Day 29 and getting over writer's block

Whoopee! It feels good to be moving along in my revision. For day 29 in my unofficial participation of National Novel Writing Month, I finished the new early chapter I had planned in my outline/timeline and moved around some other scenes to fit the better flow I figured out. I feel energized about the story and characters again.

Interestingly, after coming off a couple weeks of on and off writer’s block, mainly because I didn’t know how I was going to fix the middle of the novel, I was reading Sandi Kahn Shelton‘s blog last night and came across a link she had posted to a great post about conquering writer’s block that Caryn Caldwell (a.k.a. The Book Lady) had posted on her blog. Caryn listed 41 ways to get passed writer’s block and back to your story, including everything from No. 11’s “Brainstorm with someone,” to No. 24’s “Take a shower. Do the dishes … Do something that keeps your hands and body occupied and your mind free.”

In getting over my writer’s block, I tried Nos. 5, 10, 11, 21 (minus a few days, but I try to do this anyway, it just gets harder when I’m blocked), 22 (on this blog), 24 (the shower and dishes one), 28, 35, 37 (but I always do this one too, it’s not just a blocked thing for me, I save everything), 38 (but again, that’s something I always do with my writing), 39 (I started a whole new story), 40 and 41. Phew! In the end, for me, the outline/timeline was the perfect exercise for what I needed at the time. It helped me enormously.

Which of these have you used? Got any others to share?

Write On!

Day 12

Another late post. Busy day today. But it was a good writing morning for day 12 of my unofficial participation in National Novel Writing Month.

It didn’t start out so well. I got up, planted myself in front of the computer, wrote a sentence, and thought, “I have no idea where I’m going with this scene.” I’m still in that squishy middle that I’ve been trying to clean up and streamline, and I’m working on a new scene that will bring together the first half of the novel with the second half. (I messed up a bit in the first draft, so skipped ahead and wrote to the end figuring I’d fix it in the revision, i.e. now.)

What to do when you don’t know what to do? Well, after proscrastinating with the Internet for about 30 minutes (I know, I know), I started thinking about the problem and realized that, writing for an hour or two every morning — a very early, mind-numbing hour or two — I’m not able to clearly get the big picture of my whole story in my head. Without seeing the two parts that have to be joined clearly, it’s difficult to see how to weave scenes that will join them.

So, I thought of what The Unnameables author Ellen Booraem said in her comment on this blog the other day, and picked up a notebook and a pen. I wasn’t looking for stream-of-conscience kind of inspiration, but something more structured. So, I modified what Ellen had suggested and wrote out a kind of timeline between the last major plot point to the current scene.

Bingo! Even though six chapters had passed, I realized it was only a couple days in the time of the story, and not enough time for what needed to happen. Plus, I was better able to see location placement, which also helped with the flow of the story. The next scenes popped into my head clear as day, the end of the last one nicely blending with the second half of the story. That’s it! I’ve got it. I now know what to do. All I have to do now is write it… but that’ll have to wait for another day.

Sunday, to be exact. That’s right. No writing for me tomorrow, at least not this kind. But I have an excellent excuse: I’ll be attending the Brazos Valley SCBWI 2008 Conference: Connections & Craft, Writing for Children and Young Adults. Up around 5am to drive there for the day-long conference. I’ll also be getting my first critique at a conference, and I’m very excited.

I’ve written about conferences and other writing events before, but once again, I can’t stress enough how useful they are. Even if you hear advice you’ve heard before (and chances are you’ll gain at least one, but probably more nuggets you haven’t heard before), conferences a) reaffirm that advice and b) give you time with fellow writers, hearing their stories and getting plenty of opportunities to get fired up and inspired.

I won’t be blogging tomorrow, but Sunday, I’ll let you know how it went. And hopefully, I’ll also get that next scene done.

How’s your writing coming?

Write On!

Day 8

It has been more than a week in my unofficial participation in National Novel Writing Month. Yay!

Got up early and spent about two hours in front of the computer. I can’t report that I got that much done, I’m afraid, but I was there, fingers poised over keys and occasionally pressing them.

Today I jumped back on the novel. With my potential solution in my head thanks to my driving yesterday, I hoped that I’d whip out the scene in no time. Unfortunately, my head is still in blocked mode as far as this scene goes. I decided to start the scene from scratch in a new Word document and paste into the novel when it’s done, thinking the change would cleanse my mind. Not so much. I wrote the start of the scene about five times. Finally, about 30 minutes before it was time to stop, I got a rhythm going, and I hope to continue that tomorrow.

This block has been so weird. It’s just about this one scene, because the new story has been flowing fine.

What do you do to fix blocks? Any tips?

I also wanted to link over to agent Nathan Bransford’s blog post from today, called Tough Times and the Publishing Industry Stimulus Package. In it, he gives a run down on the current state of the publishing industry, and as you can guess, it’s not all good news. But the part I wanted to talk about was the part where he says “BUY NEW BOOKS.”

Like him, I understand that we don’t always have the money to spend on new books. Used books still have the same words, and libraries are even cheaper: free. But buying a new book is the only way to help authors and publishing houses stay in business, and if we want to have a future career in publishing, we need to support authors and publishing houses.

Especially new authors, because we want publishing houses to continue to take chances on new authors. That is, afterall, what we want to be. As Nathan Bransford says, publishing houses decide whether to continue to publish an author’s work based on sales of their previous books. So, signing that one contract with a publishing house doesn’t mean you’ll now have a long career as a novelist. If that first book doesn’t do well, you’ll have a tough time selling another one.

I’m currently reading The Unnameables, by Ellen Booraem, a first-time author repped by KT Literary. I actually found out about the book on the blog of KT Literary’s Kate Schafer. It’s a great book, and I’m whipping through it — which is incredible for me, because I read very slowly; it’s a curse. I bought the book along with Peter Pan in Scarlet by Geraldine McCaughrean, which Atheneum Books’ Emma Dryden talked about in a seminar in the 2007 SCBWI summer conference and I’ve been itchy to try ever since. Peter Pan will be my next read.

For us writers, reading is next to writing as the best way to improve our skills. And reading what’s new in your field helps you to also keep up with what’s going on in the industry. So go to the bookstore — any bookstore but support independents as much as you can — and buy some books, as much as your wallet will allow, of course.

Also, promote books to those around you. Christmas is coming up, so consider books as gifts before anything else. You might just make a new reader.

Ok, off my soapbox now. I really would like to know any getting out of writer’s block tips if you’ve got them.

Write On! and Read On!

Streaming or kinked

I’m still having ups and downs with my climactic scene, but yesterday, I felt as thought I had a bit of a break-through.

Every so often, you run into a section of whatever you’re writing that you don’t feel as well as other sections. It’s more difficult to get your head around, more difficult to capture the emotion and more difficult to get down on paper. For the story/article/whatever, you know what has to be done, but just because you know it doesn’t make it any easier to do.

That’s where I am with this chapter.

As I mentioned in the “Believe in Yourself” post, on Wednesday, I wrote a sentence, then on Thursday, I followed it up with four pages.  On Friday, I hoped for more of the same, but only got to half a page before I was seduced by “What’s the weather going to be like today?” and then “What else is on my iGoogle page?”

But yesterday, it was back, along with another surprise. Yesterday, I started slowly, but then my brain suddenly kicked into gear and the whole chapter, the whole climactic scene made sense. I realized where I had been going wrong and revised accordingly, then I moved on from there. By the time I stopped, I had steamed ahead eight pages.

Sometimes the characters aren’t talking as clearly as other times, perhaps the section of the story isn’t quite percolated enough, but don’t let that stop you. Whether words are streaming onto the page like Niagara Falls or trickling as though out of a kinked hose, keep writing. On the kinked-hose days, the story will help you get unkinked, it just might take a few days.

How is your writing coming? Are you streaming or kinked?

Write On!