Wednesday, January 9, 2013

When I have trouble getting the words out

What some might call a mild form of the infamous writer's block.  I have never suffered from the extreme form.  I do have times when a scene I have in mind isn't working, but I don't call that writer's block.  It is more a case of not having worked out the details or I am expecting something from my character that really isn't what he or she would do, or maybe not how that character would do it.

On Goodreads recently a writer was looking for advice on how to overcome her writer's block.  I made some suggestions but they were based on my practices to improve my effort when I felt I was failing to produce something worthwhile.  It has never been a case of not being able to put words on the page, which does sound awful, something I do not want to face.

So these are the things I do when my writing is not up to snuff.
  • I go read someone I think is a great writer and hope his or her ability will rub off or inspire my own (my writer's muse frequently is named Heinlein.  I can't tell you how many times I have read Door into Summer).
  • I lay my self down on the couch, close my eyes and imagine my character in the scene I am working on.  I put in all the details: lighting, decor, emotion, what happened just before, what is going to happen after.  Soon there will be dialogue of either the character talking to me or to some other character. At some point, I find something I simply must start writing, and I am off the couch.
  • Sometimes, convinced I am just tired, I will go to lie down and that will last all of two minutes.  Counter to my intentions, I suddenly have plenty to write.
  • I tell my self to just write anything, summarize what I wanted to cover, write a scene that is needed, dredge up an old hurt my character has, anything, good or bad.  At some point I am warmed up enough that I have something to write worth writing.  I never expect perfection.  I always tell myself, "Hey, you are going to redraft it anyway."
  • When there are times that I cannot write, but I really want to, I record it on the memo app on my phone. Then when I am actually able to write and can't think of the wording, I listen to the recording which always has some key line that I can leap off of, and then I write. 
  • A writer once told me (YA and children's novelist Joan Oppenheimer) never leave your writing finished. Always leave yourself at a point where you know where the plot is going next or what the next issue is, whatever. Make a quick note to yourself about what is next.  Then when I come back, there is my reminder. I don't have to stare at a blank sheet, something is already waiting for me.
  • I review the scenes I know are coming up and see if one seems ready to be written now.  I'll write it and later fill in the missing space that I was having trouble with.  I have the start and now the end point, so filling in the middle won't be so difficult.

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