Tag Archives: writer’s block

Thoughts on Writing – Breaking the Writer’s Block

A couple days ago I was looking through my Stephanie Flint Goodreads author dashboard (I also have an account under my maiden name, where I post my reviews), and I decided to answer another one of the author questions (you can see my answers here). One of the questions was on writer’s block, and that got me thinking about the concept. I wanted to elaborate on my original answer to “How do you deal with writer’s block?” and this post is the result.

(Parts of this post are taken from from my original answer on my Goodreads page. The rest is new).

I have a ton of story ideas I like to work on, so I rarely feel like I have true writer’s block. It’s more like having a zig-zagging line of a ping pong ball that doesn’t get anywhere fast because it’s trying to go too many places at once. That being said, there are times when I’m not really in the mood to write, or I don’t know how to approach a scene.

If I’m not in the mood to write, I’ll often switch to a different writing project (since I write in slightly varying genres, the projects themselves have different moods). An example of this is when I want something more lighthearted, I might work more on The Wishing Blade series (Middle-Grade/YA Fantasy). Ultimately, I expect that series to have a happy end (though I could surprise myself). If I want to work on something darker, I’ll switch to The Multiverse Chronicles (Adult Steampunk Fantasy war). Both feature war and fighting. but the approach, depending on the scene, is different.

Another example of this is the difference between Distant Horizon and Glitch. Both take place in the same universe, but the themes are different. Distant Horizon is a dystopia at heart, but it’s science-fiction and action, with a few horror elements thrown into the mix. The horror elements add to the tone, but they don’t dominate. In Glitch, the story takes on a more science-fantasy tone, with very heavy horror elements. There’s a sense of dread throughout the book, with a tragic ending rather than a feeling of determination.

If I’m having trouble working on a story in particular, maybe my heart just isn’t into tormenting the main character. I’ll switch projects for a little while. Of course, if I want to drive a character insane, it’s just as easy to switch projects to that story arc and work on the scene I really want to write.

Alternatively, if you prefer to write linearly, but you’re stumped, you might try writing a detailed summary of the scene, or even just a few sentences describing what should happen so that you can keep moving forward and not get stuck. After all, you now have the idea written, even if it’s not fully fleshed out. I did this quite a bit for Little One.

Other times I’ll work on editing and revision instead of writing something completely new. The process of cleaning up the manuscript is usually different than putting a whole new sequence on paper (er… the computer). For me, having multiple projects lets me keep moving along even when one stalls (such as if you have to send it out to beta-readers or an editor or need to set it aside for a month so you can come back to it fresh).

In the event that I don’t know how to approach a particular scene, a lot of times I’ll find music that fits the mood, and listen to that while daydreaming the scene from multiple angles. I’ve got eclectic music tastes. I might go from listening to Epica and Xandria to Gordon Lightfoot and Dan Fogelberg in the same day, all while working on different scenes.

Finding music that matches the mood can be really helpful.

Another music option to consider is that if you’ve listened to a particular song or set of songs while plotting, listening to that music again can help rekindle the desire to work on the story. (Youtube playlists are nice for this, at least until the a video in the playlist is removed or made private, and can’t remember what songs you had listed).

When I started back on working with Magic’s Stealing, I was listening to Gordon Lightfoot’s “The House You Live In,” “Race Among the Ruins,” and “Shadows.” Also found a rendition of “Rainbow Connection” that I liked. Those were some of the original songs I plotted to. Since then, I’ve added other songs to those, but those were my starting point for re-imagining the series.

A different example is for Distant Horizon. “Subdivisions” by Rush and “Brave New World” by Styx immediately come to mind, and listening to those songs will quickly have me daydreaming for the book. Alternatively, “Pushing the Speed of Light” by Julia Ecklar and Anne Prather, and “The Phoenix” by Julia Ecklar will have me wanting to work on Glitch.

Funny thing, though, is that just because you might have a certain mood associated with a song, not everyone is going to picture the same thing. Take a look at fan music videos. Some you’ll think work really well to fit the story. Others… well, you might feel they’re grasping at straws. But the key for your plotting purposes is to find music that helps you. Unless you’re trying to come up with a playlist that absolutely matches the story for readers to enjoy, at which point that might be a bit different.

Finally, I’ve noticed a tendency in the weather and time of year having an effect on the stories I want to write. Come November, I’ll want to work on Magic’s Stealing. Right now, as it’s the beginning of summer, I want to work on Distant Horizon. At the same time, the start of the school year season will have the same result. A lot has to  do with when I started plotting a story, and the setting of the story itself.

But that’s just me. Do you ever have to deal with not wanting to write, and if so, how do you work around it?

I hope you found this post helpful. 🙂

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Thoughts on Writing – Writer’s Block

Writer’s block… that pesky concept that makes writing difficult and that everyone loves talking about. How to break writer’s block, how to deny writer’s block…

When it comes to writer’s block, I find that trying to write something, anything, is better than writing nothing at all, because it pushes me to another point in the story. But how to work through ‘writer’s block’ is different for everyone. For plotters, this is where having that outline is handy. You write what’s next on the outline, even if you’re cringing as you write. It might not be as terrible as you think once you go back and take a second look. For pantsers, this is where deviating from what you thought you had planned and saying ‘Forget what’s supposed to happen next. I’m going to write whatever comes to mind.’ comes in handy. It might end up leading you to the break-through you need.

One of the things mentioned at ConQuest was that you can’t always force a novel to do what you want. Having trouble writing a scene can be a sign that what you’re trying to write doesn’t fit the novel you’re writing. On the other hand, one of the most important things I took from my creative writing minor in college was that the difficult scenes we tend to avoid writing can also be the best ones to read. With a little polish (or a lot), these scenes can be fantastic. Or… you might read back through the scene and wonder what you were thinking. This has happened to me, especially in my Distant Horizon manuscript. *Cough.* So you learn from trial and error which scenes are causing difficulty because they’re taking you out of your comfort zone, and which scenes are causing difficulty because they simply don’t fit.

For example, I’ve run into a set of scenes in my current manuscript, The Wishing Blade, which are completely new to the story line. These scenes aren’t in my original manuscript, but with the edits I’ve written, they are necessary to keep the story moving forward. Ultimate goal: The good guys want to stop the bad guys from gaining enough power to attack the gods and successfully plunge the country into shadow. Literal shadow… the bad guys’ magic consumes the mortal realm and thrusts it into a dreary half-dimension where the bad guy have complete control over everyone in it. There are two main characters, Toranih and Daernan, and a goddess has granted them some of her magic in an effort to fight the bad guys. Thing is, Toranih absolutely hates magic and would rather be a swordsman. But she gets caught by the bad guys, turned into a shadow, and she has to deal with resisting the bad guy’s magical commands. Daernan isn’t particularly gifted with weapons, but he’s got a decent skill when it comes to wielding magic, and he’s working with a group of people in an attempt to help refugees escape from a city under siege by the bad guys, all while trying to figure out how to get Toranih out from the shadow realm.

Problem is, in the original version of this story, Daernan thinks Toranih is dead, and there is no one else to help him with magic, so he ran along to the king to warn the country about the attacks and put up a defense at the castle. Now he has different motivations, which I’m trying to sort out before I write the next few scenes. I need to know how much he’s going to do to help save the innocent townspeople, which will help for a time, and at what point will he abandon them to go retrieve a weapon that will defend against the shadows in the long run. As for Toranih, she’s trying to slow the spread of the shadows, but I’ve been having a terrible time trying to get through the scene where she acts against their leader. (Because she’s overconfident and actually thinks she might be able to assassinate him. Yeah– that’s going to work so well).

But every time I sat down to write the scene, I wasn’t sure where to go next. My plotting sort of… stopped.

Then my husband, Isaac, gave me the solution that I needed all along. Toranih doesn’t like magic, but she likes swordplay– which is something the bad guy is good at. In the original version of the story, she’s caught in the shadow realm and forms an uneasy friendship with the bad guy, learning from him as she tries to foil him. In this version I have her trying to assassinate him, but I wanted to have her fail miserably. Unfortunately, I wasn’t sure where to go once her attempt failed and he got her back in line. But when Isaac suggested that she attempts to attack the bad guy, who then casually tosses her one of his swords and more or less starts training with her (much to her confusion), this opened up a whole new possibility. Because now she’s not the moping and following the bad guy around because she’s being magically commanded to. Now she’s having to deal with inner conflict. She can learn quite a bit from the bad guy if she sticks around, and it puts her in a position to be close enough that she might be able to strike him later. However, she still doesn’t like being a shadow, and as long as she’s nearby, he might order her to do something she doesn’t want to do.

Which keeps the story rolling and keeps me interested in writing what happens next.

The whole point of this example is that when you’re stumped, you may want to explore new options, or step back and consider character motivations. Or maybe step in and examine character motivations. For my story, there’s a lot of other stuff happening off-screen that affects the main characters. But if I put too much attention there, the task of writing becomes overwhelming and I forget to focus on the characters who are actually important. So try approaching the scene from a different angle. Stop worrying about what the rest of the story world is doing and write what matters to your main characters. Once you’ve got the rough draft written, then revisit the rest of the world.

That being said… it is entirely possible to be stumped on a scene and to use your procrastination as a tool to get chores done. I think this is how I actually remember to do laundry.

Anyhow, I hope this post was helpful, and please let me know what you think. 🙂

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June 1, 2015 · 8:00 pm