Sunday, April 23, 2017

beat writer's block

1. One of the most common forms of Writer's Block is the fear of starting. The fear of putting words on an empty computer screen. Instead of trying to come up with the perfect first sentence for your article or short story, write a whole bunch of first sentences.

Set a goal of five or ten first sentences. Make sure that each sentence is really different. A different approach to the topic, not just a re-working of the words. Treat the process as a game and don't judge yourself. Just get the words on paper, then go back and try to find the best one.

Guess what? There IS going to BE a best one. There may even be a couple "best ones." And, besides, you've started writing, which was the whole idea in the first place.

When I'm stuck, I jot down a great mess of sentences and phrases vaguely connected with what I'm trying to say. The exercise gets the juices flowing again.

2. Sometimes the very best way to get past the hump of beginning a novel is to REALLY get past it. In other words: SKIP THE BEGINNING. Start writing wherever you're ready to. No one said you HAD to start at the beginning. I wrote a later chapter that I was really excited about. Writing it helped me to go back and write a much better beginning than I would have written if I had STARTED at the beginning. Also, when ANYTHING pops into your head that isn't germane to what you're writing at the moment, you can skip to the end of your file and write it, then return to where you were. Then, use the cut and save function to put those on-the-fly ideas into a special file. The idea is, you never stop writing for a minute and you save everything you write for future use.

3. WRITE ABOUT NOT BEING ABLE TO WRITE. This really works. I was once assigned by a national business magazine to write a story about the five top defense contractors in Los Angeles. I sat down and faced my computer screen. I didn't know where to begin, so I typed: "I don't know how to start this piece. The defense contractors in Los Angeles sell everything from candy bars to jamming devices to the government. How can I write this?" It started me writing.  Once I started writing, I was able to go on and bust through the writer's block.

When writing anything, you've got to work consistently. Surround yourself with things you like to see and create an environment in which you feel secure and happy. If you create a place you like to be, you're much more likely to be there. The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.

5. WRITE CONSISTENTLY Some struggling writers say, "There's no point in my trying to write. I only have an hour a day." It doesn't matter if you write for an hour a day or for 5 hours a day like me, you've got to do it every day you possibly can.
I wrote KILL CUE, my first mystery novel, from 5 to 7 each morning. At 9 am, I returned to my office to do my magazine article writing. It took me eight months, but I wrote my first novel in only two hours a day. The key is consistency.
6. CHANGE YOUR SCENE. Take your laptop and spend the afternoon at the library, the mall, or in a hotel lobby, writing with mild chaos going on around you. Or try writing at a different time of day. That sort of change might get you out of your rut. At least it'll make you so glad to get back to your routine that you'll be eager to write.

7. READ YOUR WRITING If you can't get rolling, look back over what you wrote the day before. It might get you moving again. Or read things you've written in the past. If you decide that these old pieces are pretty good, you might get inspired to return to writing.

8. READ OTHER WRITING You can profit from reading both good books and bad books. Reading good writers makes you itch to get back to the typewriter. The bad ones make you angry enough to go to work and show them how it's done. Don't worry about the possibility of stealing something. Each author is unique. Try the rest of your life and you will never write exactly like anyone else. You're going to write like you no matter whose books you read.

9. READ ABOUT WRITING When I decided to write for a living, I spent an entire summer reading two dozen books on writing. When you're stalled out on what you're writing, one way to fight the block is to read about writing. Learn your craft. Get better at it. You can never learn everything there is to know. But everything you learn makes you a better writer.

10. CREATE A REWARD SYSTEM  After I write 4,000 words, I can go to the movie. One hour at the mall when I finish this page. A hot fudge sundae when I finish this paragraph. Set goals and reward yourself when you meet them. Make it something you really want, but you only get the reward if you write. 

11. TALK ABOUT YOUR WRITING When you're running into a block, a great way to overcome it is to talk about your writing. On Facebook or Twitter or by phone call or text, talk to someone about what you are writing. Writer Roberta Gellis talks to her husband. "In extreme cases of writer's block, I complain to my husband, explaining every problem with plot or characters. His suggestions usually infuriate me so much that I leap to my computer in a frenzy of corrective and creative activity." One way or another, talking about your writing can get you excited about it again. 

You have a unique talent. If you find excuses not to write, when you have the talent to do it, shouldn't you feel guilty? You've been given a skill that most people do not have. You are a writer. You should write. You need to use your gift. Shame on you if you don't.

Tell yourself that WRITER'S BLOCK DOESN'T EXIST.
You may have days when you write well, and days when you write badly.

But there's never a day you CANNOT write at all. 
So, the best way to beat writer's block is to pretend that writer's block doesn't exist and just keep on writing.

Above from the book NOVEL SECRETS,
available for Kindle for only $.99 cents:

Lary Crews