Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Panel Discussion - How do you work through writer's block?

Delyse Trink
Just seeing the words writer’s block gives me a touch of anxiety because I am at that stage right now! I was about mid-way through writing my latest novel when an idea started germinating for my next book. I was so excited at the time that I could hardly wait to get started writing it. The plot was taking shape in my mind and I could not help but talk about it to anyone that would listen. I knew, however, that my current novel deserved all my attention in order to finish on time for the deadline that I had set up for myself. This I managed to accomplish almost to schedule (about a month or two behind-but not too far off!) and was pleased to have it released this month.

Now I can get going on my exciting storyline for the new book! Unfortunately, I just do not know where to start! Every time I think of it I slightly panic. How am I dealing with it? I am trying not to dwell on it or over think it. I know that if I keep the necessary tools handy (to me this means a notepad and pencil by my bed and my laptop easily accessible) then it will come to me. I sometimes wake up with whole scenes and sentences ready to scribble down and then other times while in the shower more ideas have popped into my head. So I tell myself, do not panic, keep busy, and it will be okay!

K.C. May
For me, writer's block occurs most often when what I've written isn't quite right, and my mind (muse?) doesn't want to go any further on it until I've fixed what's wrong. What I usually do is back up a scene or two and ask myself, "Is this the place?" When I get the urge to write again, I create a new scene from that point which goes in a different direction. That almost always gets the creative juices flowing again, and I end up with a better story. Every now and then, I'll wake up in the morning with a clear idea of what needs to happen in the story to get myself out of the corner.

Karen Berner
My remedy for writers’ block is a trip to Starbucks. There is nothing that cannot be cured by a grande, nonfat, no water chai latte or a seasonal specialty drink. I bring my legal pad (yes, I am a dinosaur who writes everything in longhand first) and plenty of pens, plop myself down and watch. Inevitably, there will be a person walking by who reminds me of something or a snippet of overheard conversation that starts the creative process flowing again.
Karen Wojcik Berner
author of "A Whisper to a Scream"

Brendan Carroll
I rarely suffer from what is known as "Writer's Block", but it does sometimes creep up on me when I least expect it. Normally, I write about things I love to talk or write about and that makes writing easy. On the other hand, I am sometimes at a loss when staring at a blank screen. I tend to suffer from the illness whenever I need to do something.  Need is the key word.  If it is something I need to write versus something I want to write, then the words come hard to the paper (or screen).  For example, when I need to write a blog or a letter to a anyone that has nothing to do with my WIPs, I find myself at a loss for what to write and how to write it. I often catch myself editing and re-writing letters and short blogs more than a full-length novel.

Whenever the symptoms of 'block' first show up, I try getting away from the keyboard altogether.  Going outside to pet the cats or playing with the dog.  Sometimes I may have a household chore to do that I've been putting off.  This sort of activity serves two purposes.  If I keep the idea or subject matter in my head while I am involved in different activities, I usually come up with something to write when I do get back to the keyboard and I get some cleaning done.  I also think of some of my best ideas when I'm driving here and there or right after I go to bed and before I fall asleep.  It is always a good idea to have that paper and pen on the nightstand to write these ideas down or else they will be lost by morning.  Another good place I have found for thinking is in the shower.  I know that sounds like an old cliche, but it is true for me.  Unfortunately, I haven't found any suitable waterproof pens and paper to leave in the shower.  The paper gets all soggy and stops up the drain and the ink dyes my toes blue.

Margaret Lake
Sometimes I think writer's block is more like writer's malaise. There are a number of ways to get past the block, but first I have to get myself out of that place of self-doubt.

When I wrote my first book, Ariana's Pride, I was having such a good time that I couldn't get the words down fast enough. There was no block at all. It took me six months from first draft to final draft. Then I started on Catherine and the Captain and, following the success of Ariana's Pride, I put too much pressure on myself to finish. There were a lot of starts and stops, mostly due to lack of confidence. Finally, I realized that I had to set a time aside every night to just sit down and write for two or three hours. After that, things went very smoothly. I didn't allow myself any time for uncertainty.

I started on my third historical not long after publishing C&C. It was going fine until I realized I had no idea where the story was going and neither did my characters. It's not so bad if I don't know what I'm doing, but when my characters let me down, I'm in trouble. The solution this time was to set it aside and let it simmer while I wrote some shorter fiction. I wrote and published two novelettes in four months. Now I'm working on a novella, and when I have a problem, I go back and read the beginning of the scene. That gets me back into the flow. Now that I'm in the final stretch, it's time to reach for the discipline again.

Amanda Hocking
Whenever I think of anything I might possibly want to write, I write it down. Even really vague ideas. I have notes that just include a song a like and the words "teen romance like that but with a monster." That way, whenever I finish up one project, I have notes to remind of what I wanted to work on next. I build up the notes over time, usually while I'm working on other things, so by the time I get to them, it's a full outline. Then it's just a matter of forcing myself to stay in front of the computer long enough to write the book without letting the internet carry me away.

Maria Schneider
I don't have writer's block so much as "writer's procrastination" and writer's "my character is backed into an impossible situation and I can't get him out without death."  These two problems are at opposite ends of the spectrum.  For "Writer's Character in Trouble" a nice long drive, hike or more commonly, a bout in the garden pulling weeds is the only way to go.  It doesn't always solve the problem, however.  Sometimes the only way to fix the plot is a re-write (don't go to the cliff edge without a parachute!)  But gardening, cooking or a break-away of some sort often helps clear my mind.  Sometimes the kernel of an idea grows in place of that weed I pulled.

In the case of writer's procrastination, well, the solution is usually to turn off my internet. Yes, the blasted internet is the bane of my writing. It's much more fun to lollygag on the internet than to focus on edits, writing, plots and corrections. In my worst moments, my house gets cleaned top to bottom as I avoid a dreaded round of edits or yet *another* read through!  I'm a "re-writer" more than a writer.  This means I go through my manuscripts over a hundred times and every once in a while, I'd rather clean the kitchen than get down and dirty streamlining sentences or repainting a scene that somehow turned mauve when I meant it to be a gentle pink sunset. 

Julie Ann Dawson
I think the worst thing a writer can do is worry about “writer’s block.”  I don’t believe it even exists.  Writing is like any other sort of activity.  Sometimes you just need a break from it, and writer’s block is your brain’s way of telling you to go do something else.  In truth, if we don’t do things other than writing, eventually we run out of things to write about.

So I’ll go play a video game or go to the movies or visit with friends.  I’ll goof around on Facebook or read a book or watch TV.  I’ll just put whatever it was I was working on away and go let my brain refresh.  I don’t worry if I don’t write for a week or even a month.  Eventually the right moment will come and I’ll go back to my project.  The more you worry about getting through writer’s block, the worst it can become because you start fixating on it.  Like there must be something wrong because you can’t write at the drop of a hat.  But nothing’s wrong.  Your brain just wants to do something else.  So go do something else and come back later.
Bards and Sages Publishing

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