writer’s block

Facing Fear and Tackling Writer’s Block

As promised for NaNoWriMo, I’m organizing all my past content so that YOU can more easily find what you’re looking for.

During week 1, I covered A Writer’s Basic Toolbox, and in week 2, I dug deeper into the more advanced tools at a writer’s disposal. Week 3 was for The Productive Writer, and this week, we’re moving onto fear, writer’s block, and passion.

HappyWriter

 
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Fear & Self-Doubt

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Writer’s Block & Motivation

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Letting Go

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From FRAB to Fab (part 4): the best laid plans of FRABs and men

From Frab to Fab-4As I promised last week, we are finally going to befriend the FRABs (Fear-Related Artistic Blocks) for good. No more yelling at them or shoving the poor guys aside–we’re hugging them close this week.

In fact, we’re not just embracing our FRABs, we’re going to learn from them and use them as fuel in our current creative endeavors. But first, make sure you’ve read the first posts in this series (and at least looked at/thought about the Homework Assignments):

Seat belts, Airbags, and Backup Plans

As I discussed in last week’s post, our fears are here to protect us. They know how much we hate the sting of failure, so our fears try to keep us from that sting by basically getting in our way. If Giles can keep me from writing, then there’s never any chance I’ll make an ass of myself or watch my book fail.

When you get right down to it, our FRABS have our best interests at heart. But we can take care of ourselves, right? As I mentioned last week, though, our brains way overestimate how much failure/judgement/embarrassment will hurt–and that’s a bad thing. Our FRABs are basically trying to put us in a carseat when a seat belt will do just fine.

So we need to make a figurative carseat–or a back-up plan, in other words. If we show our FRABs that we’re prepared for a car crash–that we’ve got everything covered to make driving as safe as possible–then the FRABs will often slink away.

To give you an example, I’m going to take my FRAB, Everyone writes better stories than I do, and I’m going to assume that this is is true. That I am indeed the worst writer on the planet and every single living thing (my dogs included) can writer better stories than I.

Now I’m going to make a seat belt (i.e. a protective measure to soften the pain of my fear coming to fruition):

    • Since everyone writes better than I write, I will revise. No matter how bad this draft is, there can always be another draft.
    • Since everyone writes better than I write, I will reach out to my critique partners. They will read this book before I ever release it into the world. I trust their feedback since they are a part of All Those Other Writers Who Are Better Than I.
    • Since everyone writes better than I write, I will take workshops and study the craft of writing. I will especially focus on learning from authors’ whose books I adore.

USUALLY, those protective techniques are enough to keep my fear away. But sometimes even a seat belt isn’t enough in a car crash–and safety measures aren’t always strong enough to calm your poor FRABs’ overprotectiveness.

So now I make an airbag (i.e. my back-up plan for the worst case scenario). You know, just in case my writing is so much worse than everyone else’s that it’s not salvageable.

    • If everyone still writes better than I, then I will hire a professional, freelance editor with legitimate references/experience.

Bam. That’s it. Worst-case scenario. The car has crashed, the manuscript has failed, and it will still be okay because I will pay someone to help me fix it. I’ve never had to do it before, but that doesn’t mean I won’t one day. (You hear that, Humbert?)

Let’s try this again, but let’s approach one of my biggest, scariest fears: I am wasting time and should have a “real job” with guaranteed results and a steady income.

Okay, if I assume that I really am wasting my time and that the worst is going to happen–no one buys my fiction and I never sell another book/series in my life–then what can I do?

    • Seat belts: Stop writing fiction for money and use my blog content as a foot-in-the-door for making writing-advice books or workshops. I can continue to write fiction, but I won’t rely on it for money.
    • Airbags: Get a part-time or full-time job as a cashier/waiter/whatever the heck I can find. I will write fiction purely as a hobby again, when I have the time. Or I can continue to write fiction a lot, but I won’t rely on it for income.

There. Plain and simple. Failing to sell another series clearly won’t kill me, I have a safety net–an airbag–in place in case the time ever comes.

Remembering the Rewards

So we’ve got our “seat belts” and “airbags”. Now–if we stick with the car analogy–we need to figure out our “end destination.” In other words, where are we trying to go? What is our end reward for embracing the possibility of failure/car crash/lifelong shame?

There are two types of rewards that can come from clearing up a nasty FRAB. The first is the immediate reward–the pleasure of production. If you’re like me, then creating makes you happy. Thus, when you’re not creating because a FRAB has you clogged, you’re not happy.

But there are also long-term rewards for befriending your fears. Remember how I made you identify mission statements in week 1’s homework assignment? I told you to write down exactly what your fear blocks your from achieving/doing.

These were two of mine:

I want to easily reach the creative free-fall I used to experience when I first started writing.

I want to feel good about the art I create–not like it’s all crap that the world will laugh at.

Those mission statements were essentially my goals–my end destinations. My fears were blocking me from creative free-fall and a sense of pride–and I wanted that to stop!

So what did I do? I transformed those goals into rewards. They’re no longer end destinations but A BEACH VACATION OF AWESOME. If I can navigate the road sans car wreck, I’ll get to lounge beside the Caribbean and work on my non-existent tan. (Now is that a carrot to dangle in front of your FRAB’s nose or what?)

Rewards are what I will have when the FRABs and I are in harmony. I will no longer “want”, but instead “have”. So, I need to rephrase my original mission statements to look like this:

I easily reach creative free-fall like I used to.

I feel good about the art I create.

Simple as that. Those rewards were my beach vacations–they’re where I knew I could go once the FRABs and I were working together. Somehow just seeing them written like that made them all the more tangible to me. All the more worth working for.

And let me tell you: last summer, I really realllllllly wanted to reach creative free-fall like the old days. But it wasn’t happening for me and hadn’t in months. I was so frustrated. I thought I was a hack. I thought I had burned myself out for good. I thought my life was doomed to forced, miserable drivel.

But then I made friends with Humbert and Giles and all the rest of my FRABs, and I can honestly say that I now easily reach creative free-fall like I used to. And even better, I feel good about the art I create. Does that mean I think my writing is great? Not necessarily, but I know that it’s the best I can make it. And once a project is done, it’s done. I set my eyes on the next story. I set my eyes on the next reward and celebrate the rewards I’ve already earned.

Putting It All Together & Actually Talking to Your FRABs

It can get so exhausting when we have to shush our FRABs all the time. Which is why I keep saying: make peace, not war. If you offer your FRABs the path of least resistance, they’ll take it. Plus, if you’re not fighting to keep a fear a bay, but instead welcoming the fear in, you’re using less energy. And even better, the more comfortable you become accepting and even liking your FRAB, the less often it pops up to creatively block you.

But I should mention: it takes practice. I catch myself shushing my fears or avoiding them all the time still. I have to be actively aware that I’m fighting the FRABs, and then make a conscious choice to chat with them instead.

Now let’s take Humbert as our example conversation. Whenever I start to feel that nagging sense that some other author has written or is writing better than I what I can produce–and has more success because of it–I do two things:

First, I recognize that the FRAB has appeared. I know Humbert is lurking because I get this sense of discontent in my chest. And usually, that happens when I’ve spent too much time on Twitter, Amazon, Goodreads, Facebook, etc.

Whenever that feeling appears, my next step is to acknowledge out loud what I am afraid of. Basically, while Humbert is pontificating about how much I fail compared to other authors, I nod my head and say, “Heyyyyy, Humbert. How’s it going? Yeah, yeah–I hear you. Those other writers are way better than me. They’ve written better books and have more success than I can ever dream of having.”

Finally, I tell the FRAB that it’s all okay, explain my back-up plans, and finally offer the reward. “You know what, Humbert? It’s okay that they are better. But you know what else? I’m TOTALLY prepared for this. I have my critique partners all lined up for this manuscript. Plus, I saw some workshops through the RWA that I’m going to sign up for. That way, I can improve my manuscript with my CPs’ help and improve my writing through the workshop. And the best part, Humbert? I’ll enjoy my writing while I’m doing it, AND because I’m happy, I’ll write more. And you know what that means? It means I’ll write more books in a year! All because I have this back-up plan together thanks to you.”

Usually, if I’ve taken the time to say all that, the FRAB has already vanished into the ether (for now). And if not–if I still feel that nagging sense of discontent–I’ll go through all the steps again. And again and again and again. I go through the steps as many times as it takes to get me back in the writing free-zone. Or, if that’s not working, then I move to my rituals (which you can learn all about in my new series).

But honestly, the sense of security I have from my seat belts and my airbags helps immensely to appease the fears and keep me FRAB-free.

Using FEAR as Fuel

When you have you safety measures and back-up plans in place as well as your shiny rewards gleaming ahead of you, an incredible thing starts to happen: you stop worrying as much.

Maybe just a smidgen less to start, but each time you remind your FRAB that “you got this”, you feel a bit more empowered. And you remove a teensy bit of pressure from what you’re creating. Because it’s all good! If the worst-case scenario happens, you know exactly what to do–and you also know you’re not there yet. The car hasn’t crashed. You also know that you don’t want to be there, stuck in a ditch on the side of a road*.

So you work a bit harder. You focus a bit more–because now you’re determined to avoid calling in the big airbags. You’re not proving your fear wrong but rather proving to the fear that you really do got this. By growing your skills, pushing yourself to your creative limits, and always reaching for better, you are in constant motion. And being in constant motion, removes the pressure from right now–which in turn relaxes your fears even more.

And of course, relaxed fears allow you to create more freely–to enjoy the creative process again. A short term reward of the best kind–which in turn makes you forget about your fears for longer spans of time so that you ultimately push even harder against your creative limits…and relax all the more.

Constant motion and constantly pushing yourself for more is what ultimately keeps the fears away. It’s what transforms fear into fuel–and transforms you from FRAB to fab.**

From FRAB to Fab: Homework Assignment 4

1. Take each of the fears you listed in week 2 as well as your anthropomorphized FRABs from week 3. Figure out your “seat belts” (or back-up plans) in case your fears are right. Now make your airbags (plan of last resort) for that worst-case scenario in case even the seat belts aren’t strong enough to catch you.

2. What short-term rewards is your FRAB keeping you from? And what about long-term rewards? Look at your mission statements from week 1 and rephrase them as rewards. So for example, one of my missions statements is:

I want to write more books each year.

If I rephrase that as a reward, it looks like:

I write more than one book a year.

This is what you tell your FRAB when you are trying to gain when he/she/it comes calling.

3. Talk to your FRABs. That’s right. Talk to them. Either write the conversation down or have it out loud (that’s what I usually do since they pop up kind of often). Tell your FRABs, “It’s okay. I got this.” And then show them how you got this. Show them your seat belts and your airbags, and show them all the rewards you could reap if they’d just relax a bit.

4. If you’re still having trouble, check out my new series on increasing writing output. Rituals and routines (which I touch on today) are incredibly powerful for sidestepping a FRAB and creatively free-falling despite the fears.

This week’s homework assignment doesn’t end–you get to enjoy talking to your friendly FRABs for the rest of your life. But the more you make peace with them–and the more you can tell them “it’s okay”–the less they’ll nag you. Plus, the more creative momentum you build, the harder it is for them to even find time for lurking. 😉

And of course, my new series will help you learn to build your creative momentum and increase your output.

A final note: Thank you. I know I thanked you all before (and in multiple social media outlets), but I just have to say it again. Thank you for sharing your stories with me, for offering your own ideas, and for helping ME beat my FRABs. As I mentioned in the comments last week, one of my fears (I call her Juanita now) is that no one cares what I have to say–that I am blasting a bunch of embarrassing stuff into the ether that no one will ever read. But all your emails and comments have shown me that that just isn’t true.

So thank you. Truly, thank you. And remember: you can always email me if you need a listening “ear” (susan @ susandennard . com).

*This seriously almost happened to me in the most literal sense last night. Our car DIED while driving on an icy road, and neither my hubby nor I had our phones with us. But we got the car to briefly restart and putter us home…

**Thank you again, Diyana, for this amazing series title. You’re a genius.

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From FRAB to Fab (part 1): the oft-forgotten culprit behind writer’s block

I’m back! Happy 2013, everyone! I had an excellent (and incredibly productive) holiday season, and I am just so excited to tackle this new year.

As I promised back in December, I’ve been working on a series of blog posts that specifically address the “fear factor” in writer’s block.

I feel pretty awful for not only never having addressed this before–the idea that fear is a major source of writer’s block–but also for never having acknowledged that it’s a possibility at all. But I’m here to tell you now: fear can be a major contributor to a writing standstill.

Now, I should preface this series by saying that I “believe” in writer’s block. I’ve heard many authors argue there’s no such thing, but I disagree. Writer’s block isn’t Santa Clause or the Easter Bunny–it’s an actual affliction with actual causes (that I’ve discussed in depth before here and here and likely in many other posts of which I’ve now forgotten).

I get writer’s block and I’m not just making it up for attention or as an excuse for low productivity. So while other authors might not have a problem with writer’s block, I want you all to know that it’s definitely a thing for me and many other writers.

Ahem. Moving on.

Fear doesn’t only cause writers to stop producing–it can impede any creative flow, and I think it often does. Sure, laziness can get in the way. Or a simple lack of what precisely needs to happen next to get the ball rolling, but more often than not, I think the culprit behind any creative block is that nasty, no-good, ever-lurking fear.

Fear is one of the most common causes of an artistic block of any kind.

But since we often forget about fear, dismiss it as simple laziness, or simply don’t speak of it (since no one wants to admit to such a weakness), we never deal with the fears. As such, so they continue to pop up and keep our words/art/creativity from flowing.

Want to know if YOUR creativity is suffering from a Fear-Related Artistic Blockor a FRAB for short?

Well, let’s start with a few simple questions:

    • When you sit down to create, do you find it hard to slip into creative flow? Or, in other words, do you need a while “to get in the zone” or find that you’re constantly looking away from your project to check email/glance at your phone/stare at the wall?
    • Do you wish that you could be more productive with regards to your creativity? I.e. is your daily/weekly/yearly output at the level you’d like it to be? Or do you suspect you could produce more?
    • Do you look forward to your creative time each day/week/year/whatever?
    • Are you happy with your creative life?

If you answered “no” to ANY of those questions, then I’d say you’re possibly dealing with a nasty ol’ FRAB.

But let’s dig deeper–just to be sure. I want you to go through the lists below and make note of which–if any–of these symptoms apply to you.

Symptoms that are easy to spot:

    • You don’t feel like writing, even though you’re pretty sure you love your story.
    • You sit at the computer, thinking you’re really going to write this time…but then you don’t. You check your email 4,321 times and refresh Pinterest 3,690 times.
    • You spend more time thinking and talking about your book than actually writing it. This is fine up to point, but there is a point after which you’ve passed the “acceptable talk time”. For me personally, that’s anything over a month.
    • You know you’re not just lazy because you’re BICHOK-ing every day…but every. Single. Word. You. Write. Feels. Like. Crap. And it’s just agony getting any words out.
    • You know you’re not just writing the wrong thing because you feel this story is right and you’ve daydreamed for hours and the appeal of cookies just isn’t hacking it.

Symptoms that are NOT so easy to spot:

    • Whenever you sit down to write–or even think about sitting down to write–your chest kinda caves in and your stomach knots up. You might power on through that feeling…or you might go do something else instead.
    • There are SO many more important things that need doing RIGHT NOW. The laundry, for one. And the dishes. And alphabetizing all of your bookshelves. And of course you mustn’t forget about cleaning out all the vents–they’re just filthy, they are!
    • You think you might need a new computer. Or a new program. Or a new writing space. Or just a new set of pens. Whatever it is that you need, it’s different from what you currently use to write with–and you simply can’t write again until you have a new program/office/playlist/pack of highlighters.
    • If you have deadlines, you wait until the last minute to start that new book that’s due in–yikes–three weeks. Or, you frequently miss deadlines that you could have met if you’d worked a little bit everyday.*

If you checked off ≥2 symptoms from the first list and then ≥1 symptom from the second list, then you’ve got a FRAB on your hands.

But that’s okay. Do not panic.

For one, you’re not alone (I have quite a few FRABs that get in the way of my creativity).

For two, I’m going to show you how I deal with the FRABs and how you can work through them too.

But I’ll give you hint to entice you back next Monday: the first step to stopping a FRAB and reopening your creative flow is to stop trying to fight the damned thing. Instead, we’re going to figure out what our FRABs are and then we’re going to befriend them. Trust me, I know how hippie-woowoo I sound, but it works. It really does.

Of Fear and FRABs: Homework Assignment 1

1. Do you wish you were more productive or could maintain a longer creative flow? Do you need to work through some current artistic block that has you pulling your hair? If so, write down what it is that you want changed in your creative life. Be clear. For example, these are my current mission statements:

I want to write more books each year.

I want to easily reach the creative free-fall I used to experience when I first started writing.

I want to feel good about the art I create–not like it’s all crap that the world will laugh at.

2. Those sentences are my FRAB mission statements, and whatever you write down will be your FRAB mission statement(s). Keep them somewhere you can look at often because those words are the fuel that will power you through the more uncomfortable and frustrating parts of this series. When the going get’s tough, the tough look at their mission statement and remember why they heck they set out to do this in the first place.

3. According to the symptoms checklists, are you suffering from a FRAB? Or maybe two? If so, join the club and let’s get a dialogue going in the comments! Or, feel free to email me personally: susan @ susandennard . com

 

Now head on over to Part 2 in the FRAB series!

*Note: sometimes authors get deadlines that really are unmeetable, even if you work everyday and start way ahead of time. But if you look back on your time-usage and you sort of know deep down that you could’ve met a deadline with better time management, then you’re possibly  facing a fear-related writer’s block.

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Simple Tricks to Unstick Your Plot: Where Is Everyone?

Last Friday, I talked about my first go-to method when I inevitably get stuck in a draft. I lay out my character’s emotional dominoes and see where they ought to fall (which is often not where I’ve made them fall)…

But that trick doesn’t always work. Sometimes it’s not an emotional/goal issue that’s halted my story. Sometimes it’s plot-related, and I really have no idea what external event should be happening next.

This problem tends to hit to me during the first 40-50K words of the novel (i.e., the first half). Why? Because up until the midpoint, the characters in a story tend to be reacting more than they are acting.

Note: I am NOT saying that your characters are passive but rather that they are still acquiring the necessary skills and information to fully face the antagonist. The antagonist is throwing stones at your protagonist, and your protagonist is really just trying to get out of each scrape alive enough to keep fighting and honing his/her skills. (Obviously, if you’re writing something less action-focused, there will be less fighting for one’s life and more fighting for one’s sanity and/or beliefs.)

Up until the midpoint, a lot of the events are dictated by the world in which the protagonists lives and by what the antagonist is doing.

For example (and I warn you, there might be a few spoilers about to follow!), in Something Strange and Deadly, much of where Eleanor goes and the events in which she finds herself are dictated by external forces. Her mother makes her go on a carriage ride with a suitor or attend operas, while the antagonist keeps popping up with an army of walking dead. Not until the midpoint (when Eleanor gets a critical piece of information and faces off with a creepy spirit) does she finally see how to shift the odds in her favor. After that, when the antagonist throws stones, Eleanor throws them right back. She’s on the offensive.

And once my characters are on the offensive, I can usually ride my domino effect smoothly to the end of the book…One event clearly causes the next.

But getting to that midpoint can sometimes be tricky for me. I usually have to slowly reveal information as my character uncovers it (and information can be so hard to reveal in a compelling manner), and I need to let my character’s grow–their flaws and emotional well-being needs to be constantly challenged as well. So coming up with events that both allow my protagonist to be active and still be learning/growing can be hard.

Which is why I rely on my next trick:

Where the heck is everyone?

I don’t mean my protagonist–I mean everyone else.

When I’m stuck and don’t know what event and/or setting should next arrive, I turn to my secondary characters and my antagonists. Where are they right now? Where have they been since the last time I saw them? And what were all their emotional/goal dominoes throughout the previous scenes?

Here’s an example that I wrote a few weeks ago. Simon is the love interest, and since one of my magical cookies in this story is the romance, I knew that I wanted to get Simon on the page with my protagonist…But for the life of me, I could not figure out how.

So I started from Simon’s very first scene in the book and mapped out exactly where he was during my heroine’s scenes.

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And as I wrote out this stuff, I uncovered some REALLY cool and really unexpected things about Simon’s character–about his emotional growth and backstory. Once I reached the spot in which I was stuck, I could feel how Simon’s emotional dominoes would dictate what needed to come next for my protagonist.

It’s not just the love interest that I do this trick with, though. I’ve also mapped my antagonist’s whereabouts/shenanigans and emotional dominoes in order to see what might come next in the plot. I might learn that my antagonist has been gearing up this whole time, and is now ready for an attack–so my next scene for my protagonist would become a run-in with the bad guy.

Other times, I’ll move to other important secondary characters and see where they were and what they were doing. Almost always, I’ll eventually reach an “aha!” point and see exactly what event needs to come next.

And sometimes, I’ll find that my emotional dominoes for other characters aren’t falling properly–that, like I mentioned last week, I’ve gone astray at some earlier point in the manuscript. For example:

Wait, the love interest wouldn’t be willing to forgive my heroine so quickly! He’d probably still be furious and refuse to join her at the park in that last scene…which would mean her best friend would have gone with her instead–and oh! If her best friend is there, then I can introduce this important piece of information earlier which lets me use this next scene as a turning point…

You get the idea. 🙂

You tell me: Have you ever done something like this–looked at where your characters are behind the scenes? Or are you, perhaps wise, and do all this before/while drafting?

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Simple Tricks to Unstick Your Story: The Domino Effect

I tend to have a lot of false starts or write-my-characters-into-inescapable-corners when I’m drafting. It doesn’t matter how meticulously I outline or how freely I try to fly by the seat of my pants, I always get stuck at some point. Maybe what I’d thought should come next (and what I had written on my pretty Scrivener corkboard) no longer feels right, or maybe I’ve just completely stalled out on new ideas.

No matter the reason for getting stuck, I always manage to get the story moving once again. Sometimes it only takes a few hours, and other times it takes a few days…Then there are times where it might take months for my subconscious to slowly unknot the characters and the plot and the world.

Of course, I don’t always have months in which my subconscious can work its magic. If I’m under deadline, I need this story to be unstuck now. And there are a few go-to methods that I rely on.

Today, I’m going to talk about the first trick I use:

Figuring out where the dominoes will fall.

You know how people line up dominoes in elaborate patterns and then knock them over to watch them successively tip? I once heard someone compare the scenes in a book to dominoes–our inciting incident sets off the domino chain, and each scene is a direct result of the scene before.

But it’s not necessarily the plot that follows a domino effect. Sometimes we don’t want our chain of events to be linked. Sometimes, we want things to occur that are out of our protagonist’s control.

For example, if the character has to take a chemistry test the night after she joined a witch coven…well, there’s no clear connection between those two story events.

But how our character does on that chemistry test will be a direct result of the night before. If she’s on an emotional high from summoning magic powers she didn’t even know she had, she might traipse into that test and cavalierly fail. Which in turn might lead her down a new path (toward studying with her cute lab partner, perhaps?).

So the dominoes don’t represent specific events so much as our protagonist’s emotional journey through the events, and the dominoes also represent how events shape/affect the primary goal.

Each new scene will show our character reacting in some way to what happened before.

Example: In Something Strange and Deadly, the book opens with Eleanor going to meet her brother at the train station. But instead of Elijah showing up with a smile, a zombie with a hostage note arrives instead. When Eleanor gets that note, she’s FREAKED OUT (as she darn well should be), and so in the next few scenes, she is dealing with her FREAKOUT. Plus, her original goal of simply catching up with her brother is now out of the question, and she needs to adjust her goal accordingly. Yet event-wise, she goes from hiding in the train station to chatting with her mother to suffering through a fancy dinner. None of those events are connected, but how Eleanor behaves through them is.

Remember this: Every emotional beat in your story must be a direct result of what happened before, and it must lead to a shift in either what the character wants or how the character plans to get it.

To go back to Something Strange and Deadly, Eleanor knows she needs to find her brother and she doesn’t think she can possibly do it all by her lonesome. So she plans to foist the responsibility on this ghost-fighting team that’s visiting town. But when her plan falls through (the Spirit-Hunters don’t want to help her), her emotions shift from “I’m scared out of my mind” to “I’ll just do it myself, then.”

But keep in mind that it takes many scenes for Eleanor’s emotional dominoes to fall and eventually lead her in a new direction.

So, what does all this explanation of dominoes and goals have to do with unsticking your plot? It’s quite simple, really.

When you get stuck, look at your most recent emotional dominoes.

Do your last few scenes (or maybe even your last 20 scenes–sometimes I have to go pretty far back to see where things begin unraveling) logically connect? Do the emotional beats progress and shift as the events and previous scenes indicate they should? Does the character’s goal shift according to his/her emotional shift?

Check all of your dominoes. Make sure that when each one falls, it will actually hit the scene that’s after it. It’s very possible you missed something.

Honestly, there are many times where I didn’t properly deal with the emotional consequences of a scene (usually because it’s so hard to write the dark stuff) and as such, my story will have derailed because no one is behaving as they really should. They’re all happy and bantering and not at each other’s throats like they would naturally be given the previous scenes. So if I go back to where the emotional beats went wonky and try again, I can usually smooth out the issues and get my story moving again.

Sometimes, though, the dominoes are correctly lined up. And when that happens, I simply need to think really hard about what domino would logically come next. What emotions would evolve from the ones in my most recent scene? What goals shifts should my characters organically be making?

Of course, this method doesn’t always work. Sadly. And next Friday, I’ll offer a different method I take when my dominoes trick doesn’t pan out (that will be on my personal blog, though).

You tell me: what’s your go to method if you’re ever stuck while drafting?

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Writing Constipation

Writing constipation–a phrase I first heard from Anna Banks (author of Of Posiedon). Typically, people use the phrase to refer to having too many ideas to isolate and then write…but honestly, sorting through all my ideas has never been a problem for me. Wading through and then getting the story ideas onto a page is what makes us writers. The hard part is getting the ideas in the proper order…or perhaps even getting the proper idea at all.

And that’s why I refer Anna Banks’s definition for writer’s constipation. It’s what I call “writer’s clog” or what many people just call “writer’s block”…but, as Anna put it, you’re not actually BLOCKED. (Read more…)

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Finding the Right Writing “Groove”

This is where all the magic...er, more like mayhem for the novella took place. Click on the picture for a chance to win a copy of SS&D AND to see more pics!

After breathing, eating, sleeping, and seeing ONLY my novella for a few weeks, I finally managed to cross the finish. Remember that draft I mentioned doing in my last post? Draft #3? Well, I was finally onto something there…but it still wasn’t right. It took me one more almost complete rewrite…but at least THAT draft was it. And once I’d tapped into the right vein, the words and story just poured out exactly as they needed to be.

The thing is, this always happens to me. And I know it–I know that it’s simply a matter of me uncovering the proper story. Then everything tumbles out in a waterfall of near-perfect words. It happened with Something Strange & Deadly, with A Darkness Strange & Lovely, and with Screechers. It took me a few misses before I finally hit the “right story”. I knew this would happen with this novella, but goodness, it took me a lot longer to finally get my groove. I went through 2 total rewrites with Something Strange & Deadly and A Darkness Strange & Lovely. For Screechers, it was 3 total rewrites. And for this novella, it was 4 total rewrites. (Read more…)

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Do One Thing Well

I have vanished from the blogosphere…and twitter is all but abandoned as well. Even emails are backed up so badly, it will take days to unknot and answer them all.

That’s alright, though. Why? Because I had an epiphany recently thanks to a little old TV show I adore: Parks and Recreation.

But allow me to back up a bit. Back in July, when the book released, I was spending the little free time I had to write a novella with an October deadline. Most of my daily schedule was focused on promotional stuff–giveaways, interviews, guest posts, setting up events, reaching out to indie book stores, etc. I was also trying to blog. And tweet. And do all these things expected of an author (things I clump under “administrative stuff”).

Needless to say, my blog suffered (sporadic posting, at best) and my novella-drafting really suffered. (Read more…)

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When life gets in the way…

When life kinda sucks, it affects your work. Everyone knows this, right?

When life kinda sucks and your job is a creative one, it really affects your work. Whether we like it or not, our creative mojo is heavily influenced by what’s going on in our lives. It’s one thing to be busy–you don’t have the time to write because you’re __(making ends meet/sick with scarlet fever/in outer space/etc.)___. It’s quite another thing to forgo writing because you just don’t feel like it.

This is something I’ve tried to avoid admitting for a long time. I’m the Queen of BICHOK after all–I work from the wee hours of the morning to the wee hours of the night.

Sure, I’m not writing the entire day, but only because there is a LOT more in an author’s job description than just writing (such as blog posts like this. ;)).

But whether I’m writing or working on writing-related-things, when I don’t accomplish enough each day, I feel rotten and guilty, and in turn I get depressed. (Read more…)

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BICHOK: Draino for your Writing Clog (LTWF)

Note: this post is (sort of) a continuation of If It Doesn’t Fit, Don’t Force It, and When the Glass Isn’t Half-Full.

A few people have asked how I managed to get my writing “swing” back, and I gave a brief rundown in the comments last week.  I thought I’d go into a tad more detail here.

First off: writing has something of an ebb and flow to it—for everyone, I believe.

For me, the “ebb” is like the really steep incline on a rollercoaster.  And then the “flow” is all the free-falling, loop-dee-loop, high-speed ACTION!

(Read more…)

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