Writing a Different Kind of Romance: The Sibling Relationship

I recently attended a class by Sarah M. Eden because I’ve taken courses from her before and she’s a brilliant teacher. I went in knowing I’d learn something, but I didn’t have super high hopes as she was teaching about the plot structures of romance novels, and while mine have subplots that are romantic, I knew I wasn’t completely the target student for the course.

A New Kind of Romance-.png

Sarah was teaching about how to merge a popular plotting strategy (originally presented by Dan Wells) into a romantic genre. Because of the character driven nature of what Sarah writes, I was curious to see how she’d merge the strategy into romance. She details it brilliantly here (and is sharing everything about the presentation for free!).

The tricky thing is the story I’m working on now isn’t romantic – I’m not even sure yet if there is a romantic plot line. But as I was working through the worksheet (again, free at Sarah’s site), it hit me:

WAS writing a romance.

Each plot point that Sarah described, each conflict she mentioned as essential fit with the story I am outlining — a story between sisters.

Now, this isn’t some weird incestuous book. It is, however, a story about two girls who drifted apart as they were growing up and have something that brings them back together. They do have to decide if they want to work through what life will throw at them alone or together. They do have setbacks and uniting experiences, the markers that make chick flicks so popular, the things that have been markers of some of the best stories the world has known.

If you have had the opportunity to be anything but an only child, chances are decent that you are already familiar with some of these elements, but I’d like to hit on a three key points.

Hook:

Whether you are sharing a story about siblings from one or multiple points of view, it is essential that the reader has the opportunity to really understand who the characters are at the beginning: what were they like as children, how was their nurturing experience similar or different, both at home and in social settings. Do they consider themselves a replica of an older sibling, the person who is supposed to be the example to the younger, etc. As a former high school teacher, I understand the real struggle of trying to not call the second or third child in a family by the oldest child’s name, and how easy it is to assume that because one or two children from the same family were one way, they must all be.

Midpoint:

Where the midpoint for a romantic couple has them deciding whether or not to be in each others lives, working through feelings they may have, not want to have, wish they had differently, etc., sibling relationships are unique in that they can’t separate, not all the way, not really, and not with a total resolution. And if they are a truly developed character, they also can’t go back to things as they had been “when they were kids”. Generally speaking, in a sibling driven story, the midpoint is where each siblings starts to understand how the other experienced things growing up, how the siblings were each changed because of the role the other had in his/her life.

Resolution:

The expected resolution for a romance is happily ever after (word on the street is that if you don’t do that, readers will come for you like Gaston went after Beast). Because of the emotional situations surrounding sibling relationships and the complications they can contain, the goal tends to be satisfactorally ever after. Yes, there are those who would like the siblings to be BFFs who share secrets and ice cream forever and ever, but realistically, that may not be true to the story. But I’d like to think that most of us, having taken a journey with some people with as much connectivity as siblings can have would prefer to see something where both people end up happy, even if that happiness doesn’t evoke the same kind of feeling as wedding bells in a romance.

In the end, I learned several things from attending that one class:

  1. No matter how many plots you’ve examined, or how many classes you’ve taken or books you’ve read, a writer can ALWAYS learn more about plot, character development, etc.
  2. The things that work for one genre can often have very valuable crossover appeal, especially when taught by someone who takes the study of craft seriously.
  3. Sarah confessed to taking YEARS to solidify the ideas about how to make this work. Doing so has resulted in her winning multiple prizes for her writing. Studying and learning pays off.

Do you have a favorite sibling story that could be characterized by a romantic plot line? Have you ever made an unexpected discovery while taking a writing class? 

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tasha short hair picTasha Seegmiller is a mom to three kids and coordinator of the project-based learning center (EDGE) at Southern Utah University. She writes contemporary women’s fiction with a hint of magic, and thrives on Diet Coke, chocolate and cinnamon bears. She is a co-founder and the managing editor for the Thinking Through Our Fingers blog as well as a board member for the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. Tasha is represented by Annelise Robey of the Jane Rotrosen Agency.

The Gamification of Writing

Gamification is one of the biggest buzzwords in business today. As defined by the Financial Times:

Gamification is an emerging business practice that refers to the use of digital game design techniques and video game elements to solve non-game problems, such as business and social impact challenges. It is applicable to a number of business areas including human resources, sustainability, innovation and marketing.

To those who are paying attention, it seems like practically everything is being gamified today. Any process that can be tracked and measured, the results ranked and made public, is certain to get this treatment.

A few months ago, my company’s technical support group got gamified. The manager divided the techs into teams and assigned point values to certain types of tickets. The two-week competition got pretty heated as the guys ended up gaming the gamification—trying to win at all costs. In the meantime, they managed to clear out a backlog of lingering support issues. Gamification FTW.

Not everybody likes having their jobs (or their lives) gamified, though. For a good illustration of this, check out the top definition of the term on UrbanDictionary.com:

A cynical practice by corporate douches where workers are supposedly motivated to work even harder on menial, pointless tasks by rewarding them with lame titles, meaningless rankings, coupons or a variety of other real-life trash loot.

I don’t know about you, but I’m guessing someone couldn’t quite make it to the top of his call center’s leaderboard.

TTOF---gamify---badges

Badges? We need some stinkin’ badges!

Regardless of what the critics say, turning an essentially non-competitive activity into a competition can be highly motivating. When I bought my wearable fitness tracker last year, Garmin immediately started awarding me “badges” just for walking around. I got a “5,000 Total Steps” badge on the first day I wore my tracker. They had gamified the very act of walking! Thus encouraged, I found myself ducking out a couple of times each day for a quick jaunt around the block, just to get the extra steps in. Thanks to Garmin’s behavioral conditioning, it only took me until October to get “2 Million Total Steps.” Woo-hoo!

Back on February 25 of this year, I earned Garmin’s “Quadruple Goal” badge for racking up 53,545 steps in a single day. When I bragged a little about that little achievement on social media (with gamification, bragging is practically compulsory) one of my Facebook “friends” actually accused me of cheating. “What did you do, attach your FitBit to a ceiling fan and let it run all day?”

In reply, I posted screenshots from MapMyRun, another gamification app:

TTOF---gamify---dogtown

The app measured and showed exactly what I’d done: back-to-back half marathons … like a boss. It was all there in the stats: distance, time, pace, calories burned. My friend’s response to this was, “Oh.”

If you’ve ever participated in NaNoWriMo, you’ve had your writing gamified. I’ve done and won NaNo five years in a row now, and I freely admit I’m addicted to racking up the word counts. There’s nothing like a daily bar graph to encourage you to stay above the trend line. If you have a day when you don’t write as much (or at all), you see the disappointing flat bars. If you have a particularly productive day, the bars soar up. Sure, the motivation might be a little artificial, but it can also be very compelling:

TTOF---gamify---nanowrimo

I worked my tail off last year to hit 75,000 words—my best November ever. Were they all good words? Of course not. But you can’t edit something that’s not drafted, and you can’t trim words that haven’t been written.

As great as NaNoWriMo is, I wish the system provided even more in terms of stats and tracking. I love the fact that I can look at a running log on MapMyRun and see how elevation and fatigue affected my pace. I enjoy challenging myself to go faster on the uphill stretches or to finish strong after a long race—and then seeing my results in the workout log afterward. But NaNoWriMo’s “daily stats” only tracks a project’s progressing word count. I want more gamification, dangit!

This month, since I’m participating in Camp NaNoWriMo while also preparing for a marathon, I thought I might start tracking my writing sessions in a little more detail. Just as MapMyRun records the pacing of each mile, I’m using a spreadsheet to log each of my writing sessions, tracking my start and stop times and my beginning and ending word counts. The sheet calculates the total time, the total words, and the combined words per minute and words per hour.

Camp-NaNoWriMo-Session-Log

Since I generally go somewhere else to write, I’m also making note of where I spent each writing session. I want to know, when the month is over, whether certain locations might be more productive for me. As one of my marketing mentors used to say, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.” And yet, all these years I’ve never really done much measuring when it comes to the creative process.

So far, what I’m finding is that I’m much more motivated to crank out words when I know the clock is ticking. In other words, the very fact that I’m tracking time and word counts impacts my behavior. (In physics, this is known as the “observer effect,” a phenomenon that’s also observed in quantum mechanics.) I’m also seeing that my level of preparation—essentially, how much I’ve thought about and planned out the day’s chapter(s)—affects my total production as well as my production rate (words per hour). It’s hard to know how to measure that, though.

I know there are those who might shy away from such an overtly nuts-and-bolts approach to the act of creation. To me, though, drafting prose is not about creating art. It’s about generating the raw materials for something that I hope will be compelling, inspiring and artistic. The first draft is the block of marble. The fifth or seventh or twentieth draft is the finished sculpture.

It might sound a little weird, but I figure if there’s anything I can do to streamline the process of pounding out that first draft, I’m willing to to try it. And that includes a little over-the-top gamification.

TTOF---gamify--featured

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David-Profile-PicDavid Baker is an author, playwright, marketing professional, blogger and freelance editor. He has ghost-written several books and authored dozens of published articles on such topics as business technology, the insurance industry, marketing and data security. He writes both YA and “grown-up” fiction and is actively querying several projects. He also edits the monthly journal of a national trade organization. In his spare time, he runs marathons, volunteers with young people, cooks curries, paints shoes and builds things. He has an A.A. in theater, a B.A. in English and an M.A. in linguistics.

Born in Arizona, raised in Hawaii, currently living in Utah, David is actively involved in theater. His stage play, Inside Al, won the Henry Fonda Young Playwright Award and premiered at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC. The play was subsequently published by Samuel French and has been in near-continuous production for more than two decades, with hundreds of performances across the US and Canada. You can find his personal blog at blog.bakerdavid.com.

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

Books to Help Writers Get Better

I have a weakness.

I mean, besides books. That’s obvious.

My other weakness is craft books. I love them. I love learning how people think about story, seeing how I can think differently or better about my writing, to be inspired by how others engage in the creative process. If you know me in real life, it won’t surprise you to know that analysis makes me super happy.

Which is why I have a shelf that looks like this:

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And amid the great novels loaded on my kindle are the following:

  • Creativity Inc.
  • A Writer’s Guide Story Structure and Beyond
  • The War of Art
  • John Gardner’s Collection on Writing
  • The Art of Work
  • The Anatomy of Story
  • The Right to Write
  • All of the Emotional Thesaurus books
  • Crafting Unforgettable Characters
  • Getting Published in the 21st Century
  • Self-Editing for Fiction Writers
  • Million Dollar Outlines
  • Save the Cat

But still, I found myself wondering what books people went to when they wanted to study their craft more. Below are some of the dozens of suggestions I received (several I’ve never heard of!):

anzac-day

New Craft Books:

  • Author In Progress: A No-Holds-Barred Guide to What It Really Takes to Get Published Paperback by Therese Walsh
  • The Emotional Craft of Fiction: How to Write the Story Beneath the Surface by Donald Maass
  • Story Genius by Lisa Cron

Books to Improve Overall Writing:

  • The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers by John Gardner
  • How to Grow a Novel: The Most Common Mistakes Writers Make and How to Overcome Them by Sol Stein
  • Writing 21st Century Fiction by Donald Maass
  • Scene & Structure (Elements of Fiction Writing) by Jack M. Bickham
  • Not to Write a Novel: 200 Classic Mistakes and How to Avoid Them–A Misstep-by-Misstep Guide by Howard Mittelmark
  • Writing Tools: 55 Essential Strategies for Every Writer by Roy Peter Clark
  • Words, Best Order: Essays on Poetry

Books to Nurture the Writer:

  • Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
  • Fierce on the Page by Sage Cohen
  • A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: How I Learned to Live a Better Story by Donald Miller
  • The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

Books to Help with Editing:

  • The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Expression by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi
  • Stein On Writing: A Master Editor of Some of the Most Successful Writers of Our Century Shares His Craft Techniques by Sol Stein
  • 77 Reasons Why Your Book Was Rejected Paperback by Mike Nappa

Even MORE Great Writing Books:

These are new to me, so if you know more about them, please share! 

  • The Crosswicks Journals by Madeleine L’Engle
  • Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art Paperback by Madeleine L’Engle
  • The Forest for the Trees (Revised and Updated): An Editor’s Advice to Writers by Betsy Lerner
  • This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett
  • If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland
  • Reflections: On the Magic of Writing by Diana Wynne Jones

Lifetime Achievement Awards:

Face it: these books are so good, we still need to talk about them.

  • Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
  • On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
  • Elements of Style by by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White

Did I miss any? Do you have some favorites? 

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profileTasha Seegmiller is a mom to three kids and coordinator of the project-based learning center (EDGE) at Southern Utah University. She writes contemporary women’s fiction with a hint of magic, and thrives on Diet Coke, chocolate and cinnamon bears. She is a co-founder and the managing editor for the Thinking Through Our Fingers blog as well as the Women’s Fiction Writers Association quarterly magazine, where she also serves as a board member. Tasha is represented by Annelise Robey of the Jane Rotrosen Agency.

Invest In Yourself

Last week I was fighting myself every single day to sit down and write. I was showing up in writing Facebook groups begging for a sprint like a junkie, like it was the only thing that could get me to produce.

“What is going on?” I thought. Granted, I can be pretty undisciplined. But I’m not normally that bad. And I was practically at the end of my—

Oh. That was it. This is my thing, my pattern at the end of any manuscript, and I’ve finished eleven now so I really should have caught on faster. Somehow the last 10,000 words are the hardest to write, and I can’t tell you why. I know what’s going to happen in the plot, I know how to get there, and that’s normally all I need to work really fast. But at the end of a manuscript, it just . . .

I don’t know. It’s like I have this sense of impending doom that I’m never going to pull all the threads together in the end, so maybe I just won’t write the end.

Anyway, once I identified the problem, I already knew the answer. No more sprints. The last 5-10K words always means a marathon for me, 11/11 times so far. And a marathon only happens two ways: isolation at a writing retreat (which is how I prefer to start my manuscripts) or isolation from my children (whom I love but who are not conducive to writing).

Both of these things require money. You should definitely pay that money. That may sound easy for a published, earning author to say, but the thing is, I thought about it this way before I ever earned a dime. This is where you have to take off your artist’s smock and put on your business suit.

invest-inyourself

It breaks down like this: all businesses require investment. If they’re just starting out, they must make a capital investment in product, payroll, facilities, etc before they ever turn a profit. And businesses who earn profits reinvest in themselves by making capital improvements. They designate a specific part of their profit to go right back into their business so they can grow.

I’ve chosen to make my financial investment in my writing business in two ways: job-training and capital improvements. I told myself before I ever earned a dime that I’d reinvest 10% of anything I made back into my writing. For me, job-training means spending money on 1-2 writing conferences each year, and capital improvement means paying for one writing retreat each year, and a babysitter at the end of each manuscript.

So that’s what I did. I hired a babysitter, locked myself in my room, and worked until I cranked out the remaining 5000 words I’d been chipping at for a week in a single day. But it’s done. And investing in myself made it possible. I believe in me, so I put my money where my mouth is and as always, the bet paid off. I’m an excellent employee that way even when my boss pushes me extra hard.
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Melanie Bennett Jacobson is an avid reader, amateur cook, and champion shopper. She consumes astonishing amounts of chocolate, chick flicks, and romance novels. She lives in Southern California with her husband and three kids and a series of doomed houseplants. Melanie is a former English teacher who loves to laugh and make others laugh. In her down time (ha!), she writes romantic comedies for Covenant and maintains her humorous slice-of-life blog. Her sixth novel, Always Will, hits shelves in October. Melanie’s contemporary YA novels are represented by Alyssa Henkin.

Drafting

Welcome to the third installment in a a series of posts on workflow. In the first post, I shared my general approach to writing and wrote broadly about the tools I use. In the second post I focused on the Capture Stage, or how to get ideas into a computer. In this post, I will focus on drafting and how I use Ulysses to do it.

Definitions

Since this post is coming right at the close of NaNoWriMo, it seems right to talk about how drafting is all about velocity. Thinking Through Our Fingers Bloggers have mapped this territory very well.

Even though I’ve been teaching for 20 years and writing for longer, I’m not 100% sure I know what drafting is. I spend the bulk of my time revising, not drafting. Which has given me a strange sense of what the process actually is. The simplest definition I can muster is this: drafting is what it takes to get something to the point where it can be revised.

drafting-todd

Defining the Path

In order to get to this point, I need to start, and I need to produce something. I have found it difficult to dive right into line-by-line writing, so instead I create a short, map/outline/treatment I call a pathway. Every section, chapter, or scene starts this way, and I try to write the pathway in a single sitting, so I won’t lose the flow.

A pathway is made out of simple sentences about cause and effect, moments or images I think will be important. I also block out the dialogue: who will say what, how it will be paced, sometimes I’ll put down key lines. Sometimes I’ll ask myself direct questions or give myself reminders. Mostly the pathway isn’t about specifics, it’s the broadest possible approach.

The point of the pathway is to have something “tangible” at the end of the session. From that point on, I use the pathway to guide each subsequent night of writing (I write almost exclusively after bedtimes now, like a vampire).

Here’s an example of a pathway I did for a section of the project I’m currently revising. I’m including a screen capture, so you can see what it looks like in Ulysses, my main writing application. I’ve also blurred out a spoiler. You can see how loose and chaotic my drafting is. I’m often alarmed at how messy I am at this stage.

pathway

I Draft Recursively

After the pathway, I dive in and write one longer draft based on the pathway. I’d be lying if I said I fleshed out that outline. I almost always diverge from the pathway. In many cases the “draft” and the pathway don’t even look like they came from the same person. This long, shaggy rough draft happens 300 words at a time.

Once I make my quota, I quit for the day then come back to the original 300 words and re-reread them to get my bearings. I will inevitably fuss a little, but I don’t let myself edit. Nothing kills my momentum faster than trying to serve two masters at this point. Reviewing what’s already drafted gets me back in the swing of things and propels me forward.

  • Draft 300 words.
  • Read 300 words. Draft another 300 words.
  • Read 600 words. Draft another 300 words.
  • Read 900 words. Draft another 300 words.
  • Et cetera until the chapter, story, or scene is done.

This pattern works for things that are a couple thousand words long. If I have to go beyond that, I only re-read 600 words or so. The idea is momentum. Always momentum.

Making Divisions

The magic in the drafting process comes around when I chunk it up into scenes (and this is where Ulysses becomes crucial). Back in the day, this was a paper, scissors, and tape process for me. I was always shuffling narrow strips of paper around, like Eudora Welty who used to fasten her story scraps together with straight pins.

“I used to use ordinary paste and put the story together in one long strip, that could be seen as a whole and at a glance — helpful and realistic.” Eudora Welty in a letter to William Maxwell (1953)

I used this paper process until around 2005, when I just couldn’t keep going back and forth from a paper workflow and a digital. It felt like trying to pull a wagon by hitching together an ostrich on one side and dolphin on the other.

The big change came when I was able to digitally chop up a document into “sheets” and then digitally rearrange them. It also made my chaotic drafting practice blend more placidly into my much more muted revision process, which really does depend on the document model. (More on that next post).

I am a big fan of note cards, and applications that use the sheet model have given me the ability to “manipulate” digital documents in a way that feels right to me. My move to Ulysses feels like I’ve been able to eliminate at least two steps from my previous way of doing things.

This tutorial from Emily Lowrey covers the basics, and she’s delightful to listen to.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FDWb4KeOM0Q

Talking to People is Fine

While I’m drafting I talk a lot, mostly to my wife, who has, over time, adjusted to this practice. It’s probably better to say that she accepts it was one of the consequences of living with a writer. I don’t problem-solve very well on my own as I do when I interact with someone. During these talking sessions a lot of “what ifs” and “maybe the character shoulds” fly around. My wife is skilled at furrowing her eyebrows at just the right angle when I’m taking a direction she doesn’t like.

I should add, she’s pretty much always right.

I’ve heard all the advice about not talking when you should be writing, and I don’t subscribe to that point of view. As it says in Ecclesiastes, “to everything there is a season.” There is a time to speak and a time to shut up and write. I’m getting better at knowing which is which. I know I could be in the minority on this point. The talking part of drafting is really important.

The difference between drafting and revising.

In the end, the trick of drafting is keeping myself from meddling in my own business. It’s a bad idea to try to serve two masters: to try to write and edit at the same time. I worked with a student once who could not proceed from one sentence to the next if she felt the first sentence wasn’t perfect.

The perfect is the enemy of the good. It’s been said in many different ways by Confucius and Voltaire, but it’s some of the best advice out there. Nora Roberts, however, may have said it best, “You can’t edit a blank page.”

In my next post, I’ll go through my revision process, and the tools I use to get that work done.
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Todd Robert Petersen is the author of LONG AFTER DARK  and RIFT. Originally a YMCA camp counselor from Portland, Oregon, Todd now directs Southern Utah University’s project-based learning program. You can find him online at toddpetersen.org and @toddpetersen for tweets and Instagrams.

How to Write When You Just Don’t Wanna

Can we all just agree that the last two weeks have been the worst? I mean it. No matter what side of the political debate you fall on, the aftermath of this election has taken a toll on all of us.

I’m not here to get political, but I do want to address this toll and the effect it has had on our writing. Many—MANY—of my friends and colleagues have expressed how hard it has been for them to write lately. Many haven’t been able to write at all. I’ve seen several posts over social media bemoaning the looming end of NaNoWriMo and how behind everyone is because the election stress threw such a wrench in their ability to focus.

I’m one of them. At 22,000 words, I’m over 10k behind where I should be right now. I have massive amounts of writing to do if I’m going to hit 50k by the end of the month. I could just give up. I mean, it’s just an arbitrary contest. It’s not like my career is hinging on whether I can write 50k in 30 days. And everything else going on in the world right now feels much more important to me than finishing my draft.

Besides, I’ve failed NaNo before. Several times before. It’s not a big deal. But here’s the thing: at the beginning of this month, I made a promise to myself that I was going to REALLY DO THIS this time. I was going to finish this novel this month, come Hell or high water. Well . . . some might argue that Hell and high water are here, and now I’m struggling to keep my promise. I do still want to reach my goal, but when it comes to actually sitting down to write? I . . . don’t wanna.

I. Just. Don’t. Wanna. I mean, I do, logically. But I don’t have the mental energy for it. I’d rather take a nap, thank you very much, and hopefully not wake up until the year 2020 has come around.

Despite this, however, I’ve been managing to push myself through this writing slump, and so I thought I’d share some tips for how to get words down, even when you just don’t wanna.

donwannawrite

1) Allow yourself a few day’s break

This seems counter-intuitive. “Wait, so in order to get yourself to write, you . . . didn’t write?” Yup, I didn’t write. I gave my brain and emotions some time to try and work themselves out, with the promise that after a certain amount of time, even if I still didn’t feel like I was in a place where I could write, I would try to write anyway. That day came, and I turned off all social media, and told myself I couldn’t get back on until I’d written 4k. And amazingly, I wrote 4k. I’m still not sure how, but I did. And you probably can too if you really set your mind to it. But first allow yourself that break.

2) Break it down into small chunks of time

Not words. Time. You’ll probably surprise yourself by how much you’ll get written in that small amount of time. One thing I’ve done on days when I’m especially having trouble focusing, is I’ve set my alarm to go off once every hour. When it goes off, I drop whatever I’m doing (or not doing, as the case has been lately) and write for five minutes. If I hit flow, I’ll keep going. Sometimes that’s all it takes. It’s like a little shove on the back of the sled to get you to the start of the slope. Once you’re there, your sled will tip, and gravity will carry you the rest of the way down.

3) Multitask

I’ve become quite the fan of writing via dictation, and the bulk of my NaNo draft has actually been written via this method while I’m doing other boring tasks, such as folding laundry, picking up clutter, and waiting in the carpool lane to pick up the kids from school. Somehow, for me, I’ve been finding it easier to break through the I-don’t-wannas this way. It’s not for everyone, but if you haven’t tried it yet, I recommend you do.

4) Find a second creative outlet

Set aside some time every day to work on something else creative and/or relaxing that has nothing to do with your draft. Adult coloring books are great for this. Also crafts, such as knitting, crochet, or other needlework—basically anything that relaxes you but also stimulates the creative side of your brain. Sometimes when I do this, I’ll find my mind wandering off to work on my story without me, solving plot problems, coming up with new characters, all while in a nice, relaxed, state of mind rather than while stressing out over a blank page.

5) Don’t panic

If none of this works for you, and you just can’t do it, don’t beat yourself up about it. Stress is a nasty beast that sometimes takes longer to defeat than we would like. Allow yourself the extra time you need. Take care of yourself. Eat healthy, go to bed at a decent hour, and take lots of bubble baths. Your ability to write has not left you forever. It will come back when it’s ready.

I do hope these strategies help you as much as they’ve been helping me. I will point out that they don’t work one-hundred percent of the time. Some days I just have to throw in the towel and admit that writing isn’t going to happen. But even if it works only a third of the time, that’s better than not at all. Also, if you have any tips of your own, please do share them in the comments. I’d love to give them a try.

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When she’s not writing, revising, or banging her head on the keyboard (it’s all the same, right?), Megan Paasch can be found playing her ukulele (badly), knitting (rarely anymore, unfortunately), or herding two amazing, but rowdy little boys (pretty much constantly) with her husband. A native to the Pacific Northwest, Megan earned her B.A. in History from the University of Washington. (Go Huskies!) Her favorite history subjects were, and still are, Women in History, the Tudors, and the Celts. You can read more about her here.