Mark Barr Recommends...

“I’m a software developer by trade. When I become stuck in my novel writing, and it’s something that has become less frequent over the years, I find myself turning to a developer trick to get things going again. In my case the issue is almost always that I’m trying to tackle something—a conflict, a character motivation, a shift of emotional state in the story—that is simply too large and knotty. It’s as if my intellect is a small snake working at swallowing an ostrich egg; try as it might, it just can’t quite get it down. Of course, I almost never experience it with this clarity, I just feel like a failure and it takes me some time to realize what is happening. It’s an adage in software circles that all problems can be broken down into smaller component problems. Sometimes even those smaller problems can further be broken down. Once, I was trying to tackle a love triangle in a story. It wasn’t the main focus of the piece, so I didn’t want to allot too much space to the portrayal, yet at the same time it was too complex for a reader to understand without more explanation. It finally took my separating the three characters and working through each of their motivations and desires, each distinct from their counterparts, to see my way through.”
—Mark Barr, author of Watershed (Hub City Press, 2019)