As you might have noticed, if you follow me, I haven’t posted in over a month. While that is partially due to laziness, I also had a hard time making time for blogging because I’ve been dedicating myself to finishing the first draft of my novel. I’ve been working on it off and on since November, and must admit that there were a few times I wanted to give up because I hit a major wall of writer’s block, or just didn’t feel inspired. But, I pushed through, and now I have a roughly 480 page word document, sitting around waiting for editing. So, in honor of my triumph over writers block, I’ve decided to give some tips on how you can, too! 😀
Listen to music while you write
Whenever I am planning a new novel or story, I like to find a few songs that remind me of the story. Songs that remind me of the plot, one event, one character, even a song that has nothing to do with the story, but captures the feeling of story. I have whole playlists of youtube devoted to songs that inspire me and give me great ideas for what I want to happen next.
You don’t have to make it that complicated, though. If playlists aren’t your thing, or you’re having a hard time finding songs that fit your story, any music will do. Pop in your favorite CD or look up some classical music online. Whatever get your creative juices flowing and make writing fun for you, that’s the perfect music for a quick word binge.
Take a break
Sometimes, when you just can’t seem to get the words on the page, all you need to loosen up the mental dam is a quick destress. Walk through the park, take a trip around town, or maybe even play some a sport with your friends or family. Inspiration often strikes the moment you least expect it. The second you stop thinking about your story and instead just thing about relaxing and having fun, your characters will come out and play on their own, and you’ll suddenly have your “aha!” moment and want to run back home to write as soon as possible.
If you know that you’re prone to random spurts of inspiration, but also tend to lose them as fast as you receive them, relaxing around the house might be a great idea, too. Read a book, take a bath, maybe even do your nails (yes, even you guys! If you don’t like it, you can peel it off later, but you’d be surprised how relaxing it is!). If you’re looking for something that’s a little more of a challenge, yoga can also be a good choice. You can even take a nap, if you so wish! Some of the best ideas have come in their writer’s dreams. Whatever works to prevent you from pulling your hair out in frustration, do it. Your story, and your body, will thank you.
This may seem like a weird piece of advice, but putting your characters into settings and situation that they are not usually in, and focusing on developing that one character, rather than the entire situation, can help you develop the character further than you might ever have done on your own. No matter how much thought you put into your characters, there’s always going to be at least once part of them that you may never know about without throwing them into weird adventures with your friends’ (or strangers) characters. By exposing you characters to these, and revealing hidden parts of their character, you’ll now have a new aspect to explore, and maybe try to work into the story. You could even get ideas for new characters to introduce, if you really like aspects of the other characters. If you do borrow another person’s character, or base a character off theirs, just be sure to tell them. Most people will be honored you like their creation, but it’s still always good to ask permission.
Write side stories
I have only just discovered this beautiful little tip, but my best friends (and fellow writer/characters stalker) Sabrina has been doing this for as long as I’m aware. If you’re at a brick wall, but still need to write (say, you’re doing NaNoWriMo and your awesome friend is 3000 words ahead of you. : P ) take a little detour in the story that you can just edit out later. Drop the TARDIS into the story world and send your hero on a trip through time and space (or to Hael and back, as the case may be), and then have them decide to never speak of the experience again. Write a saucy scene between your OTP, only to have it be a particularly interesting dream. Have aliens attack the city, and have your main characters drop what they’re doing to defend their hometown! Just have a bit of fun with it. Write something that you can laugh at with your friends next time you earn a break, or cut-and-paste that weird little experiment in a separate document, then burn it the next time you drag your pale rear into the sunlight. As long as it relates to your story, it can still count for words. And, if you end up liking it, you have every right to work it into the canon somehow. Maybe. Morty’s TARDIS Adventures may be a little hard to work into a mystery series, but, you know, a little fan fiction never hurt anyone.
I don’t know what I ever did before I discovered the wonder of outlines. I’ve been writing since I was little, but I was always stupid and tried to plan out entire novels in my head and pray it would make it to the page before I forgot. That was before I was on a 2 hour car ride with major writers block, and started just mapping out where I wanted to go with it as soon as I got my next wind. Not only did it ensure that I remembered everything I wanted to happen, but it also gave be a clearer picture of where I wanted to do, and helped me map out a clear course to that destination. And, the great thing about outlines on the computer is that you can add to and delete from them at will. So, if your destination is still a bit foggy, outline what you know, and then brainstorm a few possibly details that you would like to include. As the outcome becomes clearer, you can add more or delete things that no longer fit. As long as you can put into perspective what you want to happen, making connections and brainstorming ideas will be that much easier
But, most of all, NEVER STOP WRITING ENTIRELY!
The second you trash that story, the Writers’ Block wins. I knew a girl in school who actually got a book published, and the one piece of advice that stuck with me since I last spoke to her is to never give up on your story. Remember that novel I mentioned at the beginning of my post? The “first draft” I finished was actually the second draft to an unfinished first story. I just offhandedly mentioned that I had a story I liked, but that wasn’t going anywhere, and that I was thinking about just trashing it. That was when she laid down that tidbit of advice. So, I bounced my unfinished plot off a few people, figured out what was good and what wasn’t, and then started from scratch with the improvements. Is the plot at all recognizable as the same story, other than having the same character names? Nope. Did I throw that crappy first draft away? Nope. After floundering with it off and on for two years in high school, throwing that thing away would be nuts! I just put it away somewhere safe, where Sabrina can drool over Vaughn for years to come. And, I revived it and kept working on it, no matter how difficult it got sometimes. Now, my “finished product” is nowhere near being sent to publishers, but I got it finished, which is further than I ever got before.
I know it might not sound useful, but if you’ve been caught by a particularly difficult case of The Block, just sit down and drabble. Most likely, you’re going to hate what comes out of your fingertips at first. You may even hate it when you look back at it years from now (God knows I have some scenes to edit later). But, the important thing is that you’re writing. Get past the scenes that are giving you trouble, and move on to easier ones. You can improve the scenes in post, if they’re really that bad. But, something that will inevitably happen at least once in your life is that you’ll show someone that mindless inspiration-drained diarrhea of words, and…they’ll like it. It feels like total crap to you, because you are your own worst critic, and you know how little effort you put into it. But, you’re also a writer, and a skilled one at that (if you can string together a coherent paragraph that gets your point across, you’re a lot more skilled than many non-writers), so you have the ability to create a masterpiece my accident on your worst day. Then, you’ll look back at that scene and think “Yeah…I guess that was a good idea.” Then, you’ll look at the story and realize that, even if it was the worst idea ever concocted, it got you writing again, so it was still a pretty good idea. Because writing a novel is hard. Ask anyone who’s been published, as well as any WriMo or budding writer currently sitting on a half-edited draft, but who is not yet published. You crossed the first hurdle by finding the courage to tell the story, and now you have about a hundred over hurdles to go before the world gets to hear it. Yes, it’s going to be hard, but isn’t it better to make it to the finish line, stumbling and out of breath, and with a feeling of accomplishment, than to take one look at it and never try at all?