Six Tips For Overcoming Writers Block

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.

Roleplay

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.

Outine

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?

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Dos and Don’ts of Writing Regularly

(Or, How to kick start your creativity without really trying)

 

Being as the lovely Miss Sabrina and I are currently in the heat of a bit of friendly competition, via our region’s decision to do a year-long writing challenge, I thought I would share a few of the techniques which we have found that motivate us to write on a regular basis. After all, by learning to write regularly, you will also get into the practice of improving your writing, and it will become easier to write as well! First of all…

 

Do be sure to have fun!

I’m assuming that most people nowadays start writing because they enjoy it. It is when we begin to lose that enjoyment that our work begins to suffer, as we are only writing in order to get it done, rather than make something you can be proud of. If you need an example of this, dig up a writing assignment you did for school and look it over. Most likely, you wrote it with your grade in mind, and were not too enthusiastic about it. Now, would you ever think to put that assignment in the public eye, such as in a magazine or anthology? While it is possible that the pressure caused you to produce a hidden gem, a majority of school assignments become the types of things you just want to shove in a drawer and never look at again. Now, find something that you wrote jest because you wanted to, and the difference should be evident. Everything is better when your heart is in it!

 

Don’t be afraid to take a break once in a while

If you feel stuck, and have no idea where to turn, just take a step back for a little. Take a walk, read a book, watch some TV, or surf the web. Sometimes, just having the chance to relax a bit is all you need in order to clear your mind and have the absolute best idea ever! Now, if your writers block goes on for too long, or you’re participating in NaNoWriMo and are in serious need for words, sidetracking a bit while have a similar effect while still contributing to your word count. This past November, I spent about a few days writing out the theological beliefs of the humans and demons in my story, so that I would have a better understanding of why they do the things they do, and the way their versions of the same story might differ, based on the way it was passed down through their own generations. It also ensured that I would not contradict myself when I referenced their faiths. Sabrina, on the other hand, had another idea: she gave Mordecai a TARDIS, and wrote a short side story about his adventures coming to visit us, and then my characters in their own world. It was just a silly little thing, and didn’t really have any point other than entertaining us and just play around with Mordecai a little bit in a situation he would never face otherwise, but because it was written in a way that it could be included canonically, so it still counted for her words! Something else you could possibly try is writing ahead, so you know where you want to go, and just need to find how to get there. If gives you a goal to reach, and it will sometimes help you realize what elements you may have forgotten to include that will be important later on.

 

Do get your friends involved in your writing

This can be as simple as just telling them you’re a writer. By doing this, it will raise interest in them, so that they may begin to ask about how it’s going, which will in turn give you some accountability to produce results. In the case of Sabrina and I, we actually pester each other about out novels almost daily, as if our lives depended on the other getting their book published. Sabrina’s actually went as far as creating a sort of religion based around my novels, centered around the one truth of the world: Vaughn is a moron. Since the day she decided on this, the Church of the Speckled Ass has evolved, but she’s still always asking about the status of her “holy books.” I have not gone quite as far, but as a steadfast zombie rights activist, I push her to publish her mystery novels so that everyone may someday see how incredibly wonderful and adorable and gentlemanly Mordecai is, despite the fact he is a living corpse, so unlike the shambling monsters the media insists on portraying them as. Plus, I really want a Chivalry is Dead T-shirt. If you really need a challenge, and have an awesome fellow writer friend like I do, you can also employ a bit of competition. Oh, you wrote 1000 words this morning? Well, I had a particularly good night last night, and now I’m 2000 words ahead of you. It’s conversations like the one I just described that are perfect for giving you that push to write like the wind. It’s just for fun, of course, and we’re very understanding about giving each other the chance to catch up, when the gap is especially large, but that doesn’t mean we don’t still taunt each other with our word counts at times. After all, you don’t write over 11,000 words in a single day by being nice.

 

Don’t let other people’s opinions discourage you

If you’ve just started writing a story, or poem, or song, it probably is going to suck a bit. All that means, however, is that you will need to put in a little work to revise it a few time. Nothing is perfect when it is first put on paper. Even the best novel or most beautiful poem in the word was once a crappy first draft that somebody worked day and night to polish off until it shined. In the interim, though, people are going to feel they must give you their opinions about what you have so far. Some will be legitimate attempts to help you, such as pointing out the holes you have, or giving you advice or something that would really make your story awesome! Others will only want to tear you down, telling you your story sucks, or that you have no talent, or continually remind you that it is a long and hard process to get published, and that the chances of success are so low. When you encounter the later of the two, you just need to look straight into their eyes, smile, and tell them that those are still better chances than if you didn’t try at all. However, even the most well-intended advice and sometimes backfire. When telling a friend about an old novel I was thinking about resurrecting, we started discussing what problem I’d need to correct while I was rewriting it. My original draft had so many plot holes and problems that I lost the will to write for a few days and almost didn’t do NaNo this year. After I thought about it for a bit, though, I realized that my idea was fine, and that it was just the way I was telling it and my understanding of the story at the time that was the problem. So, for NaNo, I completely rewrote the story from scratch, completely changing the setting and storyline of the novel, only keeping the characters and the original idea for what kind of story I wanted it to be. And you know what? It’s turning out amazing. I’m so glad I realized how much work the story needed, and pushed through it, because I never would have realized what a great story I could make out of it otherwise. And the first draft? Well, Sabrina sure seems to enjoy it.

 

Do listen to music while you write

Music is a great way to keep you working hard. It can give you ideas for the next scene, motivate you with its quick tempos and inspirational lyrics, and just make the process a bit more fun. Personally, I like to put together Youtube playlists of music for each of the stories I’m working on and have them playing on another window while I’m working, because I can set the mood for what I’m writing, and break up the annoying silence that I’m sometimes faced with when I writing on the couch or alone in my room. I also keep a supply of CDs nearby, and have a few of my favorite songs and albums saved on my computer for emergencies. When I’m really having a hard time with a scene, it sometime helps to put on my favorite song and belt out a few lines before returning to the document. A sad song for sad scenes, funny ones for happy scenes, and some awesome steampunk battle songs for fights! Then, when I’m done with the scene, I can reward myself with something fun that had nothing to do with the story, just to keep my mood up. And in the meantime, the hours and words just slip away, until I find I’ve written thousands of words without feeling like I’ve filled more than a page.

 

Don’t have anything else playing that might distract you

While playing music can be good, trying to watch TV or a movie, or try to write in the same room as someone who has a TV or a video game running. Even if you have rock hard concentration, your still bound to drift off every once in a while when something catches your eye and ear. And, much too often “just seeing what’s on” turns onto “let’s watch the rest of this episode” which becomes “just one more hour” which eventually becomes a skimpy word count and no progress. In fact, being distracted can even end up keeping you from knowing what you’re even writing. If your family is glued to the TV, make the choice to go up in your room or to the library until you make adequate progress, whether you decide that that is 500 word, or half an hour, or writing 2500 word in a single hour. If you just can’t miss a show, have someone record it in some way, or look it up online later on. Plus, it’ll seem so much more satisfying to use it as a reward for your hard work, rather than a diversion that you have to try to ignore.

 

When writing a novel…

 

Do outline your ideas ahead of time

One of the most difficult parts of writing a novel is when you’re a couple of chapters in, and start to run out of steam. When you began, you had so many amazing ideas that you wanted to include, but you’ve suddenly forgotten every single one. Something I’ve found that can help with this is to outline your ideas ahead of time. You can just open up a word document or write out some bullet points on paper of everything you want to happen in your story. It doesn’t need to be real rigid; it doesn’t even have to be in order. My outline for the story I’m working on at the moment it split up into a group of major events, smaller events that need to happen before I can move on to the next one, and a few smaller events that I can sprinkle in here and there if I just need a break from the major drama, or need to have a little bit of time pass between one part and another without outright saying “a week passed between now and then.” Many of the sub-bullets can be rearranged as needed, depending on what I can see happening at the point at which I’m writing, and some of the non-important events even get pushed down repeatedly simply because I didn’t know how to include it at the time, and don’t see it as important. Then, as I use events, I erased them, so I can see myself slowly nearing the end of my novel. It feels great.

 

Don’t end your day of writing on a particularly high or low note

Be careful when deciding where to stop. One of the hardest things to do it wake up in the morning and immediately remember that you have to write one of the most miserable and depressing scene in your story as soon as you open the document. It works the same way when you turn in for the night at the end of one of the happiest scenes in the novel. I once went to bed after finishing one of the most adorable dream sequences in my entire story, and I didn’t even want to get out of bed the next morning, because I knew that my waking up would also involve waking Aria up and ruining her life a little bit more. I love my characters, I really do. So, the prospect of ripping them out of a state of pure happiness first thing in the morning is enough to almost make me give up on a story. Almost. Obviously, I didn’t, because then I would have Sabrina after my head. But, as with life, the wheel of fortune (as in, the legit tarot-card wheel, not the game show) must continue to spin. Good things will happen to our characters, and bad things will happen to our characters, but you’re never on the top for long. It’s just easier to get the wheel spinning properly when it has the proper momentum. Don’t let too many good or bad times stop your wheel before it’s had its chance to make the full revolution!

 

And finally…

 

Do keep up with other writers, both published and bloggers!

Sometimes, the best inspiration for your story is to read somebody else’s. As long as you don’t blatantly copy every single thing someone writes, it’s okay to name one of your characters after somebody else’s, or imitate the style of someone else’s scene when you’re struggling with a similar one of your own. In fact, a few “cameo appearances” in some of Sabrina and my novels actually became much bigger once they were given the chance to grow (Severna and Malik, right Seb?) Just remember to give credit where credit is due, and do what you can to develop your own style before you start trying to leech off others. Oh! And if you like the way someone writes, why not give them a little encouragement? Hm…?