Write Around the Block

If you’ve been a writer for any long period of time, you know about the infamous writer’s block.  You know this foul beast manifests if many different forms, and strikes when you least expect.

It’s a shape-shifter, changing its dark shape into different beasts.

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For example, there’s “I don’t have any time to write,” writer’s block.  Or the “I want to write but I end up just staring at a blank screen” type of block.  Or the “every time I sit down to write, Facebook magically opens and I get sucked into a black hole of puppy videos and political posts.”  I’m also well acquainted with the “I don’t like this book anymore” block, or the “My characters won’t talk to me” writer’s block, or even “There’s not enough tension,” writer’s block.

But for me, I’ve found that the monster most often rears its ugly head in this form: “I don’t know how to write this scene that I’m working on.”  I’ll get trapped in this one chapter or this one plot point and feel like I HAVE TO WRITE THIS SCENE BEFORE I CAN MOVE ON.

This form of writer’s block usually makes me feel like I can’t write.  It’s debilitating.  For some forms of writer’s block, the solution is to take some time off, take a shower, go for a walk, read a book, etc.  But for this type of writer’s block, I’ve found the most helpful thing for me is to write around the block.  Sometimes I can power through, and write the scene anyways – like once I laboriously start typing a few sentences, I find I can type a few more.  More often, however, I’ve found it’s easier to just start a new scene.  Skip the troublesome one and come back to it later.

If I have no idea what’s happening in this chapter, but I can perfectly visualize a scene from next chapter, it’s a lot more time efficient to write that NEXT SCENE.

Don’t spend days or weeks not-writing just because you can’t fix one scene.  Move on, write something else, and come back.

Other tricks to try if you’re stuck on a particular scene:

  • Talk it out with a friend.  Usually just talking it out will help clear your head, even if your friend is super confused about what you’re telling them.
  • If you don’t have a friend readily available, try discussing the problem with your dog.  Or you can even try turning on your phone’s voice recorder and just talking about it aloud to your phone.
  • Try writing it longhand instead of typed.  (Or vice versa if you normally handwrite your story.)
  • Make a list of things that could happen in that scene.  Start with what you think is going to happen, and add in some unexpected.  Then pick your favorite parts and try writing from there.

Hope this helps!  I’d love to hear your thoughts on writer’s block and its different forms.  Also, if you have any tried-and-true methods of getting around it, leave them in comments below!

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College and Queries

Hello from UNIVERSITY!  I’ve had a week of classes, and I love the college environment.  It’s new and strange and exciting and fun and crazy and I miss home but I’m having a blast.  Also, my college has a spectacular, brand-new library.  So studying and writing and working is really fun there.  Also, there’s a coffee shop IN THE LIBRARY.  Life is amazing.

So what have I been up to?

Writing some.  But mostly, working on my query letter.  I found an amazing website called agentqueryconnect.com where you can get your query letter critiqued, and where you can critique other people’s queries too.  It’s similar to Critique Circle’s forum for Queries and Synopses, but Agent Query Connect is used a lot more.  More people, more critiques, faster turn-around.  You can revise your query letter and get the revision critiqued the same day.  It’s been super helpful.

I have a new-and-improved query letter.  (Yes, I’ve said that about my last 3 versions.)  But this one feels better.  It feels more right.  I started from scratch and built from the ground up.  It’s more streamlined, more efficient.

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I’m excited to start sending it out to agents again.

But it’s not all chocolate chips and cappuccinos.

Query letters are hard.  There’s a fine line between not-too-many details and not-enough details.  You have to capture your MC, the plot setup, the conflict, the stakes.  You have to try again and again and again, each successive version taking you closer to your goal.

You have to be willing to try and fail magnificently and try again.

Query letters, basically, are the worst thing ever.  Querying stinks.  It’s painful and annoying and it takes forever to get it right, and there’s no way of knowing if you’re on the right track until you find yourself published one day.  The querying process is punctuated with failures and rejection and crazy hope and perseverance and feeling like you want to give up.

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No one likes querying.

But I have a friend who texts me encouraging things sometimes.  And last week, I woke up to a text message from her saying this:

The reason people give up so fast is because they tend to look at how far they still have to go instead of how far they have gotten.

And then later she sent me a text saying this:

You didn’t come this far only to come this far.

That made me stop and think.  WOW.  I’ve written a book.  And I’ve EDITED IT!  Like, WOWZER.  That’s freaking amazing.

So my encouragement to you wonderful people of Internet Land:

Don’t give up.  Don’t let the fear of failing stop you.  Don’t stop when you’re behind.  Don’t listen to the voice nagging at you saying, “you’ll never make it.”

I’m chasing my dreams.

Chase yours.