Friday, January 27, 2012

"How well do you know me?" your novel asks.

Do you ever say to yourself, "today is the day I'm going to writer for five hours straight!"? Come on. . .fess up!
And did you decide to clean the kitty liter or dust under the couch or even take a tooth brush and scrub the hardware on your toilet? It's okay, don't be ashamed. We've all been there.

And we've all blamed it on WRITERS BLOCK!!!!
(I couldn't resist, Calvin and Hobbs is one of my all time favs!)

I'm not saying all that cleaning isn't important. In fact, my desk has to be spotless before I can even think about writing. This is stress that I put on myself. When writers ask me about writers block, I don't laugh, but I don't really believe in it. I think that stress has a lot to do with writers block.

Stress? What? We don't have stress. We have the best job in the world. We get to pour our every thought on the page. . .

. . .until we really sit down to work and all the other stuff in our lives creep in.

I'm not going to debunk whether or not you believe in writers block, but I would like to offer some tips on how to push through the times you feel stuck, unmotivated, blocked, whatever you call it.

1) Keep a pad of paper or journal with you at all times.

As writers, even if you have another job, ideas or story points are always popping into our heads.
(So maybe I should take my own advice on this one. Yes, I was driving and I had a very important red herring for my novel, Splitsville.com. I didn't have any paper handy, so I downed my Red Hots candy and scribbled on the box.)

Regardless, lesson learned. Now I carry pad and pencil in my car and purse at all times.
If you have an idea, you can write it down. When it's time to sit down and write, you can refer back to your journal and instantly have a place to start.

2) Read, read, read.

Writers always tell that to other writers. Successful writers always give that as advice when asked. It's true. Think about it. 

Reading helps you escape, it melts away your stress, and your creative juices start to flow. A lot of times someone's words will trigger a new thought to the scene your writing. OR give you an idea on how to expand the scene.

I have a hard time with dialogue tags. I'm one of those authors who can't stand to use he said, he yelled. Blah, blah, blah! I love finding new tags within other author's work. Hopefully you will find reading will help you keep going on your novel.

3) Take a trip for research.

Research can be fun. My novel, Carpe Bead 'em, had a neat little coffee shop setting in a few scenes of the book. When I knew it was time to work on that scene, I had to get the smell, the customers, the lingo exactly right. I packed up my laptop and headed to the little coffee shop that my fictitious coffee shop was modeled after, and let my creativity fly. 

Not only did I get the descriptions of the smells, feel of the shop and its customers, I began to write, write, write.

4) Change writing locations.

If you are having a lot of distractions in your writing environment, I suggest looking back to when you first became a writer. For me it was writing in the back seat of my van during school pick up when my now four teenage boys were in elementary school. It was a place that I couldn't get up and fold laundry, let the dogs out, start dinner. It was boring to sit there for an hour or so and wait. With nothing to do, my characters began to talk to me, helping work through scenes. Before I realized it, I had over two thousand words. Talk about getting my mojo on! I did this every school afternoon for over three years. That was a lot of writing.

Now my kids don't need me to pick them up, but on occasion you will find my van in the grocery store parking lot or even my driveway, writing away.

5) Free hand it!
(Did I mention I have a LOVE affair with Red Hots?)

I know, I can hear you now. Are you crazy? I am a tiny bit, but believe it or not, if I'm stuck this never fails me. The first paragraph might be crap, but I just start writing and my characters begin to rock on the page.

Have you had writer's block or gotten stuck? What are some of your suggestions? Do you think you will attempt any of my ideas?

Other great blogs to help you get words on a page:

Author Lois Winston was a guest this week on Ellis Vidler's Unpredictable Muse.

Some people believe that if you pamper your muses that it will help with writers block. Anne R Allen has a great blog on how to pamper your muse.

Author Clarissa Draper's take on writers block is boredom!


25 comments:

  1. Love this post, Tonya! I know exactly what you mean. I need to read the other one on fear and come back to this one. This weekend I need to get back in my routine,. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and expertise.

    Peace and love,
    Paula R.

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  2. I suffered TERRIBLE writer's block toward the end of my first Sultry Springs romance. I was *thisclose* to finishing the book, and I took a break to read the entire Hunger Games trilogy. What a mistake! I got so sucked in to Suzanne Collins's fantasy world that I lost the connection with my own.

    I'd put my BIC (Butt In Chair) and type, but everything that came out was stilted and lifeless. I'd lost my mojo. Weeks passed, and I was unable to find it again. Then someone recommended reading my manuscript from the beginning. No pressure--just read. So I did.

    It worked! I fell in love with my characters all over again, and as I approached the spot where I'd left off, I began to feel bummed, because I knew June and Luke wouldn't get their happily-ever-after until I wrote it. I continued drafting immediately after that and typed THE END about a week later.

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  3. I have one thing to say, Tonya: GET OUT OF MY HEAD!! This is so spot on. Writer's block, to me, isn't an inability to get words on the page, it's an inability to get adjacent to the page! There are so many things that really need to get done RIGHT NOW, that I just have to get busy and... Hold on a sec... Maybe I should just write for a an hour first, THEN get to all that stuff! What a revelation! I have to go write, See ya later. As soon as I empty the dishwasher...

    Fantastic post! Love the Calvin, too!

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  4. Writer's block doesn't exist. It's laziness, or in many cases it is.

    When I wrote my first novella, it tool 25 years from start to finish. But that was because I didn't fancy being an author. In 2006, While having trouble at my job, I revived the concept. I didn't find my original writing; I relied fully on memory. Some things remained the same, others wound up different. When I reached a spot where words did not flow, I moved to a different chapter. This explains why it may seem a little disjointed at times. But only partially why. I grant you by doing prologue, chapters 1 and 2, then 8, back to 3, then final 2 chapters, epilogue, and jumping around like that made it easier, but I also needed to go back to be sure the story fit together.

    If AUTHOR is your title, then you write. I've taken a long break from my WIP, but every time I am about to get back to it, something intervenes...health problems, fires, family problems. It happens. I did add about 50 words recently, but it's going to take a lot more to finish. I just have to avoid the interruptions.

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  5. Okay I have to say I love what greg just said:
    "Writer's block, to me, isn't an inability to get words on the page, it's an inability to get adjacent to the page!"

    I got myself up at 5 am to write... and of course it had to be a morning where my daughter came dowwn having had a bad dream... When she gets a little older i"m giving the girl a notepad to keep with her at all times too! (I've got two on me) Her dreams are waky and wild... But I'm off topic now... sort of..

    I actually dreamed about trying to find time to write this morning, which is why I got up to do it. I definately like all of the suggestions. the one I'm working on now is reading. So hard to find time for everything while juggling a day job and kids! :}

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  6. Oh.. I messed up on the word "took" then I saw a problem...I have a lot less reason to feel embarrassed. :)

    YOUR QUOTE: "Now my kids don't need me to pick them up, but on occasion you will find my van in the grocery store parking lot or even my driveway, writing away."

    WOW. YOUR VAN writes?! Very talented van. I've never given my van a chance to write.

    SERIOUSLY, it's the same problem. And like the old joke says: "Proofread carefully to see if you any words out." (YES, I did that intentionally.)

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  7. Hi, Paula! Great to see you here. So glad you stopped by and took the time to let us know that you are jumping back in. That really is the point of this post, to get motivated so you can get some words on the page.

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  8. Melissa, that is a great piece of advice. I do read my novels out loud when I am finished and make notes where I could beef up the scene. And before you know it, I've got a lot to write:) Congrats on all your recent success!!

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  9. I had writer's block so bad that I couldn't even read a book! I am happy that I am back and the ideas for a new wip are floating in my head. Since writing doesn't seem to be my first priority -- and I know it should be -- I get guilty and procrastinate and do other things like laundry, etc. I am happy to be back in the saddle again!
    Monica VanBeekum

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  10. Hahahhaa! Greg, you are so fun. I'm going to the movies today, but I had to get my words written before I am allowing myself to go...oh, and I unloaded the dishwasher. Good luck today!!

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  11. PS: I also LOVE Calvin & Hobbes. Also the Zebras and Crockidiles in Pearls Before Swine are hilarious.

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  12. DOLDMAN, thanks for stopping by. I agree that writer's block is pretty much an excuse, but getting stuck is real. I'm hoping to help generate some more ways to become creative.

    Moving on to the next chapter is a great idea. Do you go back at the end of the first draft and smooth out the chapters that caused you to be stuck? Or do you go back when you figure it out in your head before the end of the novel?

    You don't have the new app or the new van that enables your car to write for you?? Man. . .I thought you were pretty up on technology.

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  13. Monica, so happy to see you here! AWESOME that you are back in the saddle. Sometimes we just have to walk away and give our manuscripts space.

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  14. With one exception -- to complicated to explain here -- I don't think I've ever had to deal with what I understand as "writer's block".
    My biggest coping problem is procrastination. And I've let Facebook, blogs, and e-mail delay the start of my writing day by several hours or more. I need to control that better.
    I also do a lot of note-scribbling --- if I didn't, that line of dialog or plot element would evaporate.
    Never tried writing in a van. Don't usually write long-hand either ... unless I simply cannot get to my PC. Since a very young age, I've been a very good typist, so my fingers on the keyboard greatly facilitate my creative juices.

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  15. Another great post! Thanks for all your wonderful advice--again:)!

    I have a pad of paper in the car and next to my bed. I come up with great ideas first thing in the morning before I'm completely awake. If I don't write them down when I first get out of bed, I usually forget them.

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  16. Just so you know -- I go by D_OLD_MAN on Twitter, and on Facebook, I'm simply me. (You can call me Chuck, or you can call me Charles, or you can call me Chabu...LOL)

    Actually, if I got stuck, I'd jump to a chapter which I knew I could do. If I could smooth the transition in the "rough" spot before the end, I did. At one spot I simply gave it a "time break" and explained it as a "months passed" -- "As thoughts of summer faded, and autumn waned...."

    I think you get the idea. But if I couldn't solve it by the time my new chapter was done, I tried to so at the editing of the draft. Each one is possible. And each one worked for me.

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  17. I absolutely believe that stress (or illness because you just can't think creatively) can interfere with writing. Change of location is a perfect way to change it. I'll go sit with my horses. Since I do so much work on the computer, a pen and notebook seems much less daunting. I've worked out many a problem that way.

    Good article, Tonya!

    Sia McKye OVER COFFEE

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  18. Great post. Thanks much for the shout-out. I love the notes written on the Red-Hots box. I try to remember to keep my little tape recorder with me, but hey, a candy box can do in a pinch.

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  19. I keep my iPhone with me at all times with two apps...Evernote and a voice recorder. If I'm driving, I just speak what I think of while I'm driving. If I'm sitting still somewhere, I can type into Evernote. Which synchs immediately with my Mac and with my web browser. I have those notes with me all the time which is so freaking awesome! I'm with you, I'm not a big believer in writer's block. I know if I sit down and start typing...anything at all...I won't be able to help myself. Once I started with "this scene is really boring me. something more exciting needs to happen. Like what if...." and it took off from there. Another I started with "My name is Amy. This is my story." and then Amy started telling me her story. hmmm, now I write it out it sounds an awful lot like I'm in need of therapy lol.

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  20. Hi Tonya...baby steps. I get really anxious and start to doubt myself, which kicks the fear into overdrive. I wouldn't say I had writer's block, but the debilitating fear hinders my ability to move forward in my writing.

    Peace and love,
    Paula R.

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  21. Great point, Jeff!! Procrastination is definitely not my friend. You seem to be doing GREAT with it!

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  22. Paula, fear is so real and stifling. Baby steps and positive words always help push through.

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  23. Melinda, that is a great idea. The talking feature is definitely a plus.

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  24. Sia, stress is a biggie. And that can lead to illness. How do you cope with it? I like to post positive phrases around me and surround myself with positive people.

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  25. When I began my first book it was on our big ol' dinosaur desktop computer. Every morning and every evening found me sitting at the desk, writing away. But after the hubs gave me a shiny new laptop, things started to go wonky. My word count was next to nothing, my muse had fled and man! did I get discouraged. I blamed writer's block before I realized I'd had a schedule when I was busting out words, and the loss of that schedule was what was messing me up. (Came as a complete surprise since I'm one of the most unorganized people ever! Schedules? We don't need no stinkin' schedules.) Even though the old computer has long since gone to cyber heaven, I plunk my laptop down on that desk and adhere to my schedule and it works for me. I was able to finish, edit and revise my book and get it into the hands of my beta readers before my self-imposed deadline. I'm not saying the words flow like magic every day, but my brain realizes that when I'm at that desk, I'm there to write whether we have any clean towels or not. Another plus is that my family knows that when I'm at that desk I'm working, and they leave me alone for the most part, and put the towels in the dryer themselves. A schedule. Who knew?

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