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.
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...
Oh, and check below for the monthly freebies! All in one place for your convenience!
Although things got delayed by... well, everything... we're now on track! The Sooke Reads event is running this week, so check it out HERE. It's being done by the Sooke branch of the Vancouver Island Regional Library and includes several contenders. Basically, I was asked "What book do you think everyone in Sooke should read?" and I gave this reply. Check out MY video HERE, then tell me: do you agree? What book would you have chosen?
If you're local, go to the library this Saturday for more events! I'm working so might only get to sneak in briefly at the end!
Meantime, NORTHLANDER's paperbacks are IN! I've got them in hand! Join the adventure in time to see the end of the Northlander War, for better or worse! If you'd like a copy, fill in the form HERE and I'll get it to you ASAP! You can also order online HERE.
Let's start with a quick plug: NORTHLANDER IS COMING OUT!!!
Book 3 of the Son of No Man Series is due May 27th, 2022, so get your preorder copy HERE. I love bringing the Northlander War to a close, mainly because Darknim DoomDragon is a kick-ass 60-year-old warrior who puts the younger generation to shame. But he's got class. If they weren't enemies, I'm sure Tohmas and he could be the best of friends! Dragons, magic, gods, and battle are coming down.
Ok, on to the main event. Poetry. Yes, you heard that right. Poetry.
I get it; that's not my usual gig. I'm not a poet. Ok, ok, I have a book of poems from my teenage years, when poetry was a manifestation of my angst or something. We all try to find ourselves at that age, and poetry was a great way to explore identity. In high school English, I was encouraged to write poetry. I mostly wrote poetry on behalf of characters because I am still a prose girl at heart. I don't know if my teacher knew that. I expect some of what I wrote might have worried her if she didn't.
But the idea of how poetry informs prose came up lately, so I'm running with it for a blog post.
Surprisingly, I didn't find much information about this. Heck, I don't even know a lot about poetry. I know what sounds good. So how does that help prose?
Poetry is what sounds good (or looks good). It's patterns, cadence, emphasis, and so on. A good writer uses all those things in their writing, whether for one sentence or a thousand. It's not a new concept- it's an old one. Stories were told in verse or song, like the Odyssey or Shakespeare's plays. Verse! But there were stories in there too.
A good poet could make great prose if they could stretch their style and sense of rhythm to that length. I honestly believe it would be hard to go the other way around! I'm not a poet. Maybe I should try to be. Because when you read a beautiful sentence that flows just right and gives you chill, it's the poetry of the words coming through. That's good writing. That's something to aspirate to.
I'm going to share my favourite poem: The Road less Taken. I love it for many reasons (probably why it's my favourite!). 1. The pattern and rhyme satisfy my scientific, logical mind. 2. The topic is so relatable for me and my hiking 3. The message at the end hits home. Because we should all go down the road less traveled to see where it leads. That's what took me to publish my books, after all.
Enjoy the poem, then check out below for the month's freebies and deals!
First, I have a quick announcement; Rydan's getting a Hard Cover facelift and we need reviews! If you want a FREE copy of the ebook and a chance to get your comments on a cover, check out this link! Limited copies so get yours now!
Now, for the blog!
I have a confession; I can't handle horror. In fact, most thrillers are a problem too.
It's a bit weird when I get down to it. Stick me in a haunted house, and I'm totally fine! I'm hard to surprise, and I don't spook easily in real life at all. I'm rather brave! I am confident in my abilities. I easily see through cheap scares and can roll my eyes at silly tropes meant to terrify people. I love to challenge myself and will take on new and risky tasks. I even enjoy that thrill of the unknown or a mystery!
But I'm a wimp when it comes to the written word. What gives?
It's gotten so bad that I have to caution people at critiques or show and tells to warn me so I can tune out. And if you're going to toss in a child under threat, I'm so done! It only got worse when I had kids; I cannot control those hormones. Even the classic "grab the crying kid before the falling tower falls on them" freaks me out now. I'm so upset by a hysterical kid that I will turn off a show or close a book if it comes up.
I blame my brain. I am a logical person, so I can pick apart reality, but my imagination is outside my control. I spend a lot of time trying to re-direct my doggone imagination anyway! It's a pessimistic beast, my brain. It loves to latch onto imagery in books and run with it. So if it gets its mitts on something scary, it will sit with it for ages. And that means I'm not sleeping! It feels so damn real, yet (and this is the important part) OUTSIDE OF MY CONTROL. In life, I can adjust what I do to mitigate the threat. I can face it. But I can't control what happens in a book because it's not me in that book.
I hate it. I hate being scared, knowing there is no reason to be because it's just a story, yet having it run in my brain repeatedly. I hate lying awake trying to calm my heart and logic my way out of something I read or saw.
So while I want to support writers of all kinds, please forgive me if I don't read your horror or thriller novel. And if you endanger a child, give me a heads up, or I might be cutting the reading short and having sleepless nights! And be aware; at the end of the day, people have these different triggers. I'm not saying you can't do it! Just recognize the impact you are having and use these remarkable powers for good!
The following comic spoke to me; Words are so amazing! But please DO use this power wisely! All credit to John McNamee
In preparing for not one but TWO podcasts coming up, a lot of people ask how I find time to write. So I thought I'd share a bit about why I write, to help people see how I find time.
I have an overactive imagination. To be honest, my brain likes to be in overdrive. As a child, that manifested as imagining the monsters under the bed or other terrors to keep me from sleeping. It was my mother who suggested I distract my brain by telling myself a story. If only she'd known!
I did just that, and it became a coping mechanism. Instead of letting my creativity run off with vampires and demons outside the window, I put together the story of Shakat, a farm girl who would save the world. That "Cinderella" style story evolved as I grew up. The prince turned into a villain. A dragon showed up. The survival of magic was in the balance. And then, the most significant change of all; the prophecy went ever so wrong.
One day, I'll finally get it down. For now, it's the story that refuses to be written (another tale for another day!)
As I entered teenagerhood, I began having these troubling thoughts without it being bedtime. If my mind was given idle time, I went through what I've since learned is called cataclysmic thoughts. I could deal with some of them by facing the issues and plan, but when they grew impossible to rationalize through, I turned to the stories. It was easier to figure out how Shimmer would establish herself in the cavern-streets of StonePeak than worry about unlikely, yet terrible, happenings.
And those stories stuck in my mind long enough to migrate onto the page. For fun, when I would otherwise be watching TV or reading a book, I took to writing the stories down. That gave me more fodder for later contemplations and distractions.
I didn't realize how much I was relying on the creative part of my brain until I tried to kick the habit. I started Vet School and I knew the program would be grueling. I figured it was time to let go of this "childish" habit of making up and writing stories. So I decided I wouldn't do it anymore but just focus on my studies.
By day 7, I was physically shaking. My mind had run itself into a million disastrous scenarios, and anxiety consumed me. I lost sleep. I was impatient and irritable. The greatest irony was that I couldn't focus. In my efforts to improve my concentration, I had damned it.
I'd lost my coping mechanism, my outlet. I'd lost how I decompressed at the end of the day and engaged the imaginative part of my brain that was not getting exercised with scientific logic and memorization. I went crawling back.
So I make time. Thirty minutes here, ten there, I piece together snippets to read and write, because I have to. I won't know what's up with the latest series on Netflix. You won't see my avatar on any online games. I'm on social media for precious little time. Because my therapy is here, on the page. This is where I go.
By way of habits, I think it's a good one!
Thanks for stopping in! Here are this month's freebies! The review copies will get you a cool new book for free, so long as you leave a review! The giveaways usually require a newsletter sign up but those are worth it; you get to discover new authors! Enjoy!
I guess I'm admitting to being a true nerd at this point, but yes, I've played Dungeons and Dragons (aka D&D) as well as other RPGs. For those who don't know, those are Role-playing Games. You get to hang with friends and play as a character in a world, make your own choices, and have adventures.
Someone has to run it, of course, and provide the world. That's the Game Master. There are hundreds of these games, each with its own rules and mechanics. The Game Master (or whatever it's called in a given game) provides the rules, sets the story up, and then answers the player's actions with the consequences. They're in charge of how it runs. They control the conflicts and basically tell the story the characters are in.
We finally got to play again recently (currently a player in a Traveller's game and learning the ropes!), and it got me thinking; being a gamer has helped me a lot with writing. Being a Game Master is essentially being an author with one notable difference; you get instant feedback. If your players have wandered off the plotline, then you probably failed to set up a good hook. Or if someone's on their phone again, the plot's too slow for them, and you need to pick it up. RPGs are a testing ground. What kept their attention? What did the group end up bringing up again and again? What didn't work out at all the way you expected?
So if you're thinking about writing, I recommend playing an RPG. Better still, I recommend being a Game Master!
This Month's Freebies! The Review copies one are free and request a review posted on something like amazon in exchange. A nice way to find new books and meet new authors!
You might have heard me talk about the Rant file before. Maybe you call it something else. Like November's blog post, I have my English classes to blame for this too, but this time in a good way.
Ms. Morgan, if you happen to find this, thank you for this incredibly useful tool. Not sure if you knew the impact it would have, but it's been a major asset to me both in my writing and in my life.
Here's how it works:
When you are stuck, sit down and write. Don't edit. Don't worry about spelling. Don't stop for punctuation unless it happens without slowing you down. Just write what you think and go. Stop when you are done. That is it.
There are no rules to writing like this. You can write on a screen (I'm way faster typing!) or with pen and paper. You don't even have to keep the writing after you are done, although sometimes that is helpful too.
Through the conversation with the words, explore the problem and discuss options. Somehow, I always comes to a conclusion.
This is my Rant file, and every book has one associated with it. Sometimes it's fun to go back and see what things hung me up and how I corrected them. Right now, I'm using it to sort out Kitable's conflict with the secret he has discovered (a spoiler I won't go into. But check out the newest book, "Northlander," coming late spring or so for find out!). He's torn. So my rant file has his musings in it, how he reacts, and how I need to adjust the story to account for it. I never thought my wizard would leave his patron!!
But outside of writing, my rant files have had significant impacts. I chose to become a veterinarian abroad through one. I made my decision to marry my husband in another. In between, I've worked through tough times with this tool.
I know it's essentially a conversation with myself. Maybe that makes me crazy, but whatever. It's a helpful trick I hope everyone knows and uses! Try it out!
And for fun, I've linked the freebies below. If you want to get similar promotions early in the month for first dibs, sign up for the Newsletter. Plus you get sneak-peaks and special offers!
I feel like the holidays have been pretty exciting already!
December 15th, Celebrant went live! Book 2 of the Son of No Man series (wherein Tohmas just burned in more than one way!) is a big step down that road founding Espar. It's my "from your own point of view you're not the villain" story, and I ADORE the way it came together.
December 22nd, I got the paperbacks in, just in time for Christmas. Tickled pink by them! The chapter headers are particularly slick, although how can you not love that cover!?
And now I have a few thirty minutes of time to myself while husband takes the eldest kid shopping and the baby is asleep. PHEW!
So here's a quick HAPPY HOLIDAYS and HAPPY NEW YEAR to everyone out there! May the New Year be Magical!
D. Lambert, author
Fantasy novels that entice, inspire, and entertain.