13 Ways to Get OUT of Your Writerly Funk

FUNKSometimes we have a retreat, and we want to write ALLLLLLL the words ALLLLL day, but we get there, and… our brains don’t cooperate.

Sometimes we’re trying to finish a project over several months time, and it’s just not…happening.

 

Here are few tips to help you reset and start writing again:

1. Take a break. I know there are a TON of writers who say you have to write every day. You do not have to write every day. And most importantly, you need to not feel guilty about taking breaks. (If you’re at a retreat, don’t be afraid to step away from the computer for a while).

2. Remember that publishing is not personal. Sometimes passes (the nice way to say rejections) can get you down, but you HAVE to keep in mind that it’s the RIGHT project, in front of the RIGHT person, at the RIGHT time. That’s a lot of things that have to fall into place for a YES. Move forward. Prove them wrong.

3. Sometimes we have this precious chunk of time – a couple hours with a babysitter, or away from work, or at a writing retreat, and the words just aren’t coming. Remember there are a TON of non-writing things you can do to move your MS forward. Character sketches, character and setting pictures, storyboards, use a pacing or plotting tool to set up where your story is going next… Just because you’re not putting WORDS into your story, doesn’t mean you’re not putting WORK into your story.

4. Pick ONE thing you know is coming up in your story, and write that – even if it doesn’t come next, which brings me to…

5. Don’t be afraid to write out of order. Now, if you write the ending early on, chances are you’ll have to redo it when you get there, but it gives you SOMETHING to write. Sometimes writing ANYTHING will lubricate that sticky brain.

6. THEATER EXERCISES! Look up breathing, and characterization exercises. Getting into your character’s head can be a brilliant way to unlock those words, which leads me to…

7. Write something unrelated from your MC’s point of view. Maybe an essay on their thoughts after the end of the novel. Maybe an essay or their thoughts on one of the things you’ve put in your story to torture them.

8. Ask yourself, Did I make this big enough? The plot, the plot points, my main character – will be people be rooting for this to work out? Is there something else I can do?

9. Set the mood: Gum, snacks, drinks, music, smells… Maybe go a step further and pick stuff your MC would like.

10. Prep before your writing time. Try to think ahead…

11. Set a timer – YOU HAVE TO WRITE ANYTHING FOR XX MINUTES, and then you can break.

12. MOVE YOUR BODY. I promise that moving your body, lubricates your mind. Yoga, walking, stretching, running, swimming, biking… Bonus if it’s something your MC would like too 😉

13. DON’T PANIC. Finding yourself in a funk happens to everyone 🙂

HAPPY WRITING!!

~ Jolene

17361785_1313033622107898_5983686946276267719_nJolene Perry writes YA fiction for AW Teen and Simon Pulse. She writes about writing on BEEN WRITING? And you can stalk her on her website HERE. She’s also the vice-chair for the LDStorymakers Conference. YOU SHOULD COME…. Join the Tribe…

 

 

The Truth About Writer’s Block

I’ve heard people say that claiming you have writer’s block is akin to a plumber saying he’s got plumber’s block. To me, that comparison is ridiculous.

Plumber's Block - 2
A plumber has the exact same wrenches and other tools he uses every day on the job. He has a clear-cut list of skills he needs and issues he’ll face, and he’ll use the same tools to fix them. Chances are he’d better make use the same fitting he did on a similar job yesterday, or the connection will leak.  Continue reading

The Juxtaposition of a Creative Life

A few days ago, Mette Harrison posted about an interaction she had with a professor as an undergrad. This professor said Shakespeare should have written less, because some of his body of work isn’t as good as the other. This professor said if he would have done less, and had what he did do be better, then Shakespeare would have been a better author.

Maybe you agree. Maybe you disagree. But Mette went on to explain,

“Creativity is about unleashing the possibilities. It’s about everything [that] is allowed in this space. It’s give me whatever you’ve got, good or bad, let’s throw it in here and see if it works. Creativity is writing even when you think it’s probably bad, and letting go of the judgment while you’re in the moment because how you are feeling when you are writing is not necessarily indicative of how good the writing is.”

There are a lot of people who get engaged in the battle of whether someone should or should not do NaNoWriMo. There are some who dispute the process of, what I like to call, vomiting words on the page. There are some to say that it is a discredit to their process. There are others who look forward to November like a three-year-old looks forward to Christmas because the adrenaline and productivity put them on a path for success for the whole year.

But in the end, the purpose behind it all is to create. And if we sit there, waiting for the brilliance to knock on our door, to guide us gently to the land of inspiration, where Diet Coke and popcorn are freely available and everything we write is etched in gold because it’s so good, we are seriously SERIOUSLY misguided – both regarding the process and what it takes to become ANYTHING.

Over the summer, I had my AP students read one of seven books:

The Tipping Point – Malcolm Gladwell
Outliers – Malcolm Gladwell
Blink – Malcolm Gladwell
Thinking, Fast and Slow – Daniel Kahneman
The Power of Habit – Charles Duhigg
Quiet: The Power of Introvert – Susan Cain
The Talent Code – Daniel Coyle

I needed these (mostly) Juniors to understand a little bit about themselves, about processes of success, about life. But as I was reviewing the arguments in each of these, I came to the awareness that they are all good books for grown-ups too. They identify the tendencies successful people have, the situations in life and the progress of the world that allow for success at different times, even the way we, as people, tend to work.

You see, there are many people who think that successful people became successful because they were lucky.

We, of course, never think this.

Right?

One of my critique partners is working through a revision right now. Her first drafts are stunning, evocative and beautifully written. But then, she got to that chapter. We all have them, the one where we wrote what was necessary to get to the next thing, and then we have to come back to it. After acknowledging there were, ahem, complications, she said, “This is a steaming pile of poo. Probably best to shovel it off and start over.”

She has put in the time to recognize that the process of creating is a messy one. Sometimes we catch the mess and can clean it up ourselves, and other times, we end up sending it out to the world like a disheveled mismatched kindergartner. Sure, it’ll probably get through the day okay, but the judgment, both from others and from ourselves will not be escapable. Sometimes, though, that’s what we focus on.

But that’s not the point. Reactions from others, responses from others, praise, critiques, comparisons SHOULD NOT be the motivation to keep creating.

If you haven’t yet listened to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Magic Lessons podcast or started reading Big Magic yet, do yourself a favor and start.

“While the paths and outcomes of creative living will vary wildly from person to person, I can guarantee you this: A creative life is an amplified life. It’s a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life. Living in this manner—continually and stubbornly bringing forth the jewels that are hidden within you – is a fine art, in and of itself.”

Just as mining is a dirty process riddled with trial and error, so too is life, and in particular, a creative life. Don’t shirk away from the mess. Don’t get upset if things don’t pan out the right way the first time.  Or the fifth time. Or the twenty-fifth.

So if you are winning NaNo – CONGRATS! You pushed through a difficult task. Please don’t think it’s done.

If NaNo went the way of the Dodo bird for you *raises hand* – DON’T DESPAIR. Just because someone’s word count is ahead of yours doesn’t mean what you have is not valued.

If you are looking at the writing goals you had for this year, whether it was to finish the draft, get feedback from betas, start the querying process, get an agent, book deal, foreign rights, movie deal, quit the day job, become independently wealthy from your craft, or some other dream…

…and if that dream didn’t happen, shift your focus, instead, to what you and your craft learned in the last year.

Look at the ways that writing got you through the difficult times, at the way you look on life because of your writing.

Look at the friendships you’ve made, the things you’ve learned about story, character, arcs, craft, people, society and life.

Look at where and what your life was before you started this creative endeavor. Because anything worthwhile is worth the work and that includes success, your craft, you.
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Tasha Seegmiller is a mom to three kids and high school English teacher in Southern Utah. She writes contemporary women’s fiction with a dash of magic. Her loves include Diet Coke, owls, chocolate and cinnamon bears. She is the managing editor for the Women’s Fiction Writers Association quarterly newsletter.

The Life of a Self-Published Writer

Happy Friday! If you’ve been following along, some of the contributors to this blog have been posting as part of our special “Life as a Writer” series. Here are the previous posts in the series if you want to check them out:
And today it’s my turn with: The Life of a Self-Published Writer
I’ve been a self-published author since 2012. Since that time, I have been asked these three questions (or variations thereof) approximately 1,403 times: “Are you ever going to query?” or “Why don’t you want an agent?” or “Will you ever consider going traditional?” I know that some people view self-publishing as a stepping stone to publishing via the “traditional” route with an agent. Or let’s be real — some even view it as being inferior to going the agent route. However, self-publishing is a viable option for me and for a lot of writers that I personally know, and I am quite happy with my self-publishing life.

And so my answer to these questions goes something like this:

Self-publishing WORKS for me. 
Self-publishing is FUN for me. 
(And I’ll keep self-publishing it until it doesn’t work or until it stops being fun.)
Maybe some day I’ll post about why I decided to opt for this route in my writing career, but as the point of this post is to focus on “The Life of a Self-Published Writer,” here are some things that you should know about this particular way of life:
1. YOU are the publisher. But that doesn’t mean you need to be alone in this business.
As the publisher, you are responsible for all of the stages of publishing. Among other things, this includes proofing, editing, print/ebook formatting, cover design, submission, and marketing. There’s a steep learning curve, and yes, it can be overwhelming if you are truly doing everything yourself. However, lots of successful self-published authors hire editors and proofers, hire cover designers, and have street teams to help with promotion. And lots of them opt to do some or all of these things by themselves.

For instance, I’ve hired cover designers to do covers for most of my books but have also designed one (and redesigned another) by myself. I hired an ebook formatter for my first book but then I learned how to do formatting by myself and have enjoyed doing it since. I have a wonderful street team called The Demon Horde that helps spread the word about new releases, but I also do my own promotion and marketing on social media. I do some of my own editing and proofing because I used to do freelance copyediting, but as humans are notorious for missing our own typos (see my post about TYPO, the 4-letter word here), I do rely upon the assistance of other editors. 

2. YOU have creative control. Over everything. 
As the publisher, you have control over your own writing timeline and over other aspects of the writing and publishing process. You have control over what your cover is going to look like and other creative elements of publishing. You have control over what types of marketing and promotion you do, and you’re responsible for making important networking connections. You have control over pretty much everything.

Timeline: I’ve heard people say that they don’t want control over everything, but this is the aspect that I may love most about self-publishing. I love having control over my own timelines because writing is not my full-time job. I’m also an associate professor of biology, and I have a family (with two small children) that deserves my love and time. I publish a book about once every 6-10 months, and I’m good with that.


Creative elements: I absolutely love having creative control over my book covers. I love making book teasers and bookmarks and banners. I just barely hired the model who serves as my character inspiration to pose for the cover of my next book *cue flailing* and I get to direct the photo shoot with an awesome photographer *cue more flailing.* In my opinion, it doesn’t get any better than that!

Marketing: Okay, hard reality. This is admittedly my least favorite part about self-publishing. I don’t like bothering my friends, but I do enjoy reaching out to readers, going to author events, and using social media to share news with my fans. There’s a fine line between effective self-promotion and obnoxious spamming, and I highly recommend you read Rachel Thompson’s award-winning blog post on Huffington Post, Authors are A**Holes, to see if what you’re doing falls on the effective side of the spectrum. Bottom line is that authors must build meaningful relationships to be successful. All authors.

3. You shouldn’t feel limited in what you can achieve. 
Self-publishing has boomed in the past several years, and it is an extremely viable option for many authors. Self-published authors go to book events and engage with their fans. Self-published authors hit NYT and USA Today bestseller lists. Self-published authors get optioned out (my YA urban fantasy series was optioned out by Off the Grid Entertainment for potential TV/movie production last year!) But I’m a firm believer that while these achievements should be celebrated, no author (trad or self-pub) should treat the “bestseller lists” as goals. If it happens, it happens. If not, you should still celebrate your achievements.

Writing is challenging. Self-publishing isn’t for everyone, but neither is traditional publishing. It’s challenging no matter what route you take. But in my opinion, the most important thing is to have FUN in taking on that challenge.

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Helen Boswell loved to get lost in the pages of a story from the time she could sound out the words. She credits her dad, an avid fiction reader, with encouraging her to read ALL OF THE BOOKS on his shelves from the time she was a teenager. An author of both urban fantasy and contemporary romance, she loves to read and write characters that come to life with their beauty, flaws, and all. She is the author of YA urban fantasies MYTHOLOGY, THE WICKED, THE ETERNAL (coming 2015) and NA contemporary romance LOSING ENOUGH. She is also one of the authors on the YA/NA crossover anthology LOSING IT (now available for preorder at all ebook retailers).