On Your Father's Side  

Overcoming the blocks

There’s no such thing as writer’s block.

Creative catastrophe? Maybe.

Energy vortex? Sure, why not.

Grammatical pinch point? Uh, seems unlikely, but if you insist.

Aspiring writers should know, however, there’s no block that can’t be circumvented.

Just sit down and write.

I’m a perfect example. There are three children buzzing around me like busy little… wasps.

La-la is dressed in a princess dress and scattering dolls from one room to the next.

Betty’s voice has climbed 39 decibels in the last 20 minutes and all morning she hasn’t stopped “exclaiming!”

Emmy’s energy level is rivalling that of a CrossFit Bro five minutes before a competition.

I’m in the middle, trying my hardest to write something that might be of interest to someone, anyone.

This is awful, but I’m not going to stop until the word counter hits its target.

Of course, this doesn’t mean I’ve never experienced writer’s block before, but I’ve always tried to avoid dwelling on it.

My second book, Snow Soccer, was a prime example.

I had a loose idea for the story — a young Brazilian immigrant arrives in Saskatoon in the dead of winter.

Here’s a reminder: my books are hi-lo stories for reluctant readers, so they dwell on themes relatable to middle-grade students.

Naturally, my character is convinced Saskatoon is just steps from the North Pole and has decided that she’ll never forgive her parents for banishing her to this Arctic wasteland.

It was to be my second book for Lorimer’s Sports Stories series, and I had loose approval from my editor to write it.

There was the problem: loose approval.

My editor had projects in process, and she didn’t want to read my manuscript outline for another three or four months.

That left me in an unusual position. I wanted the second book to go faster than the first, but I knew there would likely be changes.

I gambled, and started writing.

My first draft was probably one-half to two-thirds completed when I finally scheduled a meeting with the editor, who said the publisher still wanted the book.

She had just one question: could my main character be a refugee?

On the face of it, that seemed like a reasonable request.

All I had to do was move my main character Saleena 10,986 kilometres from Rio to Syria and change her name to Sarimah.

Huh, well whaddya know?

Is that all?

Research, outlines and plot all needed to be revisited, and even though I had something like 17,000 words written down, most of it needed changing.

It was one big elephant, and I had no idea where to bite.

It wasn’t a total loss, and I’m still happy that I put in the work ahead of time.

But it forced me to answer some difficult questions throughout the revision:

  • Was I going to hit deadline?
  • Was it still “my vision?”
  • Could I come up with a suitable plot, characters, scenes, etc?

Well, it led to more than a few nights staring at the laptop, and it led to a few nights writing whatever came into my head.

I’m pretty sure my characters went on fantastic voyages into a mystical land before I snapped out of it, highlighted it all and hit “delete.”

The exercise seemed to work and I finished Snow Soccer ahead of deadline.

Writing anything at all — like inane blog posts about raising three little girls — feeds the larger beast and keeps your skills sharp.

I’ve been thinking about that process more lately since now is the time to begin again.

My goal in 2011 was three books for Lorimer, and that target is achieved.

I’ve began to outline a fourth, but I’d also like to branch into new, more personal areas.

Rather than writing for young adults, it’s important for me to write more mainstream fiction, too.

That leaves me at another crossroads.

I wouldn’t admit to having writer’s block, but more writer’s fork.

Do I go left or right? Which road looks more inviting?

That decision is likely going to arrive soon, but until then I’ll stare at my kids and wonder exactly why there are cherry pits all over the toy room floor.


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About the Author

David Trifunov is a proud father, humble author and recovering journalist.

Trifunov and his wife, Erin, are raising three little girls in Kelowna and enjoying every second of the trials, triumphs and tribulations.

As a humble author, he has written three middle-grade books for publisher Formac-Lorimer.

To pay the bills so he can raise those kids and write those books, Trifunov is a journalist with 20 years of experience as a reporter and editor.

His parenting column will appear regularly. davidtrifunov.ca

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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