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The Author's Mask

Fake it 'til you make it

The Dreaded Writer’s Block

Most people, whether they’re writers or not, have heard of the phrase, “Writer’s Block.”

For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, the basic gist is writer wants to write but nothing comes out. And if something does manage to leak out, it’s more often than not complete trash. AND, if a writer has the block for long enough, seppuku becomes an attractive option. Personally, I’d go with power drill lobotomy because from what I understand, gut wounds fuckin’ hurt.

I was struck by the dreaded block last week writing the drafts for chapters three and four (hence the missing/late blog post). The first two chapters were the easiest. I slaved over them both for months before I began my “Stephen King Challenge.” To rewrite them for the first draft was a joy.

Then came chapters three (the real bitch) and four. I had a basic idea of what would happen after the intro chapters. The more I read what I wrote for these chapters, the more I hated it. It’s a classic pattern for me when I hit the block.

Stage One: Deer caught in the headlights. (“Okay…what’s next?”)

Stage Two: Anxiety

Stage Three: Boredom

Stage Four: Hatred

Stage Five: Despair (This stage is quite dangerous for my work, as I’ve done things like literally set notebooks on fire, throw things in the trash only to sift through it a few hours later, etc. I’ve also thrown a laptop into a lake. May I advise all writers to keep multiple backups? If you’re a loon like myself, give copies to friends so they can hide them from you.)

The cures for Writer’s Block are quite simple. I don’t understand why everyone wets themselves over finding a solution.

  1. Talk it out: With yourself, with family/friends, whoever supports your writing. This is my go-to cure for the block. Say your issues out loud. Supporters will almost always point out a simple solution to your troubles. Mostly because they haven’t been pulling their hair out over said troubles. They see it fresh, in a way you can’t.
  2. Research: This helps, especially if you’re creating an original world/universe/planet. Do some research about, oh I don’t know, FTL space travel if you’re working on a space opera or maybe different planet types. Look up different cultures, religions, animals, everything. Even if you don’t end up using it, you might find something inspiring along the way.
  3. Play Games/Read Books/Watch TV or Movies of your chosen genre: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve rushed out from a movie to scribble notes on a bench outside of the theater. I’m not talking about flat out taking ideas and plots, but there’s no harm in borrowing an element or feeling. One example for myself was I didn’t think one could pull off a goofy bit in a serious, final boss sort of fight and still keep a serious tone. I saw Guardians of the Galaxy and the infamous dance off at the end. It totally worked and inspired me to add a similar scene for another story I’m working on.
  4. Music: Music is a huge factor in my writing. If I’m stuck on something, all I need to do is find a song that evokes the feelings I’m searching for. Lyrics can inspire as well. 
  5. Jump ahead: Of course your shit is boring. You’ve read it a thousand times. Come back to the problem scene/chapter later, no one is holding a gun to your head saying you have to work chronologically. Skip ahead. 
  6. Work on something else: Write a short story about your characters before the events of the actual story. Write a diary entry or a letter. Writing prompts are lovely for this.
  7. Take a fucking break: Go outside. There’s a whole world out there, you know. Your story will be there when you come back. Talk to strangers. Yes, strangers. Y’all trust Uber, you can safely talk to the stranger at the coffee shop without fear.

Chapters five and six should come easy for me. Here’s hoping. 

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    First Draft

    For the first time in my young life, I decided to (hopefully) follow through on my New Year’s Resolution. Today marks the first day of this attempt.

    Stephen King said in the past that a first draft should be completed in two months, no more, no less.

    Because I never do what I’m told unless I’m being paid and even then, I have my standards, I’ve given myself two and a half months to finish my second “first” draft. This is what happens when one drives themselves to near insanity for over eleven years. I had a “first draft” back in 2012 I believe. The disorder certainly doesn’t help with this shit-tier memory of mine, so bear with me.

    It was utter shit. I can’t believe the few people I had read it never mentioned that oh-so-important factor to me!

    God, adverbs everywhere. Juvenile relationships and standards, what a fuckin’ embarrassment. Thank Christ for last year, when I discovered a series WAY too similar to the story I already had. No fault of my own, as I’d never heard of the series despite its apparent popularity. Cue earth-shattering depression. If not for my muse, who’s been my cheerleader since the day I met her, the story would’ve been over with right then. She encouraged me to continue. So what did I do? WIPE. EVERYTHING.

    Well, almost everything. The general plot remained the same, and some characters merged with others. I gave myself a year to prepare for a re-write and succumbed to the very addictive world of..world building and research. Now, that year is over with and today begins.

    Two chapters a week, no exceptions. Once the week is done, so are those chapters, as editing while I write is the bane of my fucking existence.

    Though King and I don’t write for the same genre, I admire his work ethic and life in general. He has the life, the one all writers dream of: writing as a full-time career. Don’ get me wrong, I love my current job. The joke between myself and my fiance is something along the lines of, “Why can’t I get paid to stay home in my pj’s with the cats and write all day?” And his response is always the same: “Finish your book and maybe you can.”

    So, here goes it.

    Obstacles

    Writers face obstacles every day.

    Usually, it’s some semblance of writer’s block. For others, there’s just not enough time in a day to sit your ass down and write something meaningful. Life gets in the way. Most everyone has to go to work, take care of family, or have inner demons too great to focus on anything else.

    There’s one obstacle in particular that I don’t see discussed often, and I totally get it, but..it should be brought up every so often.

    Listen, I’m not trying to toot my horn here, so bear with me:

    I’ve been working on my fantasy series for eleven years.

    ELEVEN. YEARS.

    Is that not the craziest shit? And every year since I’ve started, I’ve gotten better. About seven years deep, I re-wrote the whole series, keeping only the main characters, setting, and some parts of the previous plot. My friends talk about the series to their friends, and some haven’t even read it yet. They tell their families. My boss tells his clients and colleagues about my series. Even my older brother, who despises reading and seems proud of it, asks about the series and jokes that he hopes it’s made into a TV series so he can watch it. If I’m taking notes in public, it’s inevitable someone will ask what I’m writing about. I tell them. Once, at a concert I attended on my own, a decent sized group of 10-12 complete strangers all listening as I explained what the series is about. A few asked where they could buy a copy.

    Point is, my writing is generally well-received. So why has it taken eleven fucking years to finally finish book one? (Book two is maybe 1/3 of the way done and three is outlined with some written chapters)

    The answer is simple, really: I’m fucking terrified.

    I’m good at writing. What happens if it blows up? What is expected of me? How hard will people come down on me? What if readers loved the first book and the second is hated because it’s not happy enough? What happens to me when the series is finished? What will consume my life next?

    I’m afraid to be great, because not only is there a chance of disappointing those who are rooting for me, but there will be change to some degree. And what happens if I can’t shoulder that?

    Writing this series gives me life. I can’t imagine my life without it. But one day I’ll have to.

    Still, I push myself. And you should, too. Be better. Be damn good at what you do. Leave your mark, whatever it may be.

    Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger

    Goals, Resolutions, & Bullshit

    New Year’s resolutions are still a thing. Why bother? Is a new year needed to change the things that hold you back? That’s why I’m here again by the way, 11 days into the new year, which is already complete and utter shit.

    We have an orange creamsicle manchild for a president. Someone shot up the airport near me this past Friday. The news isn’t real anymore. A fucking meteor just missed Earth. 4chan trolled the world with golden showers. Assholes kidnapped and beat a disabled kid on Facebook Live. Some dude robbed a bank and started passing out the money, also on Facebook Live. All this, 11 days into the new year. I’m sure I’m missing a few things.

    With these things in mind, because I’m quite sure the world is going to implode within four years, I’ve decided to set some imaginary due dates for myself. Stephen King says one should be able to write a draft in 3 months. So as much as I love world-building, brainstorming, and planning, I will start my official draft attempt February 1st, 2017. By the end of this year, I’m hoping to have a presentable manuscript. I’ll also attempt to keep track of my progress here for any who are interested. I’m pretty sure I’m just talking to myself but hey, I don’t mind a public diary of sorts.

    When you feel the world crumbling around you, it tends to be a great motivator.

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