August 16, 2011

beating writer's block - part one



Writer's block can kill... your story. The more time you let pass between moments of writing, the longer those periods will stretch out.

Trust me, I know. (Just ask the two books that I quit writing 10,000 words in.)

During this month's "Recovering Writer's" meeting, my colleagues and I will discuss ways to overcome writer's block. In preparation, I thought I'd brainstorm some of the tips I've used to overcome it in a two-part series, beginning today.

Here are my first five tips to beat writer's block:

•  Change your scenery. I have a few favorite writing spots (namely one corner of my comfy brown couch), but sometimes it feels stifling. I'll shake things up by going to a coffee shop, sitting outside on the patio or even sitting in my car at a park. Removing yourself from the norm and taking yourself somewhere where you will be forced to write can do the trick.

•  Ditch technology. I know yesterday I said I sometimes use my iPhone to write my book, and I do, but other times, I have to turn off the Internet, my phones and even my computer to get productive. There is nothing more intimidating than a blank piece of paper, and the sooner you overcome that discomfort and put something on the page, it's amazing how quickly the words add up.

•  Relax. If you put too much pressure on yourself, you might cut off your creativity. Sometimes, when I'm really struggling, I'll take a break to do some laundry or get a cup of coffee. After completing some small task like that, I can usually come back to work and get myself to generate some more content. Also, if I'm so tired I can't think, I stop and take a nap. I'll wake-up refreshed and ready to put my imagination back to work.

•  Set goals and deadlines. One of the beauties of National Novel Writing Month, or it's summer counterpart Camp NaNoWriMo, is the fact that you have a goal — 50,000 words in one month. It may be a big goal, but it's still there. Every day I track my word count, I am motivated to see myself do better and better. Even if I'm behind my goal (like now and like always), I see it as a challenge against myself, and I want to prove that I can do it.

I'll never forget how it was last November when I was close to the deadline but still several thousand words short. In those final days, I shut out all distractions and forced myself to write as much as I could as often as I could. And on the final day, at 9 p.m., I hit the 50,000-word mark.

Unless you're in a big challenge like that, I'd suggest setting smaller goals. Making it your goal to write 500 to 1,000 words every day will add up over time. Consider that most books are between 65,000 and 100,000. You could write a complete novel in two months to 100 days.

5. Work on something else. If I'm having trouble working on my current project, I might go back to edit a previous story or do some of the prep work and planning for a future book. It stirs those creative juices, but also keeps you productive.

Toward the end of July, when I was struggling to generate more words on another book in progress, I focused my attention on sending out query letters to literary agents and researched the novel I'm writing now. Or, for example, right now I'm taking a short break from my book (honing in on the 20,000-word mark) to write this post.

Check back for part two of my "Beating Writer's Block" Thursday. Feel free to share any of your tips by commenting below.

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