Davis Bunn

Davis BunnDavis Bunn is the author of the suspense novels The Rare Earth and Hidden in Dreams.

What is your method for overcoming writer’s block?

To my mind, the method is less important than the guidelines. Whatever it is you use, it must achieve three goals to be successful.

First, it must utterly separate you from your current work.

Second, it must be creatively energizing.

And third, it must be singularly important to you and you alone.

Too often, the second factor is overlooked, as most methods are creatively destructive. For me, there needs to be a measure of healthy indulgence. Surfing is first on the list, if there are waves and if I am in reach of the sea. Road cycling, particularly on new roads where there is a hint of adventure, also works. One question that needs to be honestly addressed is the issue of solitude. To completely separate yourself from your work, do you also need to isolate yourself from others? If so, be honest. For the first five years of my published life, my greatest block-overcomer was taking a silent retreat at a monastery.

What are your favorite or most helpful writing prompts?

With each new project, I tend to develop a series of specific triggers. The aim is similar to what happens in dealing with writer's block, because in many cases this writing "prompt" is just another word for isolating myself from the outside world and returning swiftly to the world of my current project.

When I first started writing, I ran a consulting group based in Dusseldorf. My work had me in three countries every week. I held this job, and wrote on the side, for eleven years. My writing prompts were crucial to drawing me away from the fear and the frustration and the pressures, and return me to what I wanted to do with my life. Write.

Early in that period, I read an article about Mick Jagger, who has prepped for every concert he has ever given by listening to the same artist—James Brown. I find music enormously helpful, and will often use this as a means of drawing away, and drawing in. There are others, as I said, that are specific to the current project. You need to search these out. It is vital. Don't wait for the perfect moment. You have to ready yourself to take full advantage when those rare perfect moments arrive.

What is the most valuable advice you received as a young writer?

I finished six seven books before my first was accepted for publication. I made my first presentation to a New York agent with the third novel. She thoroughly disliked everything about my work. Her letter was one page long, and was perhaps the most painful set of words I have ever been forced to confront. The most telling of her criticisms was, "your characters are one-dimensional cardboard cut-outs and your dialogue is flat."
The worst thing about her comments was, I knew she was right.
I ditched novel four, which by then was almost completed. And I knew it was basically just more of the same. I then spent three weeks trying to decide whether to ditch the writing gig entirely. Remember, I was running a consulting group and struggling every day to make time for the writing. And after three and a half years, this was the result?& My family wanted me to quit, I was exhausted most of the time, I hadn't been on a date in over a year, this was a life?
But there was nothing else I wanted to do with my life.That was the only answer I had. Everything else paled in comparison to the thirst, the desperate longing to write, and the compelling agonizing joy that came from meeting the empty page.
If I was going to continue, I had to change. I had to improve. I had to break out of this rut and grow. But how? I was living in Germany. I had no contact with any writers' group.The books on writing that I studied didn't say much about how to survive a savaging from a NY agent. So I improvised.
I began taking a pocket recorder into every contact with other people outside of business. Coffee with friends, dinners, family, sports, everything. For a month I recorded everything I heard, then went home and wrote it all out. The exercise defined boring. I truly loathed the experience. But by the end of that month, I owned those people. I could take a kindly grandmother and turn her into an assassin, and make it work, because I had her individual traits and the revelations she made in her conversation, mostly unconscious.
From there I began working on point of view from the standpoint of revealing both the viewer and the outside world, something I identified in the writers I most admired. Little one paragraph sketches developed into longer pieces, as the characters began to take on tasks. Action and tension became real because they were developed from the inside out.
Four weeks into this grueling exercise, I woke up in the middle of the night from a dream where I heard an old man's voice telling me a story. I got up and wrote it out, four and a half single-spaced pages. Nothing but dialogue. Two men and one woman. The story still holds me. When I finished, just before dawn, I knew I could leave that exercise behind. The lesson was not learned.It was mine.
Space-break for a fast forward ten years:My breakout novel Great Divide was released by Doubleday. The NY Post had this to say "Bunn's excellent characters reveal a strong good-vs-evil story. His dialogue is racehorse fast. That's some feat.
I agree.