I wasn't sure how to best describe this one...
When I was brainstorming things to post to the blog, "inspiration" came up twice. Once was finding inspiration around you, like the suncatcher mentioned in the last post. You can find inspiration everywhere once you start thinking about it as a writer. I was writing a poem in my head about a family holiday yesterday. There are people I have used as characters, places that inspired descriptions (Rosalin Chapel = King's Temple in Weapons of Espar!), or environment that inspires themes. Lance's wet visit to WaterBranch in Rydan was inspired by a trip to Tofino where it rained allllll weekend. So I captured that dampness and chill and made Lance's problem so much worse.
But then there's inspiration from within. That's what this is about.
Here's my theory:
No one is a ONE person. Every day, we modify ourselves and our behaviours based on our circumstances. We behave like one 'character' when in the company of our crush, or when we're on the job. We might be confident when doing a presentation, yet demure when talking with friends. Our interactions with people change us dramatically. The classic one for me is that I'm highly outgoing at work. I have to be. I'm a service industry when you think about it, and I'm the boss. So I'm decisive and confident. But when I get home, I'd rather not make decisions and be in charge. I'm a leader when I have to be, but happy to follow if I don't have to.
This variety within ourselves is another source of endless inspiration. A starship captain might take on the characteristics I have at work, while the shy stowaway embodies my reclusive home self. Sometimes we feel flirty (hello Shimmer!) but other times childish (Gensiana!) Taking those characteristics and amplifying them makes a new character, one you know all too well.
Of course, you want your characters to be more than one trait/emotion/stereotype, but this is inspiration for you to leap off from!
I believe this is why so many authors (especially those getting started) have trouble sharing their works. Whether we consciously acknowledge it or not, we put ourselves into our writing. And when writing aggressive, cruel, or downright mean characters, it's scary to wonder what those characters reveal about me. I know they aren't me, but if I can write them, do I not have the ability to become them?
Are you Inspired?
Inspiration is a strange beast.
When people ask why I write fantasy, I usually say it was because I was tired of reading stereotypical tales of chosen-one heroes and world-ending villains. That is why I write, but that is not why I wrote the World of the Tainted.
The World of the Tainted was inspired by a suncatcher.
My sister gave me the suncatcher when I was in high school, and she was working in the Pacific Rim National Park. On the thin plastic, a sunset shone over the silhouette of a castle. In the foreground was a house-sized dragon with a tiny long-haired rider perched on its back. This was no D&D dragon but a huge creature with a serpentine neck and enormous wings that dwarfed the woman rider.
Inspired by the sun catcher, Kasha, the first woman DragonKeeper, was born. Although her story remains unfinished, her ancestor Sair told me the tale found in Dragon's Voice, and her grandson Cairon worked hard in Dragon's Talon and SoulBurner to undo the damage Kasha failed to prevent. The Kingdom of Espar expanded into the World of the Tainted, other races making themselves known. I learned of the fall of the Lionian Sovereignty. I discovered the founding of Espar and the brigand King who lied his way into power (hint; his books are now a six-book series). I followed the last wizard from his end to his return.
Dozens of stories and hundreds of characters came into existance all because of a suncatcher.
Anything can inspire. It follows that everything is inspiring. With the right perspective, we can take the smallest things and make them into great ideas. It's not a passive process, though. It's not about being inspired. It's about seeking inspiration.
It's everywhere. You just need to look.
Pantser vs. Plotter
Because it came up in the last blog, I decided it was high time I did a little PSA about these terms. All professions have their lingo. This happens to be one for authors!
Pantser vs. Plotter.
Before we get too far in, know that I'll mention two variants on this at the end. But to get us started, these are the main two styles of writing. In my experience, few people are exclusively one or the other, although it's evident that some people lean heavily toward one. I am an admitted pantser. So what does that mean? Does it matter? And is it a good thing or not?
Pantsers "fly by the seat of their pants," which is where the term comes from. With pantsers, there is no large plan. They start somewhere and go forward, discovering the story as it is written.
Pro: You have full creative flexibility. With nothing set in stone, you can go anywhere with the writing, and there is a definite "high" to writing like this, as if you are reading a book that no one else has ever read. My favourite is having a moment when multiple factors I didn't know click together perfectly. I'm not sure if it's the subconscious at work in the background or just creative manipulations, but I LOVE finding those unplanned but perfect moments.
Cons: Revisions. If you don't know where you are going, plot points or world-building often need adjusting after finishing, requiring extensive edits. Also, getting stuck in the soggy middle happens more with pantsers because they don't have a map out of it; it's harder to finish if you don't know the ending.
I'm pretty sure the vast majority of new writers start with pantsing, whether they know what it is called or not. It's how we read stories, so it makes sense that it's how we default to writing them. But I've seen many academic writers going to fiction that outline from the start. They probably have an advantage in some ways.
Plotters plot and plan their story. The most obvious way of doing that is an outline, where each chapter is laid out at least in part, but it can mean in one's head or on flashcards or whatever. The detail of the outline or planning varies. Some people have each scene listed with their date, point of view, and main plot points, all written out long before they write the first sentence. Some people have just the scenes listed or the main plot points and how they connect.
Pro: You can hit the ground running. As soon as you're ready, you have a map to follow through the story and won't get caught up in large plot holes (as you've already sorted those out). You'll be through the book without as much risk of writer's block. Also, there are fewer revisions required!
Con: It's time-consuming, and some people will get so bogged down in outlining that they don't get to the writing. Or maybe once you start writing, it doesn't go as planned, and you must redo the outline. Sticking to a flawed outline or forcing a story to follow one can make for bad writing and bad books!
This is where most professional authors, especially those on deadlines, end up. It's more efficient at getting your book into the editor's hands instead of needing significant rewrites!
You might come across two other "styles": Quilter and Plantser.
Quilters write multiple parts of the story, like the start, the end, a few bits in the middle, or all the side plot scenes and one finale. Then they weave or stitch all the scenes together and produce the final product. It's not a popular style as it requires a special kind of brain or a special kind of story. If you have several separate stories that had to then coincide, it might work well, but continuity would be tricky with this style for most stories.
This is what happens when people don't want to settle in the box; they want to be both plotter and pantser. So they call themselves plantser, and while I know some people genuinely are in the middle between the two, mostly I see this used when people just don't know yet where they fall. Plotters will pants parts of their story (that's the "creative" part of creative writing). And a lot of pantsers will plot their way out of a bind if needed (because if they don't, they can't move on!) So I don't know if we need a term for this, but it's out there.
There. Now that's a thing you know.
Which style suits you better? Can you tell what type an author is based on their book?
Spoiler… maybe. I'll try not to give any details to give it away, but Esparan's been out for a while, so let's talk about messing with expectations!
I am a pantster; that means I write "by the seat of my pants." Wait… have we never done a blog about Pantster vs. Plotter? I'll have to do that soon! Anyway, how I write means I don't know where the story is going until it gets there. When I wrote Esparan, it was straightforward: march up, kill the traitor, and done. But it was just too easy (not to mention too short!!). As I sought a way to flush it out, Rakhund came to existence. But he wasn't enough. I followed with Grigson and then, for fun, buffed up Prince Marfaie too. Terant was already there, kicking Kitable's a$$. So I had a team facing Tohmas now, not just Marfaie and his wizard!
I won't give away names or plot points, but the main thing I loved about these extra characters was the variety. Rakhund was a mystery that slowly unraveled; magic, but not a wizard. Did you figure out the answer before it was fully revealed? Grigson was subtle, the perfect opposite of Tohmas' brute force, sneaking in dissension and misdirection throughout. Terant was a match for Kitable, and he shows it here, giving Kitable a run for his money in direct conflict more than once. Man, I loved dispelling Kitable and dropping him into a bag of flour from five feet in the air! His later interactions with Shimmer were some of my favourites in the entire series. Showing off his battle wounds indeed!
And then Marfaie, the true power behind the war. I'd initially seen a bitter man bent on revenge, a very one-dimensional character. But he proved me so very wrong! He had to be Tohmas' match at the end of the story, so his character grew and evolved until he actually beat Tohmas and Carsh at their own game.
With each character, I set up an expectation. Grigson was a spy character, Rakhund a wizard. Marfaie was a prince. Or were they?
I once played a tabletop RPG with someone who had a character with a suit of armour that could change its appearance. They made that plate mail armour look like wizard robes and specialized in quarterstaff as their weapon. Imagine the fun as the enemy thinks they are facing a wizard and gets pummelled in close combat instead! Because people do assume based on appearances. We communicate with our appearance, but we can deceive as well. We mislead our characters and our readers too!
My characters expected certain things from those characters. They were wrong.
My readers expected certain things would happen to those characters. Maybe they were wrong too. Did anyone expect what happened to Grigson?
That's what makes it so much fun! It's weird, but we writers enjoy torturing our characters. Given a chance, I'm knocking SoulBurner out of Tohmas' grip, breaking Carsh's arm, dispelling Kitable, breaking Lance's heart, driving Tril mad, etc. And that's just in one book! The best way I can do that is to ensure I'm not being predictable.
I hope at least one conflict took you by surprise in Esparan!
If you're looking for some free ebooks this season, the group promos are below. First one is REVIEW copies (so free but you got to leave a review online) and the rest are free with newsletter sign ups or similar! Enjoy
AND HAPPY HOLIDAYS!
October 19th, 2022
Yes, it's out, and Esparan's rocking it! I got some awesome 5-star reviews up, and I'm tickled pink! Remember to leave your review (5-star or not!) These help authors SO MUCH. I've also included the freebies of the month at the bottom; get them before November!
Meantime, I got sick. Not COVID, just a nasty cold that made me sleep for a few days. I'm back at it now in time to hit up the Surrey International Writing Conference this weekend, so YAY! And my little one is better, too, so I don't have to feel guilty about leaving Daddy to solo a sickie!
But it got me thinking; when do I read about colds in writing? Usually, if they are a plot point! If the character is stuffed up, but the villain is about to use some kind of aerosol; or if the person is dying of a chronic illness and has to come to terms with it; or the plague is moving through, changing their society, then you'll find disease in the story. Characters don't just get sick, get over it, and move on without it being relevant.
Characters don't do many things unless there's a point to it. They don't go to the bathroom, burn dinner, or forget their glasses one day, unless some part of the story needs them to, whether to make a plot work or build a character. And we judge these details quickly in books, assuming that each is important.
Douglas Adams pointed this out in the Hitchhiker's Guide series; that his main character Arthur Dent didn't do a lot of things 'on screen' as it were. And he had a point. I used to laugh about how few bathrooms were on the map of the USS Enterprise, and no one ever seemed to have to take a break! (some harder core fans will probably correct me!)
That's probably for the best. A book that just emulated everyday life wouldn't be entertaining. And I'd get frustrated reading about tiny details that are irrelevant anyway. But I might put in a common cold at some point. Seeing how people behave when they are sick adds to a character! It's just not a detail I'd thought about much until now!
Stay healthy out there!
A first place short!
I had a great time at teh Sooke Fall Fair, although it was a brief time! Chasing around a nearly-two year old meant it was a blitz! But the kid's baking and lego won some ribbons and I got a few first places for my stories (plus one third!). Since I don't know what else to do with this one, I'm sharing it here! It's not my usual MO, since it's a wholesome family story with a slight magical twist but enjoy!
The Best Pumpkin Patch
Mr Weisman lived next door, a wizened old man with a long beard and oversized nose. He was often seen in his bathrobe and slippers as he shuffled around his vibrant garden filled with wrapping vines and tangled bushes.
On occasion, he slipped Bobby seeds from his garden. Bobby planted them in sidewalk cracks and beside roadways. No matter how thin the soil, the tiny flowers grew in purples and pinks, blues and yellows, providing colourful flashes in a grey landscape.
One year, Mr Weisman gave Bobby pumpkin seeds. "They need good soil. Like a vegetable patch."
The vegetable patch in their yard exclusively belonged to Bobby's mother. Bobby could play anywhere else but was forbidden from entering the garden except when sent to retrieve a dinner item from the meticulous rows. Every vegetable had its place, year after year. Each row was planned, scheduled, and maintained. There was no space allotted for pumpkins.
Bobby tucked his seeds through the back fence of the vegetable patch that night.
The first green sprout appeared a week later. Bobby listened from his high window as Mother cursed the little green leaf and pulled it. Her brow creased in irritation, then she glanced over her shoulder where Mr Weisman's amazing garden reached up his fence and house, the passionfruit flowers climbing vivid butterfly bushes and decorated by red ivy. She tossed the vine into her basket and went back to her hoeing.
The next day, the sprout had returned, twice as long.
Losing no time, she pulled it out, reefing until the root gave. Satisfied, she tossed it into her basket, brushed the dirt from her flower-patterned gloves, and nodded firmly before returning to her immaculate rows.
The next day, the back fence of the garden patch was covered with lush, green vines and umbrella-like leaves. Already there were two green gourds forming. Mother attacked it with her hoe, cutting and tearing until every scrap of the greenery had been found and removed. She shoved her curls back under her handkerchief on her head, smearing dirt on her cheek as she recovered. The rows of carrots and beets were not weeded that day.
By morning, it had all returned. Now four pumpkin were hidden along the fence, each showing orange.
She marched down like a soldier heading to war, trimmers and rake over her shoulder, kicking her weeding basket ahead of her.
Bobby met her on the path, staring up at her with wide, pleading eyes. "Can we have pumpkins this year? I want to learn how to grow them!"
Mother shook her head. "We don't need pumpkins. They're useless!" she told Bobby. Every vegetable in her garden had a purpose: peas for summer snacking, carrots for dipping in humus, beets and spinach for stew, lettuce for summer salads…
"But they make nice jack-o-lanterns," Bobby replied so quietly, she could hardly hear him.
Her frustration went out in an instant. She swept her eyes over the vines and leaves that had taken over the back half of her garden patch. Then her eyes fell back on her son. "You planted this?" she asked.
Bobby nodded mutedly.
She slowly lowered her rake. "You want pumpkins?"
Bobby shyly smiled and nodded.
She let out a breath and put down her trimmers. "Ok. Let's see what grows."
That year, the pumpkins came in bigger than any seen in Sooke before. Bobby chose the largest for his jack-o-lantern, so big he had to climb in to finish scooping it out. He made sure Mr Weisman got his share of the roasted pumpkin seeds.
Why words matter!
Last call for pre-orders, because the fourth book in the Son of No Man goes live OCTOBER 1st! Check out ESPARAN here to follow the founding of a kingdom the old-fashioned way; by the sword. ARC readers; if you didn't get your copy, let me know!
Oh! and I JUST sent in the manuscript for KING, the next instalment! Coming soon! And promotions are at the bottom of the page!
Meantime, I had a Facebook post from the Victoria Creative Writing Group inspire this post. The post was this video. The amazing moment when you put your foot in your mouth and undermine whatever it was you were saying by not knowing or using a word correctly. Words matter.
This was good timing since I was editing, which means I used Grammarly again. I have a love-hate relationship with Grammarly. While I appreciate what it catches, there are some things it never gets right.
For one, its 'suggestions' for alternatives are often laughable. Before is not the same as When in a sentence you doggone AI. They are different timings! And I know you don't like words like 'obvious,' and you keep wanting me to change it to 'apparent,' but if I did that all the time, it would be weird. And they don't mean the same thing! There is a difference between being unknown and not being known. Weird!
But the big one I flip by instantly is the "Knowledgeable audience" comments about vocabulary. What happens with these is that it has an idea of how smart we are or, perhaps, how smart we aren't! So it suggests that words "a knowledgeable audience might not know" are removed and replaced. Basically, dumb it down.
I ignore it every time. Why? One, because this is an adult book, I don't need to write for a child. Two, because reading is a massive part of how we grow our vocabulary, and if everyone dumbed it down, it would castrate the language.
I've heard people suggest we should all aim for the lowest reading level in our writing, and I think that's what Grammarly is trying to do. And I understand their argument. I want my book to be accessible too! I don't want to scare people off by putting in "big" words that might (shock!) make them think or look it up! But I also don't want to dumb it down. If the correct term was Ricochet, I will put that in. Same for Groused, Deferential, or Thunderous. And yes, I'll use Phosphoresces (once only!) because it's a spectacular word, and it fits the glow of a wizard's light! And maybe someone will look it up.
Apparently, most popular books run Grade 7-9 reading level.
For fun, there's an app called Hemingway Editor, and you can find it here. https://hemingwayapp.com
It does a similar job as Grammarly but mostly looks for complicated (or not complicated) sentences to help guide people to a target writing level. I put my work in sometimes to check out where I'm landing. Mostly, I write at a Grade 6 reading level. Sometimes, a chapter or two will drop to Grade 5 or rise to 7. But often, it's Grade 6, and I think that's ok. I don't need to be college-level. I want it accessible but also a bit more challenging!
I admit that some of the words on the list Grammarly thought a "Knowledgeable audience" wouldn't know were embarrassing. It included Hushed, Flinch, Irate, Shaggy, Muddled, Ladle (it's not a spoon!!), and Tinder.
So I took to writing the words down, and I've included the entire list below. I didn't change them unless they were in error; every one of these show up in the submitted manuscript for Book 5 (King). I was shocked by how long the list became.
We need these words! Keep using these words! If you don't know them, look them up! Then use them and impress your friends. Although, I'm not really sure how impressive Perceptive or Tizzy is!
Without further ado: the words I used that Grammarly thinks a knowledgeable audience might not know:
What a woman...
Well, after kayaking the Broken Group Islands (HIGHLY recommend! Pictures below!) I'm back at it. I have promised to take it easier on myself since summer life is filled with family, travel, and kids. Lots of kids. So my usual writing times are limited.
I've got Esparan, book 4 of the Son of No Man, slated to hit the shelves (electronically and in person) on October 1st! I've got Pre-orders available HERE!
(ARC readers; keep an eye on your inbox. The book will be out to you first. Not an ARC reader but want to be? Click HERE.)
I'm getting through Book 5 too! I got to reintroduce myself to Arnika Trulin.
Of all the enemies Tohmas faces, the one who posed to defeat him is Arnika Trulin.
It got me thinking about the women I have written about. I love writing a good power figure, but Arnika Trulin differed. So, this is the blog post. Let's talk about heroines and their archetypes. Have I got them all yet?
Ok, so I'm going to discuss seven archetypes. I will say that any woman likely embodies all of these at different times and levels. You might reach for one at work but fall into another at home or on a date. You'll have the ones that come easily and others that slip away. We're a combination, and so are the characters. But there's going to be a dominant one for everyone.
Here we go: Seven in summary.
The sensuous, passionate female, she is creative and full of life energy. The lover is charismatic and seeks intimacy and thrilling relationships. She's confident but not careful. She can be emotional, for better or worse. She will provide a connection, an intense one.
Examples: Samantha from Sex and the City, Aphrodite, Rose from Titanic
My characters: Celebrant Loni (Son of No Man series), Shimmer Weaver (Son of No Man series)
Independent and powerful, the huntress is successful and passionate. She can be fearless and self-sufficient. But she has no time for romance and might be impulsive to her detriment.
Examples: Artemis, Wonder Woman, Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games
My characters: You might not have met her yet, but Lania from Lione. Also, Sori (Son of No Man series)
Knowledgeable and critical in her thinking. She listens to her head, not her heart, remaining objective in her approach. But she struggles to connect with other women, and others might find her intimidating.
Examples: Athena, Glinda the Good Witch from the Wizard of Oz.
My characters: Elora Ashure (Dragon's Voice)
Independent and wise, the mystic seeks inner peace, not other people's approval. She might be seen as aloof as an introvert, but her purpose lies within; peace and self-fulfillment.
Examples: Hestia, Oracle from the Matrix, Belle from Beauty and the Beast,
My characters: Akara (the priestess from Lione)
The caretaker. Her duty is to care, protect, and nurture. She often puts others before herself, sometimes to her detriment. She might be stubborn, but only in her need to provide compassion and support.
Examples: Demeter, Molly Weasley from Harry Potter, Mary Poppins
My examples: Fayela Galanth (Son of No Man series)
An influential leader, she is confident and extroverted. Married, she is a powerful wife who runs the household. She finds it hard to bond with other females and shuns her feminine side. She can be jealous and vengeful.
Examples: Hera, Queen Amidala from Star Wars
My examples: Kasha Mirk (Dragon's Voice), Celebrant Corolys (Son of No Man series)
Eternally youthful and pure, she's empathetic and innocent. She's an idealist but might be too passive to get things done. But she's cheery and energetic through the thick and thin.
Examples: Persephone, Snow White
My characters: Arnica Trulin (Son of No Man series)
I realized I hadn't written many Maidens. I don't gravitate to them. I had to work on making Arnika (and her cousin Altana) meek, quiet, and youthful. I was used to writing strong women. Sometimes they had to be subtle with the application of their strength, but Loni manipulated armies, Shimmer competed with the greatest wizard, Fayela ruled Galanth, Sori controlled the third clan survivors, Lania overthrew an empire, Akara inspired her nation, Gensiana ran a revolution… And then there was Arnika, mild Arnika, who just wanted to help her family. She didn't want to rule anything. She wasn't planning on getting involved.
But when everything falls to her and the extraordinary influence she has. The Maiden. The meek, sweet, innocent one.
So I wonder, can a Maiden rule the world?
Do you feel one archetype more than another?
Pictures from the trip!
The one that got away...
1. I got Esparan back from the editor, so it’s one step closer to becoming a reality. It’s the book where I broke Kitable, so I kind of feel bad, but then again, he comes out better for it!
2. I’m recruiting ARC readers! If you don’t know what that is, it’s a reader who gets a FREE copy of a book BEFORE anyone else in exchange for an honest review posted. I’ve got a sign-up HERE. There’s no commitment; if you’re not interested in a given book, don’t take the copy! But if you’d like 1-2 free books per year from me, this is the place to get it!
3. We’re at the night market again in Sooke! I MIGHT be at the July 22nd one, but I WILL be at August 18th!
4. Exact date is coming, but Esparan’s due in September, and I’ve got a cover on the way! Wheee!
5. Podcast is out from Drinking with authors! Check it out HERE! The "Literary brief" version (ie short) is HERE!
Ok, the post.
I’ve mentioned it before, so I’m finally going to tell you the story of “the story that refuses to be written.”
I don’t remember exactly when or why I started to write fiction. I do know the scene I wrote in the back of my social studies book in grade 9 was the final climax to a story that eventually became the first story I finished. Yes, I wrote the ending first. Whatever.
That story has had a lot of names over the many years. It’s had different points of view, characters, plotlines, and villains. Heck, the main character’s name has changed three times. But for the sake of this, we’ll call it “Shakat’s story.”
Shakat’s story started as most first stories do; as a reflection of the story I liked at that age. It was essentially Cinderella; a farm girl caught up with a prince, changing her fate with wit and guile… you know the kind. But things morphed as I grew up. The farm girl became a wizard. The prince became an a$$. There was a dragon. And Shakat’s story took full form as a prophecy that went very, very wrong.
I knew when I finished it (my first novel!) in 1999 that it needed a complete rewrite; the beginning didn’t match the end because the characters and the plot had grown up. But the story was trapped on an ancient Mac, the rectangular black and white ones with screen and body all in one. The computer couldn’t do internet, and it had a corrupted floppy disc drive with its own format; it reformatted anything that it took in, and no other computer could read it ever again! I tried with local computer experts, but it was a dead end.
So I printed it. I was planning to scan it in one day, maybe once the technology was good enough to scan into a document file (instead of only images), but I know in my bones it’s useless. It needs a rewrite.
So in 2011, I tackled it again after getting home from vet school. I wrote a whopping 30,000 words on it. I had changed the point of view and was developing the secondary character (he’ll be the protagonist ultimately) when the file got damaged when backing it up. I lost all but 5,000 words.
Determined, I did it again, getting to nearly 40,000 words on the tale. Finally felt like I was making progress! Then my computer died. I tried to retrieve it from the backup USB stick. Wouldn’t read. I’d lost it all again.
I want to tell Shakat’s story: how the prophecy got everything backward and the ‘good guy’ will destroy them all; how she’s been labeled the villain and ostracised for all the wrong reasons; how she can’t trust anyone… except Matorin, eventually. I still plug in a few thousand words at times, like maybe fate won’t notice, but it’s risky. I’m not sure if it’s cursed or if I subconsciously have a thing against it. But there you have it, the story that will not be written! Maybe one day, with some luck and a lot of backups, I’ll come here to say I’m finally sharing Shakat’s story officially, but until then, it’ll be the one that got away.
Writer's block; one more blog
So here it is; one more blog post about Writer's Block. I've not done one before, but pretty much every writer does at some point. But hey, maybe my take on it will help your specific case. First, I'm going to go over what NOT to do, then we're going to break down the specific spots people get stuck and ways to tackle them. I did this as a presentation in 2018 and felt it was time to resurrect it. Why? Because I need to do a big edit on my current WIP and I clearly don't want to do it. I'm in Block #4...
But let's get started! You've decided to write. You may about to put the first word on the page or only need one more line to finish the 200,000 word novel, but now there is no way to finish. You've been blocked.
Writer's Block is (according to Cambridge English Dictionary) "the condition of being unable to create a piece of written work because something in your mind prevents you from doing it." It is, and should always be seen as, a temporary condition. And it has happened to everyone. Mark Twain, Neal Gaiman, Orson Scott Card… So it can’t be the end of the world.
To get things rolling, I'm going to quickly go through things that, in my experience, do not work to get rid of Writer's Block
Now that we know what NOT to do, let's move onto what we CAN do. Let's start at the beginning of a project. These are not mutually exclusive lists, but rather a way of focusing the most likely solutions on the part you're on. You might find something in Block #1 works for Block #2. Or you might want to jump ahead to where you're at. But here's how I broke it down.
Block #1: The Concept. I have no idea.
You feel the urge to write but can't find an idea worth chasing down. Your muse went on holiday and didn't tell you. You are stopped before you even started.
This is truly a temporary condition for anyone who thinks of themselves as a writer. You only decided to write because you DID have something to say. So you can beat this one.
How to beat it:
If all else fails: Write non-fiction. (I'm kidding… kind of…But it might get things moving.)
Block #2; The Beginning. I have idea, but can't get started:
Especially if this is your first book/poem/whatever, the first words can be the hardest. If you've never written anything outside of English class, this is a step into the unknown. But the part that matters most is that there are words on the page soon, not necessarily that they are immediately the perfect words.
How to beat it:
If all else fails: I'm the first to jump ship on something hat doesn't want to be written yet. If you've tried and tried, then it's not that project's time. Do something else. That doesn't mean don't write. It means write whatever WILL be written (go back to Block #1 if you need to for a new idea)
Block #3 The middle. I have an idea, and I started it, but now I'm stuck!
This is the most classic form of Writer's Block. As such, it has a few forms.
Version 1: The words aren't right.
Maybe you're an amazing painter, but for me, things always look better in my head. Writing is like that. The idea looks good, the words and ideas are there, but it doesn't come out right. This can hit you before you even get a word onto the page or it might be why you can't get that last line. You want it to be perfect. One line or one paragraph or one page… it has to be perfect.
How to beat it:
Version 2: The story won't flow at all
You don't know what's going to happen next. You've set up the situation a bit, but then everything grinds to a halt.
How to beat it:
Version 3: There's just this one spot…
You have one little issue. It's just a detail, but you can't get past it. How do I get my hero out of the well? Where does the money come from for her ransom? Why is there a cat on the highway? Whatever. You have a clash and you can't find a way through.
I regularly drop my characters into something I don't know how to get them out of. I arrested one, stole all his things, and chained him to a wall. Actually, I've done that twice. Once, I solved it by getting his allies to help. The other time, she escaped down the sewer. I was telling my husband about the situation, and how I could get her chains off but not get her out of the cell. We broke down what the cell looked like and he asked simply; how big is the hole? It wasn't that big, but she's small and the stone is very old, and often wet. A big of work and she had an exit. Yay for solutions!
How to beat it:
Lately I wrote a story that didn't flow well, and I was determined to finish it, so I dragged through. I would write until I got a little stuck, then go have my evening shower. In the shower, I would sort out the issue I'd been stopped on. The next day, I'd write that part, then go until I got stuck again and repeat. It took a good edit once it was done. I lost a horse half way through and carried around a single boot for half a book until I figured out why! But I finished it, polished it, and published it. It's Dragon's Voice!
Version 4: The characters stagnate
You've got the story, but the characters don't cooperate. Yes, you can argue with your characters but the better you understand them, the better you'll get along.
How to beat it:
If all else fails: Skip the offending section. Write a place holder. I use 000 to show there's something I need to go back to. Then I write another part/scene. Heck, you could go to the end and work back.
Block #4 Finished! But where do I start on edits?
Ah, the read through. When you realize that you picked all the wrong words and you don't know how to fix it.
How to beat it:
If all else fails: Pay for editing service, but its costly and you really need to know what you are getting for your money because there are scams everywhere. Some companies now offer developmental edits to publication, so understand what those are and find the right service for you. Then find the right editor.
So there you have it! Hopefully, this will keep you writing for months and years to come, words flowing through your fingers onto the page. And when they don't, try something new!
Maybe I'll go have that evening shower now and hope somehow my manuscript edits itself...
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D. Lambert, author
Fantasy novels that entice, inspire, and entertain.