Tag Archives: writer’s block

“Never Have I Ever” for Writers

imagesRules of the game: I make a statement about writers or writing. Anyone who has done the thing that I’ve said, must take a drink (or whatever your vice might be).

Warning – of course you must be legally eligible to take said drink and not planning to be responsible for small children or operating a motor vehicle or heavy machinery any time soon. Writing is serious business, folks! 😜
So, here we go…
  1. Never have I ever finished writing my novel, novella, short story or poem
  2. Never have I ever gone back to revise one more time, after I said I was done
  3. Never have I ever had writers block
  4. Never have I ever written a stereotypical character
  5. Never have I ever info dumped
  6. Never have I ever used the words “just” or “almost” too many times
  7. Never have I ever been jealous of another writer’s success
  8. Never have I ever made an egregious grammar error
  9. Never have I ever used a word incorrectly
  10. Never have I ever looked down my nose at <fill in some genre of writing>
  11. Never have I ever wanted to quit writing altogether.
  12. Never have I ever told something when I could have shown it
  13. Never have I ever had a kind of dumb idea for a story and written it anyway
  14. Never have I ever written awful dialogue
  15. Never have I ever switched points of view without realizing it

Bonus, double shot question: Never have I ever thought I might have written the next blockbuster bestseller!

This is so disgusting to me I almost couldn't put it in the post.

This is so disgusting to me I almost couldn’t put it in the post.

Ok! Are you still standing? Did you get to the end without drinking (or whatever)? If you’re still standing and can see straight, go back and ask the same questions in Truth or Dare. Or while playing beer pong or quarters. Or from your Ouija board or tarot cards. Or just for the heck of it. If you’re not swinging full out, risking it all, making mistakes, sometimes falling into a pit of despair, chances are you’re not a writer and you meant to read a blog about 12 ways to clean your bathtub drain or something. That’s cool. Never have I ever successfully gotten all the hair out of my bathtub drain. I feel you.

Wait, you weren’t dumb about this, right? Because, you know, this blog post was metaphorically speaking. You knew that, right?  Um… Hey! Would someone out there get this reader some coffee, please?!

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Tricks to Break Through Writer’s Block

Writer's Blocks?Let me start off first by saying I don’t really believe there’s an actual thing that is “writer’s block.” I just put that in the title so people would click the link. Seriously. It’s my belief that there’s always something for a writer to write. You might get stuck at some point in your manuscript, but you can always write something. A list. A character study. Backstory. A description of a place. A blog post about “Tricks to Break Through Writer’s Block.”
narcissus

Ok, let me be totally honest with you all now: I have a YA story that I desperately want to write and when I sit down at the computer, the blank Word document stares back at me, and NOTHING happens. The story is stuck in my head in bits and pieces, fragments flitting around my days, nudging me, poking me, but NOT GETTING PUT INTO WORDS ON PAPER (or computer).

So, this blog post is actually for ME. And, if you’ve been reading theblabbermouthblog.com for a long enough time, you’ll know that actually it’s all about me. (I keep telling my husband and kids that it’s ALL about me, but they’re not biting.) So. Here’s my list of 7 tricks to break through writer’s block, even if writer’s block doesn’t exist. I’m writing the list for me. You’re welcome to try some of these tricks, too.

images-11. If you’re stuck for ideas for a story, make a list of stories you’d like to read. Any kind of story. It can look like “a story about a boy from Boise who yearns to swim in the ocean; a story about a girl who’s jealous of her cousin; a story about an alien invasion; a story about a hippo who wants to make pancakes.” Anything. Just make the list. Then pick one of the things on the list and go with it. It doesn’t matter if it’s the “right” one or not. Just start with that one.

2. If you do have a basic idea of the story you want to write, just write down the “what happens.” Again, this is just to give yourself a road map. It doesn’t need to sound good or look good or ever be shown to anybody. Just jot down the basics of your story. Just for fun. Just do it. No pressure.

3. Make a list of any of the characters that you know will be in your story so far. Write their backstory, just for yourself. So, you don’t need to “show not tell” or have it be well written. The plan is not that this will be included in your manuscript. You should spend at least 5 minutes doing this (but 5 hours or 5 days are both ok, too).

images-24. Describe a setting. It might be a room, a vista, a town, whatever. Just describe it in all the detail you can muster; sights, smells, sounds, everything.

blahblahblah5. Write a scene that is all dialogue. It should be at least 2 people talking to each other, but can be more. Pay attention to how each of them speaks and make sure that they sound different from each other.

Family portrait6. Describe the key players of your story. This is different than writing their backstories. This is what they look like, their mannerisms, how they dress, how they speak, wear their hair, what they smell like, their facial expressions, if they have good teeth, a hearing loss, a particular tic or movement they might make, bad skin/good skin, freckles, fat, thin, buxom, well hung, balding, swarthy, eye color, etc… Describe them. Count on the fact that most of this will NOT end up in your manuscript.

maxresdefault7. If you basically know what your story is going to be, write an elevator pitch or query letter for it. I know, I know, pitches and query letters are the hardest things to write. But, if you can get that done now, even before you write your story, it will be like a beacon of light in the muddy muck that writing a novel can be. And it psyches you up for writing the story!

So, that’s a start! Doing some of these things can get you (me) writing about and playing on paper with your story. And now, some inspirational quotes for you!

Our friend Yoda said: “Do. Or do not. There is no try.”

And our friend Jo March said, “I want to do something splendid…something heroic or wonderful that won’t be forgotten after I’m dead. I don’t know what, but I’m on the watch for it and mean to astonish you all someday.”

And our friend Chandler Bing said, “Hi, I’m Chandler. I make jokes when I’m uncomfortable.”

Ok. That’s it for now. Happy to hear other people’s tricks for breaking through writer’s block in the comments below! (Even though writer’s block doesn’t exist.)

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On Writing: What Stymies You?

nowritingI’m doing manuscript critiques for the Backspace Writer’s Conference, which I’ll be at tomorrow and Friday. As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I love going to writing conferences. I love having the opportunity to interact with writers, giving them feedback that I just don’t have time to give  when answering queries. I also get very inspired to write. I am, after all, first and formost (at least in my own mind, if not in actuality) a writer. I had lunch the other day with my client Joe McGee, who is not only a very fine writer himself but also teaches writing to others.  Joe and I were discussing writing, inspiration, and how difficult it is can be to get out of our own way.

As an agent I’m constantly reading other people’s work and assessing their writing and ideas to see if they have legs for publication. I see many of the same mistakes or weaknesses in writing over and over and over and over again. Information dumping. Descriptions of things/events/thoughts/etc… that do nothing to move the plot forward or illuminate a character. Lots of throat clearing. Lots and lots and lots of telling (versus showing) of a story. Tons of wiggling eyebrows, noticing of something suddenly, and thoughts conveniently crossing a main character’s mind. And let’s not forget dream sequences, staring into mirrors, and remembering one’s childhood or dead mother/father/grandparent/sibling/best friend/boy or girlfriend.

So as I critique these pages for the conference, I’m mostly saying the same things to these authors. Does this make them bad writers? No, not really. Actually, some of them are darn good writers. But the repetitiveness of my critiques points to how difficult it is to overcome these pitfalls, regardless of one’s skill level or innate talent.

So how does doing this affect me as a writer? Well, it actually stymies me. I find it excruciatingly difficult to get out of my own way. Joe’s (excellent) advice, and the advice of so many who have commented on the blog, is to just write the goddam first draft. Write it without revising. Write it because it wants to be written. Write it without thinking too much. Write it for yourself, not for anyone else’s eyes. Just write it.

Although I know many of you are eager to give me your advice, honestly I don’t really need more advice. As my kids say to me, “I’m good.” I mean, we all know what to do about it: Just write anyway. What I’d love to know though is what stops you. What stymies you when you’re writing and why do you think it does that? 

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