Writing Ruts

No matter what kind of writing project you attempt, you are going to run into roadblocks, or writer’s block, or mental blocks. All kinds of blocks are bad.

I recently won NaNoWriMo 2016 with a whopping 100K. It was such a huge accomplishment considering the past few years I have always struggled to write every day. This year, I did. I kept the momentum going and before I knew it I was hitting 50K and then 75K and then finally 100K.

You may be wondering: Why is she telling me a success story? 

Why am I telling you?

Because it was a success, I hit the word count goal, but the story wasn’t done. I still had five sections to finish. And once I felt like I had won, writing felt like pulling teeth.

My inner editor came back with a vengeance.

The writers block that I had been pushing away, through day after day of writing, finally rolled back down crushing me.

The beautiful characters and story that I had been weaving became stale.

The words had escaped like tortured prisoners.

And I couldn’t write like I was.

Weeks went by without the word counts in the thousands, and I felt like it all just sucked.

So what should you do when you reach that point?

There are a few options.

Change Your View

If you’re writing on a screen, it can become monotonous. The same background (usually white) and the same font and black letters, it gets boring. The paragraphs all look the same, and the words blend and even read monotonous.

So change your view. Make the font the farthest thing from the original font that you can still read, change the background color to neon pink, intent and unindent until it’s barely recognizable.

Even more simple? Write on a different screen. Switch from the laptop to the phone, or vice versa.

Work on Something Else

If you are anything like me, you have a lot of projects that are either half done, or written in notebooks and not typed, or any combination of those two. I started writing the old fashioned way, in notebooks, so I have a lot of drafts that I have yet to type up. When I get stuck on a current project, I turn to those.

I turn to those, to crank out a chapter or two, for several reasons.

  1. They are several years old and it allows me to surprise myself
  2. They are several years old and so bad that the grammar and spelling and everything makes me cringe. Most of the time it gets rid of any doubts that I have about my current work.

Another thing I turn to is fanfiction. Not to read it, but to write it, to try something I might be scared or anxious to try in something original.

Sometimes it helps to just have characters that are a little more developed tackle the problems first and then make it more original.


Go on Social Media

Yes! Scroll through facebook, or twitter, or tumblr or any other social media.

But here’s the trick. Pick a common word (I like “The” or “and”) and every time you see that word in a post, write a sentence in your work.

You might be surprised what comes out.

Those are usually how I get writing.

What are your tips for getting out of a writing rut?

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Writer Life Lesson #22: Every Piece You Write is Important… Even Fanfiction

What are you writing right now? Is it a novel, an essay, a smut filled fanfiction, literally anything else where you put words on paper?

First: Good for you! You’re writing. 

Second: Don’t stop writing and don’t ever throw it away. It’s important to your writing craft. 

Every Piece You Write is Important. 

Think about your whole writing career for a second. Whether you started writing yesterday or two decades ago, you have a writing career. Now think about all the stories you have worked on, finished or not. 

Whether they were published, or thrown into a drawer never to see the light of day again, they are important to how you see yourself and how you build yourself as a writer. 

Even those fanfiction stories you wrote in middle school and high school. 

Just by writing, whether it’s a short story for school or a long novel series, or even something small like one great sentence, you are improving your writing career and getting one word closer to finishing that story, or chapter, or book, or even series. 

By trying things in stories, even if that story will never be published, or be seen by readers, you are improving and gaining knowledge of how to make things better the next time you decided to use that idea. 

That is why I love fanfiction. Both writing and reading it. It gives me a chance to try things in a novel I hope to eventually publish and see how people react to it without actually using it in my novel yet. 

An example would be the parallels between my novel and a fanfiction story I was writing last year. 

In my novel series, a character suffers from amnesia (cliché ? Yes, but trying to make it less so). In the fanfiction, a character wakes up after an OD with amnesia, and I got to play around with how to both write and format flashbacks between the characters without it being too clunky or boring. 

Every piece is important to our growth as writers. 

Stuck on how to write something? Why not try fanfiction and see what happens!

Good luck in all your writing endeavors! 

Tuesday How To: Make the Conflict Match Your Characters

So you’re all set to start writing. You have your  favorite drink or snack on hand, you have the timer set for at least 10 minutes, ready to get down at least some words that sound semi smart in this writing session, and you have your characters all fleshed out and ready to go.

Or do you?

Part of being a writer is working with conflict and how it affects your characters. Every conflict should affect characters in some way, but certain conflicts will affect them more.

Take the difference between a trained fighter and a plumber. If you put the fighter into an MMA ring, he would have no problems understanding how to fight and possibly win against the other fighter. You put that plumber in the ring and now you have a conflict. Does the plumber know how to win against the other fighter or not?

There is your conflict. 

I like to think of conflict as “What is the worst possible thing that could happen to this character that they could possibly come out of and possibly be happy?” 

An example I’ll give you is from the series I am currently working on. The main character in book one, when his story starts, is a weakling who lets other people make most of his choices for him. In the relationship with his best friend, he is the weaker of the two, and he lets her run the show. When the shift happens, when his best friend can no longer make decisions, he has to step up and be the strong one in their relationship. This is part of his growth throughout the series, and it creates conflict later in the series when she starts to make choices for herself again.

The best way to make a conflict is to decide how far you want to push your characters. What they need to be pushed forward into their world and fight for what they need. 

A good rule of thumb is to use opposites. 

Let’s return to the plumber and the fighter for a few moments. Let’s say the plumber is a pacifist and is against fighting, but his wife and kids are kidnapped by someone. Pacifist plumber tries the nice route, going to where the villain is keeping his wife and kids, but he gets his ass handed to him by the hulk like bouncer. Now Mr. Plumber has a choice, which creates conflict.

Should he go against his ideals and train to kick the bouncer’s ass and save his family, or should he keep his ideals and try to deal with the villain another way?

Depending on what you, as the writer, choose, it could be two very different stories. 

How do you make your conflicts match your characters strengths and weaknesses?

Writer Life Lesson #21: Set a Timer and Write Like Mad

Writing is a difficult task, and yet the easiest task in the world. All you have to do is put words on paper, any words at all. That, unfortunately can become pretty complicated when you add in work, school, family time, shopping, etc etc etc. When you add in all the other aspects of life, writing can seem to become not as important as everything else. 

This week’s lesson: Set a Timer and Write Like Mad!

It sounds easy enough, right? Set a timer and just write. It doesn’t matter what, or where, or even how. As long as words are going down on the page, whatever the medium, you are making progress. 

I usually set a timer for 10 or 15 minutes to start with, since starting with a full hour or even 45 minutes can be very intimidating. This can change depending on your desire to write too, or how much time you actually have. Some days, all you’re going to get is five minutes, as unfortunate as that may be. 

This method works so well because it gets past that feeling of unworthiness and the fear of messing up and helps to break through to that sweet spot of writing where everything just falls into place. It will get you into the writing mood. 

I am off to do 10 minutes, anyone want to join?

How To Tuesday: Every Story Needs Conflict

We’ve all read stories where it seems like nothing is happening. Stories that are boring, or slow, or maybe the characters just aren’t working for us as readers. I find that most of the time when stories bore me, it’s because the conflict doesn’t resonate with me, or that there doesn’t seem to be a conflict, or high enough stakes for me to have an interest in the results. 

Every story needs to have some sort of conflict. 

Whether it’s the fact that your character can’t find the right shoes for their prom dress or the character has to diffuse a bomb before the timer goes off and he can’t tell what color word to cut because he’s colorblind. Your story needs a conflict, something to resolve for the story to feel complete. 

If you don’t have a conflict for your characters, it might as well be a story where everyone is happy and nothing bad ever happens. Even short stories need conflicts, something to move the plot forward and engage the reader and make them care about the characters and what happens to them. Even the simplest of things can become conflicts. 

The easiest way to come up with a conflict is to think of the word thing that could happen to your character and make it happen, but we will talk more about that next week. 

Five Reasons You Should Do NaNoWriMo This November

Ahhh November, the changing of the seasons, pumpkin spice everywhere, the feel of family in the air. And for several writers, National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo. If you haven’t heard of it, or are not sure what that jumble of letters is, or if you should participate at all:

Here’s five reasons you should participate this November.

1. New project time!
We all have projects we want to start, but we feel we never have the time, or never have the right words to start. With NaNoWriMo, there is no time to debate whether the words are right or the timing is right. On midnight November 1st, it’s time to jump in and get words on that page. It’s a chance to start something new and leave your doubts in the dust by writing words without judgement.

2. It’s less than 2000 words a day to 50K
The actual number is 1667, that’s actually a lot less than 2000. But on the other hand, writing over the daily count of 1667 will help you to win earlier than November 30th. And if you think about how many words 1667 words is, that’s not even that much, especially if any words will do. And if you get stuck, or you’re not sure what to write, there’s always the forums.

3. Support from forum and writing buddies
While NaNoWriMo is a self challenge, it doesn’t mean you have to do it alone. On the website, there are forums, pep talks from writers and editors, and other writers competing to reach 50,000 words before the clock strikes midnight on December 1st. There is a ton of support and so many people wanting you to succeed in your novel.

4. You never know what can happen
You may start with something on the fly, not sure if it will ever become something, or if it will just grace your desk drawer like a dirty secret, but you won’t know unless you keep writing it, and keep learning what your characters have to tell you. Whether you plot or not, writing is an adventure, and your characters may lead you to places you never imagined. You could finish your novel and it could become a best seller one day, or even part of a series. The possibilities are endless!

5. You can say you wrote a novel!
You! Yes, you can say you wrote a novel. Whether you finish it or not, write 50K or not, continue it after until you reach the words “The End”. You can still say that you wrote a novel. It’s a great conversation starter, and a great accomplishment. You should be proud of your accomplishments whether you reach 50K or not. And you will have more words on December 1st than you did on November 1st.

So why not check it out? Here

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More perks: Merchandise!

What have you got to lose? Why not try NaNo this year?

Want to be my writing buddy this year? Here