Tuesday, July 21, 2009

What Do You Do When You're Stuck?

(Topic by Kim)

Some may call this phenomenon "writer's block."  I do not.  Because my number one rule of what NOT to do when you are stuck is say, "Gee, I have writer's block."  Don't do that.  You know that saying, acceptance is the first step to recovery?  I'm telling you to cling to denial like the sun don't shine.  Because admitting you have writer's block means mentally accepting you have some valid external reason for being unable to write.

There is never any valid external reason for being unable to write except a) the second coming of Christ or b) you have a real life emergency.

You're going to think I'm a hypocrite now since I've complained of the midway slump, and I've definitely mentioned having a hard time writing before.  But there are two reasons for any time I'm struggling to write and neither of them are because some magic wall landed in my brain space. One, a simple case of bad planning, and I haven't figured out what's happening next--ergo, I cannot write.  Or two, I'm being lazy.  

It's usually two.  I'm usually staring at the screen at an utter loss of words, but this is not writer's block.  This is me being unwilling to unhook the internet or get to a place where I can't be distracted.  

So what do I do when I run into situation one or two?

Sometimes, the best solution is to take a break.  Sometimes, you really are burnt out after many days of straight writing, and if you are forced to go on, you might accidentally stab your MC with a magically available fork and prematurely end the story.  But the key to this tactic is to do it in moderation, and to only take a break for one day.  Got it?  One day.  If you take a break for more than one day, it's going to be unimaginably hard for you to get back into the swing of things.  For this one day vacation, you should not think about your novel, and you should not feel guilty you're not working on it.  Then, you wake up the next day happy and refreshed, put your butt back in the chair, and voila!  Problem solved.

Otherwise, you can try writing something else.  For me, fanfiction is an excellent outlet in this case.  I can write a nice little one-shot, and by the time I'm done, I'm all ready to return to my novel.  This way, you are still writing and honing your skills.  Meanwhile, your novel is percolating merrily in the back of your head (even though you are not aware of it).  The thing that was bothering you before might not be bothering you anymore when you return.

Sadly, the third way and the best way is something most people don't want to hear.  It's just to find a nice corner without free wifi, drug yourself up with lots of coffee, and keep going at it.  It's going to feel like hitting yourself repeatedly in the forehead with a brick, but eventually, eventually, you'll weather it out and things will be easier again.  

Mostly, I go with the third option.  It's the most productive.  And even if you're writing crap, at least you're writing.  Get it all down on paper first, worry about the technicalities later.  You can't revise something that isn't there.

Tuesday: Me

Now.  I have done my hair up in Selena Gomez curls, and I mean to go to as many public places as I can possibly hit before the party tonight.  No point in dressing up if I can't show the world.  I'm even going to write in a public place.  So I look like a cool, stylish author.  Hmm...contemplating the correct choice in heels for this day.  Expect pictures from the luau.


  1. Exactly. That's my approach too (and I usually am just being lazy). Great advice!

    Just found your blog (followed from Mindless Musings), and love it. :-) Have fun out 'n about tonight, and good luck with the heels!

  2. I read, I write blog posts, I do a quick character sketch. So far those things seem to work. One thing I've noticed is that I tend to get really blocked when I'm not really in love with our concept. Usually it's a sign that the book isn't going to work for whatever reason. But once we fall in love with an idea and start writing we usually don't get blocked. That's the beauty of writing with a partner. If I get stuck I just send it to Laura.

  3. Yay! I can't wait to see the pictures. :)

    When I get blocked, usually it's because I took a wrong turn in the story. So I need to stop and listen to what the story truly is. Or sometimes I'll work for a day or two on a different project.

    Have fun at the luau! :D

  4. Oh, I hope you had fun at the luau!

    When I usually get "writer's block," it's usually early in the morning when my brain is still fuzzy. I find that I write best later at night or in the evening, after my brain has been running for a little while. But sometimes I go through long periods where nothing I write comes out right or nothing comes out at all. I think part of the problem is that in college, I started training myself to write under deadline, so often I have to be under a bit of pressure to get things done.

    What I've heard also helps "writer's block" in general is training yourself to write a certain amount of words each day. I actually think that's one of the reasons I've been so productive this summer, especially in regards to my fan fiction. In-between fan fic and my internship, I sometimes write up to 2,000 words a day.

    Also wondering if you find that it helps you when you're stuck to switch mediums? There are some weeks (like this week) where I can't get a word out on the computer screen, but give me a pen and paper, and I'll have seven full pages of writing by the end of the day.

  5. We have the same layout so I had to comment!!! I seem to find it easier to write blogs than books. I get inspired to write a blog and it's done in minutes. But my novel? I drag through sections of it. Like someone else said, though, I do find it helpful to switch mediums, writing longhand when I'm feeling stuck. I also set hourly goals...at the top of the hour my butt is in my chair and I'm not allowed to get up until 2 pages or 4 pages are written. Then I have the rest of the hour to roam the world freely.

  6. I like your style! I'm convinced writer's block hits me only when I'm not certain which direction the book should go. A detailed outline before writing has virtually eliminated the problem.

    Have a great time!

  7. Jamie D. - Welcome! Yay!

    Lisa and Laura - Good point. If you have a good idea, it usually doesn't run dry very often. I admire you a lot for doing joint writing projects, because I think that would be harder than just one author. You have to match styles and everything.

    Danyelle - Mmm. Sometimes, I force my story into a direction it doesn't want to go too.

    greenconverses - Nooooo. I am not a pen and paper gal. I did it when I was younger, but when I discovered computers, I never went back. I don't have the patience to write by hand.

    Stephanie Faris - Thanks for dropping by! Hourly goals is good too. I try for 1,000 words an hour (optimistically) ^-^.

    Jill - I should do outlines more. I'm lazy, though. I have, however, been moving to notecards, and that has helped a lot.

  8. My worst downfall is trying to disconnect from the internet. Blogging, forums, facebook--all infinitely more interesting than say, editing. Especially editing.

    When I'm drafting, that's different. I can get into the groove much easier because I'm excited about what I'm writing.

    The best thing I do is set a time limit for messing around on the net before I start writing. Once that time is up, it's onto the writing.