Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve written a post. That’s partially due to writer’s block. I feel like writer’s block is inevitable when you like to write. You can have your story all planned out in your head, have a great streak, and WHAM! Writer’s block hits. For me, it usually hits when I’m unsure of something in my story. It could be anything: a character, a scene, a plot point, and BOOM! Whatever I’m working on, I just can’t finish it. So I have to work through it is I have a problem with, which takes a few days because of the block. In the meantime, I’ve found a few things that have helped get me deal with it:
1. Explore the Setting: Probably one of the best things to do is to explore the setting. I do this a lot when I have writer’s block because 1) it helps me flesh out my scene more 2) it helps me waste a couple of sentences and get the ball rolling (or the ink flowing). Focusing on the setting can be a great way to start writing when you have writer’s block, because it allows you to write without worrying too much about the story’s progression and maybe you’ll find something in the setting that can help add to the story’s progression as well. Some things to look for in the setting:
- The Type of People in the Setting: The last thing any writer wants is a depopulated setting. It just isn’t natural (unless the place is deserted or compact—and even then there may be other people/animals around). And if you’re reading a story that’s lacking, well, people…you kind of have the vague sensation that “something’s missing” in the story. And it’s the people. Trust me, I’ve been there. Simply adding a line or two about some stranger in the setting can really add to your story, even if it doesn’t add anything to the overall plot.
- The Five Senses: See, Smell, Taste, Hear, Touch. It’s easy to describe what the character sees…it’s kind of standard in most cases, but the other senses are a bit more challenging—though they can really add some depth to your scene. And who knows? Maybe it could help you get past writer’s block and just start writing. It’s strange, but it’s worked for me before, so I’m putting it out there.
- World Building: If your story takes place in a foreign country/land/city or a made-up one, it may help to just take a break from the actual writing part of the story and focus on the world-building aspect. So brainstorming/researching the overall world of your story can really help inspire you and help you get past your writer’s block. For real-world type of places, I’d recommend researching your setting (time periods included) and I’d suggest looking at pictures (remember, a picture’s worth a thousand words). Pictures can even help inspire you if you’re creating the landscape of your world. For fantasy/sci-fi/paper town-type places, I’d suggest trying to draw a map. That way you know where everything is (so you won’t get confused) and you can think of the topography of your world and how it’s shaped. It’s pretty easy to get into once you start. :)
2. Character Construction: This helps me SO much! Usually when I’m stuck with my writing, I’m a bit insecure with one of my characters and that usually means that I have to explore my character more. But working on that character…exploring his/her backstory…his/her mannerisms, and the psychology behind his/her character can really help with the overall plot. This part doesn’t really help me get past the writer’s block, but it helps strengthen my overall story and eventually it helps me get past my writer’s block. For me, this method takes longer than “exploring the setting” method, but it has the most payoff. AND it allows me to be productive even if I’m not actually “writing.” Just because you’re having a difficult time writing, doesn’t mean that you can’t brainstorm! :)
3. Work Backwards: If I’m having trouble going forward in my story, I tend to go back and look at what I just wrote. Sometimes, I find something hidden in a scene—some tension or something that I never noticed before and BAM! I’ve got something to work with. This can even lead to me to develop some characters a bit more. Working backwards can also give me a solution to a problem I’ve yet to solve, which ties the story together better. So when in doubt, try working backwards. You might find a diamond in the rough.
4. Work on Something Else: This is a bit different from method #3 because it’s not exactly working backwards, but it is pretty effective. Try writing a scene that has nothing to do with what you’re working on. I, personally, tend to write in a linear manner—you know: beginning, middle, and then end or a chapter 1-final chapter basis so when I get writer’s block the entire story comes to a stop and I have to find a way to get it going again. So sometimes it helps if I just stop where I am in the story and write a scene that doesn’t matter to the story. Like if I write a scene that happens before the story or a scene that happens during the story but isn’t something I want to show, you know. Or sometimes I just write a scene for a different story altogether. Either way, I’m still writing, so those “creative juices” are still flowing. And by writing other scenes that I’m not going to add to the story, but have an outcome that, you know, has an effect on the story or on a character may help you figure out how to circumvent the current block in your story. Worth trying, right?
5. Just Write: The most obvious method of them all. This is also the “tough love/suck it up” portion of this post. I, personally, hate following this method. I’ll sit and stare at the page for hours before I’ll write something. It takes FOREVER, but the thing is, it’s effective. I do start writing—even if it’s just a paragraph or two. So when all else fails, turn off the procrastination devices (like youtube & tumblr) and just start typing. You’re going to cut stuff in revision anyway, so who really cares if the scene isn’t perfect? You can always fix it later. :)
So that’s my monstrous post about writer’s block. I managed to get past my writer’s block yesterday and in case anyone’s wondering, I ended up having to resort to the “suck-it-up-and-write” method to do it. But I forgot to close the youtube tab on my browser, so you can just imagine how long it took (hence why I mentioned it in the post). If you’re stuck with your story, I hope these methods help you. They’ve all helped me in the past, so I wrote a post on them, but I’m sure there are other methods that work just as well.
(And Happy 4th of July!) :D
*Rereading past paragraph…thinking of scene…thinking…thinking…thinking…write a sentence…another sentence…another…blah blah blah TENT.
Stares at word…staring…staring…glaring…research.*
I didn’t know enough about tents to finish the scene.
>.< Time for research
For some reason, things have never gone as planned. By this, I mean that every time I start with an idea of a particular chapter of Story A (yes, I said chapter. They are legit 10+ page chapters too), the I “play through” of the chapter always ends differently than how I pictured it. Or—and this is the most common—I start off the chapter with a title and by the end of the chapter that title is just utterly useless. UTTERLY useless.
Why? Because by the time I get to the end of the chapter, the title of the chapter has nothing to do with what actually happened in the chapter. OR that title needs to be used in the next chapter. So the chapter I wrote ends up being one big tangent that’ll either become something really great or it’ll become a darling (as in the “slay your darlings” type of darlings).
As far as page count goes, I’m creeping up on page 40…and after 40 comes 50! You know, with nine (not ten) numbers in between—yay basic math! As an English major, I sometimes feel the need to prove I can still do basic math…or that I’m not entirely bad at it. #Trueconfessions #PotentialTMI
The most I’ve ever written for a story’s draft has been 128 pages. I would literally sit and write for hours every day for something like half a year. Impressive discipline, maybe, but the draft was never completed. Just one of those “I’ll get to you eventually’s.” Which I will get to…eventually.
The basic goal of Story A—aside from finishing it (that’s the most important)—is to surpass that page count. I’ve come pretty close before, but I’ve never had the discipline or time to surpass it. And, you know, finish something that major. But that’s the goal and that’s basically my writing process. Hoping to get past page 40 by Friday at the very least.
A food-related post. <=Note the Rum Cake
I touched on this a bit in my last post, but one way you can really add texture to your fiction is through food. It may be a bit piggy to say, but THINK about it. We as human beings have to eat. So a really terrific way to add a dose of texture or realism to your fiction is to describe the type of food in your story. Not many people really think about this, but, what’s that saying—“the devil’s in the details!”—or something where the details are basically the key to greatness. (Ok, so maybe that’s not the expression I’m going for…) The thing is, I think many writers take the food detail for granted when it could really be an exceptional way to help immerse your reader further in your story.
I mean, aside from drawing your reader into your story with your impressive attention to detail, think about all the wonderful things that food tells you about the culture/place your characters are in. For example, if they’re having pulled pork barbecue sandwiches, you can bet they’re in the South of the US of A. If they’re having dog or cat, they’re probably somewhere in Asia. AND, if they’re having chocolate frogs—you know, the kind that are alive—you can bet those characters are in the wizarding world of Harry Potter.
<=If the food’s weird, the place is probably just as equally as strange. Also, JK Rowling paid attention to food and look where it got her…ok, there’s definitely a lot more to her books than the strange food but she still paid attention to food and the details made their way into her novels (and the movies).
So as you see, we can use food to indicate a specific place or culture for your characters. Going along with the Harry Potter example: wizards & witches strange/magicked things like chocolate frogs. Small details like these help depict the culture of your characters (or the difference between the cultures of your characters) and really add a bit of life to your story. Social gatherings also happen around food.
I mean, people like to eat together, so why shouldn’t your characters? And this in itself becomes a terrific opportunity to have characters interact and learn things about one another. So don’t forget about eating habits! Is one character more sophisticated than the other? Is one character’s eating habit purely disgusting? These help build up or expand on your characterization of your characters. So adding food as a detail is another way to shape your story as well as your characters.
Also, food’s delicious.
What better way to add your delicious detail to your fiction than to have a couple of sentences about food? The details may be small, but the effect may be larger than you think. Just some food for thought.
Happy Writing! :)
Disclaimer: None of the photos are mine—I take no credit for them in any way, shape, or form.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the Page: Day ratio lately. And let me tell, you, every time I think about it, I realize just how time-consuming writing is as opposed to reading. Let me put it like this, so far I’m averaging just above a page (something like 350 words) per day as a writer. But as a reader, I know I can read well over 100 pages in a day if I’ve got time. Well, okay. Most of the time it’s about 20-80 pages read in a day (if I don’t have time to read more). In other words, while it takes me about 2 minutes to read a page, it takes me about an hour to write a page (if I’m on a roll).
Honestly, the most I’ve ever written in a day was 10 pages. And let me tell you, those 10 pages were riddled with grammatical errors including one error that completely ruined the mood of the story’s ending.
- Note about the Error in Question: The last sentence of my story was missing a verb. Hilarious, yes, but it completely destroyed the final point. Proofreading is incredibly important and I DEFINITELY learned my lesson that day. I also learned that I have a habit of either re-writing parts of my sentence (mid-sentence) and forgetting important words, like verbs, in the first draft. >.<
So my basic range is 1-10 pages in a day. I envy people who can write a consistent 5 pages per day.
So yeah, that’s what I’ve been thinking of lately. I haven’t had a lot of time to blog about writing, but expect at least one more blog post before the week’s over. Now to study GRE words & HTML before writing. Yay!
Happy Writing! :)
The more I write, the more I become convinced of two things:
1). That writers somehow end up researching the most random of things.
This is based off my current research that happened when I was trying to describe something and wasn’t sure how to accurately describe it (yeah, I know that’s vague). Point is, I got off on an hour-long tangent because I was researching said subject for one (yes, ONE) sentence. That I’ll probably end up cutting in the end.
a;fkdja;fjdsadjls;akjfcl;dajslf;js;lfa <—The sound of my head hitting the keyboard.
2). I’m also convinced that food is the key to everything. And no, I’m not talking about eating my feelings. I’m talking about adding texture to the fiction. Food’s pretty relatable and if you’re writing something that’s a bit out of your element—like if you’re writing about a foreign place or a made up world, it can really add some believability to your story. I remember reading a fantasy story recently where the main characters were always splitting bread and cheese (cliché!). And ever since, I’ve decided I’d never let my characters eat that poorly—no matter where they were. So that’s something else to research… :/
Whether you choose to believe it or not, this project is going well so far, guys.
Next to actually finishing a story, getting started on one (especially where I’ve left off) is probably the hardest part for me. Reasons why:
- Procrastination. I’m pretty sure I made like 5+ cups of tea and watched a movie before I actually put anything on the page. This is a very time-consuming, but necessary part of the process for me because it lets me look at the page and then think about what I’m going to write. So procrastination actually helps the planning process a little, but it’s a bit of a hinderance when it comes to actually writing.
- The 1st Sentence. I want to take a thought and put it on a page so it’s not only readable, but makes sense. Somehow, this is an incredibly long and painstaking process sometimes (see my post about the 1st sentence, entitled “The Writing Process: 1st Sentence” for more information about first sentences). This is always the part of the story where I end up writing a sentence and erasing it 5 seconds later. Start, erase, restart, erase—the cycle continues until I’ve got something I don’t hate. You get the idea.
- Interruptions. If you write, you know this is going to happen and for me, it somehow manages to happen at 4am. Who’s up at that hour, anyway? Well, there’s me, for one, and then there’s the person interrupting me & my writing. So yeah, interruptions (even in the late hours of the night) are pretty common and distracting.
- Music. I always have to listen to music while I write, but this actually slows me down too (usually ‘cause I end up singing along or if the song isn’t just right, it throws off the scene I’m working on). So…helping or hurting here?
Despite all of these factors, I managed to write. A little—really, very little. But it’s a start. Now to finish it!
Happy Writing! :)
I want to take a thought and put it on a page so it’s not only readable, but it makes sense. That’s sort of like pushing a boulder up a mountain while having someone (your inner editor) chatting your ear off about how you’re “doing it wrong.”
- Dear Inner Editor, as long as the friggin’ boulder gets up the friggin’ mountain, we’re good!
And it’s true! It’s the first draft, so I don’t need to worry about how perfect the first sentence is. That’s for the drafts to come—assuming I finish the first draft. And yeah, let’s admit it, the pushing a boulder up a mountain is a bit of an overexaggeration (I’m not Sisyphus here), but the whole point of a first draft is to go from point A to point B. And the first sentence is the most important and most intimidating part of the journey because it sets the tone for the scene and, if it’s the VERY first sentence of your story, it also sets the tone of your story and usually hooks the reader. Though the second sentence can also help the first out. If you don’t believe me, read the first paragraph of Neil Gaimon’s American Gods novel. (Seriously, go to Amazon.com and look at the preview. And no, the quote at the top of the page doesn’t count. Quotes are nice, but they don’t count).
First sentences are a difficult, but necessary part of the writing process. It’s where you translate what’s on your mind to the page. But once you ignore your inner editor and push the boulder up the mountain, well, it’s all downhill from there. Or not. I’m still working on the “uphill” part. I’ll let you know once I get to the “downhill” part.
Happy writing! :)
Every time I sit down to plan a story, I always get caught in a storm of thoughts that, for the most part, don’t get me anywhere. Sometimes they aren’t even relevant to the story I’m focusing on at the moment. This is where writing journals really can really come in handy. I swear, ever since I’ve decided to write every idea from my brainstorms down, I’ve written fifty pages. And some of it isn’t even that bad!
Granted, I probably won’t use all of it, but hey, it relieves writer’s block. And it lets my mind explore ideas that it never would if I didn’t give it that free space. So yeah, brainstorming. It totally helps—so long as I write it down!
Now to start working on that 100+ page goal…and that short story I want to do. Did I mention that? Well, yeah, I wanna somehow write & complete the first draft of at least one short story, which I’m counting as separate from my other goal. I’ve had the idea for the story for about a week now and I want to write it down before I forget it. Wish me luck! :)