Saturday, 20 May 2017

#amwriting - or would be if I could string a sentence together....


....what to do when the words just won't come.

You've probably been there.  It's first draft season and, the night before, when you were watching a mediocre film on TV, half your mind was planning out the next few scenes of your plot.  You can't wait to get back to it.  Next day, you make your beverage of choice, sit down and ... nothing.  You write a couple of paragraphs, and think, "If I paid money for this, I'd ask for a refund".  Your dialogue is banal, your descriptions wooden, and that scene that seemed so intriguing and relevant last night now comes across as hackneyed/unfeasible.  



A few suggestions about what to do when this happens 
(and what not to do):
  • Push through it.  It might be that the spark re-ignites in the next scene, and it begins to flow, after all.
  • Push through, even if it doesn't.  But won't this section be useless, and need to be scrapped, anyway?  Probably.  Or maybe it can be improved upon in the second draft.  There might be some good ideas hidden in the bad stuff.  The important thing is that you've got it down, and taken the draft to the next stage.
  • Do you have a daily word count target/must-write for your first drafts?  I do.  It's 2K.  I don't allow myself to get up from my chair until I have written those 2K.  On odd days like this, though, I give myself a break.  I say, "Right, it's not a good writing day, so you can get up when you've written 800".  Inevitably, I carry on and write more.
  • Accept it.  Don't give yourself a hard time, and bow out for the day. Use that allotted writing time for something you wouldn't otherwise have done, so you feel it wasn't wasted.  Like the ironing.  Yes, yes, I know that in the grand scheme of things the ironing isn't anywhere near as important as your novel, but most of us don't live in the grand scheme of things.  And tomorrow, when the sentences are falling out of your head faster than you can write them, you won't have to think, 'damn, better stop now, I've got to do the ironing.'
  • Write a blog post.  Write the plan for the short story you've had in your head for a couple of months.  Plan out the next few chapters.  Write the first draft of the blurb.  Any of these things will give you a sense of achievement and put you in a better mood - and they might even give the creativity a kick start.
  • Talk it through with a writer friend, either in person or via emails.  It might not solve the problem, but it's good to talk to someone who will understand. 



And what not to do?
  • Get drunk and morose about it.  You're not Hunter Thompson or Ernest Hemingway.  It'll just make you feel worse, and you won't be able to write tomorrow, either, because you'll have a hangover.
  • Read one of your favourite books.  It'll make you even more depressed, and convinced that you might as well unpublish everything you've ever written.
  • Take it out on your loved ones, acting the prima donna about your 'writer's block'.  Don't glamorise it; it's not some mysterious syndrome that afflicts the creative/artistic.   You just can't think what to write, that's all.
  • Become convinced that you will never be able to write anything decent, ever again.  You will.  It'll come back

But what if it goes on for over a week, or a month?  If you've already written several novels, maybe it's just that you need a break.  Some writers start the next one as soon as the current WIP has been despatched to the proofreader.  Some need a few months to collect their thoughts.  If it's your first try, it could be that writing novels isn't the best move for you at the moment, and you might be better writing short stories, or novellas, or articles, to keep your hand in until the time's right.

If you're having a bad writing day today, I hope the words flow better tomorrow!



13 comments:

  1. This is really useful, TT. I rarely suffer from block, but it does hit me sometimes...more out of apathy than anything else. I like these suggestions and also the ones not to do!

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    1. Ah, well, apathy is something entirely different, pet!!!!!!! (smiley face with wink!!).

      Was planning to read Faring/Shoe next, but then I came across this book on a blog that I absolutely HAD to read (it's 17th C history, I was shaking with excitement even when I was reading about it!), so FTFOAS will be next! Looking forward to it muchly, as a nice relazing 'ahhh' bit of escapism! xx

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  2. This is wonderful advice, Terry! I've been struggling with this exact problem lately and last night decided to read a favourite book. One page in and I abandoned it - totally resonated with your what not to do point! Ended up watching The Hunger Games (again!) and going to bed at 9pm!! Lol, a writers' life! ;)

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    1. Oh yeah, it's hopeless, isn't it? You can only see this big brick wall between you and the people who really ARE talented...!! One thing I also find that helps (partic when going through the confidence thing) is to read one of your books that you're particularly proud of, or that's had the best reviews. I've been feeling a bit shit lately, and the other day I read the first few chapters of The Devil You Know. It was much better than I thought it would be, and it made me realise that the 100,000 word manuscript of garbage I've spent the past 3 months writing will one day be worth reading. I hope!

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  3. Great advice, Terry. (My excuse, at the moment, is my head being on full of the angst of moving to find any sort of creative muse. I can manage non-fiction, as I don't have to make stuff up. But fiction - I've decided to forget it till I'm in a different headspace).

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    1. Yes - it's good to understand your own limitations, isn't it? I'm the same; I can only write when my life is calm and stable.

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  4. Ha! I get this all the time, every book. It's part of being a writer. As you say, you just have to push on. I don't set word targets, but I DO try to write a few sentences every day. And I 'walk the plot' ...which is good for the weight as well. Calling it 'writers' block is giving it far too much importance. After all, you don't hear about 'Surgeon's block' or Teachers' Block' do you?

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    1. I totally agree, CJ! "No, you haven't got 'writer's block', it's not a fanciful artistic THING peculiar only to Wri-TORs... you're just not feeling very imaginative today"!!!

      I find that the least prolific writers are often the ones who ponce about in this way. People who really write, all the time, are too busy writing.

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  5. Great advice! I found the Hunter S. Thompson and Hemingway remarks hilarious.

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    1. Thank you - they started off more extreme but I toned them down so as not to offend... ;)

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    2. oh, offend away, I'd love to read the other version

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