Sunday, December 12, 2010

Writer's block

Ah, the dreaded subject. I've been meaning to write about this for awhile, but I just haven't been able to get started. Hurr hurr.

Writer's block affects us all, even, I would assume, writers as prolific as James Patterson, Fern Michaels and Nora Roberts. So what do you do when you simply can't seem to get the words in your brain to line up neatly on the page? You have several options.

1) Walk away. Give up. After all, there are a LOT of struggling writers out there, all trying to break into the same field as you. Why bother fighting it when the odds are you're just going to fail anyway?

However, if you don't subscribe to the Lemony Snicket version of pep talks, let's look at some more ideas.

2) Just sit down and WRITE. Don't worry that what you're writing isn't fit for lining the bottom of your parakeet's cage, because that's what got you blocked in the first place. Just ignore the inevitable mediocrity at the beginning, grit your teeth and Keep.Going. This is basically the philosophy of NaNoWriMo. Sure, they say, you're going to get a lot of coal, but sometimes you'll find a diamond in there as well.

3) If the head-on approach doesn't work for you (and if we're being honest, it often doesn't for me) then try an oblique angle. Can't figure out the next scene of your book? Set it aside for another day and pick another scene out of your head. Is your heroine marooned in the sewers of San Antonio with pursuers hot on her trail and no clear way to escape? Leave her there to consider her wrongdoings and concentrate on a completely unrelated scene. You'd be surprised at how often that completely unrelated scene suddenly becomes connected to the one that you got stuck on and presto! You have a way out of the sewers and your heroine is duly chastened and ready to listen to your directions. ('s a good theory, the whole "chastened" thing, anyway.)

The best way to avoid writer's block is to get yourself into the habit of writing every day, for a set amount of time. No days off; this is not a 9-5 job you've gotten yourself into. If you're serious about this, you must be willing to work every single day with diligence and persistence. Oh sure, a day off here and there isn't going to hurt you or your novel, but let that be the exception and not the rule.

Whatever approach you choose, don't give up. Keep slogging away, even when it feels hopeless. I promise, it will eventually pay off. Maybe not for months or even years, but eventually, it will.

Sunday, December 5, 2010


This is something I've been thinking a lot about lately. Voice is very important to writing. You (as a writer), must find your own unique writing style and yet must also make each character stand out and not let their voices blur together. Real-life individuals don't all sound alike, speak alike, or use the exact same words. Dialects differ. Idioms change from region to region. Just as in real life, so it must be in your novel.

It's all too easy to fall into the trap of zinging through your writing, not thinking about anything but getting words on the page, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. Where it gets dangerous is when your characters begin to all speak in the same tone, have the same mannerisms, and react in the same predictable way.

Donald Maass has an excellent book called Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook. In it, he devotes an entire section to voice that is really helpful in figuring out your characters' individualities, their own personal idiosyncrasies, etc. One exercise was to take a specific word and think of several different ways to say it. I.e., bureau, dresser, or chest of drawers. This was very helpful to me in "hearing" each character's voice in my head as I wrote their dialogue.

Another thing that will help in making your characters unique is to write backstory on them. Don't put it in your novel; that will clog things up unless it specifically furthers the plot. But sitting down and concentrating on each of the main stars of your book in turn, creating family, background and history for them, is hugely helpful (at least to me) in defining that character within the novel. Once I know where they're coming from, I know where they're going.

It may feel like a waste of time to you to write stuff that you know won't actually be going in the book, but I promise you it is not. Your characters will be more richly developed, complex and unique unto themselves, which will make your readers all the more interested in learning more about them, which will assist in the turning of pages and buying of your books.

An introduction

This is my blog. It ain't fancy, but it's mine. I am not a published author but I am working hard to change that. I have been writing for years, I am proud of what I have accomplished, and I am going to share my experiences in venturing into the publishing world here.

I may also expound on what I have learned about writing so far.

Please take what I say with a grain of salt and understand that an opinion is worth what you pay for it.

Thank you for visiting, and I hope you enjoy your time here.