Avoiding Writers’ Block

Today, we’re going to discuss some tips and tricks for ensuring that you always know what comes next when you sit down to write.

I don’t love the term “writers’ block”, partly because it sounds insurmountable. Like so many things, being “stuck” can be overcome with a little preparation and several little steps. You could think of these as good practices.

• Review what you wrote the day before
This is a tried and true strategy used by many writers I know. Job one of any new day of writing is to edit what was written the day before. This is a neat trick because you polish your work so that it’s clean behind you, and it also fills your mind with the story again. You might even see details or directions to explore which you missed the first time around.

• Leave a hook for the next scene
When you stop for the day, choose a deliberate point for stopping. I find that if I write everything I know about the story, the next day I might come up dry. I also find that I see two scenes very clearly and often a third one a bit less so. So, I write those two scenes, then hold back on the third. I’ll write the first sentence of that scene, to pull me back into the moment, but then let that scene stew in the back of my mind for the remainder of the day. Combined with the review suggested above, this is a surefire way to get me writing again each day.

• Retrace your steps
Most authors write a story in a linear sequence. This means that if the next scene isn’t clear to you, you’re stuck, as if you encountered a closed road on your map to the big finish. For me, this often indicates that I’ve taken a wrong turn or painted myself into a corner. The first thing I do in this situation is delete the hook on the end of the last scene I wrote. I then go make a fresh pot of tea, thinking about what else that hook could be. Often that sets me straight on the path again.

• Write out of sequence
Sometimes another scene than the one I know comes next is clear in my thoughts when I sit down to write. This might be the ending, which is a useful thing to write in advance of getting to the end of the book. Many authors find that writing the ending gives them a more clear sense of their destination and the feel of the end of the book, and that helps with the pages in between. You might feel compelled to write the big finish, or the dark moment, or a comparatively minor scene between secondary characters. As a general rule of thumb, if something is burning in your thoughts, write it down, whether it comes next in the story or not.

• Write a synopsis
The most obvious way to ensure that you know where the story is doing (and how it’s going to get there) is to write a synopsis. I’ve yet to meet a writer who loved creating a synopsis. It can be a painful process. But the fact is that once you have one, you have a map of your book. It’s very easy to put your finger on your location in the synopsis then read on to see where the story needs to go next.

• Stock your well
Julia Cameron talks about this in The Artist’s Way. It’s a strategy for ensuring that you always have new images and ideas to draw upon, so that your work continues to evolve and stay fresh. For me, this kind of creative thinking is completely opposite to the kind of planning I do as a publisher. Stocking my well is dreamy and irrational, meandering, and often seems like daydreaming or “wasting” time. The less free time I have, the more critical I am of the kind of play that stocks the well—but if I don’t do it, I get stuck.

I suspect that part of the reason I’ve been less productive creatively this year isn’t just a lack of time to write; it’s a failure to leave time to play and dream. I play with textiles and color to let my imagination wander off and explore the next part of the story I’m writing. I knit and quilt and bead and garden and cook, and this review has reminded me that I need to defend the time to do that, as well as the time to write.

So, the final tweak that comes out of this entire review is to protect the time I spend mucking about with creative endeavors. When I protect my writing time and my source of ideas, the routine of publishing must be pushed out to occur last in the day instead of first.

This is an intriguing idea and one I’ve already started to put into action. I’ve already seen an improvement in my productivity: in October, I wrote 54,000 words, which blasts me past my high count in May of 43,000. Now I just need to make these changes into habits. I’m curious to see if my word count increases in the next six months – I’m curious to see if it will help me succeed in NaNoWriMo. 50,000 words this month would be a victory!

Do you have any tips or practices that help you avoid writers’ block?

NaNoWriMo 2018

NaNoWriMo logoIt’s that time again. National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) launches tomorrow. Participants aim to write 50,000 words in the month of November. Participation is free.

As usual, I’m participating, and (as usual!) I have more than one project to get done this month. If you want a writing buddy, you can friend me at NaNo right here.

If you want to learn more about NaNoWriMo, check out their website.

NaNoWriMo 2017

National Novel Writing MonthI often participate in NaNoWriMo (which is National Novel Writing Month) and this year is no exception.

The fact is that every month of my life is NaNo, since the goal of NaNo is to write 50K words in a month. That’s not a novel in my corner of the fiction market, but it’s about half of one. Most months, I write new content at this rate, so November isn’t anything special. I’m using working on multiple projects at a time, as well, although I only list one on the NaNo website.

Doing NaNoWriMo is a good way to cross check my productivity, though. I tend to keep track of my page count on Post-It notes on my desk, and I do update my wall calendar each week with my progress—right alongside my goals for the week. Keeping track on the NaNo site makes me feel more accountable, and it also makes me more aware of what else is placing demands on my time. What’s interfering with writing? What am I doing instead? NaNo provides a little productivity cross-check for me each year, and helps me to refine my process.

In the Midnight Hour, book #3 of the Flatiron Five series of contemporary romances by Deborah CookeThis year, for example, I’ve written 13,000 words through Saturday. (Still taking Sundays off.) That’s not bad, but it’s less than I’d hoped to achieve in four days. I aim for 3K to 5K per day of new word count. The fact is that there was been a LOT of publishing stuff happening behind the scenes last week, so I wasn’t even starting to write until after 2PM. The problem is that mornings are my most productive time.

This week, I’m not going to check my email until lunch.

One of the speakers at NINC made an interesting comment that has stuck with me, that email is a means for other people to offload jobs to you. His strategy was to do what was important to him first, then see what other people wanted to hand off to him. It’s good advice. I just have to break my habit of checking email while I have my second cup of coffee. 🙂

You can find me on NaNo here.

NaNoWriMo 2016

For the past couple of years, I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month. Participants cheer each other on to write 50,000 words on their book manuscript during the month of November. It’s a fun event and a great way to connect with other writers. Some people find it motivating and get more work done, but for me, it’s a typical month. I usually write at least 50K words in a month. I join for the fun and the chatter.

Wyvern's Warrior, #3 of the Dragons of Incendium series of paranormal romances by Deborah CookeI’m all set up for this year again. My project of choice is Wyvern’s Warrior, book #3 in the Dragons of Incendium series of paranormal romances – due for publication on December 27.

If you’re participating, feel free to claim me as a writing buddy. You’ll find me on NaNoWriMo as DeborahCooke. (Big surprise, isn’t it?)

It’s November 1 and we’re off! Happy writing!

NaNoWriMo

It’s that time again – November means that National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is upon us. As usual, I’m participating, and as usual, 50,000 words is just the beginning of what I need to write this month.

The Crusader's Kiss, #3 in the Champions of St Euphemia series of medieval romances by Claire Delacroix   The Crusader's Handfast, #5 in the Champions of Saint Euphemia series of medieval romances by Claire Delacroix

This month, my plan is to finish Bartholomew’s book, The Crusader’s Kiss, as well as continue to work on the next installment of Duncan’s book, The Crusader’s Handfast, AND make progress on one or two other projects which I haven’t told you about yet.

NaNoWriMo logoYou can find my NaNoWriMo profile under Deborah Cooke – it’s right here. You’re welcome to join my writing buddies, although I don’t post a lot on the site beyond updating my word counts. There’s too much writing to be done!

 

NaNoWriMo

This year, again, I officially signed up for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I had to finish The Warrior’s Prize, and was running behind after going to Novelists’ Inc in Florida at the end of October. I wanted the motivation of NaNoWriMo to get my butt into my chair and put those pages down!

I had a pretty awesome first two weeks of November, and posted over 50K words in those two weeks. Rafael and Elizabeth’s book went to my editor, a bit late but much better, and I’ve been writing a few extra scenes since then which I’ll tuck into the book later. (There always seem to be one or two that pop into my mind after any book is delivered to my editor.) This week, I’ve been catching up on those revised backlist titles, including the POD’s, but next week I’ll be writing new work again. The best thing about NaNoWriMo this year is that it helped me get back into the rhythm of writing every morning before dealing with anything else.

How about you? Have you done NaNo this year or any other? Do you like it? Do you find it helpful in setting rhythms or making new habits?

 

NaNoWriMo

November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and this year, I’ve officially signed up. I have a lot of projects to get finished, so completing 50,000 words (or anything close to it) in the next month will help a lot.

You can find me on the NaNoWriMo boards as DeborahCooke.