Monday, February 13, 2017

5 Tips for Fighting Writer's Block

 It happens to all of us who are writers.  Sooner or later we hit the wall with our writing and we suffer through that old , well-known, feared syndrome called “writer’s block.”  We fear it, we try to hide from it, we fight it, but more often we give in to it.
So what do you do when it hits you?  Do you fight it? Do you give in to it? Lots of people say they know when it hits them and they try to shrug it off and get back to their writing.  For others those blank, empty days of staring at the computer screen or playing games or just ignoring the latest work can start to pile up until they fear they will never write again.
When writer’s block visits me, I try not to give in, but with each passing day I don’t write I find the fear that I’ll never write again. That in itself can drive me back to the keyboard to prove that I can still tell a story, whether it’s a fiction work, or just a blog on not being able to write.
Here are some ideas for coping with writer’s block:
  1. Write something – anything – this is something I usually try first. If I find myself unable to face my characters and my latest stories, then I do work on a blog or try writing a lecture for one of my writing classes.  Sometimes by doing that I find new inspiration for the fiction story I am working on. Often when teaching a writing class I find that reading over what some of those other students are doing makes me want to work on my own writing. 

  2. Look over old stories – this is always a good way to get something finished. By reading an old story that I started several months ago, I find myself with new ideas that I hadn’t thought of before – maybe even something that had given me writer’s block and stopped me back when I was working on this story. If there is something that was stopping me in my current story, I can just set it aside and work on those old things and maybe get something done. Usually finishing a work will propel into the next book or story.
  3. Get away from your desk – a change of scenery can be like a breath of fresh air so try writing in some other location. Sometimes just sitting at your desk every day can seem like drudge work. I am a big fan of going to a restaurant or coffee shop with a note book and writing long hand for a while. Then when I go back to my computer and transcribe the pages it spurs me on. Of course I have also been known to take my computer to a library or coffee shop to write. Sometimes the change in scenery and just getting away from the house can spur creativity. 

  4. Try a plotting brainstorming session – I love to do this with friends or a writing group. We will sit and toss story ideas around and I either jot them down or put them into the notes feature of my iphone. That way I have the ideas to refer back to later. I use this especially if I run into a knotty plotting problem that needs extra help. People love to play with story ideas when they don’t have anything invested other than offering their opinion.

  5. Have a dialogue with characters – sometimes I realize that my characters are either not fully formed or I don’t know them as well as I thought I did so they are refusing to take those next plot steps. That can lead to a dead stop to the plot. I just can get that next scene written. Often a little conversation with those characters can pull out a new idea or make  me realize just what is ailing that character. Then after a while I find myself getting back on track.
    Sometimes it just takes getting away from things for a while. I will put something down and let it sit. Sooner or later those characters will start yelling and I’ll have to come back and finish their stories.  I’m never sure what stops me from writing, but I know any or all of these things can pull me back. Sooner or later that will lead to THE END getting written!

Monday, February 6, 2017

5 Tips to Creating Characters

Let's focus on Characters!  I absolutely love to create new characters. Creating them from scratch can seem like a daunting prospect, but you don't need to do all the work. Look around! Use what you know and who you know. This is your chance as a writer to make that boyfriend with the small irritations into a perfect man ready for love. Or you can make that awful boss over into the total idiot you think she is and next she is the one who gets killed or fired. All you have to do is exaggerate some of those terrible faults or correct the bad ones. 

Okay, that sounds like such a delightful exercise, but there are other things to consider as you go about making up new characters.  You want them to be lifelike, but what could be easier than looking around you.  Here are five tips for creating characters.

1. Use what or who you know. This is where that boyfriend or boss comes in.  Look at the people around you and by taking their worst or best attributes you can begin to frame a real person. I've never used my mother as a person in a book, but I have used some of her phrases in more than one and I often look to her personality as a basis for characters. I have often thought of her determination and gumption when it comes to creating a strong woman. She was all of 4'11, but when she got something into her mind to make happen, she was going to get it done.

2. Look beyond the obvious.  Don't think that because you show a character one way they can't learn or develop in another.  Again I return to my mother. She was quick to tears so people often underestimated her because of her size and her emotions. They thought she was frail and weak. But like I said, when she made up her mind, she could become an 8 foot wave of power. I use those traits in some of the women in my books.

3. Search for characters wherever you go.  I always try to be aware of my surroundings wherever I am and whatever I am doing, studying everything from people in the crowds to the temperature in summer and winter to the smell of different locations.  Engaging the senses helps me not only bring setting and feeling into a story, but it also helps me as I develop characters. Meeting someone new, I might be aware of their soft voice or their firm handshake. What are they wearing? What about a strange little habit that they might not be aware of, like tapping a finger or whistling under their breath.  Those can all be taken and given to characters somewhere and sometime.

4. Make up characters from people you know.  I am always thinking of new ways to use the people I know in a book, again taking some of those small traits and making them larger than life or taking a trait (like stubbornness) and giving it to a character. In a book I can change that stubborn person to realize how wrong their behavior is. (something I might not be able to teach a person I know)

5. Use your childhood heroes.  As a child in a small town I didn't get to meet people who were larger than life. I often had to make up my own heroes and heroines.  Didn't we all play make believe as children and make up people around us? We can still use some of those made up villains and heroes today as writers. Recently while I was working on a book, I remembered one of the first heroines I ever created as an imaginary friend. I welcomed her back into my life in a book.  I won't say when and where she's appearing, but she's there.

The final tip I would give is to always keep looking.  Every time you meet a new person you might be meeting the next hero or heroine in a story. And if you don't like them, you can always make them always turn them into a villain!  

Need some help with building the characters for your next book?  I'll be teaching a class starting next week at Savvy Authors: or you can also look for my new book on characters available at Amazon.


Getting off to a Fresh Start

At the beginning of every new year don’t we always look at different ways to start off fresh? We want to make our resolutions or set goals ...