What to do when the words stop

I usually start my workday with my usual work tabs and one writing tab open. I use Google Docs so I can easily access my most recent draft at any given time. Whether or not I make any progress really depends on the day.

Take today. Saturday. I work 9am to 5pm and today has been uncharacteristically quiet for a weekend in June. I had a tab open and I had fully intended to write; I’m currently working on a fanfiction and it’s starting to reach the climax so it wasn’t that I was out of ideas. I just couldn’t write. I told myself I had more important things to do.

Which is naturally a lie.

So what do you do in those situations where you fully intend to write but simply can’t? You just don’t.

I know it sounds crazy. Normally people would say you have to force yourself to write. But every time I do that, I end up writing crap and somehow I always forget to delete it and it’ll get published (in the case of fanfictions, at least) or it’ll stay in and I’ll lose all interest in continuing.

Trust me; don’t force yourself to write what you aren’t 100% passionate about.

Instead, put that project aside and focus on a different one. Or a new one. Do something else; organize your Goodreads lists, read something, take a walk and play some Pokemon Go. Just don’t force yourself to write something you don’t love.

Whether you heed my advice or not, just remember to edit your works before posting or publishing. It takes maybe 20 minutes (depending on length or complexity) and can really help you in the end.

As always, stay creative my friends,

Dana

So I’ve Got My Idea… Now What?

Finally I have selected my topic, now it’s time to start planning out my characters, setting, and plot. Even though I like to be a semi-pantser and have freedom when I begin writing, I don’t like to fly in blind. I always try to plan out my characters at the very least. When I know my characters, the rest seems to fall into place.

My biggest challenge is creating a character that is flawed. You can’t have your character be perfect all the time or there’d be no conflict. They’d be able to breeze through anything that came up against them. The heart of a story seems to be in a character’s way of solving problems. It’s the one thing a story would be dead without.

Finding worksheets, such as the one below, is a great way to build a character and have fun doing it. There are a million versions of the same sort of sheet, so find one that works for you and make copies so you can use it as many times as you need.

character building worksheet.jpg

Besides characters, there’s plot. Duh. But coming up with a plot isn’t as easy as that. A good plot has a major conflict but a great plot has multiple conflicts within the course of the rising action. You know, rising action? Falling action?

dramatic structure

This may seem cliche, but every story follows this basic outline. Sure, the rising action and falling action may not be equal, but you need every piece to this puzzle in order to write a complete story. Resolution to your story is just as important as the background which is just as important as the climax, so be sure to take your time on each aspect.

Lastly, the setting. A teacher in college had us do a great exercise where we literally drew our setting on a blank sheet of paper. It really helps you figure out the spacing between things either in a forest (like mine was) or a building. How many floors? How many rooms? What’s the general layout to the rooms? It’s easy to envision it in your head and hard to draw out, but it will help you think of spacial details that you haven’t thought of before.

Regardless of if you draw out your setting or not, make sure to give enough details to paint the picture in your reader’s head. I can be fully absorbed in a story but if you mention halfway through about the airlocks leaking, indicating that it takes place in space, it could drastically change the images I had been thinking of before. You need to set your stage before the actors come out to perform.

I don’t have a fun setting image so I’ll leave you with this; your story is meant to be written only by you. No one else on this planet can write your story for you.

Stay creative my friends,

Dana

 

How To Write When Uninspired

Sometimes there’s nothing coming to mind when you sit at your computer. You’ve psyched yourself up to write, but when push comes to shove, your mind is completely blank.

‘How can my mind be blank if I’m thinking about it being blank?’ you may ask yourself. Well my friend, it’s easy to find yourself in a rut especially when you’re on a deadline (looking at you NaNoWriMo).

One of the easiest methods to get out of a writing rut is to do exactly that, write. Yes, it’s that easy. Yes, it’s also that hard. Forcing yourself to write can be as difficult as forcing yourself to walk on two broken ankles. It’s painful, uncomfortable, but in the end it will help you begin to dig yourself out of your writing-less hole. The best part to this tactic is that you don’t even have to force yourself to work on your novel. Write anything, from a children’s story about the pencil on your desk, to a reflective essay on how hurt you were when someone stole the last piece of pizza.

Another tactic is to change your routine. If you always write at 2pm on Thursdays in your living room, try writing at sunset in a local park on a Monday. It might get your creative juices flowing just by being in a new, inspiring environment. Even if you switch up one variable (like writing in your living room at 2pm on a Tuesday instead), it can produce results more than just staring at the screen.

One more tactic that may not even sound like a real tactic is to write when you’re inspired. You’re in the shower and you think of the best opening to your novel, hop out and ask Siri to text it to yourself. You’re making a sandwich and you come up with a great descriptive of a feast, jot it down on a napkin. I will always either have a notebook or my phone on me at any given time, and since I use Google Docs for my writing, I always have some way of writing if I get inspired. If you wake up in the middle of the night at your dream was a brilliant beginning or end to a novel, you write that idea down immediately instead of hoping you remember in the morning.

Basically, if you’re stuck, just write yourself out of the rut. It honestly works; I sat at this blank blog post for hours before coming up with this idea, and then sat another hour thinking of what to say. I said screw it and began and here I am, ending the post.

In the words of the great Shia LaBeouf, JUST DO IT.

Stay creative my friends,

Dana