Tag Archives: storytelling

How I Avoid Writer’s Block

It’s a writer’s block!

Writer’s block! Nooooooo! How does one deal with one of the deadliest viruses to ever assault the creative arts? Well… I have never had writer’s block… so I do not have a cure for it. Instead I call it “writer’s detour” resulting from “writer’s blah.”

I typically avoid writer’s block because I don’t write unless I have creative energy. I have never sat down to a computer, a notebook paper, or a typewriter … without knowing what I was going to write about (yes, I am old enough to have typewriter experience). I am writing every day when working on a story. Even when that writing only takes place in my mind, I do not take a day off from writing. When I actually sit down to put words to paper (to computer screen) I have a wealth of stored up creative ideas.

If I get to a point in my novel that isn’t working… I don’t freeze up. I do not stop writing for five hours, six days, or two weeks. I actually call this “writer’s blah” because it is not as if I cannot write anything. It’s just that a particular section of the book is not interesting to me at that moment. At least, not interesting for me to have a high level of energy and excitement. So I avoid the writer’s blah by switching to a different section of my story. I call this the writer’s detour.

The writer’s detour is normally when I try a different ending for the book, work on the beginning of the book, or perhaps a complicated action sequence of the book that is more interesting than my current section. This is especially true during the first draft stage, where I do not see a reason to write in chronological order. The writer’s detour can be thought of as free writing which might even reveal what you SHOULD HAVE been writing in the section you avoided. At worst the writer’s detour allows me to explore characters’ motivations in paragraphs that may or may not ever make it into the final copy of the story.

Writing fiction should be a fun adventure, not a horrifying experience where people become frozen and unable to write a single word. Seriously… don’t be afraid to make mistakes! Because with the combination of Ctrl+C/Ctrl+V I can move entire chapters in the book around. Or DELETE entire chapters.

Something else I think about regularly is: If I am not excited about writing a section of the story… then why would readers be interested in reading it?

Occasionally the writer’s detour becomes a train wreck. Well… the “delete” button can erase entire sections of the story that seemed amazing Thursday night… but now appear to be utter crap and make no sense for my story the following morning. Sorry if I just triggered a one night stand flashback for you.

Anyway, I have written several screenplays and books, and have never experienced writer’s block. Two of my self-published works have long been deleted from existence. I wrote them 13 years ago and they were passionately, but not great. However a play I wrote a couple years ago was one of the winners of a playwright contest… so I am somewhat talented.

Nonetheless, writer’s block is not something that ails me. Writing should be a fun journey. I make it fun. If you have writer’s block then you might be taking fiction writing too seriously.

So… my answers to writer’s block are:

  1. Only write when I feel creative energy flowing.
  2. If the creative energy isn’t flowing in one part of the story, don’t stop writing. Just switch to a different part of the story and explore that. Sticking to writing in chronological order, especially for the first draft, makes no sense in the age of computer word programs.
  3. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake. Something might become your “favorite mistake!”
  4. Have fun.

What about you? How do you deal with the terror known as “writer’s block”?

I Love the Moment my Novel comes to Life

I love it when my novel comes to life.  For me, it was last week that the novel I’m writing came to life. But what does that mean? I suppose for different people that statement can mean different things. For me it means the characters and the plot are now vibrant and interesting to me… and of course, the villains are the ones who made it this way, once I crystallized the motivations for their villainy.

Before it came to life my novel had an outline. And I wrote each chapter as I thought it should go. For the first draft I typically write the story in the form of a screenplay. This is so I can write it faster, keep it fresh, and go from one section to another quicker. It allows me to zip through the draft quickly and edit any scene involving a specific character. But… this first draft was only mildly interesting until I got to the chapter that one of my main villains first entered the story. He is so deliciously nasty.

When I wrote this character, and he was “speaking” the lines… the rest of his villainous mayhem suddenly came to life. His motivations made sense to me. The rest of the story, and the plot, made sense to me. This normally happens in the first draft of any novel I finish. For novels I do not finish, typically I get to the end of the first draft and wonder why I wrote it. Sometimes I return to a second draft, and sometimes I do not. But if I finish a novel, typically something happens in the first draft to bring it to life. When the novel comes to life it’s like adding chocolate to milk… it’s like adding jalapenos to chili… it’s like adding rum to coke.

For this particular novel it was a villain which caused my novel to explode into a dynamic rainbow of awesomeness. Normally when I come up with an ending, that’s the moment when the novel comes to life for me. Because the ending can tie the rest of the novel together. But so can a good villain.

So what about you? When you write… when does the novel come alive during the writing process? Is it in the first draft? After several drafts? When a particular character seems real?

What is your favorite part about writing a novel?

I remember when I was a child reading Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss. I loved the art, and I loved the flow of the writing. The words themselves were artistic in the way they were spun together.

Now that I’m grown up… writing science fiction, fantasy, and romantic comedies are all genres of writing I enjoy. In addition, I recently expanded my writing to contemporary dramatic works. A current example is an adaption of one of William Shakespeare’s plays that I’m turning into a modern novel. I’m not sure if I am making it a Nobel worthy work, or causing William to turn in his grave… but it is fun and challenging. Writing a novel that gets published is one of the goals on my Bucket List!

One of my favorite parts is creating character backgrounds. Especially the villains. A good antagonist can make the price of the book worth it. A good antagonist makes the movie ten times better. In comic books, many times a great antagonist is 100 times more interesting than the superhero! I suppose the same can be true about soap operas. Do I have a favorite villain? No. Probably just a villain with a motivation I can understand. Not motivation that I find inspiring… but something that I understand. I think that is my issue with disaster movies… because the villain is an earthquake, a Sharknado, an asteroid, or some other environmental threat. The special effects are normally good in disaster movies, but the drama… not always good.

Do heroes even really need to be that interesting or dynamic? Maybe they can be interesting. But I think the protagonist can normally get away with being somewhat normal (and relatable), and that protagonist reacts to all the challenges the villain throws at her/him.

Another favorite part of writing for me also involves the characters. I generally have a loose outline of where the story should go, but then I develop the characters… and I let the characters dictate where the story goes. To be honest this has been good and bad for me. Sometimes the characters take the story into impossible corners which turns the plot into a trainwreck. Thank heavens for the massive storage space in today’s modern computers and flash drives! Every story I write has multiple versions, incase I decide a trainwreck I created in Draft 3.0 now might be useful in Draft 9.7.

However… sometimes the characters I create are beautiful story tellers… and they take the story in a wonderful, unexpected direction. For example, I have written two endings for my current novel… and I’ll go with the ending which fits best in the finished novel. Mainly, it just depends on which ending makes the most sense for the characters. I know the outline, and where the story is going… but either ending could make sense at this point. And of course, by the time I am finished with the story… there could be a third ending which I haven’t thought of… an ending the characters have not revealed to me yet.

So what about you? When you write… what are your favorite parts of the writing process?

Book Cover Design – What would you do?

Have you used 99 Designs for your book cover design? I expect to finish writing a novel later this year. It is a fantasy/science-fiction story for young adults. I plan to publish it independently as an eBook but still need an attractive cover for display.

For those who do not know, 99 Designs is a website that hosts graphic design contests. The way it works is that an author submits a written description of how they would like to the cover to look. Then graphic artists from around the world submit designs in a cover design competition. After two or three weeks the author ends the contest and chooses a winning design.

It sounds pretty cool. Plus I love writing… so seeing my work in print, even as an eBook, would be great.

Have you used 99 Designs or someone else for your book cover design? What was your experience like? I am a graduate student so publishing an indie eBook is a big financial commitment for me … you know… like $400.

Have you ever had a book published (or self published)? What was your experience like? Thoughts?