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

 

Google Docs: Is it right for you?

I have around four years experience with Google Docs and for the past two or so years, it’s been my main word processor. For me, around the time I started getting into it, I was traveling an hour to school and working part time which left me little time to do homework. Instead of having to transfer files continuously to and from a flash drive, I used Google Docs to make the editing process easy.

For those perhaps unfamiliar, Google Docs is essentially just like Microsoft Word except it saves your file online and you can access it from any device (provided you log in with your Google account) and edit it essentially from anywhere. I can be on a home desktop, my laptop, a school computer, a tablet, my phone, and pretty much anywhere you have internet access, you have access to your documents.

I finally came to the realization that this would be an amazing writing resource when I had to take that class for which I had to write a novel for National Novel Writing Month (NaNo). I had time between classes I used to write as well as at home and I began that month with my document in Word. Very quickly I decided it was inconvenient to have to save my work a million times on one specific flash drive which I would constantly forget to take with me. I posted the novel’s workings in the Drive and was easily able to work the rest of the month without fear of losing anything.

Since Google Drive saves the document as you write it, you never have to remember to save it before you exit the program (or close one of a million tabs like me). That alone has saved my ass a million times, let alone all the other perks. It essentially has the same features and functions as Microsoft Word, so if you are very familiar with that program, you will not have to learn a whole new program.

Another major perk to Google Drive is actually what it was intended for. You can share and invite others to view your work and they can make notes, edit the document, and give feedback within the program also in real time. I edit for a good friend of mine, and we’d both be in her document, hundreds of miles apart, and she’d write and I’d edit together. If I had questions, I could use the chat feature to interrupt her without having her to change windows. Personally, I love this if you have a group of writers you want to share your work with without having to print a million copies. Anyone with a Google account can access the work, provided you give them access.

Overall, I much prefer Google Drive. The autosave feature seriously has saved my life.

Stay creative my friends,

Dana

Are You a Planner or a Pantser?

Ahh the age old question posed to writers by writers. Are you a planner or pantser? This refers to how a writer writes their stories or novels. Do they plan every step, make a complicated outline, list their characters with their flaws and triumphs, and have the plot ironed out? Or do they have a vague idea with vague characters that they develop and iron out as they write?

Most writers classify themselves as one or the other. For some, it’s very obvious. You either plan or you don’t. But I’m a plantser. I both outline and still fly by the seat of my pants (where the term pantser originated) and I think there’s merits to both methods.

Here’s some pros and cons of being a PLANNER.
PROS:

  • You know what you’re doing, making cranking out the word count easier
  • You know your characters inside and out, so you won’t have them do things out of character unless it’s part of the plot
  • Outlining counts towards NaNo’s word count
  • Knowing what happens in the plot and mapping the settings helps make it less confusing

CONS:

  • You can feel restricted in your creativity since you have everything planned
  • Since everything is mapped out, it can be hard to get the inspiration to start flowing

Here’s some pros and cons of being a PANTSER.
PROS:

  • Random bouts of¬†inspiration can take the story in new ways you might have never planned
  • Makes it easier to get back into the story when returning to writing after breaks
  • Can really make you think about what sort of choices a character would make in the moment
  • Sometimes small ideas can become larger than life

CONS:

  • Sometimes it can be difficult to decide what happens next
  • When inspiration doesn’t hit, you have no plans to fall back on

Honestly, I see the benefits in both. What makes me a “plantser”is that I make a very vague outline. These characters go here and do this, they encounter a conflict and then go here. I do tend to build my characters heavily, so I know who they are and what they’d do in certain situations, but I don’t have those situations lined out exactly.

Which ever type of writer you are, don’t feel you have to change to fit a certain stereotype. I tried just planning and I got bored with the story since I already knew exactly what was happening and going to happen. I tried just flying by the seat of my pants and ended up stuck because I was uninspired and had no idea what to do next. Just find what works for you, and run with it.

As always, stay creative my friends,

Dana

How I Knew I Wanted to be an Author

Or; how did I end up the way I am

High school was not a horrible experience for me. Coming from a private Catholic grade/middle school, I was thrilled to be in a place where no one knew my name. I made friends fairly quickly and found myself included in a group of girls I met in my German class. (I promise I’ll get to writing soon)

They all passed around notebooks at the start of class and would read and jot notes in them during class. After being inducted into their friendship, I learned they were stories. In a fashion similar to fanfiction.net, they would write a chapter or so, pass the notebooks and get feedback. I wanted in.

Right at that time,¬†Twilight was getting buzz about the movie adaption. So I devoured the book and used the plot as basic inspiration. It’s the first “novel” I ever finished (and up until very recently, the only novel I ever finished). My friends showered me with praises I am certainly not worthy of, and it was thanks to them that I haven’t stopped reading and writing since then.

I started looking at colleges with journalism degrees. All I wanted to do with my time was write. As I delved into the field, I ended up hating it. Journalism is no longer based around facts, and I simply wasn’t interested in what I needed to do in order to get that degree. Eventually, I discovered the Creative Writing degree and fell in love. I threw all caution to the wind and earned that degree taking two years of straight English classes. I loved every second of it.

Now, after earning my degree and finding myself needing a job, I turned back to libraries. My first job was at a library, and I loved it. I applied a million places, all while ignoring my writing because I told myself I needed a ‘big girl job’. But there’s no reason that writing can’t be a big girl job. The most important trait needed to be an author is perseverance.

So I will persist. I will go the distance. And I want this to be my diary of success.

Stay creative my friends, and remain inspired forever,

Dana