into the story and look for what went wrong. Sometimes it's a conversation that went off track or a bit of characer development that has moved off target. If you fret over it, it will become insurmountable, I've found. So give the problem and yourself a break and let it simmer awhile. Then see what happens. I'll be curious to hear.

--Caroline Todd

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