Cygnet Brown, author of The Locket Saga
Donna is my guest blogger and today she is sharing sound advice about something that afflicts most of us from time to time— writer’s block. Please read and feel free to comment to her with any questions – take it away, Donna!
Ten Tips for Avoiding Writer’s Block
A couple years ago, I was at work when I talked to one of my co-workers who was also a writer and he was suffering with a case of writer’s block. After listening to him tell me what was going on with him, I suggested that he just write down what he knew about his story and the rest would come to him over time.
The next day came to me, excited because that evening he had written 400 words, the most he had written in several months.
That is tip #1- Write what you know right now.
It doesn’t matter that you don’t know how to start your writing project or where you are going to finish it, what matters is writing what you know right now. Before doing any research, write down what you know about your topic. Once you have an idea what you know about your topic, you have something to go by, so you can figure out what to research. Which leads us to tip # 2.
Tip #2- Decide on what kind of fence you’re going to put around your story.
I once heard a story about a New York City School where the students would stay close to the front of the building rather than playing on the playground equipment in the middle of the playground. However, it wasn’t until the school board authorized the funds to put up a fence around the yard that the kids would play on the playground. They needed the fence to feel safe.
The same goes for writing projects. Once you have an idea of what you know about your subject, put your writing into a logical order and then determine where your project begins and ends. I do this with both fiction and nonfiction. I put a fence around my writing project.
Tip#3- Write every day.
This is a big one. When you make writing a priority, you will be a priority to the writing muse. Make writing a habit. Don’t have a lot of time everyday to write? Write just 15 minutes. It doesn’t matter how much you write, just so long as you are consistent.
Tip#4- Get in touch with your feelings.
Back in 2009, I was severely depressed, and my psychologist suggested that I journal my feelings. Journaling those feelings not only got me out of the depression, but it also helped me finish my first book.
Later when I was finishing my first novel in the Locket Saga: When God Turned His Head and I was just getting started with the practice of writing every day and I would have days when I couldn’t think of what to write. So, I would set a timer for five minutes and start journaling and start by saying “I don’t know what to write. I feel. . .” I would then write how I felt about the project and what I was afraid of or angry about or frustrated about and would write continuously for the whole five minutes. By the end of those five minutes, whatever anxiety I had would lift and I would already have an idea of how to proceed.
Tip #5- Write your first draft without editing it.
(or at least not editing it until the end of each writing session.)
You have two basic skill sets that you use when you are writing. You are either in creation mode or editing mode, but it is almost impossible to do both at the same time.
I learned this from NaNoWriMo stints where every year in November, I write the first 50 thousand words of my novels. I learned that I could write a novel in a month, if I didn’t make myself edit it until I was done with the first draft. I have been writing first draft length manuscripts for my novels every year ever since. Most of those first drafts have since been edited and published.
Tip#6- Picture your scene in your head and write what you see.
Create a picture of your story’s back drop or even get more specific and get a picture in your head of what an individual scene looks like. Don’t have a scene in your head? Look online for a photo that might fit somewhere in your story and write what is in the photo.
Tip#7- Get into your POV character’s senses
Hear, taste, smell, and feel what your POV character is feeling within that same setting.
Tip#8 Who else is in the scene?
What do they look like? What are they doing? How does the POV character feel about them?
Tip#9- Get into the heads of any other characters in the scene and see, hear, taste, smell and feel things from their viewpoint.
After you write the scene from their viewpoint, transfer their reactions to how your POV character would see their reactions.
The first time I used this technique of getting into the heads of every character and sensing the world around them through their eyes was when I was writing the scene where Phillip met Elizabeth (the second time) in Soldiers Don’t Cry, the Locket Saga Continues.
Tip#10 – If you’ve been working intensely for a length of time and you suddenly have difficulty getting the words onto paper, you might need to get away from your work for a while.
If you have worked your full time, or nearly your full time in the day, and you find you don’t have words to continue, its time to quit. Also, when you first start writing, don’t think that you are going to be able to write for even an hour every day. Exercising your writing muscles is like any other kind of exercise. You should increase your time gradually.
To get away from writing for a while, sometimes I clean house. Sometimes I’ll go for a walk. Sometimes I’ll cook a great meal for my family. Sometimes I’ll just veg out in front of the television or do some gardening.
BONUS Tip # 11- Record new ideas down when you get them!
New ideas come out of the blue and usually when you aren’t looking for them. New ideas are like children. They are not where you want them, but they always manage to be underfoot when you don’t want them there.
Figure out how you can most simply get your new ideas out of your head and recorded in some matter. It doesn’t matter if it is written, in audio format, or on video. Just get the essence of the idea recorded so that when you have the time and want to take the time to pursue a new idea, you’ll be able to find it and utilize it.
Believe me when I say that you’ll never run out of new ideas if you record the ones you get!
Some days will always be better than others, but don’t let less productive days get you down. Just keep plugging away at them and soon you’ll find that you too can say that you, like me, never have writer’s block either.
Thank you, Donna, for these great pointers!
Please visit Donna’s website for many more interesting articles about writing, her stories, and tons of help for gardeners, too. Her posts are always uplifting!
How My Heart Sings
Cygnet Brown is the author of:
- The Locket Saga
- Simply Vegetable Gardening
- Help from Kelp
You can find Donna’s books under her pen name Cygnet Brown here:
I think tips 8 & 9 are helpful. We often get into our protagonists POV and use the senses but it’s an interesting concept to see how other characters in the scene view him/her/other – thank you Donna for sharing your process.
I used to have a really hard time with #5, but once I let myself have a crappy draft one, the writing flowed. And the irony is that you can’t edit what isn’t written, so you gotta get it out!
Thanks for sharing!