Monthly Archives: May 2013

Writer’s Block: How it Happens and How to Make it Stop

block

The fear of the block is something most writers in history have had to contend with, some better than others. A lot of writers have no idea what to do when they get blocked so they decide to “write through it” but there’s a major problem with that approach. How is writing through your block supposed to help you if you never understood why you got blocked in the first place? Understanding a problem is the first step is learning how to overcome it. If you take the time to understand the issue that got you hung up in the first place you have a much better chance of fighting past it.

From what I have found from my experience and from talking to other writers here are the three most common reasons that writers get stuck:

1. Not Having Enough Detail or Information:

Research can save the day!!!

Research can save the day!!!

Like I mentioned in a previous post, writing is a form of illusion. You are attempting to create a fictional world within your work that is able to captivate and hold your readers’ interest. If you do not having enough descriptive detail in your piece, or if the detail you have is lacking, then you might find it difficult to generate ideas. Say your main character is schizophrenic, if you don’t know that much about the syndrome chances are going to run out of ideas. A great idea is to hit up your local library’s reference section and do some research. Research will help you both to create a world that your readers will buy into and to generate more ideas if you get stumped.

2.Not Being Interested:

Yaaaaaaaaaaawn

Yaaaaaaaaaaawn

Coming up with ideas is a daily struggle even when you are interested in your story, but if you have gotten to the point where the plot no longer holds any intrigue for you, what do you think a reader would say about it? If you get bored by your story go back through it from the start and see at what point you began to lose interest and what you could change to make it better. Say for example your character goes off on a long speech which has some crucial plot details in it, but goes on for so long that your readers’ interest begins to dwindle. In that case the best thing to do would be to find a way to break the speech into sections so that the reader is still getting those key plot details from the original speech, but in installments so it does not feel like too much at once.

3. Not Getting Enough Sleep!!!!!

Give your brain a rest...SLEEP!!!

Give your brain a rest…SLEEP!!!

Despite the picture some people have in their heads of writers as some sort of vampiric creatures who avoid sunlight and live on coffee, writers are still human beings. Humans need adequate sleep in order to function. Your brain needs rest in order to think, because if you can’t think, you can’t write…or at least you can’t write well.  Have you ever written something when you were exhausted and then read over it later and had absolutely no idea what you were talking about? Well chances are if you can’t understand it, neither can your readers. Give your brain a break, get some sleep.

Alright, now that we’ve gone through some of the traps writers fall into that get them stuck, here are just a few of the little tricks that I have found helpful through the years.

1 – Take a Break:

Breaktime!

Breaktime!

If you get obsessed with whatever it is that has you stuck, you run the very real risk of over thinking it. If you think about your issues too much you will drive yourself INSANE!!! One of the best things you can do is to go for a walk. You need a little time everyday where you can just clear your mind and relax. Even though the stereotype of the “crazy writer” is popular even to this day, if you want to be able to have a long career as a writer you’ve got to protect your sanity!

2- Read a Book:

reading

Reading books and watching movies is a fantastic way to help you generate ideas. Just pick a random book and start reading. Pick a random movie and start watching. Sometimes I like to pick a book or movie that’s similar to what I’m trying to write and then right after that I pick one that’s totally different. You never know what can give you inspiration! Keep your eyes open for any little thing, the setting, the characters or just a few little phrases. Just a few little pieces can give you an idea or two to get past writer’s block.

3- Learn Something:

To live with purpose, is to learn with vigor!!!

To live with purpose, is to learn with vigor!!!

A writer can never stop learning about their world. Go watch a documentary, take a class or read a magazine article about something you don’t know that much about. The world changes every day and if you want to write about it or to get new ideas, you’re going to have to learn as much as you can.

4- Don’t throw away your ideas-

Save your ideas like a packrat!!

Save you ideas like a packrat!!

Whenever you write anything, even if it doesn’t work, don’t throw it away. Store all of your old work and go back over it later. For example, I save all of my writing that didn’t work in a flash drive labeled “ideas”. A few times there have been poems and short stories that I was able to take off of the flash drive years after I had first written it. Some of them I was able to finish and others I was able to use as inspiration for something else. The thing is, when you’re a writer you need to be able to grow. If something doesn’t work the first time, that doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to get inspiration in the future.

5. Changing Perspective-

Change prespective

One thing that I like to do when I get stuck it to shift the perspective of the story. If I am writing a novel or a short story and I get a bit jammed I like to take some time and to think what one of the other characters in my story would say if they were the narrator. Sometimes I even shift formats. I was writing a novella once and I wasn’t sure where my story was going so I went back through and rewrote the entire thing as a stage play, and then again as a screenplay. Trying to transform the written words of the novel to incorporate the visual aspect of the stage and screen worked like a charm to get my creative juices cranking.

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day: The Rooms

People say that a person’s bedroom reflects their personality. Keeping that in mind, describe the bedrooms of the following characters in as much detail as possible.

1. A faded movie star with alcohol issues.

2. A person who is paranoid (now this paranoia can be real or imagined, like it can be a person it witness protection or even a person who thinks Elvis is after them.)

3. The arch-nemesis of a superhero.

4. A poor grocery store cashier who won the lottery.

Every writer is different so my techniques might not work for you but you never know, give them a shot. If you have different methods or exercises that you use to overcome blocks be sure to comment. I’d love to hear from you!

 

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Filed under Characters, Creative, Creative writing, Dialogue, Ideas, Plot, Uncategorized, Writing

From First Draft to Finished: 3 Critical Editing Tips

 

"The main thing I try to do is write as clearly as I can. I rewrite a good deal to make it clear.” ~ EB White

“The main thing I try to do is write as clearly as I can. I rewrite a good deal to make it clear.” – E.B. White

So you’ve completed your first draft? Great work!!! The work however does not end there because right when you think you’ve finished comes one of the most key, and at times terrifying, parts of writing…EDITING!!! No writer in the world writes perfectly the first time. Sometimes it can take a million drafts and rewrites to get it into shape and even then it never feels like enough. There are many keys to learning what to edit and what to keep such as reading groups, the inner critic, and lastly self-censorship. If you’ll just bear with me, I can show you what I do to make sure that I am able to edit effectively.

Find the balance
Finding the right balance

I- Reading Groups – Finding the Right Balance

Though writers are often portrayed as stereotypical loners, if they don’t have other people to turn to they can become a sobbing pile of neurosis. It really helps you to know what is good and bad in your work to have a few objective readers who can look at your work and tell you flat out what works and what doesn’t. The hard part is that you need to find people who can give you constructive criticism but who also aren’t going to tell you everything you write is golden because they don’t want to hurt your feelings. To form a useful and productive writing group you need to find people who are going to tell you the truth and who aren’t going to give everything either a blanket approval or rejection. It’s also a good idea to grow some thick skin. Criticism, even when it’s constructive, can be really hard to hear sometimes. If you worked really hard on one particular piece that you think is really good and you get really attached to it, when it gets any criticism you run the risk of getting defensive. If you get too defensive you run the risk of keeping weak material in your work. When you get criticism, don’t freak out just keep an open mind.

II- The Inner Critic- Help from Within

The Inner Critic- Helpful Madness

The Inner Critic- Helpful Madness

Whether or not you are a writer, a lot of the times in life you find that YOU are your own biggest critic. For writers, this voice usually pops up and makes snide comments about what they’ve just written such as “how could anyone write anything so stupid”, “there’s no way that character would ever do that” and of course the ever popular “and you call yourself a writer”. There are two dangers related to the “inner critic” and both have the capacity to destroy your literature. First, if you listen to you inner critic all the time you will end up hating everything you write because you will automatically assume that it’s garbage. Second, if you never listen to your inner critic you will end up automatically loving everything you write, even if it’s not well written, simply because you wrote it. That means you run the risk of keeping a lot of bad material in your work. The solution is simple; listen to your Inner Critic sometimes because sometimes it’s right.

III- Self-Censorship- Learning to Play the Game

Censorship

When I say self-censorship I’m not talking about the FCC or the “man” bringing the hammer down and trying to shut down your creativity. I am talking about you as the author being able to tailor your own work to suit different audiences. It’s not about taking down censorship, it’s about learning how to push past it and still produce quality work. Also, if they want you to make a cut that will totally destroy the meaning or purpose of your piece then that particular place probably isn’t the best outlet for your work. Censorship might not seem like it really belongs in something as creative as writing, but if you as the writer don’t think about it in some respect, especially if you want your piece to be published or performed, you’ll never get in the door. You have to look into the other kinds of work that the company or magazine has come out with. If they mostly publish work that’s so clean it squeaks, then they are not a good bet to publish something with bad language or sexual content. They will shoot down your work and most likely, depending on the organization, not trust you to censor yourself. Here’s a great tip: Save multiple copies of your work. I usually write plays, so whenever I write one I always save at least one original uncensored copy. Then I can edit for content depending on the theatre, or school, or playwriting competition I am submitting it to that way I always have that uncensored copy to start from.

“No author dislikes to be edited as much as he dislikes not to be published.”J. Russell Lynes

The greatest tip anyone can give you about editing is to not worry about it until you have to. If you freak yourself out about it too soon you will only succeed in driving yourself insane. At first just breath, relax and write your story.

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day:

For this exercise I am going to give you two characters, a setting, and a conflict. You need to take the three little pieces I give you and write a scene. Now this can be a drama, a comedy a thriller. It can be whatever you are in the mood to make it.

Character A- a 35 year old mime

Character B- a 45 year old detective

Setting- an art gallery

Conflict- someone is trapped

 

Have fun with this and I will see you next time!

 

 

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Filed under Characters, Creative, Dialogue, Ideas, Plot, Writing