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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A Little Thing I Wrote

Some days, the words just won’t be written.  The novel is hiding in a far-off land, the plot is taking the day off.  On those days, you take the elevator to the top floor of your school’s library, let go of your expectations, and simply write for fun.  Sometimes, writer’s blocks need to be written around.  Sometimes you need to remind yourself how to connect your brain to your fingers to the keyboard.  Sometimes you need to remind your fingertips how to sing their melody as they tap the rhythm of a story.

Somedays, you don’t get any noveling done, but you fall a little more in love with the power of writing.  Somedays, that’s all you need.

I’d love to now share with you a little thing I wrote: Libraries and Dragons.  It’s not really a short story – more like an essay in an imaginary world.  It hasn’t really been edited; it’s not going to win any awards.  But I love it anyways, and this little tiny piece reminded me that writing is a sort of magic that I adore.  So.  Enjoy.

One last note: the first paragraph is a note to myself.  But it’s kinda a part of the piece, so I left it there.

Alright, brain.  You’ve had your coffee, now write your words.  Forget the product, the answer, the perfection.  Write the words.  The words are the only thing you care about.  The words, the words, the words.

All libraries are living things.  Picture them dragons, if you will.  They’re not dragons – no, they’re nowhere near as polite as dragons – but picture them dragons for a minute.  They’re really quite similar if you think about it.

The largest of the dragons are the Nightmares, ancient things, all black scales and blazing eyes, huge leathery wings that haven’t tasted night air in centuries but would blanket the world in darkness if they were opened.  These dragons are like the Great Old Libraries.  The libraries that now only exist in faraway lands and are in danger of disappearing entirely.  Most people only see pictures of them on Pinterest.  But a picture can’t capture the smell of thousands of souls, aging away together for centuries until their stories are all intertwined.

The next in size are your Sea Dragons – not really dragons, per say.  (Although never try telling a Sea Serpent that she’s not a real dragon; it will be the last thing you say.)  These represent your – uh – electronic libraries.  Provided for you by deities such as the great River-God Amazon.  Do they count as real libraries?  Can a book still be a book if it’s pixels instead of paper?  Can a dragon still be a dragon if she doesn’t breathe fire?

The next largest in size are the Green Giants.  It’s said that they like to impersonate hills, curling up for years on end, covering themselves in dirt blankets, letting green grass feel at home on top of their already emerald scales.  These are the noble dragons, quick to come to the aid of needy kingdoms, quicker still to deliver justice to those who betray their trust.  These are like College Libraries.  They come in many shapes and sizes, but most are light-filled and shiny, always being renovated and repaired, full of bustling students and sleepy sunshine.  If you’re not careful with them, they’ll suck you away and you’ll never be seen again.

Then you’ve your Common Dragons – your Public Libraries.  They come in all shapes, sizes, textures, and colors, each full of their own magic.  First there’s the fast-growing White Dragon, which is full size in six months, and eats only vegetation.  These are the shiny new public libraries, such as you’ll find in any suburbia: spacious and brimming, with smiling librarians and fast wi-fi.  Second, you have the Blue Gypsies – these smaller dragons are known for speaking in verse and giving directions (usually in rhyming couplets) to those who have lost their way.  These are represented by those quaint, compact little libraries you’ll find in small towns. Candles of light and knowledge for the weary traveler come home.

Finally, we come to the Hound Dragons, named for their small size and dog-like trainability.  These are the most popular species to keep as pets, as they are quite happy to nest indoors, and also will follow humans with unwavering devotion if they are treated fairly.  The males are deep purple and the females are scarlet, and they have clever faces, bright eyes, and nimble talons.  Their smaller wings are only practical for short-distance flying, and they prefer climbing, hoping, and bounding with short bursts of flight, unmistakably like large grasshoppers.  These dragons are like Home Libraries.  Some are quite small, some are more impressive; some are old, and some are filled with crisp new spines.  Like the Hound Dragons, home libraries tend to reflect the nature of their owners, and one can learn a great deal about what sort of house one is in simply by examining either the dragon or the library.  If a house is missing one or both, it is recommended that you exit the premises as soon as possible, as the home may be prone to Nargle infestation.

There you have it: hopefully this discussion will help you in the future, either when dealing with the winged beasts or the book-filled creatures.

Write Whatever

I’ve had a lot of trouble writing my current WIP.  I feel like I’ve been working on it forever, but I don’t know where the plot is going.  I don’t know how to write a contemporary, I don’t know what the stakes are, and I just feel burned-out when I try to work on it.  I’ve just felt blehhhh every time I sat down to write.  I’d open the world document and just stare at the screen, unable to lift a finger.

So.  That’s fine.  Sometimes, stories do that to us.  Sometimes, they are just persnickety and don’t want to be written.

The important, thing however, is to not stop writing.  If one story isn’t working, and you’ve taken some time off to read and think, and you come back to it, and it’s still not working, (and you’ve repeated this ad nauseum) then it’s time to write something else.

Write something different for a while.  Have another novel you’re writing?  Work on that.  Have something you should be editing?  Work on that.  Want to play around with poetry?  Do it!  Have a song you want to write?  Write it!  It doesn’t matter.  Write short stories, write blog posts, write poetry – heck, if you want to, even write fanfiction.  Do whatever it takes to get your creative-gears moving again.

Sometimes when I hit a wall in a project, my instinct is to just sit and stare at the wall.  And complain about the wall.  And study the wall.  And write blog posts about the wall.  But maybe what I need to be doing instead is writing a different project for a while.

Does that mean I’m totally abandoning this project that I’ve spent so much time working on?  Probably not.  But I’m just not going anywhere with it right now.  So let’s go somewhere else instead.

Which leads me to my other point for today: write what excites you.  I write to escape, to go to a world that I love, to meet people that only exist in my head.  I write for fun, for adventure.  And the novel I was trying to write doesn’t have any adventures.

So, I’m writing other stuff.  I’ve written some really fun fanfiction.  I’ve written some short blurbs and beginnings of stories.  And now I’m working on re-writing/ finishing/ installing a plot into an old novel that I adore and want to breathe life into.  And for the first time in many weeks, I’m excited about writing.  I’m excited to be returning to this other story, to this other world.  It’s a bit daunting, but it’s also the most fun I’ve had with a WIP in a long time.

Let your imagination run wild.  Write whatever the heck you want to.  Adventure awaits.

adventure is out there!

 

Unstuck! (Some thoughts on Writer’s Block)

A short story, by me:

Today, after many, many days of not-writing, I made myself sit down and work on my WIP.  But like the last few times I’d done this, I had absolutely nothing to say.

Nothing to add.  No idea where to take this story.

ARRRG.

I tried to write.  Typed a few sentences, erased them, sighed deeply, figuratively banged my head against the wall, and then gave up.  It was like trying to start a car that’s out of gas.

So I gave up and pulled out my sketchbook.

Then I was struck with the impulse to try something new.  What if I drew this scene instead?  So, pretending that I was writing a graphic novel instead of a novel-novel, I sketched out the people, the place, the facial expressions.  My drawings were horrible, incomplete.  But you know what?

It worked.

My brain suddenly went what if —- ?

A new idea emerged.  A tiny alteration to a scene I’d been in stuck on for a week.  That led to something else; a new idea about how my characters relate to each other.  Soon I had a whole ‘nother scene spinning in my head, waiting to escape onto paper.

Very tentatively, I pulled out my laptop again and opened my WIP.  I lay my fingers softly on the keyboard.  I hit a few keys, holding my breath.

I typed one sentence, then another, picking up speed, and then the computer screen faded before my eyes and I found myself in a brand-new bookstore, staring into the faces of my characters, hearing them talk to each other and laugh and –

And 700 words later I’d written two scenes that I was really proud of.

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Anywho.

Writer’s Block comes in many shapes and sizes.

Sometimes it’s lack of motivation because you just don’t feel like writing.

Sometimes you want to write but just can’t because you’re stuck; your story literally will not go right no matter how hard you try.

Sometimes it’s a mix, one leads to the other which leads back to the first, a vicious cycle.

So here are four things to remember when you’re facing writer’s block:

  1. It’s okay to take a break.  Writer’s block happens to (pretty much) all writers, and it’s a natural part of the process.  Sometimes you need to take a break for half an hour and walk the dog; sometimes you need to take a break for two months and read a bunch of books and chill.  Here’s a great blog post that talks about this.
  2. Don’t give up; don’t let your “break” become a goodbye.  Sometimes you’ll sit down at your WIP and get nothing.  But the act of sitting down to try to write is good enough.  If you keep coming back, your subconscious will keep thinking about this story.  Be persistent, because determination and discipline are huge parts of beating writer’s block.
  3. I’ve found the best way to break free of writer’s block is to change things up.  Sometimes it’s writing in a different place, or at a different time, or on paper instead of on the computer.  Sometimes it’s writing something else for a while.  Sometimes it’s drawing a scene out instead of writing it.  Sometimes it’s just doing something new in your normal life that hits you with a moment of inspiration and suddenly you’re back to writing again.
  4. It will pass.  I was a bit concerned when I didn’t write much of anything for week after week after week.  But if your facing writer’s block, give yourself room to breathe.  Then once you’ve taken a breath, come back and try to write again.  It won’t last forever; it will get better.  I promise.

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