Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Writing Wednesdays - Writer's Block

Today we're going to look at some ways of dealing with writers block, but first there is going to be some absolutely shameless self-promotion!

My short story Her Dream Day has been published, and is available here: as a single story, or at for the anthology.

"It is the day before Alex and Sophia’s wedding, and Alex is putting the final touches to the plans when she gets a phone call that leaves her feeling sick.  The venue has cancelled.  She has to find an alternative, and everywhere else is already full.

Luckily, the school where Sophia works might be able to help.  It certainly isn’t what they had in mind, but when it’s their only chance to still go ahead with the marriage, they decide to make the best of it."

Okay, so that's the shameless self promotion out of the way, now onto the blog itself - and today we are tackling that most feared of topics, writers block.  There is little more frightening than being faced with a blank screen, with a cursor blinking, and knowing that you are expected to write.  It's often enough to have months worth of planning and organisation disappearing from your mind, and leaving you staring in confusion, trying to remember how to construct a sentence.

Well, first thing is first - if you feel like this, you really are not alone.  I can't think of a single person I know who writes, who isn't familiar with this situation.  Sometimes writers block can be crippling, and stop you from writing for days and days.  But it doesn't need to.

Some people think that they should only write when they are inspired.  Writing when you are inspired is wonderful, but it can't be all that you do - in your day job, you would never decide "Oh I'm only going to do this when I feel inspired to do it" - quite simply because it would never get done.  If you are inspired, write a lot, but if you're not inspired, just try and get some words down.  They don't have to be perfect - you can always go back and improve it later, but you can only do that if you have the words down already - see my post about Nanowrimo last week.

I'd say set yourself a word goal every day - it doesn't have to be particularly large, just a few words to do every day, and they'll all add up.  Maybe 100 words a day?  Then if you only have five minutes, you can reach your goal for the day, and maybe you could do it more than once a day.  Then at the end of the month, with 100 words a day, you've got 3000 words.  Often you'll start writing, and just carry on - the first few words are hardest, and once you've begun writing, you can write pages.

So, you've decided you're going to write, inspired or not, but you need to start writing.  And the scene you've been planning for months just won't turn up on the page in front of you.  A few hours ago, you might have had a strong image of the entire scene, known all the dialogue, and been able to see it vividly in front of you.  Only now, there is nothing to say, and you can barely remember your characters names.

So now what do you do?
Well, if there's a scene you can think of, even if it isn't where you planned to start, write that.  You can always come back and add in other scenes later.

If not, then try and write something else - how would these characters act if they were on holiday? If they were going for a walk, on a beach?  What would they talk about with friends?  It doesn't have to be anything you can use for your stories, you're just getting something down with the characters - treat it like a warm up.  Then when you start writing what you actually intended to write, you no longer have the scary blank screen - and you've learned more about your character.

What if you are absolutely out of ideas?
Then just try writing a stream of consciousness.  Get words down, about whatever you can - what you've done today, your idea about the story, what thoughts you've had about your characters, anything you can do.

I hope that helps you get some words down!  Best of luck, and remember - small goals to do regularly are the way to go.

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