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Writing Tips for Fiction Writers!



10 Ways to Beat Writer's Block
By Tina Morgan

Writer's Block is the bane of every writer's existence. Even if you've never experienced it, it can make your toes curl and your stomach roll at the mere thought.

The inability to form a cohesive sentence, or even think of something worthy of writing down, the strong belief that everything you write is rubbish, the eye-strain from hours of staring at a blank screen, deleting work that took hours to struggle through - all are symptoms of Writer's Block.

How do you know if you really have writer's block or if you're just in a small slump? Ask yourself the following questions:

1) Have you panicked yet?

2) Did you try to force yourself to writer only to become extremely frustrated over the quality of slush you were creating?

3) Has it been more than five minutes since you wrote your last cohesive sentence?

4) Have you wept for the inability to write even an email?

5) Have you begged your friends to just 'shoot' you?

6) Have you almost talked yourself into the idea that taking a job as a check-out chick will be more rewarding than publishing career?

If you've answered no to any of those questions, you probably don't have writer's block. If you've answered YES! to all six, then you're probably not amused at this moment. You're stuck and you want some help. So let's examine the primary cause of writer's block. Enlighten me, you say? Tell me know so I can address the problem, you beg?

All right then. Let's get serious. The predominant cause of writer's block is self-doubt. That nagging little voice at the back of your mind that says everything you write is no good and this is a useless pastime, or job as the case may be. The cause for this self-doubt may not even be writing related. It may be stress induced: sick relatives, loss of paying job, reprimand at work, broken automobile, unwanted pregnancy (yours, girlfriends, teenage daughter...) you get the picture.

Our lives affect our writing. That's an unalterable fact. Many American writers, and some out of the USA as well, expressed an inability to write after the Sept. 11th bombing of the World Trade Center. Traumatic world events such as this can cause a serious lack of inspiration.

The good news is that Writer's Block is almost always a temporary condition and is easily fixed!

So how do you get the creative flow moving again?

There are a few different approaches. While some suggestions are made with tongue-in-cheek, never underestimate the power of climbing a jungle gym to revive the weary spirit.

10 Ways to Beat Writer's Block

1) Watch a movie - new, old, humorous or sad - Many writers are visually stimulated and inspired.

2) Take a nap - lack of sleep is detrimental to motor skills as well as concentration, halting the flow of creativity as well as making it difficult to type or write.

3) Take Prozac - seriously -
if you've been suffering from the symptoms of depression, talk to your doctor. There may be something he/she can do to help, be it medication or therapy. (of course, always check with your doctor before taking any medication)

4) Jog, take a walk, mow the grass, work out at the gym - physical exercise works wonders to reduce stress levels.

5) Let Calgon take you away - a relaxing shower of bath allows your subconscious time to mull over a character discrepancy or plot snag. (It's also rumored that massaging the scalp can release ideas from a cramped brain... okay, maybe not, but it will help relax you.)

6) Play on the jungle gym, crawl on the floor after your toddler for 20 minutes - not just for the exercise but also for down time from life's problems and to marvel in the joy of exploration.

7) Indulge in the goodie of your choice - hot fudge sundae, a box of Tim Tams (which I've heard are quite delicious but I'll have to visit my senior editor in Australia to try them), my favorite, a cup of Ghirardelli hot chocolate with whipped cream on top - you might want to go back to items 6 or 4 after you're done indulging. Too many goodies are hard on the waistline and wallet.

8) Take a break - do you 'have' to be writing right now? If you're not working on a deadline, walk away from the computer or the pen and paper for a few hours or days. You might need to distance yourself from the story in order to come back at it with a fresh perspective.

9) Work on something completely different. If your novel is Blocked, work on a short story for a while instead. If your article is stilted, write a poem. The change in form will release you from the pressure of the prior exercise and who knows? You might even find you have another format to explore! Stimulate your brain with a new challenge

10) Use a different medium to express yourself - if you typically type on the computer, switch to pen and paper for a while. Sometimes the physical sensation of a pen in your hand can unleash those pent up words and ideas. There are a magnitude of new gels pens on the market, using a shiny ink on a dark paper may set your creative spirit soaring. (Warning... some writers find that pen buying is addictive. I know I need to buy stock in some of the pen manufacturing companies so I can make a little money off my obsession.)

If you usually write your stories longhand, consider working directly onto your computer. If you're like me, I can type faster than I write and I prefer to write on the computer because I can keep up with my train of thought better that way. This works well for free-flow writing but my computer work always needs more editing than my longhand.

You've tried some or even all of these things and it's not helping? Consider the "lighten up and laugh" method. This works very well for my co-author and me. When we get to the point of feeling so uninspired we could care less if we ever finish another story, we turn our project inside out. We make our characters do completely inappropriate things. Say, having a devout Catholic nun dress in lingerie and participate in a raunchy dance contest, or making a macho male character cross dress and participate in a beauty pageant (complete with hairy legs in a bathing suit), or an animal rights activist stalk Toto through the merry old land of Oz with the intent of shooting him.

Warped? Possibly. But by the time we've finished mangling our story and offending half of humanity, we're no longer taking ourselves so seriously that we can't write. And, of course, no one but us ever sees these "side-scenes" but us.
(except maybe Lee!)

Laughter truly is the 'best' medicine. It's hard to wallow in self-doubt when you're giggling so hard you have tears in your eyes and your sides hurt.

On occasion humor fails us. Sometimes it's not the self-doubt but anger that stills our muse and quiets our pen. Pent up anger can be hard to see past (can cause stomach upset) and it's not always socially acceptable to release it in an adequate manner.

For some of us, expressing that anger through a scene or character tirade can be very cathartic. I have the highest respect for human life and I would never intentionally inflict physical or emotional harm to another person.

However.... having that same nun pack an Uzi into a congregation filled with pedophiles, murderers, abusive bosses or spouses, mouthy teenagers, annoying co-workers, cheating spouses, etc, is the safe way to go "postal".
(Just don't tell my boss at my paying job that I used that word. They frown on their employees perpetrating the myth that postal workers are more violent than other people.)

Should you feel guilty for venting your anger in a horrific act of written violence? No. If you're seriously contemplating following through on your ideas, then you need to seek professional help. (I'm not joking about this one.)

Self-doubt, depression, pain, loss, grief, illness, stress - all these negative emotions and experiences will affect our writing just as they affect all other aspects of our lives. Take a deep breath, assess the underlying problem to your writer's block and deal with that first. Once you do, you may find that your writer's block has been resolved.

Best of luck and happy writing.

Copyright Tina Morgan


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