Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Writer's Block

Young Writer writes:

Dear Ms. Chima, I want to be an author and I have started several books but after I get two chapters written I get stuck. Can you help me?

I used to scoff at writer’s block until that one summer when I was writing The Dragon Heir and editing The Wizard Heir. Editing and writing are two different beasts. Writing requires the freedom to be bad. I found that after a long editing session with Wizard Heir, I couldn’t turn off that internal editor when I sat down to work on my fresh draft. After re-writing the same sentence 95 times, I’d drift off and begin Googling myself.

Tips for Handling Writer’s Block

Know thyself. Be willing to experiment and understand your own process. For example, reading really good fiction might inspire one writer; it might discourage someone else.
Turn off that internal editor. Consider if you were reading a book and began editing every line. It would throw you right out of the story, right?
Be willing to write a bad first draft. Once you get the bones down, you can edit in beauty and grace.
I’ve heard the suggestion that if you work on the computer, you turn the monitor off. I’ve not tried that, but I can see how that might work. You can’t edit what you can’t see
Critique groups are wonderful, but you may not want to submit your work until you get the bones down. Critique of a work in progress can sometimes stop you in your tracks
Don’t feel like you have to have everything figured out. You may wait forever for that. The process of writing creates story. Trust it.
Figure out if an outline helps or hurts. For me, doing an outline crushes the creative spark. I don’t have to go on, because I already know what will happen.
Do some off-line plotting. I like to use the time after I wake up and before I get out of bed. Allow your mind to explore the “what ifs” around your story. Block scenes in your mind. Speak dialogue when you’re out driving. Scare the other drivers
Butt in chair, Jane Yolen says. Butt in chair, and write. Even if it’s some scene you don’t even know will fit into the book. Even if it’s about a minor character that goes out of control. Even if it’s out of order.
Try setting a timer. Work for 45 minutes, then take 15 minutes off to check your email, call a friend, whatever
Identify your best writing time and use it for writing. Don’t sit down to work when you’re mentally and physically exhausted
That said, don’t wait until the perfect time to write. It may never come, and if it does come, it won’t be enough