Writer’s Block

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All writers commence groaning.

Writer’s block: a sort of strange and terrible phenomenon in which all creativity and motivation abandon the writer’s brain and leave for parts unknown.

How do we beat it? There are tons of different suggestions out there. Some of them work, and some of them don’t. Sometimes, it just seems best to sit down and do something else other than writing because of this problem.

I have a secret for you: being a good writer doesn’t come from momentary inspiration.

As much as you may doubt yourself and your writing ability when you don’t feel the writing vibe, you don’t just start being a terrible writer just because you aren’t feeling it right at that moment. Sometimes, you just have to push on through and keep writing, even though you don’t want to. Some of us don’t really have a choice, thanks to looming deadlines.

The thing is, your writing is still going to be good, even if you think that it’s boring when you’re writing. Sometimes, you don’t know what you’re going to write next, and that’s where the block is coming from. This is where you actually have to think about the mechanics of your work, and not just about the creative juices. I did mention in a past post that some people outline and some people don’t, and either is fine. But that doesn’t mean that you garden-growers out there can stop thinking about where your story is going and what kind of message you want to send. That means that in order to move your story along, you need to figure out where it goes next, and what kind of scene will take it there.

For outliners, this is the easy bit. What did you plan to write next? Do it now.

Now for the hard part. Write it. Whatever scene you’ve decided you need, get it down on paper, or on your computer, or wherever you write. Because the thing is, even if you don’t think it’s going to work, or is boring, or that it’s bad, it’s actually not. Once you’re done, set it aside for a bit and come back to it later, or add onto it again, when you’re thinking creatively again. I can almost guarantee you that if you look at your work later, you can’t tell the difference between scenes you wrote while feeling creative and inspired and scenes you wrote while feeling bored and stuck in a rut.

The problem? Most writer’s block stems from being bored. Well guess what? Writing is actually work sometimes, and sometimes work can be boring. Suck it up and get writing. After all, the only thing that suffers from you slacking off is you and your story.

Now that we’re done with that semi-inspiring speech, I’ve got some work to do on my own projects.

On Not Giving Up

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Okay, so your submission to a publisher came back with a rejection. Not only does it happen to the best of us, it happens to all of us. The vast majority of writers have publishers reject one of their works at some point or another.

It doesn’t mean that you’re a bad writer, necessarily. There are many reasons for a publisher to reject work.

One of them is that the work that you’ve submitted isn’t exactly what that publisher is looking for right at that instant. Sometimes it’s harder to figure out what a publisher is looking for when they have a general call out. Try again. Just because that publisher rejected it, it doesn’t mean every publisher will.

It could be that the publisher has limited space, and that they can’t publish everything that comes their way, even if it is good. It might be just that they’ve decided to go with authors that they are already familiar with, or that your work is similar to another author’s, so they went with the other one. It happens.

And I know you dread to hear it, but sometimes it is because of the writing.

So, I have a couple of questions for you, if you suspect that this is the case.

How long have you been a writer, and how much are you practicing? I’ve been a writer since I actually could write, and I get feedback from fellow writers at regular intervals. Are you taking any writing courses or following any writing blogs? Getting advice from others who can give you critical feedback?

The only way to get better at writing is actually writing. I’ve looked at some of my old work, and it’s just horrendous. But that’s looking at it from now. You can only get better with practice. That, and reading. Please read as much as you possibly can, because that’s how you can tell if you’re improving.

Don’t give up on writing because you got one rejection letter.

Other questions to ask yourself:

  • is my story predictable or typical? What can I do to change it up a bit, to make it different from all the other stories?
  • did I revise my story? How is the pacing, are there unnecessary scenes, or did you leave any out?
  • how’s your opening chapter? Do you have a good hook? What kind of scene do you open with? A lot of editors judge a book by its first chapter, and if that doesn’t impress them, they won’t read any further.
  • did you edit properly? Remember when I said editors can tell if you didn’t edit it? Yeah, they really really can, and dislike it immensely.

Any way you look at it, you shouldn’t take a rejection letter as a cue to throw in the towel. It is not a sign of failure unless you give up afterward.

Never think that writers are born. Writers create themselves.

Outlining

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I don’t know about any of you, but one of the things that I’m most terrible at is organization. I can’t organize things in my head to save my life, and I have to write it down somewhere to get it all in order. Some of my more complicated plots require a very dedicated and colour-coded outline so that I can keep track of what’s supposed to be happening. I tend to accidentally forget subplot points and leave them out.

One thing that sometimes helps with that is Trello, which I made a post about here.

I need an outline. Some lucky people don’t need one, because they’re just that clever. I am not one of those people, so that’s why I’m talking about it in this post.

I tend to colour code things like plot, sub-plots, and character arcs. There’s always an over-arching plot of things that are happening, some of which the characters might not even be aware of. Then I tie in sub-plots to the main plot, because sub-plots that don’t support your main theme aren’t very strong sub-plots. Then I add in character arcs, so that I can tell when a character needs to do something in order for the story to progress.

For me, plot is usually the hardest thing to actually do, because it needs to incorporate everything you want to include in the story. This is more from an organization point of view, because I usually know what needs to happen, it’s just a question of when.

Once the plot is laid down, then I can overlay it with the sub-plot and character arcs.

I find it a very tiring process, to be honest, and it’s usually what takes me the most time. Even research doesn’t take as long as that. Also, I tend to enjoy researching, which makes it less tedious than forcing myself to sit down and make charts and such.

Some people can just sit down and write. One of my teachers calls it the “gardening vs architecture” style of writing. “Gardening” is supposed to be just letting things grow in your head, whereas “architecture” is my style, in which the writer makes a plan. My professor also told us that there was no set way of writing, and that either style could work just fine, depending on the writer.

I suppose, for those of us that have a very chaotic way of organizing things, an outline works best.

Happy writing!

I’m on Wattpad

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I recently signed up with Wattpad.

I’ll probably be adding writing odds and ends on there. Little drabbles that don’t make it into my novels, outside POVs, things like that. Maybe I’ll even do a full-length story on there, but for now, I’m still working on a novel I want to submit to Riptide Publishing for their submission calls.

So, just short stories and drabbles for now.

Anyway, that’s the latest news.