Tag Archive: writer’s block

I have a confession to make: My passion for my work-in-progress has kind of fizzled out.

I had some awesome momentum last year. Wrote twenty chapters in a month (thank you NaNoWriMo). I knew what was happening. There were great and exciting things running through my head.  I would sit down at my computer and typing was an adventure. And then, it all stopped.  Not like I hit a brick wall or anything and more like I ran onto a giant sheet of flypaper.

Today (actually, last Thursday), I stared at the screen for an hour and didn’t even make five hundred words. To put that in perspective, I was writing between 1000-1200 words an hour at the beginning of the year.

Thanks to my outline, I still know what’s going to happen next. I know how to get from point A to Z, I’ve just lost interest in getting there. There are so many other things I would rather do. Read City of Lost Souls or watch Psych or finally find out what this DC reboot is all about (I am suffering a relapse of Batman mania due to the sheer awesomeness of Dark Knight Rises, but more on that another time). Or write fan fiction, my mind is churning out all kinds of fan fiction ideas. And the sad part is, the fan fiction I’ve written lately is better that the three or four most recent chapters of Mind Games. I mean, Chapter 28 mostly reads like lines for a play, with a few notes about blocking and scene. Well, at least some of the dialogue holds water…maybe…once I polish it up. I have successfully reached the Half-way Blahs (which does not always occur at the actual halfway point).

If this was my first experience with the Blahs, I might be worried. And those of you who’ve just reached this point for the first or second time may be worried. But before you start throwing ashes over torn-out hair and hold a funeral for your muse, listen for a minute. I can tell you that this isn’t my first frustration struggle with the Blahs. And this won’t be your last (And if you haven’t met them yet, they’re coming). The Blahs will pass. The glue on the flypaper dries out eventually and you can build up to that run again. Better yet, you can use the flypaper as kindling to get your fire going again. The work you have to do to escape the Blahs is always worth it.

And as for me, I’ve been lounging about and feeding my inner artist for too long. Problem is, this diet of (phenomenal) reading with no writing has made my inner artist fat and lazy. She could run, but she had no desire to and obviously can’t last for very long. So it’s time to get back on the track. I’m going to make her work, even if she can only manage short bursts at the keyboard. Because even though it may take weeks or months, I will get back to the point when I can spend huge chunks of time writing. I’ll find the passion for this story again. But until then, I will push on (for more about writing even when you don’t want to, check out this blog). I’ll do so much research. I’ll drag out the playlist and listen to it incessantly. And I’ll keep stumbling through my story, because sometimes you have to fall a few times before you can run.

Writer's Block (8) by Jonno Witts

Far be it from me to offer you advice and then just leave you hanging. In Chugging Right Along, I talked about how writers write–rain or shine, inspired or not. But sometimes that can just be hard. Sometimes you get stuck and just can’t think of anything and you end up taking three hours to write one sentence. Been there, done that.

Writing well and consistently is all about practice and persistence. You can’t sit down and expect you first book to be the next great American novel, it’s going to take a lot of trial and error. You have to learn what your good at and what you just suck at. And that can only happen if you write–a LOT. But what do you do when it takes you that long to put together a sentence? When you are fresh out of ideas or you are just not at your best, how do you find something to write about?

We’ve all experienced it: writer’s block (And if you haven’t yet, you will. Trust me). It’s a common disease that affects anyone who has ever picked up a pen and tried to tell a story. You start the story and you’re going full steam, the words are pouring from your brain onto your paper and they’re pretty darn good. It’s exciting, it’s exhilarating, it’s a high unlike any other. And then, KABLAM! You run full force into a brick wall.  You reel, you stagger, you fall flat on your butt in the dust. But that doesn’t stop you. You’re a writer, so you pick yourself up. You dust off the seat of your pants and you try to get past the wall. But you can’t. You couldn’t figure out how to get past that wall if your life depended on it.

I know, I’ve been there. My notebooks have doodles in the margins from where I’ve hit that brick wall–and if the doodles weren’t enough proof I’ve taken up the habit of writing “Writer’s Block” in the margins every time I hit it. Sometimes it is because I’m not really sure where I’m going (hence the reason I’ve started outlining my books). Other times it’s because, dagnabit, I just don’t want to work on the silly book anymore. That’s when I know it is time to take a break. Believe it or not, you can get tired of your story. Or just burnt out. So close the notebook or save the document and do something else. Write a short story. Work on a different scene (often this is more than enough to get me past whatever I couldn’t get past). Clean something. I’ve found cleaning the bathroom and/or the kitchen can be very inspiring. Especially if there is music involved (Pandora is my best friend). Or watch a movie that’s set int he same world/time/situation as your story. The LOTR movies and Princess Bride have gotten me through many bouts of writer’s block. Come back in an hour or a day and try to write again.

Of course, stories don’t pop out of thin air. If you don’t feel like coming up with your own idea, then writing prompts are a great way to go. These are great to get you started writing something, anything. And it doesn’t have to be good. You just start writing and let the idea take you where it takes you. You are allowed to let these ramble a bit. You can use them to develop a specific skill, like description or dialogue. And if you really like the story you can go through and edit it, tighten it up, cut out the rambling and turn it into something you could send in to a contest or have a friend read. Or you could file it away (try to always save your writing, you never know what you might be able to use down the road) and never look at it again. Prompts aren’t hard to find. I currently have a free eBook full of them sitting on my nook (there also is a longer version available for $.99). You can also search for them on Google. Here are a few that I liked:

Now if you are focused or you don’t want to separate yourself completely from the story, this is a good time to work on a character story. For example, in one story the main character has this beautiful bow made by Elves out of the wood of a very special kind of tree (yes, I know, my LOTR obsession is showing). Now how and why she got the bow isn’t really important to my story,  but just for the fun of it, I did write the scene where she received the bow. All that that mattered to the main plot is that the Elves gave it to her, thereby signaling their approval of her. However, suppose instead that the bow had been given to her by her father. The relationship between the main character and her dad is very important to the story, which would have made it possible to include the scene in the book. But for the most part, scenes like this are for your eyes only. They can enrich your writing secondhand (I didn’t even realize how important it was for her to gain the Elves approval until after I wrote this little vignette), but they bog the writing down when they aren’t pivotal to the plot.
If you’re really brave, you can try combining the two ideas above. Take a writing prompt and adapt it to your world with your characters. It’s a great way to play with your characters and see how they would react in situations that they wouldn’t encounter in the course of your story. It can be enlightening.
And for when you’re feeling really lazy, there is always fan fiction. Can I just say that I love writing the stuff? Well, I love writing the stuff (and not just because I’ve been an incurable shipper wince the age of four). I have characters, I have a setting, and I have a story that shows me how they react. And I am free to take all those things and use them to craft a story. This is an awesome way to practice your writing. It can show you how flexible you are as a writer. When I write fanfics, I try to blend my voice with the original author’s voice as much as I possibly can. I’m always proud of myself when someone says, “It’s just as if So&so wrote this story”. It makes me feel like a super-secret writer spy. Of course there is a lot of bad fan fiction out there. And of course you can’t actually publish any of the material you write…or can you? I know for a fact that I have used conversations and other things that I’ve discovered through writing a fan fiction (heck, my first complete story started out as a fan fiction). But even if it is only to entertain yourself, fan fiction is a good way to practice your writing. You’re free to come up with your own story (I find myself doing this when I’m not happy with the way a book/movie ended) or you can take a scene and rewrite it. I do this frequently with manga. Since manga is a visual medium, you don’t always get the inner thoughts of the characters and there is a lot of room for interpretation. I like to flesh out the little details about what is going on in a character’s head. All in all, if you do it well, this can be a valuable opportunity. Do you want to write in first person? Learn to do it well but imitating an author that writes killer first person novels. Need to work on your dialogue? Find a book with dialogue sections that you like and try to create a conversation between two of its characters. Before you know it, your fingers will be itching to open your notebook back up and return to your own characters.
These are just someways to keep yourself writing through rain and shine. I know there are many, many others. If you have any of your own tips/tricks please share them. I’m always looking for more ideas.
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