Welcome to Tick-Tock, Writer’s Block. We hope you will find this 10-week series informative as we dive into time management and that little annoyance that seems to plague all writers from time to time, writer’s block.
10 writers have teamed up to offer you tips, tricks, and general information about these issues. We hope this series provides insight and useful tools you can put into practice with your own writing habits!
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Even writing those words freezes me, makes me want to sit and stare at this blank page and not even attempt to tackle the topic. There are a million opinions on it; if you’ve been writing for any period of time, you’ve likely heard at least a few (thousand). Everyone experiences it at some point and everyone experiences it a little differently, but I think we all agree on the feeling it causes: alksdjfkaljrgklefjalkf!!!!! (That’s angry gibberish. Ha! *bangs head on keyboard just to get letters on the screen*)
I don’t have all the answers, but I’ve found a few things that help me. If they help you too, great! If not, well, I tried. 😉
1. SET A TIMER
This was one of those rules – rules? suggestions? thingies? – that I read somewhere and scoffed at. Until one dark, stormy winter night – erm, not really, but it was Nano, so it might’ve been cold – I was desperate to hit some sort of word count, and I was like, “Okay, seriously, what would it hurt to try this timer thing? Worst case scenario, you waste a half hour. Like you’ve never done that by getting on facebook instead of writing…” *gives Angie the evil eye while Angie looks away and whistles innocently*
So, grudgingly, not feeling it at all, and not expecting much, I set a timer for thirty-five minutes and forced myself to stay off facebook and look at my story. And lo and behold, when the timer chimed, I had written a whopping – wait for it! – zero words. Yeeep. But I was determined (or crazy?) and reset it. And that time, I wrote. Was it good? Don’t remember. Was it coherent? Probably not. Was it redundant? Um, duh. But it was also words. And by the time that second one went off, guess what? I was lost in my world.
Nearly every time I do this, if I push through my feelings, I end up resetting the timer at least once…and then usually not after that because I get so into the story that I forget. (Also: it is okay if your timer scares you when it goes off. You are not alone. #solidarity)
2. WHERE DID YOU GO WRONG?
This requires caution. Don’t assume this is the case and keep changing things at the beginning of your story. It may not be the issue, so think carefully before you start hacking (and save the discarded material somewhere!). That said, sometimes when I’m blocked, it’s because something earlier in the story went wrong.
I restarted book two (Quelling) several times because of this. I had what I felt was a solid beginning. Once, I even had about fifteen chapters. But I’d get to the end of that “solid” part and sit there, unsure how to proceed. Since I had the help of book one’s (Sowing) events, I looked at the end of it again to see if I missed something.
And there, I found my issue. I hadn’t quite started Quelling correctly given how Sowing ended, and what I had managed to write, while solid-ish, led to a dead end. So, yet again, I restarted (literally calling it “Fixing Quelling YET AGAIN.” Fifth time’s a charm, right?). While it still needs edited and revised, it’s written.
3. STOP TRYING TO EDIT
This was my vice early on. I never wanted to move on until a part was “perfect.” A few things cured me of this:
a.) having someone else read it and point out all the places it wasn’t even close to perfect (*cringes*),
b.) having something I wrote later in the story require a change to the earlier part that I just spent five hundred hours perfecting (how dare the story take a life of its own!), and finally…
c.) completing a 215k+ story that I slaved over editing and revising and now can’t use a single word directly from (because the plot changed massively, haha! evil little story…evil little characters who were dead for two years and decided they wanted to be alive and change everything… *grumbles*)
All that to say this: STOP trying to perfect it! Stooooopppp ittttt. Just write it, get it down, and go back. I revise a bit as I go, but I don’t agonize over it because I know I’ll tweak it when I edit. The goal is to get the story down where you can see how it all connects (or doesn’t). If you keep “fixing” the beginning, you’ll never reach the end…and you’ll never actually do anything with the story. Make it clean, sure – and move forward
4. TAKE A BREAK ALREADY
I get it. I do. It’s hard to step away from your world(s), your characters. For many, writing is an escape, therapeutic, or a way to relax. We pour our hearts and souls into this art and often get so little in return, feel like we fight for every single word (and then go back and delete them later anyway because they’re so awful and we’re horrible writers and horrible people and what business do we have calling ourselves authors and…)
Yet we can get so caught up in the work that we forget why we fell in love with stories in the first place. We forget the joys of discovering a new world, meeting new characters, losing ourselves in the beauty of words. Everything we write feels dry, life loses its color, and I, for one, get snappy in my regular life. If I’m not writing, I’m not right. (I even have a tattoo that says “write to live.”) So what do you do when the thing that is meant to relax you stresses you out?
Sometimes, you need to step away. Let yourself breathe. Read. Give yourself permission to rest. Find inspiration in someone else’s creation.
And once you’ve done that, come back and try again (with the timer!).
Above all else, know that you’re normal.
And never, ever quit.
Angie Grigaliunas (grig-ah-LOO-nahs) is a fantasy writer and blogger. She’s a country girl at heart, in the sense that she wants to be in nature and away from civilization. She loves Jesus, the woods, and the stars, and has always wanted to be a superhero with a secret identity. Seriously.
She has completed four books: one about elves that needs a massive revision before it ever sees the light of day, one that is part of her current story but also needs a massive revision to fit a new storyline, and the actual first and second books (Sowing and Quelling) in her dystopian fantasy series (The Purification Era). When she’s not writing, she’s usually Facebooking – ack! – or thinking about story stuff. Despite several of her writing friends claiming she’s Canadian, she is not; she lives in Ohio with her dear husband, their goofy dog, and their crazy cats.
For Ariliah, life under the militarized Hulcondans is one of order and safety. Despite the soldiers’ ruthless policies, she trusts their judgment. Beyond the city wall, enemies lurk – a vicious race bent on devouring humanity. And if anything ever happened to the protectors, nothing would keep them out.
For her older sister, Rabreah, every glance from a Hulcondan is a threat. When even a whisper against them is treason and treason is death, Rabreah can’t risk one seeing through her as she sees through them. Joining an underground resistance to end their corruption seems like her only hope – until she meets the group’s enigmatic leader and realizes she doesn’t know the people she’s aligned herself with at all.
But when rebellious posters appear throughout the city and people start dying, their world begins to crumble.
And as the line between friend and enemy blurs, both girls must face the truth: everything is about to change.
Sowing is available on Amazon.
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Check out last week’s post, Writing Tips for Busy Authors by Lisa Prysock.