Tag Archives: writers

Overcoming Writer’s Block

 

 

We all love being in the throes of that mystical thing we writers call “flow.” Those moments where hours slip away as we pour out our vividly imagined scenes onto paper (or computer documents).

We revel in these moments somewhat frantically, knowing that they won’t last. Knowing that as beautiful as these moments are, there is another, more sinister side to the coin.

Writer’s block.

It seems to come out of no where. One day you are writing happily along, the next you leave your writing session with nothing to show for your time. Or you can’t even find the motivation to sit at your desk at all.

We ask ourselves the question all writers have or eventually will: How can I keep writing when my writing muse has left?

Sadly, my muse has been cruel enough to leave me as well, so I’ve come up with some ways to get it back.  I’ve also learned that there are at least three reasons why writer’s block has suddenly reared its ugly head.

 

 

There is a problem that needs fixing in your story

Sometimes that feeling of not wanting to write is your subconscious trying to warn you that something isn’t working in your story so you can fix it now instead of plowing through and making a mess that will be difficult to unravel later.

If this is the case, then all we have to do to get our writing muse back is to fix the thing that isn’t working.

Easier said than done, huh? If you knew what wasn’t working, you would have fixed it already and went on happily writing.

If you ask yourself why you don’t feel like writing and you feel that something isn’t working in your story, but you aren’t sure what, don’t panic. All you need to do is ask yourself more questions.

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How do I feel about my main character? If she is boring or I just can’t connect with him is the answer then go back to the character-creation drawing board and discover some things about your MC that will make them interesting and help you connect.

If your main character isn’t the issue, then move on to the other characters. If they aren’t the problem, then ask yourself about the plot, the dialogue, the tension (or lack of tension) in the scene you are working on.

There are so many more questions to ask yourself why you feel something is “off” with your story but can’t quite put your finger on what it is. There are so many, that I could write a whole blog post on that alone (and will 🙂 ).

Chances are, there is a good reason your brain seems to have checked out and refuses to write more words. Something is niggling at it, whispering that writing more words at this point is a waste until you fix the problem.

But what if you fix the broken piece of your novel (or find nothing is broken) and you still can’t find the will to write?

 

There is an emotional reason for your writing-related apathy. 

Early this year, I went through months of writer’s block because the project I’d spent a whole year on didn’t turn out as expected. Well, that’s putting it nicely. It turned out to be a disaster. Were there things I could pull from the wreckage to use in creating a new and improved version of the story? Definitely. Did I learn a lot from the process even it the end result wasn’t something publishable? Absolutely.

Was I enthusiastic about starting my next project with all my hard-won wisdom? Absolutely not.

Even though my logical side could see that the experience wasn’t a total loss, that didn’t stop my emotions from reminding me how much time was “wasted” on the project and sending a wave of doom over my next project.

If you find that your writer’s block is because of some less-than-stellar work you did previously or a case of imposter syndrome (where you have crippling self doubt that you can’t produce another book as good as your first), then there isn’t an easy fix. At least I haven’t found one (if you know of one, please share!).

But there are some steps you can take to overcome these emotions.

First, acknowledge that they are there and figure out what thought or belief they are coming from. Then, ask yourself if these thoughts or beliefs are actually true.

If you are afraid that your first novel’s success was a fluke and you won’t be able to writing something like that again, then ask yourself if this is absolutely true. Do you really know that you won’t be able to write another great novel? Is it an absolute truth that the project you are working on will turn out a mess like your last one?

NO. (If you are wondering what the answer is 😉 )

You can’t look into the future and see that this project is doomed for failure (unless you have some powers I don’t know about…in which case, share them with me!). You can, however, ruin your chances at writing a beautiful new story by allowing those thoughts and emotions to control your actions.

Sure, your WIP might end up being one that you shelve at the end, but it also might be one of the best books you’ve written. You will never know if you don’t keep writing it.

But, I get it. NOT feeling like writing is why you are here, so simply telling you to keep writing isn’t that helpful. I have no magic answer for banishing these gloomy emotions, but I do have some ways to get through them.

1.Stop writing. I took a break from writing for a month. Took some time to go back to the basics and read some great books and listen to podcasts on writing. Getting some new information in your head does wonders for those pesky, negative feelings. You might learn the reason your last novel didn’t turn out or learn a new technique that excites you so much, it pushes all those haunting emotions away.

If you are in the middle of NaNoWriMo and don’t want to stop writing, continue to number three. Or, heck, stop writing in the middle of NaNo. Quit NaNo if you need to. It is a means to an end, a tool in your hand. Winning NaNo isn’t the goal itself–finishing your story is–and if you need to take a break to do that, then do it.

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2. Write something new. Maybe you don’t want to take a break from writing altogether, but your current WIP has too many feelings of guilt or trepidation attached to it for you to look at it with fresh eyes. So, take a small break and work on something else. You could do some worldbuilding or create new characters for another project, or you could write a short story. When I am needing a break from my WIP, but I don’t want to start anything new and lengthy, I love to look up writing prompts on Pinterest and free write whatever comes to mind. It is a great exercise that gets your writing muscles moving again.

3. Add something new in your story to get you excited about writing it. A great way to get rid of unwanted emotions is to replace them. Brainstorm some ideas of things you can add to the scene or chapter that you are working on that makes you want to write it. The twist? This doesn’t have to be something you actually want to keep. Make it something completely unexpected and wacky. The crazier, the better. Does a storm come out of no where and blow your character’s ship off course? How would it change your story if the MC’s best friend suddenly died? What if a complete stranger barged their way into the conversation you are writing?

Don’t worry about how a sudden twist might change the plot or derails your story from the outline. You are only adding it to trick your stubborn brain into writing again. You can take whatever happens out in the next draft. Or you may like it and decide to keep it.

I added a new character in act three of my first draft of The Hashna Stone, simply because I didn’t know what to write and needed some spice to keep me going because I was in the middle of NaNoWriMo. I ended keeping her, and she is one of my favorite characters in the book.

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You’ve fallen out of infatuation with your story

What if you’ve given your novel a critical look over and done some soul searching and determined that it isn’t a problem in the novel or some deeper emotional reason for your writer’s block?

It may simply be that you are feeling the magical spark of new-story-infatuation fade away. You know the feeling I’m talking about. It’s that obsession you have when you first get an idea, the bubbling excitement as you write your first chapter, the blinding adoration for your main character, and the absolute assurance that this story is going to be the one that gets you the agent of your dreams/lands you a book deal/sells a million copies.

We all go through an infatuation stage with our story. It might last a few weeks, it might last a few months, but however long it lasts it won’t be for the entire duration of your novel.

If your lack of interest is because your story isn’t new and shiny anymore, know that this is perfectly normal. This is the easiest of the reasons fix, because there really isn’t anything to fix.

You just have to keep writing. There will be a moment in your story where you find that spark again. It may be as you write the ending or it might be in draft three when you discovers something that adds that special touch to a character’s arc that you were looking for.

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Whatever the reason for you writing apathy–a problem in the novel that needs fixing, hindering beliefs and emotions, or a fading away of new-story infatuation–know that it is temporary.

You are still a writer, even it you don’t feel like writing. Your story is still a work of art, even if you don’t feel it is. Writing is a process that is filled with ups and downs, mistakes and triumphs. No one writes a novel and has nothing but happy, rainbow feelings throughout the process.

Not feeling like writing is normal. Having a muse that leaves you at the most inconvenient times is normal.  Not all writing sessions are moments of “flow” and that is okay.

Figure out why you’ve lost the will to write, try different methods to get over that writer’s block, but whatever you do, don’t give up on your writing because of a season of “dryness” in your writing.

Keep learning. Keep writing. Your muse will be so impressed with your resilience, that they will have no choice but to come back.

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To Do or Not to Do NaNoWriMo?

Hey Epic Dreamers!
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.
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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!

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How I Got Over my Month-Long Writer’s Block

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.

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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.

Thanks friends!!! 🙂

VOTE FOR THE HASHNA STONE

How to Write a Short Story (if you’ve never done in before)

If you’re like me when I first started writing, you want to try your hand at short story writing before diving into a novel. But since this is your first time, even the short story is overwhelming.

I’ve got you covered! I’ll walk you step by step through creating your first short story.

 

 

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Creating a Story in 5 Days

I recently challenged myself to come up with a complete story within five days. I went from a vague idea to an entire story, complete with characters who grow throughout the story, setting, magic system, etc. I knew how it would begin, how the main character would have to change to overcome the challenges at the end, the backstory and motivation for each character, and even had a magic system up and running.

None of the story is actually written–it’s all an outline and a bunch of character sheets–but I felt pretty thrilled with myself for getting a whole story concept created within five days.

 

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It made me think, “What was it that made this story outline/world building go so quickly and smoothly?” Previously, my stories have taken much longer for me to flesh out. Now, to be fair, this would be (if I decided to write it) a stand-alone book, one view point, and (I’m guessing) wouldn’t be much more than 50,000 words. While The Hashna Stone turned into more than one book, has two view points, and ended up being 100,000 words. Plus it was my first book to plot and write, so I was still learning.

But even with these differences, I think there is something to be learn with the process I used for this story. And just so I won’t annoy you by how many times I say “this story,” let’s call it Story x.  😛

So, you guessed it, I’m going to share that process with you!

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Step 0

I’m not going to call this step one because it starts before you ever begin writing. Story x came to me while walking in the park one cold February day. I didn’t try to hard to make everything come together. Didn’t consciously allow myself to “work” on it. I simply allowed my mind to wander and go where ever it wanted to while I walked.

This is important to do with every story idea. At this stage, you haven’t put any work or time into it, so you’re free to make it whatever you want. Let the wildest ideas play out in your mind. Take different turns with the story, ones you couldn’t do once certain parts are nailed down.

This is where you find out if the story is even worth pursuing. If you have a main character, a supporting character or two, and even a vague idea of a plot, then you should probably go for it. (Oh, and make sure you are excited about it…if you feel only kind of “meh” about it now, you’ll only feel frustration later after months of work).

 

Step 1 

Gather all your thoughts on paper or in Scrivener or Word or where ever you record your stories. Write whatever you came up with in step 0 no matter how crazy or how much the ideas seem unrelated to each other. There’s no particular order you have to go in. It doesn’t matter if you start with characters, plot, a cool magic system, the villain’s life story or the fact that you want a character named Philomena (that is a real name, but don’t take it…I may use it in a story 😛 ). Just write it down in an organized way–whatever that means to you.

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I use Scrivener, so I like to have all my characters in one folder, then a folder for world building where I’ll put the rules and history of the magic system, and the aspects of the county the story takes place in. Then, I’ll have a folder for plot.

The first thing I wrote was actually the villain’s story. Once I knew their backstory and why they would behave the way they did, it made it easier to see where Story x was going and how the villain would affect the protagonist’s life.

Then I wrote the protagonist’s backstory. Then I jotted down my vague idea of what the magic system would be, and my even vaguer idea of the world.

You’ll notice that I didn’t write anything for the plot yet. When I tried to write a plot at this stage, I ended up with my main character’s everyday life and the inciting incident (well not even a full inciting incident because all I had was something like “something happens and she decides to run away). I find that some of my stories do better when I let them be character driven.

For Story x, I knew that a girl that had been locked away her whole life would runaway, experience the world she never knew….and…yeah…I don’t know. Stuff would happen.

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It was completely opposite for The Hashna Stone. I had a better idea of the plot then I did of what the characters were like or what they wanted.  I knew a boy would find a ruby in the middle of the woods, he would meet a bunch of kids living out there, and he would journey to the castle, and there would be a happy ending.

Again, just write down whatever you know at this point. You can expand later.

 

Step 2 

Find the part that interests you the most and start digging deeper into that area. I was really interested in why a woman would kidnap a baby (the protagonist) and keep her locked away her whole life.

I did kind of already dig into that in step 1, but now it was time to go even deeper, or if feel you can’t know about this part without some of the other areas being fleshed out, then go to the area that interests you second. A story idea isn’t like a piece of yarn, straight from end to end, but like a web, all the parts connecting, depending on each other for support. Sometimes you won’t be able to figure out  a particular part until you’ve discover another area of your story.

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Since I felt that the woman/villain’s story had gone as far as it could with out me knowing a bit more about the other players, I moved on to the tutor.

I didn’t want the girl to be completely ignorant, so I knew that she would have a tutor, but that led to the question, “What type of person would be okay with keeping a girl locked away like that?” This led to an interesting backstory about how the tutor came to be there and why he never tried to get the girl out.

 

Step 3

Repeat step 2 for as many times as you need to so that you have a good idea of what your characters are like, how the magic system works, and any little things like that that you want to discover.

 

Step 4

Come up with a plot. At this point, I think I’d been working for three days on Story x. I knew my characters well, and my world was shaping up pretty good, but I didn’t have a “what happens.”

To come up with what would actually happen in the story, I asked myself these questions about my protagonist.

  1. What is a normal day for her?
  2. What would completely shatter her world?
  3. What does she want? Goals?
  4. How do the other character’s goals conflict with these?
  5. What problems could arise in pursuit of her goals?
  6.  What lesson does she have to learn by the end of the story?

By the time I finished answering all these questions, I had a plot. Bam! Like magic. Answer a few questions and I had an entire story.

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Now, you may already have a plot, and if you do you can still use these questions to add detail to your plot. I wish I’d asked myself these questions when coming up with The Hashna Stone. It would have made plotting much easier!

 

Step 5 

Time to outline. The last thing I did was take everything I knew about that story and put it into a nice, structured outline. I used the 3 act 9 block 27 chapter outline, but you can use whatever method you like. This is way too much to explain in this post (unless you want me rambling on for another 1,000 words 😛 ) so check out the link if you’re interested.

 

So there you have it! This is how I came up with an entire story in five days. Give it a try and let me know how it worked for you. I’d love to know the kinds of experiences you all have with this. Or tell me about how you create stories and outline.