The First Step to Overcoming Writer’s Block

So, you want to write a novel. You’re reading blogs about it. You’ve done some work, but it’s not coming as quickly as you’d like.

Maybe you wrote down the one scene that lit your mind on fire and now you don’t know where to go with it.

Maybe you haven’t even gotten there yet, and all you know is a character. Or a concept. Or just a sweet little line of dialogue.

Maybe you’re sitting there with a blank page and you’re saying to yourself, “Is this what writer’s block feels like?”

Yup. Welcome to the club. It’s okay, though. I’m going to take you through the process and we’ll see if we can’t get you writing again.

This first step is a bit intense. It usually takes a fair bit to get writing after you’ve stalled, and that’s what I’m describing here. After that, it becomes easier and you don’t have to put so much effort in, so don’t think, “Oh no! I have to do this every time?!”

You have to cut out a chunk of time for writing. I don’t just mean set up a Google Calendar goal (though that’s not a terrible idea). I mean say to yourself, “Saturday afternoon (or Thursday evening, or…) I’m going to write and nothing else.” Don’t put a number of minutes or hours on it. Set aside an entire afternoon or evening aside.

For this chunk of time, you are a writer. Do not answer emails. Do not look at Facebook. Do not text or work or anything else.

Now, you may not be productive for every minute of this time, and that’s okay. In fact, in order to get good writing done, you need to have some time to let your mind wander. If you have a whole evening to write, it means there’s nothing at the end for you to be looking forward to or distract you. It’s just you and the page.

Just you and the page… that sounds daunting. Don’t let it be. Your value is not how many words you can get down in an hour. In fact, the sooner you forget about metrics and benchmarks, the sooner you’ll just be able to write. You have all the time in the world here.

There are now three options for you:

  1. You can let your mind wander
  2. You can think about your scene (actively)
  3. You can actually write

Letting your mind wander is useful, but it’s best to prime your daydream time with some structure by thinking actively about your scene.

Remember that bit of dialogue or character we were talking about earlier? Write that down on your blank page. You’re going to turn that into a scene.

If all you have is a bit of dialogue that you like, start thinking about who said it. What sort of voice did they say it in? Who was it to? Was it internal dialogue? If it’s ordinary dialogue, what situation would make it sound strange or exotic? If it’s something extraordinary, what world might it be commonplace in?

If all you have is a character, think about what situation you could put that character to show who they truly are. What does she dream of being one day? What does he think about with a gun to his head? What is her dark secret?

These are all writing prompts, and there are a million blogs you can find to get more of them. Now we’ve primed your imagination with a mold for ideas. Next time we’ll talk about how to guide your daydreaming and make a scene! Stay tuned, and in the meantime leave me a comment so I can hear about your experiences with writer’s block!

Image Credit: Drew Coffman

 

Starting a Dialogue

I have a drawer where my bad writing goes to die. Inside are literally millions of cringe-worthy words I’ll never read again. I got better at writing because I made mistakes with such gusto that by a few months in, it didn’t hurt to fix them anymore.

Unfortunately, I didn’t document that process. I didn’t even think critically about it. Writing was something I had to do, not something I tried to do.

I want this blog to give me (and you) a window into my writing process. I could talk more about what I hope for it to be about, but it’s far more interesting to just get into it. Let’s start with my latest project.

Love Drug is a serial novel I’ve been writing for about a year now. I’ve never written so much for a project, nor have I ever written something that so closely resembles what I imagine.

The story follows a business developer, Everett, and a marketing student, Ada, as they brand and market a drug, called Libra, designed to solve intimacy issues.

Before I began writing Love Drug, my stories would be about one person who inevitably represented me (no matter how I tried to obscure or change myself). I didn’t just want to follow a single character anymore. I wanted this story to be different, so I made Love Drug about a man and a woman.

I’ve watched myself and others try to fix spiritual and emotional problems with pills, so I wanted to take the modern idea of the “happy pill” to an extreme: a love drug.

Stories about love potions have been around for ages, but inspired by Brave New World and my own search for answers in pills, I thought I could bring something new to the genre.

The idea of two people pursuing love in such a mechanistic and cynical way was irresistible. How would it affect them? What would their relationship look like?

For Love Drug to be accessible, though, I needed to make my characters unique and separate from myself.

This was difficult. I can’t escape from being myself. There’s going to be some part of me in everything I write, so rather than run from it, I decided to acknowledge and embrace it.

Ada and Everett’s characters each represent a different part of me. I’m loath to simplify them here, but for the sake of this post I will. Ada became the smart, anxious, and naive me and Everett became the ambitious, confident, and introspective me.

Splitting up my personality like this left my characters incomplete, like partial sets of chromosomes. Instead of filling in the gaps with what I thought was best, I started writing my characters into their world the way they were, incomplete. It wasn’t intentional, but something fascinating happened: they themselves began to fill in the missing pieces.

Ada’s inability to be introspective lead her to understand the world in a way that I never have, a way entirely her own. Everett’s confidence and experience (without my anxiety) helped him become his own person. By two chapters in, I knew two people who had never existed before.

Once I had woven Everett and Ada into the world I’d created, it took on a life that I couldn’t possibly have planned.

I’ll have more on that next time, but for now you can see what I mean by reading Love Drug here.

Until next time,

gjk

Image Source: Klassen (2016)