Writer’s Block

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7e1de-sevenbasicplotsWriting fiction or nonfiction is not for the faint hearted. It takes discipline, determination, a lot of time, good ideas, and of course–talent.

Like many writers, I have a hard time finishing writing projects. When I say writing project, you know that statement can be relative. Truth be told, I have a lot of irons in the fire as most writers do. I have a middle grade novella done that is resting, an early reader chapter book finished and waiting on pictures, and many other writing projects surging through my consciousness. But the current project has taken longer to get started than I anticipated. I usually get stuck on one aspect of the story and this manuscript is no exception, but my persistent gene will not let me down. Pushing aside the subtlety, I’m still working on what the character wants. In the draft I’m writing, the main character loves adventures because of a prize at the end.

How do you handle writer’s block? What are some of your tricks?

Here are some tips I’ve found that work for me. The idea is to get your brain working and to stop the cycle of writer’s block.

1. Go for a walk or exercise

2. Talk it out with a friend

3. Evaluate your plot plan

4. Develop your character’s backstory

5. Write anything

6. Research an aspect of your story

 

 

Finishing that Writing Project

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Writing fiction or nonfiction is not for the faint hearted. It takes discipline, determination, a lot of time, good ideas, and of course–talent.

Like many writers, I have a hard time finishing writing projects. When I say writing project, you know that statement can be relative. Truth be told, I have a lot of irons in the fire as most writers do. I have a middle grade novella done that is resting, an early reader chapter book finished and waiting on pictures, and many other writing projects surging through my consciousness. But the current project has taken longer to get started than I anticipated. I usually get stuck on one aspect of the story and this manuscript is no exception, but my persistent gene will not let me down. Pushing aside the subtlety, I’m still working on what the character wants. In the draft I’m writing, the main character loves adventures because of a prize at the end.

In the first book called Dot and Scribble Fall into Adventure, the prize was the key to adventure. In the second book, the setting is outer space and more specifically a planet. The adventures will be grand, but what will the prize be? This may seem like a small issue to many, but it’s a central feature of all books whether the goal involves that character changing, solving a mystery, or finding hidden treasure.

How can I crack this code and finish the puzzle? If you sent two characters to a planet to help defeat a monster, what would be the prize? Perhaps, glory. Possibly a magic lamp or a sacred stone. What would enthuse an audience of children? Let me know your thoughts.

Pushing through Lulls

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We’ve all experienced it during our lives–lulls. Your writing or  your work is churning along happily. You’re a fountain of ideas, but then you hit a wall. The idea of sitting at your computer is unappealing, and if you do, you end up surfing the net rather than writing. Quite often, the only thing staring back at you is a blank page or screen.

How do we beat the lulls?

Part of overcoming the lack of productivity is understanding how your mind and body works. Studies suggest humans are most productive in 90 minute spells or sprints with a 15-20 minute break in-between during a given day. And the reason for this is chemical. Your brain uses up a chemical called glucose during these times of intense work. Typically you will have spent most of it after 60-90 minutes. That’s why you feel so burned out after super long meetings or times on intense work.
Glucose is the fuel keeping our brains awake and alert. At most times, we have a certain glucose level in our blood, kind of like gasoline in a car.
The most important part here is that we are in full control of how we release glucose to our blood and our brains. Certain foods release glucose quickly, while other foods do so more slowly.
So what’s the magic pill to keep your mind and body humming? What should you eat to curb the lulls? One word–bananas. The brain works best with about 25 grams of glucose circulating in the blood stream — about the amount found in a banana. Want to beat the lulls? Eat fruit. I try to have an apple during the afternoons to beat low energy. Here are some other foods to beat low productivity and the lulls.

Blueberries
Studies show that eating blueberries can improve your ability to concentrate and perform tasks requiring you to really focus.

Dark Chocolate
This will probably be your favorite brain boosting food. Chocolate, especially the dark stuff contains compounds called flavonols that can help improve mental focus.

How to Get out of Lulls

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I like what this CEO has to say about getting out of lulls. Snap out of it!

Breakthroughs

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How do you get breakthroughs?
If I was to ask you about the last challenge you had and how you pushed through it, what would you say?

Whether you write fiction like me, work in marketing, are a programmer, play and write music, or are in a hard relationship, it probably hasn’t been a long time since you faced a challenge and needed a break through. Having struggles and getting breakthroughs is a part of living.

Recently, I’ve been stuck on a work of fiction. This happens from time to time because I write a lot. If I was to narrow my problem to one aspect of writing, it is plotting stories. This is incredibly hard for me. Well, today I had a breakthrough. Got me to thinking how did it happen and what was I doing wrong?
I think when I have a problem I usually hold onto it so closely that I fail to examine the problem from a different perspective. It makes sense that you can’t really see a problem when it’s so close to you.

Of course I did some research, stared at the blank page on the computer, and did a host of other things before I had the aha moment. Then I got in the flow. Everything was clicking… and boom breakthrough.

So what are some principles we can all apply to help us push through struggles?

You might swear by religion or faith.
Meditation might be your thing.
Maybe you think communication and asking other people is the answer.

Here are a few tips I picked up that applied to my problem from a website.

FOLLOW YOUR FASCINATION

Do what fascinates you. If you find yourself fascinated by a new idea, chances are good that there’s something meaningful about it for you to consider.

IMMERSE

Immersion — the act of becoming completely involved or absorbed in something — engrossed, enthralled, or preoccupied.”

Success comes when we are totally immersed and following what fascinates us.

TOLERATE AMBIGUITY

Be prepared for failure. Failed attempts are often steps in the right direction or reveal what not to do again. Breakthrough ideas are not always the result of a Eureka moment. On the contrary, they are often the result of an evolutionary series of approximations or failed experiments.

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When Thomas Edison was asked how it felt to fail 800 times before coming up with tungsten as the filament for the light bulb, his answer was a revealing one.

“Fail?” he said. “I didn’t fail once. I learned 800 times what didn’t work.”

MAKE NEW CONNECTIONS

This is the research part of breakthroughs. You have to put the time in on research so that you can make new connections. True creativity rarely happens in a vacuum. On the contrary it is the product of two or more variables connecting in a new way.

DEFINE THE RIGHT CHALLENGE
What exactly is the problem? This is the most important question.

“It’s not that they can’t find the solution,” said G.K. Chesterton, the renowned American philosopher and writer, “They can’t find the problem!”

TAKE A BREAK

Napping is allowed. Let the problem rest. If you want a breakthrough, you will need to take a break.

I Got Nothing

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Some days, I got nothing.

Have you ever faced a moment in writing a story when the characters or plot runs flat no matter how hard you try to work it out? Face it, we’ve all been there before. You’re lost in the maze and you can’t find an escape.

What do you do when you get stuck on a work of fiction?

How do you handle not so much writer’s block, but plot block?

Writing a novel is a tedious and sometimes exasperating process. Typically, the middle of a novel is the place where writers say they struggle the most. You wrote a great beginning and probably thought of a stunning  ending, but the details of the middle are bogged down.  Now it’s time to tie them together.

 Conflict is the answer most of the time, but how do you get past plotting problems and writer’s block?

Without conflict, you will never make it past the half-way mark.  No conflict, no story.

Here are some other ideas to help you not get stuck in the middle.

1. A critique group:

Nothing helps writer’s block more than bouncing your ideas off of others.

2. Equip yourself. Plan.

I am a great believer in the visuals of novel planning. I get hold of paper, colored pens, pins and post-its. I draw a timeline for the novel, divided it into sections. I dredged up all the notes I’d scribbled down for themes, scenes, dialogue, suggestive ideas that I’d thought in the past I might like to fit into the narrative, and I started to write them in on the timeline, roughly where I thought I’d like them to occur.

Make a Powerpoint slide show.

3. Write.

Look at your plan constantly and look at the first event through to the end. Think, “How do I want to present this? Who’s narrating it? Where does it happen? What kind of tone?” “What is the premise of my story or main theme?”

4. Don’t be afraid to change things.

I just had to do this with a story that is about to be published. I had to change the main character’s POV. This was tough, but I learned lots.

5. Promise yourself something amazing at the end of it all.

Not the finished manuscript, but your current draft. Promise yourself that when you’ve reached the target, you can have what you most want in the world. If that doesn’t work than make a promise after you finish a few chapter.

Get Out There

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Where do writers write? I guess most people figure if you are not stuck behind a computer putting in your 1,000 words a day, then you are not a writer. Yet, the moments when I get my best ideas happen outside. Yes, I said outside. Whether I’m walking, fishing, hiking, or sitting and admiring a great view, inspiration comes from being outside.

I think many would agree that people work out ideas when they are relaxed and for me that means outside. So the next time you need to work out part of your story plot or if you need a fresh idea for a book, talk a walk. Get out there!

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