Do you ever feel like you are missing something in your writing journey? You have great ideas, you’ve studied the craft, you’ve put in the writing time, or maybe you’ve even published a book. But for some reason you still don’t feel like a real writer.
I saw an interview with Rachel Hollis the other day that made me realize there was a part of this being an author thing that I was missing that wasn’t the prose, the plot, or the characters. While studying the craft and knowing how to flawlessly weave these elements into a story is important, there is another element that is crucial to whether we will achieve our writing goals.
That element is the mindset of the author. Whether our dream is to be a best-selling author or to indie publish a collection of short stories, our success in achieving those goals is determined by our mindset. Our mindset is also what can hold us back from success, even if it is our most sought after goal.
Authors (or maybe just creative types in general) have a tendency to downplay their achievements and dreams. I know I do!
We may downplay our actual goals for our writing, telling family members or friends that it is “just something I play around with” because, we are afraid that they will judge us. We are afraid they will think we are arrogant for thinking that our writing is, or could ever be, that good or that they will laugh at us for taking a career in writing seriously.
As Rachel Hollis said, “None of us can step forward into who we are called to be because we are too worried about what [others] think of us.”
What she said in her interview made me realize that there was no shame in having a dream, no matter how big it is.
If you’ve struggled with taking your writing goals seriously or struggled with sharing you dreams of being an author with others, then take a moment to give yourself permission to dream. If you are feeling stuck with your writing it may not be because you haven’t read enough books on writing or because your plot isn’t exciting enough. It may simply be because you’ve hidden away the author side of you so much that it doesn’t dare to come out, even for you.
If you have a dream, don’t waste time being ashamed of it. 🙂
“I do not care what other people think of me for having dreams and goals for myself.” –Rachel Hollis
***I’ve started a monthly newsletter where I share videos that inspire me as a writer (ones like the interview with Rachel Hollis). They are short and to the point and only once a month, so I’m not spamming you to death. 😛
Has it really been two months since I’ve posted? Yikes! I should be fired.
I’ve been in a bit of a writing rut for the last month or so. Maybe it’s the cold weather or the COVID craziness or simply because I’ve been working on the same story for roughly a year and not feeling like I’ve gotten anywhere with it, but I just can’t drudge up the energy to write (on the story or here).
Then I really had an “all is lost” moment when I received feedback on my WIP from my alpha reader and was attempting to use her suggestions to fix my story when began to notice even more in the story that needed fixing. I realized that it was such a mess that I wasn’t even sure it was worth salvaging and was seriously considering tossing it aside and moving on to something else.
At the same time I had this dark revelation, a book I had ordered from the library, Save the Cat by Blake Snyder, happened to arrive. I decided to push thoughts of my broken story out of my head and spend some time learning about the craft.
When I got to the section on the 15 beat story structure, everything began to click into place. I suddenly understood why things weren’t working in my story and, most importantly, how to fix them.
It wasn’t that the overall idea of the story was bad. It was simply that I didn’t have the right tool to transform the story into what it needed to be. I felt like a builder hopelessly staring at a bunch of scattered boards and nails, unsure of what to do until someone placed a hammer in my hand.
After learning this way of plotting, I have made the painful decision to scrap my manuscript and completely rewrite it. I am going back to “ground zero” and going through the brainstorming/plotting stage with it and looking at it as if it were a completely new story that just happens to have the same characters and overall idea.
It was emotionally draining to realize that three drafts and months of work had to be scrapped, but it was also energizing to have found a way of plotting that finally clicked, jelled with me, synergized with my way of thinking about a story.
I bought a huge cork board and am covering it with index cards that represent each scene just as Snyder suggested. It’s been a lot of fun and I am actually excited about my story again and can see how the choices I’m making with the plot now will make it a much better story.
So, I guess I said all that to say, that’s my excuse for not posting in a while. 😉
I hope you all have been doing well, and I’d love to know how your writing projects are going (hopefully better than mine).
Also, I am starting a monthly newsletter where I will share fun, inciteful writing videos. Join us to get this month’s letter which will have a breakdown of the 15 beat story structure using Interstellar as an example.
This is the first year in 6 that I’m not doing NaNoWriMo. It’s become such a big part of my life that I’m emotional about not being able to participate this year.
But as much as I would like to, my writing cycle doesn’t align with NaNo this year like it has in previous years. Usually I would time it so that I was ready to write a first draft of a story every November, but The Blood Debt is taking longer to get through than I thought and I don’t even have an idea for a new story (well I have a ton jotted down in a folder, but none cultivated enough to start a first draft of).
I wouldn’t have the time to work on edits and write 50,000 words on a new project as well anyway.
So, it looks like NaNo will have to be be skipped this year.
Even though I’m skipping this year for a good cause (editing my WIP) I still feel a bit like I’m giving up, quitting, missing out…
This will be the first time is 6 years that I won’t feel the satisfaction of adding yet another year to my winning streak and that irks me way more than it should.
I’ll just have to focus on the fact that NaNo is a tool to help authors start and finish books. It’s a means to an end. It isn’t completing NaNo that really counts but completing a manuscript….but oh how I will miss adding another “finished” novel to my profile. 😉
How many of you are doing NaNoWriMo this year? (It’s okay…go ahead and rub it in.)
Join me for tons more fun, writing tips, and a glimpse into the daily life of a writer!
She was innocently beautiful. Her hair was a golden waterfall cascading over her slender shoulders and falling to her waist. Long lashes framed sapphire eyes and her lips were like a soft pink petal. She had a quiet, smooth way of moving that should have made her invisible, but instead brought every eye to her. Daron wondered if she was quiet because she was too modest to want attention or because she thought herself so above everyone that she didn’t care if she was noticed by them of not. Her face held no trace of scorn, but neither signs of bashfulness. She was as impassive as a marble statue as her willowy form walked through the city at his side. Perhaps that was what drew the stares—the mystery that lingered beneath her serene gaze.
Daron knew her secret. She looked years younger than him, fifteen or sixteen at the most, but she had lived thousands of years. She was one of the Old Ones. The ones who lived since the beginning of the world and were gifted with ancient wisdom that humans did not have.
The Old Ones once lived among them and shared their wisdom, and the land was prosperous under their watch. But that time passed long ago. The Old Ones journeyed across the sea to a land they could make their own after mankind refused to practice their ways and heed their guidance. Mankind declared they didn’t need the Old Ones.
Only they did. Thousands of years after the departure of the Old Ones, drought and famine plagued the land. It was why Daron left on an impossible mission to cross the sea and find an Old One who was willing to come back with him and help their dying land—to sing the ancient songs that would call down rain for their withered crops.
Daron looked at the Old One beside him and thought how lucky he was to find her. He was warned that not all the Old Ones would be helpful. There were some who resented humans for their arrogant ways. Their disdain for humans festered inside of them and blossomed into a hate so strong it changed them. These Old Ones grew cruel and vain. They were so intoxicated with their power and eaten with thoughts of revenge that they were sent away from their own kind. If Daron had stumbled on one of them, it would have meant death.
But the danger and uncertainty of that journey had passed. Daron would soon present the Old One to the King as proof he had succeeded in his mission.
They stood on the steps of the front of the castle, looking into the courtyard filled with hopeful faces. The bright-haired girl stood in the center with the king standing to the right and Daron to her left. She didn’t address the crowd but closed her eyes and hummed. It was so low that Daron could scarcely hear it even at only a few feet away. It didn’t change in pitch but grew in volume. Then her soft, girlish lips opened and a melody of words drifted past them and filled the courtyard. Daron didn’t understand the words. She sang in an ancient language that the Old Ones alone had mastered. Even without the knowledge of the meaning of the song it was entrancing. The song rose and fell in somber minor notes. Her voice softening, then swelling to portray first sorrow, then urgency.
Daron thought that he would be watching the sky during the Old One’s summons for rain, but he couldn’t look away from the girl. From his peripheral vision, he saw that the others were equally entranced with the golden-haired singer. Her eyes remained closed and her face focused as her silky voice bounced off the courtyard walls. Small pricks ran up Daron’s arms. As the song went on, he almost forgot why they were gathered or the reason for the song. There was nothing in Daron’s mind but the captivating melody spinning sorrow and hope. He shook himself when a shadow passed over him. Rain! Rain clouds were forming and blocking the sun.
He looked up and was confused. Something was blocking the sun, but it wasn’t rain clouds—not unless rainclouds were ebony black and moved as one shimmering mass. Wait. That wasn’t shimmering. It was flapping. Thousands of crows filled the sky. Gasps and whispers filled the courtyard.
“What’s going on?” demanded the King, but the girl continued singing.
Daron tried to get her attention. “Old One, the skies are filled with crows.”
She didn’t acknowledge him.
“Thousands of them,” he continued. “They’re coming at us. Take them away!”
Her chilling song mingled with the people’s confused cries.
“Is this some trick?” The King asked, red faced. Daron was sure it wasn’t a trick, but a mistake. Maybe the Old Ones forgot how to call down rain. Maybe in all their years of isolation, they lost their skill. Or maybe this particular Old One didn’t know how to call rain.
The sky was getting darker. The birds would land soon and what little crops they had left would be destroyed.
Daron strode forward to shake the girl out of her trance.
As his fingertips touched her shoulders, a shock went through his bones and he staggered back. The girl’s blue eyes opened.
“Don’t touch me human snake!” It was her voice, but it didn’t come from her lips which were still forming the words to the ominous song filling the air.
Confused, Daron tried to form words. “The crows will eat our crops.”
Her laugh filled his head. The harsh sound didn’t match the softness of the girl before him.
“The crows aren’t going to eat your crops. They are going to eat you.”
He must have heard her wrong. An Old One wouldn’t speak such words.
“You, the humans who destroyed the land and drove the Old Ones out with your erroneous ways.
In an instant, Daron understood who the girl was. Not an Old One, understanding and willing to help mankind like the Old Ones thousands of years ago, but one of the wayward Old Ones he was warned about. She pretended to help them so she could destroy them.
Before he could call out a warning to the others, the crows fell on them. Shrieks mingled with the incessant cries of thousands of crows. People ran or fell to the ground and covered their face as the winged terrors swarmed them.
Daron ran, but there was nowhere to go that wasn’t already filled with crows. Sharp beaks picked at his arm and shoulders. They pulled his hair and bit the tender skin on his neck. He kept his arms in front of his face but their sharp beaks jabbed at his chin and cheeks. He wanted to cry out, but was afraid they would poke their nasty little beaks into his mouth and rip his tongue to shreds too.
He tried to keep moving, hoping he could find a door that would bring him into the safety of the castle, but the crows were so thick and so many wild thrashing bodies kept jostling him that he didn’t know if he were moving at all.
He fell. He didn’t know if he tripped from the crows gathered around his feet or if his legs gave out from the panic that snared him.
He laid in a huddle, feeling wet, sticky blood run down his back and arms. He was screaming now. His mouth pressed to the ground and his tongue tasted dirt.
He was ready for death. Anything to stop feeling hundreds of holes being dug into his body.
Everything began to fade, until one last sound remained. A haunting melody sung by a sweet, smooth voice.
I hope you enjoyed my spooky story! If you want to go on a dark adventure–keeping with the Halloween mood– check out Zorok, the story of a murderous pirate who may not be as invincible as he thinks.
Join me for tons more fun, writing tips, and a glimpse into the daily life of a writer!
Zorok pulled his sword from the child’s body and watched it crumple to the ground, wondering if he had ever been so frail and easy to kill. He was sure that he was impossible to kill now. There was nothing good aim and gun powder couldn’t protect him from.
He stepped over the bodies that littered the ground and paid no notice to the gruesome details illuminated by the flaming huts: tanned torsos with bloody bullet holes, looks of fear frozen on women’s faces, glazed-over eyes reflecting orange flames. His boots tread on an arrow, breaking it in half. It amused him that these villagers thought they could defend themselves against his attack with such primitive weapons. Bows and spears did little against pistols and gun powder.
The flickering orange light from the burning huts deepened the shadows in his hardened face making it look even more ominous. The top half of his dark, shoulder-length hair was pulled back showing a small hoop of gold in his right ear and the scar at his temple.
“It is time we claim what we came here for.” Zorok’s deep voice rumbled as he reached his gathered men. They cheered in agreement.
Zorok and his men grabbed torches from the pile they left in the cover of the trees on the outskirts of the village. They lit them with fire from the nearest hut and headed into the jungle, toward the cave.
It would have been easy to sneak into the cave. He could have led his men straight there and bypassed the destruction of the village, but he had to prove a point; no one told Zorok, most feared pirate in the land, that he couldn’t do something.
When he arrived on the island, a group of men from the village told him—through one of his crewmen who knew the language—that the cave was an ancient place of worship, and only a select few from their tribe could enter. They wouldn’t allow him to go in and tried to scare him away by telling him that their god lived there and would kill them if they went in.
Once they shot down the men, they used their swords on the women and children. There was no reason to waste gunpowder on something that posed so little threat. Normally Zorok would have taken those who looked strong enough captive and sold them on the black-market, but if the legend were true, he wouldn’t have room for slaves.
He could hear his crewmen murmuring eagerly to each other as they reached the cave. The villagers claimed that it was a sacred place, but Zorok knew the real reason they didn’t want anyone to go in: treasure.
The cave’s ceiling was low and Zorok had to crouch over as he led his men down the winding tunnels. The scuffles of their boots bounced around in the enclosed space, making the group of just a little over two dozen sound like an army.
In the orange glow of his torch, he could see markings covering the walls. They were all symbols he didn’t know the meaning of or words written in a language he didn’t understand, so he paid them little attention. Not all his crew members shared his indifference. He could hear Tom, the one who had a flare for languages, reading the words painted on the stone walls.
“’All those who value their lives should not enter.’”
“Like I haven’t heard that before,” laughed one of the men. Tom laughed with him then continued reading the rest of the writing, all of it warning those who entered the cave.
“’Take care not to disturb the great god of the island,’” Tom stopped to read, squinting in the torch light.
“Would you stop reading those,” called a man behind Tom, “You’re holding up the line.” Tom moved up to fill the gap, then read another one of the inscriptions.
“’Great evil lies within.’” He paused to translate the words in his head. “’If stirred it will devour the souls of those who dared to waken it.’”
“At the rate you’re going, Tom, we’ll have the treasure loaded on the ship and be setting sail while you’re still standing in front of a cave wall,” the crewman directly behind Zorok said. The men laughed.
“And you’ll have us stuck in here with you,” said one of the men in the line behind Tom. Tom stopped reading and moved on.
Just as the whole line was moving steadily, Zorok stopped. There was nothing but cave wall in front of him. Someone from the back of the line cursed at Tom, thinking he was the one holding it up again.
“Well that ain’t no treasure,” said a crewman right behind Zorok.
“All this way for a wall,” grumbled another.
“Quit your whining,” Zorok said. “It doesn’t end here.” He dropped to the ground and crawled forward into a hole that his men hadn’t noticed because they were too busy complaining.
Zorok expected to find himself in a claustrophobic tunnel, but instead his lone torch barely reached the shadows of the cavern in which he stood. The center was filled with knee-high chests. Zorok went to the nearest one and shot the lock. He opened it. Shining gold coins filled his gaze.
“This is it boys.” He grinned. He turned around and the grin came off his face. None of his crew were there. He grumbled under his breath as he walked back to the hole. Were the idiots scared or just too stupid to find the hole, or was it Tom and his walls of doom holding them up?
The hole was gone. Zorok scowled and moved his torch along the cave wall, searching for the place where he came in. It wasn’t there. He called out to his men, but it remained eerily silent except for a trickling sound on the other side of the cavern. He cursed at the wall. He knew he came in from this direction.
A small wind brushed against his cheek. At first he thought it came from the hole he was looking for, but then realized that was impossible. They had walked too far and took too many turns for wind to be coming through that hole. There must be another, one that led directly outside.
Before he could follow it, the wind grew stronger, coming from all different directions including the solid wall behind him. The wind merged into one place in the center of the room and a mass of swirling black appeared.
The wind stopped as the black shaped itself into a seven-foot, human-shaped form covered in a black, hooded cloak.
Zorok drew his pistol.
“You can’t fight me,” said a raspy but deep voice from under the hood.
“Give me a reason why I can’t,” demanded Zorok. Holes that disappeared, wind that came from solid walls, and hooded figures that appeared out of nowhere made Zorok uncomfortable, but blasting things with gun powder was something he could handle.
“Your time is up, Zorok. You made a deal with my master, and he wants his payment,” the form said in an eerie dead-pan voice.
“I don’t make deals,” he said keeping his pistol up and his stance ready. “I do what I wish and crush those who oppose.”
“You made a deal,” said the hooded figure, “Now your soul belongs to my master.”
Zorok laughed dryly. “What do I care for my soul? Tell your master, whoever he is, he can have it.”
“He doesn’t need your permission,” said the figure moving forward. Zorok was ready to hear some enchantment murmured that was supposed to take his soul, but the figure put his hand into his cloak. He drew out a sword that glowed slightly, giving off a faint white light. The moment he did, Zorok fired. The bullet disappeared in his black torso. A rumbling sound came from under the hood that could have been a laugh.
“You can’t kill me.” The glowing sword moved steadily toward him. Zorok stepped back and drew his own sword. An feeling foreigh to Zorok began to make its way down his spine: cold fear.
“Who is this master you serve—the one who wants my soul?” he asked, hoping to stall so he could look for a way out of the cavern.
“The devil.” The figure brought his sword down. Zorok already had his sword drawn, and blocked the blow. He spun out of the thing’s reach.
“I made no deal with the devil,” said Zorok backing away slowly.
“That’s what they all say,” said the eerie voice. “But you’ve made the deal early in life and confirmed it many times since.” The thing didn’t move after him, so Zorok took the chance to look around for some way out.
“Every time you stabbed your sword into a woman, every time you shot a man, every time you ordered your men to kill the innocent, a deal was made.” The figure thrust his glowing sword at Zorok. Their swords clanged against each other and locked. The thing was strong, and Zorok had to use both hands. His torch flickered as it dropped, but it continued to burn as it hit the stone ground. He didn’t need it anyway. He’d found his way out.
“You can tell the devil,” he said, grunting, “that my soul is mine for today.” He used all his strength to push the glowing sword off his own, and ran toward a glistening ribbon on the cave floor.
White blasts of light flew past him. One of them hit his shoulder. He faltered and cried out as hot pain filled it. He looked back and saw that the blasts of white lights came from the tip of his sword.
He froze. There was one coming at him. His sword was up as if it had moved on its own and somehow he managed to deflect the shot with its broad side. It ricocheted off his sword and hit the figure’s arm, knocking the sword from its hand.
Zorok spun around and headed for the dark liquid ribbon behind him. He was taking the chance that the river didn’t stay underwater for too long, but it was better than being trapped with an enemy that couldn’t die.
As he jumped, he heard the eerie voice call after him, “Your cannot keep your soul forever. Memento mori.”
Cold water merged over his head. He swam with the current hoping it would lead him out of the cave. After a few seconds, he tried to come up. He was met with hard stone. He kept swimming and tried again, but he was still underground. It made him angry to have escaped a demon, just to die by drowning. It wasn’t the way Zorok, most feared of the seas, should lose his life.
Just as he was sure the devil would get his soul tonight after all, his head burst out of the water and his lungs filled with air. He could see the moon half hidden behind the jungle foliage. He dragged himself to the bank and a wild laugh of relief came out of his mouth. He was Zorok, the pirate who defeated the undefeatable. He had beaten a demon. He had tricked the devil.
His laughter died. The last thing the hooded figure said to him stopped his little celebration. He didn’t need Tom to understand what those last two words meant.
Remember that you will die.
This is a little bit darker and more gruesome than the little tales I usually post here, but it is fun to change things up a bit. Plus, my WIP, Blood Debt, has a tone similar to this (although my main character, Azrin, isn’t a bloodthirsty, treasure-seeking pirate).
I hope you enjoyed the story! 🙂
Join me for tons more fun, writing tips, and a glimpse into the daily life of a writer!
Hey Epic Dreamers! I thought we could all use some fun in the form of flash fiction since we are stuck in quarantine. This little story is extra relatable since the main character is stuck at home with someone she doesn’t want to be. 😉
Enjoy the story!
The Wand in the Attic
I was hiding from my bratty stepsister in the attic when I found it. At first I thought it was just a strange stick—as long as a ruler and as thick as a pencil—then I found the book Beginner’s Guide for Wand Use. I flipped through the many spells listed on the pages, thinking the book was a joke. Then I tried one.
I held it out and said “time for magic” to activate it as the first page instructed. I jumped when the wand gave a slight tremor. I was sure that I’d imagined it, but just in case…. I pointed it at the first thing I saw—a wooden music box that no longer worked—and said “muveras” which is what the book said to say if you wanted something to move.
The wooden box shot off the crate it was sitting on and crashed to the floor. I jumped and drop the wand. I looked from the box to the wand at my feet, to the box again. I wasn’t sure if I was excited or scared. Magic only existed in fairytales. How was it in my attic?
“Sarah! Quit leaving your dirty clothes in the bathroom!” It was my stepsister. She was twelve like me, but because she was five months older she seemed to think she was my second mom or something. That’s why I was looking through old boxes in the attic instead of watching TV downstairs. With mom gone on a date with my stepdad, she was more whiny than usual.
“Hello? Sarah? I’m talking to you. Come clean up your stinky clothes.”
I rolled my eyes and started to climb down the attic ladder.
Then I had an idea.
I snatched the wand and hurried downstairs. My stepsister was standing beside the bathroom doorway with her arms crossed. She was still yelling for me, so she didn’t hear me coming. I ducked behind a table with a huge decorative vase and scooted so I could look into the bathroom.
She wanted me to move my clothes? I would move my clothes.
I pointed my wand at the pile on the floor and whispered, “muveras.” The clothes shot through the bathroom door like a cannonball from a cannon, and exploded into the hallway. My step sister shrieked so loud you would have thought it was an actual cannon.
She stood, frozen for a moment with my tank top over her left shoulder and my underwear on her head. I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing. Maybe staying home with my stepsister would be so bad after all.
How is everyone doing out there? Staying sane? Doing lots of baking and reading and home improvements to keep busy?
It’s strange that with all the extra time on my hands, this is the first blog post I’ve written in the month and a half since things really got crazy with COVID-19. I’m not sure why I haven’t posted before now. It might be a combination of finding other things to do and being at a lost for how to address something this drastic.
I really have no topic for today’s post other than to check in and see how everyone is doing.
I’ve been really lucky and haven’t been affected in a drastic way. I mean, yes, the places I can go have been limited to the grocery store and my apartment complex’s parking lot, but I don’t count that as drastic in light of how many people have lost their jobs, their businesses, or even their life.
I haven’t lost any loved ones and my husband still has his job, so all things considered, I’m doing really well.
I’ve been keeping busy cooking recipes off Pinterest, working on my next novel, and last week I even did a bit of drawing.
Of course there are downsides to being pretty much confined to a 600-square-foot apartment but since complaints about staying home are already all over the internet, I’ll spare you those and tell you what I do like about quarantine.
Of course there’s the obvious. More time at home means more time to read and write. (Any good book recommendations?)
I’m also enjoying not having to rush through dinner. There’s no where to rush off to, no commitments I don’t want to be late for. I can enjoy the food I’ve made and not have to feel stressed or annoyed by all the dishes and clean up that is left for when I get back from where ever we (my husband and I) are headed for the evening.
Which leads me to the thing I’ve enjoyed the most about quarantine, and that is the extra time I’ve had with Eddy. With no commitments in the evenings, every night is like a stay-in date night. 🙂 I will miss all the time we have to play board games, play Age of Empires, watch tons of silly YouTube videos, and just cuddle on the couch when things go back to normal.
That said, of course I do want things to go back to normal (as normal as they can be after something like this).
So now that I’ve shared how I’m doing, how is everyone else? What kinds of things have you been doing to keep busy and stay sane?
After reading the print out of my first draft, I sat down to start on the second draft…and immediately became overwhelmed.
There was so much I wanted to add: relationships between characters needed strengthening, story threads needed to be woven tighter together, new scenes added, old scenes revised. The list seemed never-ending.
Because I had pantsed my way through the first draft, I knew that I would have to rewrite every chapter to get it the way that I wanted it. At first, this idea was exciting because I was looking forward to adding in all the fun ideas I’d had while reading through the first draft, but as I began writing chapter one again I got these overwhelming feelings of lethargy. I felt like I was walking in circles—like I’d beaten a game only to have it crash and make me start back at square one.
I realized that I would have to do more than just add in some things and rewrite some paragraphs here and there. I would have to completely rewrite ever single chapter.
Chapter one suddenly seemed more daunting than when I was starting from scratch.
It didn’t help that I had this huge list of things that I wanted to accomplish in the first chapter. There were so many world-building elements I wanted to add, characters I wanted introduced, back stories and tension between characters that I wanted to hint at. Making the list was helpful, but having it loom above me while trying to write the first chapter made me feel more like I was writing a college essay than a story.
So there I was, barley a chapter into my second draft, and the only feelings I had were a sense of starting at ground zero after months of work, and the nagging feeling to make it perfect this time through so there wouldn’t be so much to add in the next draft.
Working on the story left me feeling frustrated and frustration dried up any creativity which might have helped me out…which left me more discouraged and frustrated.
I kept thinking that it was just a faze and I’d snap out of it, but my writing sessions were pitifully unproductive and I started wanting to write less and less.
Finally, I got tired of waiting for my writer’s block to leave me and sat down at my lap top determined to figure out WHY I had writer’s block in the first place. Everyone goes through times where their writing sessions are sluggish or they are a little lethargic…but a month of no writing? Yikes!
First I figured out everything I wrote above. I realized that I was putting too much pressure on myself to be mostly finished with this story when the second draft (at least for a pantser) is basically just the first draft since the first draft was simply me figuring the story out and serves as more of an outline than a first draft. (Why do I have to be a pantser? Seems like a curse.)
Instead of focusing on all the little details that needed to be added in and trying to fit them in at just the right place with just the right wording, I needed to continue focusing on the big picture and overall flow of the story just as I did in the first draft.
I was feeling bored and frustrated with it because I was trying to get everything set in place and nailed down too soon.
I was allowing myself to get bogged down with the dos and don’ts of story writing—looking at it like a list of boxes I had to check— instead of simply continuing to let the story tell itself, which for me still means keeping those concepts in mind but still letting the characters and theme drive the story.
One of the reasons I love writing the first draft so much is because of the dream-like quality it has for me, the sense that anything can happen, and the excitement of getting to know the characters and world. Writing those first drafts are a lot like smearing paint in colorful blobs on a canvas: anyone watching will see meaningless shapes, but the artist sees the overall picture, including the details he will add later.
I was trying to make my second draft like a math equation: Perfectly formulated character arc + perfect place for back story + every detail given in the “right spot” = a perfect story.
While there are times to evaluate a story like an equation to find what’s going wrong or what aspect could be strengthened, that approach simply wasn’t working for me at that stage. I needed to let surprises happen, start writing without knowing exactly where the scene was going, and begin a chapter without looking too closely at how the first draft of that chapter was written.
In short, I had to pretend that this was the first draft and—to keep from feeling like the first draft was a complete waste of time—pretend that the actual first draft was a messy, overly-detailed outline.
If you are reading this because you a struggling with a case of writer’s block and are hoping for a magic “trick” to help you out of it, I’m sorry to say that I don’t have one. There are so many reasons for writer’s block and what works once to get you out of writer’s block three months ago may not work for you in your current state of writer’s block.
But what helped me get out of this particularly long slump is something that can get you started on writer’s-block recovery even if it doesn’t cure it outright. I had to let go of how far along I thought my story should be—stop looking at it like a puzzle with a thousand frustrating pieces—and look at it as an adventure I get to go on every day. Some days are tough, but some days bring me the most beautiful scenery.
The only magic trick that can cure writer’s block is rediscovering that magic that drew you to the story in the first place. Find that spark that ignited the idea—a character, a scene, an aspect of the world—and focus on refining or expanding that character or idea until whatever is blocking your flow is forced to melt away.
I’m excited to announce that The Hashna Stone has been selected for the book cover contest on allauthor.com!
The winning book gets some pretty sweet prizes, including free advertising.
It would help me out so much if you clicked the link below and voted! My book needs to stay in the top 100 covers in order to go to the next round.