Actually that is a lie. There’s plenty of crying in writing. You know those days. You want to bang your head against the wall, throw yourself on the floor, and kick and scream like a toddler having a supermarket meltdown.
We love the moments when everything flows and every sentence feels pristine with jewel-like words and images. Everything is clicking into place. But we have plenty of days when that’s not going to happen.
The sentences on the page aren’t matching up with the vision in your mind. That’s usually a sign of overthinking, trying too hard, or getting too analytical instead of staying in your wild mind. (To learn more about how you can practice writing with a wild mind, read Natalie Goldberg’s book, Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life.)
Have a little cry if you want and then try these tips:
Put yourself in your story. Regain your connection with your plot by inhabiting scenes as you write them. Visualize yourself in a scene as you write it. Taste, touch, and smell the action. Now reveal the sensory images as you write the scene. Read more
It happens to all of us.
You’re working on your manuscript and you get stuck. The writing feels clunky. Something isn’t working. This is when you must duck and cover.
“Duck and cover” is the term author Pam Lewis coined to describe her process of jumpstarting her writing when she’s become stuck.
“I open a blank page on my computer and ask myself, ‘What’s going on in the scene?’ I close my eyes and watch the characters and hear them.”
In her current manuscript, Lewis said she used the technique to figure out what a character was doing in a particular scene. But she realized the technique helped her see what mattered to the character and the character’s emotional state. With her eyes closed, Lewis saw that the character’s hands were trembling, she was sweaty, and didn’t smell good.
Duck and cover can be a way of accessing the sensory details of your scenes.
Lewis is the author of A Young Wife, Perfect Family, and Speak Softly, She Can Hear.
Watch the scenes of your novel as though they were a movie, Lewis says. Start by writing the action or what the character is thinking or feeling. Sometimes Lewis writes random dialogue to get the sentences flowing again. “It almost always offers something useful, even if it doesn’t have anything to do with what I’m writing about at the moment.”
“Even more important than what the characters say sometimes is what they do and their facial gestures,” Lewis says.
For more ideas to break through writing resistance, read Four tips to defeat your writing funk.
Fight the blank page!
In previous posts, I’ve suggested ways to pre-plan for National Novel Writing Month, where writers strive to produce a 50,000-word novel in the month of November. While some writers create an outline, nail down character sketches, devise a story question, and outline their novel’s setting, others like to dive in on day 1 and just start typing.
Regardless of where you’re at, the blank page can be a terrible thing.
You may be saying, “How can I not have a blank page? It starts out that way — blank.” True. But just don’t let it stop you.
Don’t let the blank page stay blank for more than a second. Type something. Anything.
- The date
- A random sentence
- A description or a few words of the setting where your novel begins or your first scene takes place.
- A list of your characters’ names
- A working title for your novel
- A logline if you’ve created one.
By the way, this mental trick can be a great way to start any writing project. A letter, an essay, a marketing piece, a work assignment, or a blog post. Write something that you already know will be in the piece, even if it’s just a paragraph or a random idea about the project. If you don’t know the beginning, start in the middle or the end. You’ll come back later and fill in the gaps, because every piece of writing begins as a draft.
Don’t let the blank page deter you from your NaNoWriMo or any other writing goal.
Sometimes my brain circuitry feels like it’s got a short in it. It went on vacation and left me home. Or it’s buzzing and I just can’t settle down. Or, I’m just stumped about what direction I should go with a story or poem.
Has this ever happened to you? If so, consider trying a few of these strategies.
1. Change tools. If you’re tapping out your sentences on your computer, pick up a pen or pencil and write by hand in a notebook. For that matter, some people enjoy typing on an actual typewriter. Read more
“There is no such thing as writer’s block for writers whose standards are low enough.” –American poet William Stafford
Poet William Stafford wrote every day, rising early in the mornings before the rest of his family. This discipline resulted in about 20,000 completed or attempted poems over his lifetime—of which only 6,000 or so have been published. Occasionally accused of being “too prolific,” Stafford would say, “if you get stuck, lower your standards and keep going.”
I needed this advice this week. Stuck on the same chapter for two weeks now, I realized that something needed to give. It’s not that I don’t know where this chapter is going—I do and I’ve even scratched out an outline of the scene. My problem is that I’ve been too hard on myself. I’ve been tired and stressed lately and beating myself up for not getting further in my story AND I’ve been expecting my prose to be at top-notch level during all this. Rubbish.
Taking Stafford’s advice, I realized that I just need to lighten up and get on with it. Write the crappy chapter. Let my prose suck. I can go back and fix it later when I’m not so stressed and fatigued. After all, this is a first draft. And, as my poetry mentor says, “First drafts are meant to be sucky.” Read more
Despite our best efforts to stay in the flow of our writing and showcase our brilliance in every word and idea that flashes through our mind and onto our white space, we still have times when the words get stuck.
Currently experiencing one of these frustrating moments myself, I thought I’d explore the idea of writer’s block this week and see what other writers have to say about it.
In this seven-minute video, “Getting Through Writer’s Block,” BBC writers share their tips on getting yourself unstuck, including:
- Try to write something—improving nothing is impossible, improving rubbish is entirely possible. Read more