Overcoming Writer’s Block

By Terry Misfeldt

It’s been said the first step in resolving a problem is realizing you have a problem. When putting your fingers on the keyboard results in brain freeze, you are experiencing writer’s block. Ditto goes for picking up a pen, putting the tip on a piece of paper and it doesn’t move.

Even the most experienced writers encounter mental blocks and can’t seem to get a word out. Know that it’s okay when that happens; it’s just time to try a different strategy to get past it.

One of the more common antidotes for writer’s block is to step away and do something else for a time. Yes, that does not create any writing but unless you’re under a deadline, it shouldn’t matter if you’re more productive when you come back to the desk or keyboard. Go for a walk, ride your bike a few miles, take a nap, drink a glass of milk or undertake some other diversion to clear your head and get those brain synapses firing again.

Another method to get around writer’s block is to do some research. Concentrate on designing the scenes you want to create or figure out what one of your characters might do in certain situations. Dig into what the economy was like during the time period you’re writing about. You just may find inspiration in that research and start writing again. Voila!

The last suggestion: Power through! Just start writing when a block has you stymied. When your fingers start flying around the keyboard, you may find the creative juices flowing and words start filling the pages. Just write! You can always come back later and throw it out or edit what you’ve written. Remember you were attempting to get past the blockage.

If all else fails, walk away and wait a few days until motivation strikes you!

Writing for Comfort

By Debbie Delvaux

Writing for comfort.

When I was a young girl, I never had the opportunity to really be one of the gang as I was always feeling left behind. Being the second of two daughters and very shy at times.

I would try to keep up with my sister and her friends. You know like the story goes of the second left behind or the tag along. Sigh!!

Well anyway, when I would be finding myself alone and no one to play with, I would either swing and drift to another world or walk the neighborhood and imagine myself as a member of their family.

The older daughter or just a secret agent disguised as one of their own members.
So many lives to pretend to be and yet so little time to be them when you would hear your mother call to supper and then to bed.

But as a day would go on, I would still try to live that life and be off somewhere when the television got too boring or the weekend too long with nothing to do.

To this day I can see myself in one of those many secret lives and that has given me the chance to now sit at my laptop, make that life come true and with no interruptions except when the telephone rings or one of the cats grabs my leg for attention.

Many of the lives spent elsewhere have given me comfort when I had hard times, bad times, or even silly times to say I will try that in a story someday.

So in retrospect, I have been given a gift of imaginary lives and way to live my own life the way I wanted it to be.

How Do You Know When You’re Finished?

By Gail Blohowiak

I recently listened to Walter Mosley on Wisconsin Public Radio in an interview on writing. Mosley is an acclaimed American mystery writer best known for his Easy Rawlins character. He answered this question for the interviewer.

This was Mosley’s final answer (which I paraphrase) ‘When I don’t find any reason to rewrite again, I’m finished.’ In the interview, he said he rewrites up to twenty-six drafts. That’s a lot of drafts. That’s a lot of rewriting.

I thought I was rewriting too much. I’ve switched my work from first person to third, or present tense to past tense. I played around with the format. I’ve reworked my word choices. I’ve written a scene as quickly as I can and later gone back later to fill in the details.

I enlisted alpha and beta readers for feedback. I’ve joined a critique group. I write and rewrite. I learn. I listen. Then, I write and rewrite.

I thought something was wrong with me! Not according to Mr. Mosley. My manuscript is progressing. I’m only on my sixth or seventh draft which means I have a long way to go.

Now, if I count the drafts from my first play (I am writing a novel from my three SPAM plays), I’m up to thirteen rewrites. I’m on my way, but still ‘not finished’.

So, I’ll go to my favorite writing spot and read, reread, write, and rewrite – maybe not the whole piece at one time, but surely certain parts.

I’m aiming for twenty-six rewrites now. Thanks Walter. Then, hopefully, I’ll be finished.

How about you? When are you finished?

 (I rewrote this piece in only eight drafts. (Make that nine drafts now.) It’s a short piece. I’m finished.)

She Came Sneaking In

By Rhonda Strehlow

She came sneaking into our lives on little cat feet.

We’d left the back door open because we were cleaning the garage.

We first learned of our invader when our dog, Buddy, started barking fiercely in the kitchen. Initially I thought one of those darn little chipmunks had sneaked in—that had happened before. But when I entered the kitchen, the first thing I saw was a tiny ball of fluff eating out of Buddy’s food dish. When Buddy approached to voice his complaint, she whacked him on the nose with a paw the size of a nickel. He backed off. She continued eating. When she was full, she decided to explore. We followed her from room to room. She ignored us.

“What should we do?” I asked my husband.

“Keep her?” He suggested.

“Did we want a cat?” I asked. Rescue dog, Buddy, was a handful. Abused by former owners, he was alternately scared or aggressive. We were still engaging the services of a dog whisperer to help him relax. Did we want to take on another potential problem?

Then I made the mistake of picking her up. She snuggled and promptly fell asleep.

“Please run to the store to get food and dishes and a bed.” I whispered.

“So, we’re keeping her?” My husband whispered back.

“It looks like it,” I said as she snuggled closer.

Rescue cat enjoys comfort of home

We live in the country. She had a long walk to get to our house. We checked with our neighbors, no one was missing a kitten.

When I took her to the veterinarian the next day and discovered she weighed exactly what my premature granddaughter weighed at birth, I knew it was a sign that we’d made the right decision. When the vet asked her name, I looked at her white paws and blurted out, “Boots.” That was a mistake. We should have named her Queen or Your Majesty since my husband, Buddy and I have become her loyal servants.

How I Started Writing – from a Newbie

By Laura E. Aronis

I didn’t think I could write! Me? I couldn’t imagine having enough imagination for something as enormous as a whole book! Characters? Plots? Climax? Resolution? No way! I was content to read other amazing works of fiction, often rereading them over and over again, (which I didn’t realize was setting me up for being a writer.) 

I might have an idea come to me on occasion, or I might daydream about some scenario taking place around me, but I NEVER thought of putting pen to paper and writing it out! That would just be too embarrassing! No one would want to read something that came out of my head, that’s just silly! Until one day… The day that the idea was just too good, the scenario too exciting and the characters too interesting for me to keep them inside and risk them leaving me as I slowly thought of new adventures and stories. 

I didn’t know how to begin, so I started with something that looked a bit like this:

Jack: Let’s go up the hill.

Jill: I do need a pail of water.

Narrator: Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. 

Jill: Jack! There’s a boat– (Wait, that’s a different story) Watch out!

Narrator: Jack sees a large boulder coming straight at him and tries to run but…

Jack: Ahhhh!

Narrator: Jack yells as he falls down the hill. There’s silence as his crown (head) breaks.

Jill: (gasps)

Narrator: And that’s the end of Jack. But wait! What’s this? Jill is tumbling after!

The End

Obviously, I knew that wasn’t the way to do it, but I had to start somewhere. I took what I had written and started over, thinking about how other writers had done it and began:

Jack was bored. Nothing interesting ever happened in Kilmersdon, the town where he and his wife, Jill lived. He watched his wife knitting tiny little socks and could take it no longer. “Let’s go up the hill,” he said. Jill finished counting the stitches in the row she was working on and smiled at her husband.

“I do need a pail of water,” she said. Jack took Jill’s hand and they walked out the door. Jill grabbed the wooden bucket that always sat just inside the door of their thatched stone cottage. They walked side by side down the lane that led to the small school, as that’s where the well was located.

They enjoyed the late afternoon sunshine and each other’s company as Jack chased Jill along the old stone wall and up the steep hill that the neighborhood children had to climb every day. 

Suddenly Jack slipped on some loose stones on the path and tried to catch himself by grabbing the top of the wall, but the large stone he managed to grab was loose and came off in his hand. It landed on top of his head, crushing his skull.

“Ahhh,” he said as he started to roll down the hill, much to Jill’s horror. As she tried to run after him, her foot got caught in her skirts and she came tumbling down the hill after her husband. 

The End

So, it doesn’t matter how you start; if you have an idea, just start. You may end up with a morbid nursery rhyme that parents will sing to their babies long after everyone involved is dead and gone.

Writing Perspective – Day 31 of 31

By Valerie Routhieaux

Day 31 – Marketing

It’s the final day and the final tip, which is good because I can’t think of any more. I need this one as much as anyone. Today’s topic—Marketing.

Your novel is finished and available. How do you market your work?

Set up your author page on Facebook. I’ve done that. Let people know when your book will be available, if you’re still writing, or where they can get a copy if it’s available. Post your book on Goodreads. Announce it on social media—not only Facebook but Twitter and LinkedIn and other sites that will help with getting the word out.

Have book signings. Get your business cards from Vista Print. You can also get postcards made and send them in the mail. Hand out your business cards to everyone you talk to. I’ve been doing that. Have books on hand to sell when people show interest. I have a few in my car, so they are always handy. Visit your bookstores to let them know you have books available. You might get them interested in putting them on their shelves.

If you’ve self-published, it’s difficult, but I’ve heard of people getting it done. They might even allow a book signing at the store.

Inform your television and radio stations you have a book coming out or available.

These are all the marketing tips I’ve heard about and/or tried. Good luck marketing your book. If you have any other marketing tips, please share.

Thanks for reading.

Writing Perspective – Day 30 of 31

By Valerie Routhieaux

Day 30 – Brainstorming

In a book called Book in a Month, I found another gem.

Brainstorming. I know this is a duh topic. When it comes to writing, you need to brainstorm. Everything in your story earns a gold star for this one.

You brainstorm your topic, characters, scenes, turning points, cliffhangers, setting, conflict, triumphs, tragedies. Nothing is left to chance when it comes to your story.

You brainstorm your characters – how many, who are they, where do they live, what are their occupations.

With that, you get your setting. What is the theme of your story, what roles do your characters play in the story? How will they get from point A to Z?

As you brainstorm your story, you put flesh and bones on your story. You get to know everything about your characters, you research where they live if you don’t already know. You research their backgrounds unless you’re intimately aware of that background.

If you’re reading a book, I guarantee the author brainstormed to get it where you can’t put the book down until you read the last page.

If you’re writing a blog, you brainstormed to determine a topic for the post. When you get near the end of your project, you start brainstorming the resolution of the story. How does it all fit together? What did your characters learn along the way? How did they grow?

There’s a lot to writing a novel, a blog, even a letter to a friend. It all takes thought and brainstorming.

Tomorrow’s Perspective: Marketing

Writing Perspective – Day 29 of 31

By Valerie Routhieaux

Day 29 – Time Management

So, you want to write. How do you begin? There are many ways to begin as I’ve already discussed. However, one I haven’t is Time Management. Look at your schedule. What is your daily routine? Do you have room to squeeze in one more project?

If you’re serious about writing, you need time to put your butt in the chair and write.

One author had only time after his kids went to bed, so that’s when he wrote. Others can only write in the morning before everyone else is up and the day gets busy.

You write when it’s best for you or you make time. Since I’m retired and my time is my own, I write whenever I have the opportunity. Usually, it’s in the afternoon.

Along with Time Management is your word count. How much time you have will determine how many words you can write in the amount of time you give yourself.

There was a time when it was easy for me to write 5,000 words a day without thinking about it. I haven’t seen a 5,000-word day in a long time. My most now is half that. Still, it takes butt in the chair time to make those words happen and without time management, it won’t.

Another important aspect of Time Management is where you write. Some people need noise, some solitude, some need to see what’s going on, some need to be away from every form of distraction.

What is your need? How do you focus on your writing? For me, I need quiet, but I also need a window on the world. I need to see what’s going on in the outside world. Sometimes what is happening out there is an inspiration for what goes on the screen or paper.

There is also the time when you need inspiration, so Time Management means you’re out taking a walk in nature or going to a museum, park, the mall, any place where inspiration strikes. Be sure to take a notebook and pen/pencil with you so you can write down what you see and hear.

Time Management isn’t only for the office. With today’s technology, you can take your office outdoors. Take your laptop to the park and write, provided it’s not raining or snowing when you decide to work outdoors. Take it to your patio. Let the outdoors be your inspiration for what you write on that particular day.

Time Management isn’t limited. It can do whatever you need to do as long as you’re filling that time with writing.

Tomorrow’s Perspective: Brainstorming

Fishing & Writing: How to Tell the Difference

By Larry Wilson

Writing to me is a lot like fishing.

I pick a lake, bait, and the perfect rod and reel combo, watch the weather, venture out with a plan to catch my limit of walleye, perch or even a meal of bluegills. 

I head out with high expectations, ready for anything.

And I get skunked. Nada, Zip. Not even a bite.

Some days Lucy yanks the ball away, again.

I did do a little better than that on a recent trip to Fox Lake. The water was just a little green with August algae. Heck on some days it looked like pea soup.

The guy at the bait shop informed me “…getting Northern, a few Panfish but no Walleye to be found.”

The best-laid plans.

Likewise, a story outlined, researched, rough draft, second draft, edited, revised, re-written, and reviewed, then offered for critique, edited again and again, and submitted for publication.

Only to be rejected.

Why bother at all?

It’s like the mountain to a climber. It’s like chasing the fish. Because I need to.

It doesn’t take much to keep going. A bite here a nibble there. Catch a positive review from someone — encouragement from a peer.

I caught a bullhead-that’s something.

Some days I had to force myself to face the dawn, climb into the boat with coffee and bait and venture out in search of perch.

It’s the same with writing.

Put butt into chair. Bring coffee. Do whatever it takes to put words onto paper. Share with someone.

Repeat.

I need to savor the process, whether it’s waves lapping the boat, or tapping at the keyboard. Watching a bobber or reading the latest revision.

Breathe the fresh air or listen to old-time rock ‘n roll.

Right now I’m looking out the window watching the waves from an easterly wind blowing through gray clouded skies.

“When the wind is from the East, fish bite the least.”

So I might as well write.

Writing Perspective – Day 27 of 31

By Valerie Routhieaux

Day 27 – Dramatic Through Lines

Today’s tip comes from the book, Story Structure Architect by Victoria Lynn Schmidt, Ph.D.

Selecting a Dramatic Through Line. A dramatic through line is the main direction of your characters whether you have a plot-driven or character-driven book, the through line is what makes your characters achieve their goals—in most cases staying alive to the end, especially when you’ve got a lot of dinosaurs chasing you as in Jurassic Park. Or aliens coming to take over your world as in Independence Day.

It might not be staying alive that drives your character. It might be finding love as in romances, finding the reason why as in mysteries.

Your through line is what keeps your readers reading, and the more dramatic you make it, the more they will keep turning those pages.

There are five types of dramatic through line:

1. The main character succeeds

2. The main character is defeated

3. The main character abandons his goal

4. The main character’s goal is undefined

5. The reader creates the goal

No matter what kind of story you’re writing, there wouldn’t be a dramatic through line without characters. What are your favorite types of books based on those five types of dramatic through lines?

Tomorrow’s Perspective: Conflict