Tag Archives: writer’s block

Writer’s Block, an Adventure in Randomness

MP910216414I’m about 1/4 of the way through writing my seventh book.  (I know! The total is freaking me out too) .  Anyway, today was an excellent writing day. I spent the morning at a local coffee shop.  The past few weeks have been brutal, words limping out onto the page, scenes forming with in pathetic randomness. So, instead of sitting in my office, I opted for a change of scenery and a very large cup of coffee.

I’ve determined that I should write 10,000 words per week to get this book finished. Unfortunately, the only way to make writing easier is to write. It sucks but it’s true. If I write 2,000 words every weekday, I can use the weekend for editing, administrative tasks, or heaven forbid, cleaning.  Three nights this week I sat up until midnight to get the words in. One day I still fell short. Today started out much the same. Four hours at Panera netted me my daily minimum.  I set out to run errands. In the car, scenes and dialogue started flashing into my head. I had to turn off the radio. The music was competing with my characters.

I hurried home, panicked that I’d forget half of what was in my head.  I grabbed my laptop and vomited out another 2K in under 2 hours. I didn’t think I could type that fast. I happily wrote myself into a nasty headache.

Why does this happen? Why does the story hate me one day and love me the next?   Why does it seem so random?  I’ll never figure it out, but I’m surely going to enjoy the days when the job really seems as easy as friends and family think it is.

Now back to writing. Maybe I can make it 5,000. Wishing you all a writing day as successful as mine.

– Melinda

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On Self-Doubt and Goldfish

Goldfish in fishbowlI’m finishing up a draft this week, a particularly rough book for me. (I know I say that all the time). I was about 1/3 of the way through my manuscript and completely on schedule when tragedy struck our family. I ended up spending 3 weeks out of town with no opportunity or desire to write. When I finally returned home, there was another week of getting back into the household routine. My kids had missed a full week of school. Their load of makeup work wasn’t pretty.

By the time I was able to get back to my book, nearly a month had passed since I’d last worked on it. Who were these characters and what on earth were they doing? I struggled for the next couple of weeks, my deadline looming on the calendar.  Frankly, I didn’t care much about the story, the characters, or the plot. The whole family was still grieving and  struggling to catch up. Teachers were the usual mix of helpful and horrible. Stress was spelled with a capital S.

So, what did I do?

Friends suggested I ask for an extension, but the very thought of missing a deadline gave me a case of hives. I still had some time. I was just going to have to hustle. But every day, my lack of progress dug me deeper and deeper into a hole. I was beginning to think I would have to call my editor after all, despite the fact that contemplating it made me hyperventilate.  My editor is a sweet, sweet person. She was aware of the situation and would have understood. But time  wasn’t the entire point or the heart of the problem.

I was Austin Powers. I’d lost my Mojo.

My answer? I wrote.  Every day. A net gain of 2,000 words at minimum. No excuses. No matter how much I wanted to crawl into bed and pull the covers over my head, I dragged my sorry ass into my office each morning. The first week I was up until midnight nearly every night. But I refused to leave my desk unless I had made my progress. 2,000 words a day shouldn’t be that hard. But when you aren’t in tune with your story or characters, it sure seems like a lot. I was doing a lot of deleting, some days logging over like 4,000 words or more just to keep my minimum net daily gain. The first thing I’d do when I opened my document was delete half the crap I wrote the day before. I couldn’t keep the plot lines and character arcs in my head from day to day. I was a goldfish in a bowl, swimming all day and not going anywhere. I sucked.

But another 2 weeks went by and I was deleting less and adding more. I started keeping a list of notes. I added two additional subplots that hadn’t been in my plan. Then one day I woke up excited to write. YEAH!!!!

Hello, Mojo! Where have you been?

I’m not quite finished yet. I have maybe 10,000 words to go to finish my first draft. Does it still need work? Yes. Do parts of the book still suck. Yes again. Am  I super-enthusiastic to work on it every morning? Not really. But as long as I finish this freaking draft, I can fix it. It’s not like I chiseled the words into a slab of granite. All I have to do is type over them. It’s not that hard. Why couldn’t I look at it this way a month ago?

So, when self-doubt strikes, I recommend planting your butt in the chair and write if you have to duct tape your ass to the seat.  Yes, the goldfish feeling sucks, but I haven’t found a shortcut to getting back into the groove. Has anyone else?

Living the Book by Angela Knight

One of the pleasures of being a writer is the moment when the story comes alive. The scene bursts into my brain, shimmering images flowing through my consciousness as my hero and heroine argue, make love, and fight for their lives against some overwhelming force.

I love to read – the walls of my house are lined with bookcases stacked three deep with books.  Yet as much as I enjoy other people’s stories, they never make me fly the way my own do.

It’s not that I consider myself better than those other writers. In fact, I’m a rabid fangirl when it comes to my favorite authors.

Yet not even Nora Robberts or Lois McMaster Bujold or Tanya Huff has ever given me the soaring high I feel when I watch my own stories unfold.

Those moments are why I write.

It’s not the money, though God knows cash is always welcome, especially in this economy. But if you want to know the truth, I’d write even if I wasn’t getting paid for it. In fact, that’s what I did for years before I got published.

I caught the writing bug when I was just nine years old. Even as a child, I loved the way characters bloomed in my mind like bright flowers – the talking mice, the superheroes, the horses running free across landscapes I’d never seen.

I felt driven to put those images on paper, first with a pencil, then with my mother’s electric typewriter. (Yes, dinosaurs do roam the earth. Arrrrrr!)

I was seventeen the first time I got the courage to start submitting my work. Unfortunately, it takes a great deal of practice to learn how to write, and I hadn’t yet mastered my craft. For years, every story I wrote was rejected.

When I turned twenty, my bewildered father asked me why I kept torturing myself.

“Why do you keep sending those things out? You’re never going to get published.” He wasn’t being cruel. He just hated seeing my crushed disappointment every time I opened a rejection letter.

For once, I had no idea how to put what I felt into words. “I’ve just got to, Dad. I need to.”

He shook his head and turned away.

How could I explain my addiction to the glittering people in my head? How could I make him understand what it felt like to craft the perfect sentence that captured what I saw in my waking dreams?

My father isn’t a writer. He couldn’t understand what it felt like to spill a river of words on the page strong enough to sweep a reader into another world.

Writing is my addiction, my demanding lover, my obsession. Its hold on me is so strong, I never doubted I’d one day be published.

So I kept writing, though I knew exactly how long the odds against me were. I didn’t give a damn about the odds.

The only thing I cared about was the people in my head – watching them live and love and fight…and sometimes die.

No wonder people say writers are crazy. They’re right. We’ve just figured out how to use borderline schizophrenia for fun and profit.

At last my stubborn dream came true. Berkley editor Cindy Hwang called and asked if I’d like to write erotic paranormal romance for her.

Hell yes!

But as I finally realized my ambition of becoming a full-time writer, I also discovered what it’s like to write 100,000 words with a deadline looming over my head like a legal tsunami.

Contracts have a way of turning creation into a job. Unfortunately, muses don’t like to punch a time clock.

Even so, there are times my dreams become vivid enough to drive all thoughts of contracts and editors right out of my head. I often had such moments with Master of Shadows.

I watched Belle Coeur pick her way through the ruins of a burned house, searching for the seared fragments of a young werewolf’s spell book. Sparks danced over the ashes as her blonde hair shimmered in the morning sunlight.

I saw Tristan battle the Beast, his sword catching the moonlight as he dodged the bearlike creature’s raking claws and snapping fangs. Powerful muscle rolled beneath his magical armor, blade sweeping in great arcs with all his legendary skill.

My heart pounded almost as fast as the keys I hit as I worked to capture each flash of the blade and surging heave of the monster’s brawn.

When Tristan and Belle finally gave in to their mutual desire, I felt the heat of the knight’s touch, the rise of Belle’s answering magic, the sweet, burning trail of Tristan’s tongue drawing patterns on smooth, pale skin.

I felt each rolling thrust of his powerful body and the answering hungry rock of her hips. I heard her cry of delight and his roar of pleasure.

I also felt their anger and despair as they confronted the ghost that haunted Tristan – Isolde, the legendary lover who’d betrayed and tried to kill him. Though long dead, she stood between them like a cold stone wall, making Tristan distrust both himself and Belle.

When the Magekind marched to meet the Direkind, I loved the cool glint of moonlight on armor, the flash of swords, the rippling snarl of attacking wolves. I saw dragons take to the air as the witches of Avalon formed a shield wall of golden magic against the werewolf wizard’s furious blasts.

But sometimes those beautiful images failed to form, and I was left pacing the floor and struggling to find the key to unlock my dreams.

I’ve never written a book without getting a case of writer’s block somewhere in the process. Hours, even days, are often lost as I wrack my brain for that missing scene, that flash of inspiration that will let me see the rest of the story.

I always take long walks and longer baths, staring into lit candles like one of my witches, looking for the future in the leap of the flame.

In desperation, I often spill the plot out to my patient husband or one of my critique partners, hoping they will make some brilliant observation that will send the story spilling through my brain.

That happened with Master of Shadows one night as my husband worked on dinner. (Cooking is not among my talents.)

I spent a half hour ranting about my frustration as he worked. Suddenly Mike looked up and said something. I have no idea what, because my brain was instantly flooded with the story his words triggered.

I envy the people who deny the existence of writer’s block. I firmly believe those lucky bastards don’t get blocked because there’s something different about the way their brains create a story.

Still, to deny the existence of writer’s block because you don’t get it makes about as much sense as a color blind man saying there’s no such thing as red.

I simply can’t write the story until it’s in my head. Until it is, I’m locked in mute frustration, pacing and muttering and watching bad movies, hoping that something, anything, will make my creative subconscious yark up the next scene. And with it, my next fix of images, emotion and words.

As I write this, I’ve just started work on my next novel, Master of Darkness. I’m looking forward to it. I can already tell it’s going to be one of those fabulously vivid dreams as my werewolf couple battles the wizard determined to destroy the Magekind.

Yet even in the midst of all that conflict, love will still manage to bloom between Justice and Miranda, all velvet petals and raking thorns.

Unfortunately, the details of the story haven’t solidified yet. Until they do, I can’t start writing. But they’ll come. They always do — and I can’t wait.

I need my next fix.

Best,

Angela Knight

For more information about my books, check out my website at www.angelasknights.com

The Fine Art of Procrastination

Let’s face it, we can all procratinate with the best of them. I know I can. I sit down with the best of intentions. My plan is to open my document and get straight to writing, but that’s when it happens. The call of the wild email account (all three of them)  beckons. Then I get sucked in by the seductive lure of twitter and/or facebook because I really have to make sure that all is well in Frontierville.  Then overwhelming desire to research 14th century names or natural disasters kicks in(don’t ask). The next thing you know an hour or more has gone by and I still haven’t written word one. If it’s a weekend and I’m really in full procrastination mode the XBox 360 controller magically finds it way into my hands. Next thing I know it’s six or later in the evening and the guilt finally has gotten bad enough that I’m actually going to make the effort to get something written. The sad fact is that a short while later I will have fallen asleep on my keyboard and only have written a fraction of what I intended to write. Yes, folks, I have mastered the fine art of procrastination.

To conquer this, I find that making myself accountable to someone else can really help. I’ve recently joined a group for just that purpose. We keep each others on track by reporting in about our weekly progress, whether it be page/word count or simply checking things off of your to do list. There is also a certain aspect of pride, at least for me. I don’t want to be the only person with nothing to report. I want to be the person announcing that I got to The End.

Another suggestion is making yourself a progress chart. Melinda blogged about it a few weeks back. Figure out how long you want to take to write your book, how long you want it to be and then chart it out. Figure out what your minimum word count has to be per day to reach your end goal. For some the excitement of seeing that word count get smaller and smaller is motivating and exciting.

Another tip to fight procrastination, disconnect. No cellphone, no internet. Another writer friend of mine has a laptop that doesn’t have wifi. She uses that computer for her writing since she can’t connect to the net and waste time.

BTW, waiting for inspiration to strike is just another form of procrastinating. If you’re doing other things because the words aren’t coming then try shaking things up. Try getting out of your office and writing in a new location, something different then the norm. Or try another means of writing. Switch to your alpha smart, or try long hand. I know transcribing sucks, but  sometimes that connection of pen to paper helps get the creative neurons sparking. Plus, they now have devices that will record and transfer your hand written pages to your computer.
These are just a few suggestions to battle procrastination. So please share some procrastination trials and what you do to battle them.

~Rayna

Dr. Strangemuse: Or How I Learned to Quit Worrying and Love Writer’s Block

Angela Knight is the author of the New York Times bestselling Mageverse series. Her twelfth book, Master of Smoke, will be out January 4. Check out her website for more information at www.angelasknights.com

Today, Angela will give away 2 copies of Hot for the Holidays. Comment for a chance to win!

Welcome Angela.

New writers ask themselves a lot of difficult and painful questions.  Am I writing fast enough? Why is this so damned hard? What about all these other people who are more successful? What are they doing that I’m failing to do? Will I ever get published? Will I make the best seller list? Will I stay on the best seller list? Is there a trick to this writing thing that will make it feel less like pulling every sentence out of my bleeding ass?

Here’s a news flash: all writers ask themselves the very same questions, including bestselling novelists. All of us are neurotic. That should go without saying. Of course we’re drama queens: otherwise we wouldn’t be good at writing drama.

I must admit I’ve asked myself the same painful questions as any newbie. In search of answers, I have read every book I can get my hands on about the writing process, looking for some way to make it easier, faster. Less, in short, like spelunking up my own intestines.

I hate to say it, kiddies, but I have come to the conclusion that there is no way to make it easier, faster, or less frustrating.

There are times you soar on wings of words, riding updrafts of metaphors, cruising through clouds of silken simile. Nobody else’s words can make me soar higher than my own. Writing is definitely my drug of choice.

It’s the pursuit of that high – and the very nice paycheck it brings me – that has kept me going through the rest of the time. The times when my muse turns on her dainty heel and stalks off in a huff to ignore me like an inopportune suitor with a bouquet of wilting roses. The times when the book is due, and I must work through Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and my own damned birthday. (Like now.)

And the times when, like now, I have no clue what comes next, and I have to figure it out or miss my deadline, infuriate my editor, and blow the pub date I desperately want to make.

Publication is not for pussies.

But all this has taught me a few things. The creative process is different for every writer. Some people write by the seat of their pants, while others must know the plot before they can write. Some drive through the process on sheer work ethic, even if it means writing shit. Some of us simply can’t do that. The more we try to force it, the more stubborn the words become.

I have decided that water boarding one’s own muse is counterproductive. She’s down in the basement of my subconscious, working on my book. I can almost feel her, busily constructing God knows what, while my conscious self paces the floor and mutters curses.

If I try to drag her out and make her cough up something before she’s ready, I’ll only get in her way. I have to be patient with her, despite my deadline, my agent, and my editor.

Writer’s block is just as much a part of the creative process as sitting down at your computer and pounding out words. There are two halves of the brain – the part that uses words, and the part that creates images and emotions. That creative part doesn’t have access to language, so it can’t tell me to shut the fuck up and leave it alone.

Writer’s block is actually that part of the brain at work, on a level I can’t consciously access. The creative brain eventually communicates the answer to the writing brain, like someone sending a message attached to a balloon. It’s a process so old, the ancient Greeks saw it as a goddess muse murmuring in their ears.

That’s why I’ll be bitching to my husband or taking a drive or waking up from a sound sleep, and suddenly the solution to my plotting problem will simply appear, full-blown, in a flash of blinding insight. And then I write the rest of the book.

Every single book I’ve ever written has included at least one bout of writer’s block. Often there are two: one right after the beginning, when I have to figure out the middle, and another at the end, when I have to write the climax.

I’m having a block right now over the middle of Master of Shadows. A few months ago, I had another one during Master of Smoke, when I realized I hated my original heroine and had to reconstruct her. That block stopped me cold for two weeks, but I loved the result. My heroine, Eva Roman, is now one of my favorite characters, with her quirky sense of humor that made her a delight to write. I hope you’ll enjoy reading about her adventures as much as I did writing them.

So at the moment I’m working on a book video, reading everything Patricia Briggs has ever written – I love that woman, I really do – and writing this blog. My husband pokes me periodically to ask why I’m not writing, but I just shrug. Tinkerbell, my muse, will cough up the rest of the book when she gets done with it. I just have to wait her out.

Torturing myself about the delay is pointless. And it’s just as pointless for you, Dear Reading Writer. If your mother is sick and you can’t concentrate on your writing, if you have a houseful of holiday guests, if your kid needs help with his homework – well, deal with those things. The writing will still be there when you’re finished. You have to take care of your life and accept your process, or you’ll only get in your own way. Be gentle with yourself. If you’re nice to your muse, she’ll be nice right back.

Nice Tinkerbell.  Pretty Tinkerbell. Clever, clever Tinkerbell.  Look, I picked some lovely roses for you.  Come out and play?