A Writing Entry – Breaking the Writer’s Block

So here I am again struggling with writer’s block.  I am encouraged by the number of downloads for Nevermore and the Ravens (Paranormal is Relative also hit a nice round number although not nearly so high as Necromancy for the Greater Good, but it also hasn’t been out nearly as long), so I would like to produce more stories and see where this takes me.  Of course, I happen to have a great deal more time on my hands than usual so it is particularly frustrating to me that I can’t seem to concentrate on writing a sequel to Paranormal is Relative.  And of course, that free time will soon come to an end and I’ll have to go back to my day-to-day activities that consume so much of my time normally.  So here I am with lots of time and little to show for it.  Pardon me while I take a moment to bang my forehead against my desk in frustration…

Okay, I’m better now.  More or less.  Lots of writers struggle with writer’s block and I’ve seen lots of advice on how to break the block.  The main point of advice I’ve been given to break through writer’s block is just write anyway and edit later.  Does this work?  Yes and no.  My Muse is so fickle that trying to work around her or against her doesn’t result in the kind of work I want.  Still, when I have so much free time, I feel I should at least try.  And when I don’t have the particular to urge to write one thing right NOW, I have bits and pieces of several stories or blog entries or whatnot bouncing around in my fevered brain, so it’s not as though I don’t have something to try to write about to break the writer’s block.  So here are some of the methods I use to try to just write something anyway, damn it.

1) Writing what I’m supposed to.  I get mixed results with this.  Yes, I do get words down on the page (as it were) but it feels so forced I get no enjoyment out of the process.  Fundamentally I write because I enjoy it, and if I don’t enjoy it, I’m not going to continue (I publish the writing because I want other people to enjoy it too).  I really hope I never run out of ideas and can write until the day I shuffle the mortal coil and go to sing (badly) with the choir invisible.  So, yes, sometimes I do just try to force the story.  How do I do that?  First I review what I have and then I play a round of Plants vs Zombies, and then I go back to work.

a) Unite two disparate pieces.  For example, if I have Point A and Point C, can I fill with Point B?  Or if I have Point D and F, can those be filled with Point E?  While this seems simple, and when I’m inspired it is simple, when I have writer’s block it is not simple.  Sometimes I’m not sure if I’m dealing with Point A and Point C or Point A and Point E.  Not knowing exactly how the story is going to shake out can make it difficult to unite the pieces since there may be more plot points required than it first seems.

b) Write intros/songs to existing pieces.  Sometimes I don’t have disparate pieces I think I can unite.  Either I have the beginning and the end and everything in the middle is just too daunting of a task for me to tackle, or I’ve got the middle and I’m not sure how to write the set-up or the denouement.  Or sometimes I have a beginning and I don’t know where to go with it, or an end and I don’t know how the characters got there.  But sometimes I have enough to try to write one of the interview intros or the song lyrics.  Oddly, even though I don’t have the whole story, sometimes focusing on these bookends helps me figure out how to finish the story.  Heck, sometimes even just figuring out what kind of music the song would be set to helps me figure out the tone of the story.  Although the danger of this is sometimes the story doesn’t really match either the intro or the song and I have to edit.  But all writers have to edit.

c) Write songs to pieces that don’t exist yet.  Sometimes I do have pieces of song lyrics bouncing around and I find even managing to write a refrain can help either give me an idea for a story or help focus the direction of a story I haven’t really started but have been thinking about.

d) Making notesI’ve written before that sometimes I’m not very organized although I know it’s far better to be organized than not.  Believe it or not, I have a timeline of all the Nevermore stories.  If I have ideas for future stories, song titles, or characters, I’ll add them to my notes.  Sometimes this helps.

e) Writing the whatnot.  As I said, sometimes I have bits and pieces bouncing around and occasionally it helps to just write out those fragments.  I keep them in my notes file and when I’m stuck I’ll back and review the fragments.  Sometimes they stay in the notes file but sometimes I realize those fragments do fit into a story I’m struggling with.

2) Writing something else.  This entry is an example of writing something else (obviously).
a) Fifteen-minute movies.  I only write these when I’ve recently seen the movie, and even then I still manage to get the details wrong or some scenes out-of-order.  For as much I rail against movies, I’m actually really picky about what I watch and when I watch it.  I really have to be in the mood to see a movie to invest the time to do so, even when the movie is one that I’ve already seen and know I’ll enjoy or one that I really want to see because I think I’ll enjoy it.  Speaking of which, I really should get around to the “X-men” sequels and The Incredible Hulk.

b) Criticism.  One might think I just love to tear things apart.  In all honesty, I would rather read/see/hear only good art than rip apart bad art.  But unfortunately there is a lot more bad art in the world than good, and great art is indeed a rarity.  I criticize so that I may learn from the mistakes of others.  Not liking something isn’t good enough for me.  I want to figure out why I don’t like something.  I want to make sure that I can separate something I don’t like on matters of personal taste from something I don’t like because the story is constructed badly.  I want reasons.  I want to be able to argue my position even if I’m only doing so with myself.  Being angry at some bad art at least gives me motivation to sit down at the keyboard even if it’s only to vent my spleen.

c) I Heart Something.  When something is good, I acknowledge that.  Reviewing media that I think was done correctly helps me as much as reviewing media I think was done wrong.  I don’t always have to learn from the mistakes of others; I can also learn from the successes of others.  Also, reviewing any media when I have writer’s block makes me forget for a time that I have writer’s block.  It doesn’t really help, but it makes me feel better.  And occasionally I get an idea from something I’m reviewing.  I take inspiration from many sources.

d) The writing process.  When not trying to break through writer’s block by investing time on my keyboard hoping to be struck with inspiration, I write about the writing process in an effort to promote my writing.  Actually, the whole purpose of this blog is to promote my writing.  I figure the more you understand about how I think about the world, the more information you will have on whether or not you’ll enjoy my novels.  If you think you will enjoy them, I hope you will download them.  If you think you will not enjoy them, well, I hope you can refer them to a friend.  Even the criticism helps you know how I think.  If you loved Man of Steel and since it’s clear I really didn’t like it, well, then you know something about how I view heroes and how this will probably manifest in my formal writing (the novels).  If you think “Scooby Doo” is the stupidest show ever conceived of by humankind, then you will probably not care for my Nevermore novels and I will be sad you cannot share my joy.  How I write has bearing on what I write.

3) Update my blog.  Yep, I do this.  When I am so completely frustrated with myself, my Muse, my novels, and the world, I update the blog to make it more accessible.  I’ll add new links where appropriate, new categories where necessary, fix typos I should have caught during the writing of the entry or at least during the original posting, and so forth.  Sometimes the links are to newer/older entries and sometimes to external links to make some of my pop culture references make some damn sense (as I find occasionally I slip into speaking the language of tropes and make the mistake I berate other media for in assuming everyone knows what the hell I’m talking about).  This is surprisingly time-consuming but sometimes at least gives me ideas for new entries.

Conclusion – I got nothing.  You get this because I am stuck on Nevermore novel 3 and really annoyed with myself for not making better use of this free time.  I should at least be able to finish a story, damn it!  Curse you, fickle Muse, curse you!  If I ever come up with a sure-fire cure to writer’s block, I will publish that and make a fortune.  But until then, I need to get to work.


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S. J. Drew is an aspiring writer who finally entered the blogosphere to shamelessly promote that writing (as evidenced by the title of the blog). Whether or not this works remains to be seen, but S. J. hopes you are at least entertained. And if you're actually reading this, that's probably a good sign.

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