Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Four Unique Steps to Digging Your Way Out of Writer's Block

I have recently come up with a novel way (pun intended!) of digging my way out of the hole that is writer's block. As I'm heading further and further into my novel, I am finding that I never quite know how to begin the next chapter. So here is a step-by-step guide that I created to help me get my writerly groove back on.

Step 1:
Pick a novel, any novel, from your bookshelf, preferably in the same genre you are writing in.

Step 2:
Open the book to the chapter you are currently writing.

Step 3:
For the first 5 sentences of the chapter, write down what each sentence achieves.

Step 4:
Write 5 sentences for your story that achieve exactly what the other novel achieves.

I find that, once I have completed about three or four of the sentences, I have found my writing flow and will write solidly for around half an hour. And, the way I see it, it isn't 'copying', because it's simply a structure that you are following. Besides, it will inevitably alter throughout your many, many edits later.

I will give you an example from the first chapter of a novella I have been working on as a side project. I was really unhappy with my original first chapter, so decided to use this exercise to blow away the cobwebs from my brain and begin the chapter again.


The book I grabbed at random was from Anne Bishop's 'Black Jewels' series.

Sentence 1: Description of the setting that the Main Character is standing in.
Sentence 2: Description of the weather and what the Character is doing (drinking coffee, which sets the tone as 'relaxed').
Sentence 3: Short, sharp sentence that jolts the reader.
Sentence 4: A sentence that cleverly weaves in backstory about the harshness of the Characters past, and explains that his current life is rather nice.
Sentence 5: A Sentence to describe the Character as being a very independent man, identifiable by his actions.

My sentences:

"Julia carefully made her way down the rocky hill, trying her best not to trip over any hidden rabbit holes. The afternoon air was hot and dry, but still she wore the dark, bulky robe that made sweat rivulet down her slender back. Didn't matter. The cloak served to conceal her identity from prying eyes. Besides, it was her last job for the day and then she would be free to go home to a cool shower. Her role as Caretaker may not be as glamorous as she had thought it would be, but it gave her a sense of purpose and self-respect; not something she had experienced out in the human world."

As you can see, I had to write an extra sentence to get my point across. That was because, by sentence three, I no longer followed the structure of Anne Bishop's sentences because I was well on my way to writing the entire chapter. I completed it in record time and, for once, was really happy with the outcome.

So, there you go. Four unique steps to digging your way out of writer's block. Why not try it for yourself next time you find yourself stuck on a scene?

Monday, July 8, 2013

Not so long, but long

I was reading a blog post by amazing author, Patrick Rothfuss, where his son said something very profound. The questions was, "How long would it take to write a book?" The answer? "Not so long, but long."

This really struck a chord with me this week. I'm knuckling down to write a book that I have been working on for nearly a year now. Every time I put pen to paper I still feel the ripple of excitement in my chest that momentarily takes my breath away. This is how I felt the first time I was zapped by the idea of this book. This is no exaggeration, I was genuinely ZAPPED by the idea. Like a bolt of lightning. Or a taser. Sometimes I need that reminder that I am taking the perfect amount of time for me to write the best book that I can. Not so long, but long. So the next time someone asks me when I will have my next book ready, I will remind myself not to be embarrassed. I will remember that, despite popular opinion, I am not lazy for no longer working full time, because sometimes realizing your dreams means you have to walk an alternative path through life to everyone else around you. And as for my book, it will be ready not so long, but long from now.