Sunday, March 25, 2012

Overcoming Writer's Block

See the end of this blog for details about my annotated ARC contest! All you have to do is comment and or tweet!

Subtitled: Bethany's Big Contradictory List of Tips that Sometimes Help Some People (meaning her) Overcome Writer's Block. 

So, it's no secret that I've kept writing through conditions that would make many sane people quit. With an interval of four years between my first published book and my second...when you count in the fact that my first book sold a good two years before publication, well, I wrote for years while feeling hopeless, like an unmitigated failure who would never be published again. I wrote with toddlers. I wrote with small children who, each time I looked away to write, were prone to eating things that poison control said weren't poisonous, (but I was never quite sure about that). I wrote through floods, tornados, and blizzards (note- the author is prone to exaggeration). I wrote while walking ten miles to school uphill both ways. 

But none of that prepared me for writing under contract. My friends told me that writing under contract was harder. My agent told me the same thing. But somehow I thought I was, or should be, left out of the category titled: everyone. What I'm saying is, not only did I find writing my sequel incredibly difficult, but I was filled with a sense of angry self-loathing at my perceived lack of writing strength, and long story short- got very frustrated with myself, which only made things even harder. 

Now, no matter where you are, writing a new book--that's exciting, but what happens when the excitement evaporates?--writing while on submission--difficult, but not impossible, at least after the first few weeks when all you can think about is being on submission, writing a sequel...my first sequel was also the book that has to wrap up my duology, so unlike people who write trilogies, I had to figure out how to continue the book, and end the book all at the same time. At any point, you can have a day, a week, a month of crippling writer's block. What do you do? 

What I'm going to share today are my list of tips for overcoming writer's block. Please note, they don't all work for everyone at every time. All of these have worked for me, but at different times in my writing life, so while several of them seem (and are) contradictory, they are also, possibly, potentially, probably, helpful.

1. Write every day- setting a goal, 500 words, 1000 words, is a good way to get a writing pattern. Even if you have the world's busiest day, if you make time to sit down and write your 500 words, it helps you prioritize writing as important.

2. Don't write every day- take breathers. Write when you are inspired. When there is not inspiration, do laundry so that when you rediscover the inspiration, you won't have to stop to do laundry! 

3. Reward yourself. Maybe not with ice-cream if you are on a diet, but find something nice to do for yourself when you hit a writing goal. Give yourself a day off from doing the laundry. Read a book, take a hike, watch a movie or an episode of Bing Bang Theory, or whatever makes you happy. 

4. visit bookstores. Touch the books. There is nothing more inspirational that feeling books. Eventually, in feeling your own book...but you won't ever get there until you conquer writer's block. Or at least finish that manuscript. 

5. Write in order- especially if you have an epic scene with grandiose action or swoon-worthy hotness. Make yourself write the scenes  leading up to it, and remember that these scenes build to the major scene, don't let them be filler! Challenge yourself. 

6. Write out of order- got a scene that you can't wait to write, a scene that you are dreaming about, thinking about? Go ahead and write it, you don't want it to evaporate, for the excitement to dissipate. Write that scene! 

7. Write by hand- this is, in all honesty, the thing that I ALWAYS do. When I have no inspiration, I get out my notebook, my good pen, and I scratch out the scenes. In the end, no matter how bad the stuff I've written is, when I type it, it will be improved. I would never have gotten through my sequel (the name of which I cannot yet reveal) without my notebook and my pen. I realized that I already blogged about this here. So if you want to know more, or see pics of the office supplies I discuss below, visit my blog. :) 

8. Buy office supplies. When I google myself, using google images, I find a big picture that says, I heart office supplies. I do. For each manuscript I buy a new notebook, (for scratching out scenes, for writing notes, for notes when I talk to my agent etc) and usually a binder for printing out pages. Oh, and pretty sticky notes, for notes to myself throughout the physical manuscript. 

9. Find a concept that pushes you forward. For me, I always find some little challenge in each manuscript. Can I do this? Well, I have to finish the manuscript to see. For Handcuffs I wanted to see if I could write an  entire story without naming a main character or giving him a nickname, yet make it clear who he is in every scene, or every time he is mentioned. In Masque I wanted to see if I could coax a suicidal/self destructive narrator into becoming a hero. 

10. Enjoy other people's success. There is nothing that will kill your writing mojo more than jealousy. Sure, some people seem to find success over night. Sometimes you'll see an interview where the author is like, "oh, I never meant to write a book, or no, I never revise, or I wrote this in fifteen minutes and then sold it at auction!" Whatever. Ignore the 'I never revise one precious word that I write' folks, and focus on the success stories of authors who've worked hard, who have awesome talent, who inspire you. Find inspiration, not jealousy. 

11. Allow yourself to feel jealous- for a few minutes. Whether it's someone you know on the internet who got a major deal and a movie deal and a parade, all within 24 hours. Or a best friend, or your secret writing rival. Allow yourself to feel it, and then acknowledge that you want that kind of success and use it as motivation to keep going. Remember motivation, a small does of rivalry= healthy. Murderous envy=not healthy.

12. Find a fan base. I don't care if it's your mom (though you should resist referencing her in your query). Find someone, or a group of someones who are waiting for your next installment, there is nothing like adulation, admiration, the simple verbalization of, 'I must know what happens next' to push you into writing the next scene. I would never have finished Masque, especially in the face of a rather devastating series of rejections, if it wasn't for my critique group! (Thanks guys!)

And that's my list of contradictory tips for overcoming writer's block. Unlike your oversized t-shirt with the pithy writing epithet (watch out or I'll put you in my novel) one size does not fit all.

Now for the contest. I'm giving away an annotated Masque ARC. This is my last unread, pristine, lovely ARC. I'm going to go through it, page by page and fill it with observations and notes. I'll also throw in a Masque of the Red Death leather bracelet. They are hot, you want one! 


All you have to do to be entered is leave a comment about a way you get over writer's block. or leave a comment about how much/why you want to win the ARC. You'll be entered once for each comment. You'll also be entered for each tweet, just make sure I see them by including my twitter handle @_bethanygriffin 


Thanks for reading, hope these tips help, and good luck!  Winner will be announced on Colette's day in two weeks! (April 8, I believe). 


63 comments:

JP said...

I, too, get over writer's block by writing by hand. Admittedly, I'm not a novelist, but I suffered writer's block quite a few times writing seminar papers in grad school.

I also often write reviews by hand.

Thanks for the awesome giveaway!

JP said...

As for how much I want to read Masque... I wrote a Waiting on Wednesday post about it: http://elle-lit.blogspot.com/2012/02/waiting-on-wednesday-masque-of-red.html

JP said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JP said...

I tweeted too :)

https://twitter.com/#!/ElleLitJP/status/183928296952692738

Kissed by Ink said...

One thing I do to help overcome writer's block is to print out what I have written and reread it. I try to read the text as not the author, but a reader. Sometimes this really gives me a new perspective. I have also been known to print out photos relating to the story and paste them on the cover of a notebook. These visuals can spark new ideas!

The Jammie Girl said...

I'm all about rewarding myself! When I finish the writing challenge I'm in the final week of (it ends Wednesday) I get to read Catching Fire - it's what's keeping me going :)

Kristin Lenz said...

Thanks for the tips, Bethany. Sometimes, I need to take a "research" break. I get stuck because I just don't know enough about a certain subject to write with confidence.

An annotated ARC is a wonderful gift.

I also heart office supplies. :)

Natalie Aguirre said...

Awesome tips. I love how they contradict each other because sometimes each will work, depending on where you are.

My last time I had writer's block at the beginning of a project, I opened a blank page and wrote "Chapter One" and started writing. It's still slow going but forcing myself to open up the manuscript is working.

I'd love to win an ARC. Can't wait to read your book.

Kurt Hampe said...

I suppose I could claim that writer's block is just my subconsious's way of saying there is something wrong with the story, and so I shouldn't force it, but that only applies to real writer's block. The other kind involves being walking distance to the refrigerator.

I don't often write by hand, but it is a great way to get me away from the screen and writing. Usually what I write by pen is crapola, but it gets me started and gets the crapola out of the way.

A. R. Kahler said...

I get over writer's block by going for walks in green places. In true I'm-still-five-inside fashion, I will often make sound effects while working out scenes, which is why it's best I'm not in crowded places when blocked. :)

Also, I've heard amazing things about Masque... and I'd love to not only get a chance to read it, but see your insights as well. And who can say no to a leather bracer???

Marthapao said...

Hahaha your tips are pretty funny but true!! :D

Twitter: @marthapao

ashelynn hetland said...

Whenever I get writer's block, it's always because something is wrong in the manuscript. So I go back and try to fix it; I also look at things differently. Works for me. :)

thanks for the giveaway! I really, really can't wait to read Masque!

Melanie Conklin said...

At those terrible moments when writing seems like homework, I stop writing and have a conversation with my characters. Out loud. I ask them what they're worried about, excited about, I pick fights with them and provoke them. They always have something to say. They fight for themselves and for each other, their feelings break my heart and their struggles make me jump back to the page to help them.

Sage said...

Minor writer's block can be fixed with the right music (the Doctor Who soundtrack, if you must know) and the right setting, usually a cafe with few distractions.

Sometimes I need a long writing day with a word count goal that is high but reachable. Somewhere in there I hit a point where the pace picks up and I fall in love with the novel. This doesn't always work.

With major writer's block, where every word is torture and it's been that way for months, there's nothing to do but wait for the right bit of inspiration to hit. Sometimes this is a new WIP. Sometimes it's the right song added to a novel's playlist that is *so* perfect. Sometimes it's a shiny new scene that I can get excited about. It can take weeks to months for this to happen.

Angie said...

Lovely ideas to combat the old monster of writer's block. I often go back to parts in my story that I'm really proud of and that makes me want to work extra hard to just get it out there.

Awesome giveaway!!

Angie
adktd2bks@yahoo.com

Angie said...

Also I tweeted! https://twitter.com/#!/adktd2bks/status/184059209032282114

Lexie said...

Writer's block . . . well, I have two ways of getting over it. The first is to write a series of random one-shots, just whatever comes to mind, until I can find inspiration to work on my WIP again. It helps, just to be writing something while I wait for my brain to agree with me again.

The other is that I'll look at pictures on some of the truly lovely picture sites, or listen to music, and often it'll inspire me to write . . . something. That something could be another one-shot, a full-blown short story, a poem, or a part of my book. But it usually inspires something or another.

Lexie said...

And regarding my desire for Masque . . . :D Well, I also happened to feature it in a WoW post: http://stillwaitingforbookstocometrue.blogspot.com/2011/12/waiting-on-wednesday-5.html

Basically, I adore Poe, I adore this concept, I adore the cover, and everyone who's read it says it's the best thing since sliced bread, so I would do just about anything to get my hands on a copy. :D

Vivien said...

I'm such a poetry hog!! I absolutely devour it all. Poe is one of my absolute favorites. This has been on my wishlist for months. The cover is so alluring and I love the red!

Vivien
deadtossedwaves at gmail dot com

Vivien said...

To battle writer's block I love the people watch. Going to a cafe or diner and passing a couple of hours just looking. It's really fascinating stuff and can fuel many ideas.

Vivien
deadtossedwaves at gmail dot com

Vivien said...

tweeted:
https://twitter.com/#!/deadtossedwaves/status/184098429276925952

Vivien
deadtossedwaves at gmail dot com

Vivien said...

tweeted:
https://twitter.com/#!/deadtossedwaves/status/184098429276925952

Vivien
deadtossedwaves at gmail dot com

Valia Lind said...

I get over writer's block by dancing. Seriously. Or just exercising. It seems a 30 min work out gets the juice flowing again! :-)

valialind(AT)gmail(DOT)com

Valia Lind said...

Also, I'd love to read Masque because Poe is one of my favs! :-D

valialind(AT)gmail(DOT)com

Ann Herrick said...

These are great thoughts about overcoming writer's block!

Meera Desai Shah said...

Thank you for the positive suggestions. Gave me a boost to propel forward. Meera

Evelyn said...

What a great post! Thank you, Bethany. I would love to have a copy of your new book.

I don't write novels, so my writer blocks are more focused on not being able to come up with an idea for a new picture book. I find it helpful to spend time with little kids to get through my blocks.

alicia marie said...

I'm not a writer so i don't really have a solution for getting over writer's block, but everyone else seems to have awesome ideas should i ever need any : )

alicia marie said...

i tweeted about the awesome giveaway too : )

https://twitter.com/#!/bamayankee/status/184328007220072450

alicia marie said...

and i really want to read this book because everything i've heard about it has been amazing and it would be so fun to get to read your insights about everything too! also, i would really love to add one of those awesome leather bracelets to my collection : )

Colette Ballard said...

Great post, Bethany--hilarious stuff! i think i've probably used every one of your tips at one time or another!

ATU said...

All my writing is scientific, but I get writer's block, too! When it happens to me, writing out of order and writing by hand -- at least margin notes -- both help.

I would LOVE to win the annotated ARC to get a glimpse into the thought process that goes into novel writing ... particularly the writing of such a unique novel. My writing is so fact based ... it would be fascinating to see writing from your perspective.

I tweeted about the contest: https://twitter.com/#!/123turtles/status/184451586960015362

Lindsay Cummings author said...

Music and photographs! :-)

Americangirlie1991@yahoo.com

REBECCA@ReadingWishes said...

I'm not much of a writer but I have recently started whipping up some ideas which have been popping into my head. Happy Days, having breaks to get a clear head,ect

Hope this is open internationallY..!

melannie (: said...

I overcome my writer's block by re-reading everything I wrote so far (or at least the last few chapters) it always makes me remember why I love the story and why I believe in it :)

Christa @ Hooked on Books said...

I get over writer's block by taking my dog for a walk. I don;t know why but something about getting outside and moving around combined with being alone with my thoughts helps clear out the cobwebs.

christajls@gmail.com

Alba said...

WOW! I have never gotten writer's block BUT that's because I actually never write hehehe Just some random stories here and my constant reviews :D

danaalisonlevy said...

Love these ideas, and will try to remember them when WB rears its ugly head!
My best techniques:
1) disallow the delete key. Seriously. No matter how crap the words are, they stay on the page. Just move forward.
1a) And allow the writing to suck. It's okay. It can be fixed later. Just put words down.
2) read something in the genre you're writing - not to copy, but to get the language back into your head.
3) drink wine while writing. Hey, don't judge.

Christina said...

Take a shower! I always get fresh new ideas in the shower. Of course, I can't write them down while I'm in there. haha.

cynicalsapphire at gmail dot com

Alba said...

As to how very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very much...I want Masque...
I don't think there are enough letter on the alphabet or either language I know...to help me explain how very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very much I want it! hehehehe
Just know that I've been dying to read it ever since I saw the cover...reading the description was a bonus and awesome bracelet?
Count me in!!!!! >.<

danaalisonlevy said...

And why do I want it??? *grabby hands grabby hands*?
Well, some VERY tough readers I know have been squeeing over this book like they're twelve-year-olds at a Beiber concert. So there's that. And then there's the creeptacular Poe aspect.
Basically, I just plain want it!

Weechagirl said...

I love that you've annotated this arc! Not only do I really want to read this book, but I LOVE to see inside an authors head about why they've made the choices they have.

Alba said...

tweeted
https://twitter.com/#!/alba_solorzano/status/184699435626930178

AE Rought said...

1.) OMG I've been dying of want for this book for so long I should be one of the undead by now. I love Gothic fic (I have a Frankenstein riff releasing in January), and Masque was one of my favorites. I can't wait to see what you do with it!! Plus... That cover. *drool*

2.) My tips for getting over writer's block: write by hand, take a hot bath and think, walk the dog and think, uncork the bourbon and don't think, talk to your beta reader and have them shoot out crazy ideas, don't talk to anyone and eat chocolate... I've even talked to the dog. She doesn't answer, but she invites more conversation and I've talked myself out of sticky spots.

I tweeted the contest: https://twitter.com/#!/AERought/status/184700375922778112

Christina (Christinareadsya) said...

I get over writer's block by stepping away from my story for a while & reminding myself why I want to tell it in the first place. Then everything falls into place again :).

Lynsey Newton said...

To get over writers block, I put the manuscript down and do something else. Walk away from the writing for a while and go for a walk or do ANYTHING that is fun. Sometimes getting away from it for a while helps.

I have to say that I love a good love triangle and I'm intrigued by the novel since this is the first I've heard about it (not sure if it is coming out in the UK). Thank you for the opportunity to win :)

Lynsey(AT)narrativelyspeaking(DOT)com

bethany griffin said...

Lynsey, it's being released by Orion (Indigo) in August.

bethany griffin said...

One thing I'm going to do with the annotated version is go back and put the poetry in. Originally, each chapter started with a line from Mad Girl's Love Song.

Lee723 said...

To get over writer's block I usually just have to relax and step away from the what I'm currently working on and maybe listen to some music.

Music really does help me get inspired. Especially when it's MUMFORD & SONS. Sigh.

Thanks for the awesome giveaway!

xo

Lisa @ Fic Talk

fictalk(AT)gmail(DOT)com

Froze8 said...

I would love to win the ARC because I like to collect them for whatever reason. I just find them to be special <3

Joyce Lansky said...

I find that taking a shower helps me get ideas. Please enter me in the contest.

Joyce
http://joycelansky.blogspot.com

Jen R. said...

I really want to read Masque of the Red Death because it sounds awesome. While I'm not a fan of Poe, I LOVED Nevermore by Kelly Creagh, and if she says that Masque is awesome, I believe her. And I'm really not good at waiting, so I really wanna read it now! :D

Jen R. said...

And great articles about overcoming writer's blog. If I do get that, I stop writing, and do something else. Once I'm relaxed, I go back to writing, because a new idea has popped up. :) And I also do most of my thinking in the shower.

Jen R. said...

And I tweeted too! :D

https://twitter.com/#!/NightBookThief/status/184878465118511104

Question- do I have to link it here everytime I tweet, or is it okay as long as I include your twitter handle?

REBECCA@ReadingWishes said...

I'd LOVE to win because having an early copy to read would be amazing! Plus, observations and notes? Yeah, me want! That sounds so awesome. I'd love to read all your notes in the margin, bring it! AND a Masque of the Red Death leather bracelet? Yum, that sounds beyond pretty. Yes, please I'd love to win! Thank you oh so much! :)

readingwishes@hotmail.com

REBECCA@ReadingWishes said...

Tweeted! Is this INT?

https://twitter.com/#!/readingwishes/status/184973250458173440

Patsi Trollinger said...

Amazing how the same techniques work for lots of us, especially the traditional: write it out by hand. One writing friend (George Ella Lyon) swears that it's the tactile nature of old-fashioned writing...maybe we can actually feel the words in our fingertips. Whatever the case, I do it. And it's a great relief to know that someone else is in love with office supplies. Forget expensive shoes -- a new notebook is a thing of beauty. Most of all, congrats on the new books, Bethany.

REBECCA@ReadingWishes said...

Tweeted

https://twitter.com/#!/readingwishes/status/185346330628071425

Paranormal Opinion said...

I'm not a writer, so I don't get writer's block - but I am a graphic designer and I get "designer's" block. The only thing that helps me is to walk away and come back to it later. That usually helps :)

paranormalopinion@hotmail.com

Paranormal Opinion said...

Why do I want to win an ARC? Because I heard how fantastic this book is through a book blog. I am a book blogger myself, and would love to read and review this book. I love giving reading recommendations to other readers just like I love reading other blogs to get reading recommendations for myself. Thanks for the chance to win ;)

paranormalopinion@hotmail.com

Anna said...

I want this book so bad!!! I asked for it ever since I saw the cover. I asked my contact at harper for one over and over but she kept telling me "have to wait until it's four months to release" but then she never sent me one, so I asked, AND SHE FORGOT!!! And by the time I asked she had run out and I was SO DEVISTATED!!!! I literally almost cried. I have been trying to get my hands on a copy of this book because it has a plague in it! And I love plagues. When you sent me a bookmark I just wanted to read it even more, and I am so sad I didn't get an ARC to review. I AM SO SAD!!!

peachandblue2@(aol.com)

also, my tweets will be from @peachandblue

Lori T. said...

I sometimes have a hard time with writer's block. It was definitely refreshing to read that you also have this problem, but have very creative ways to work around it. What has worked for me:
~eat chocolate
~go for a run
~give my computer screen the evil eye and walk away for a bit
~take a break for a day or two (or week...whichever works best!)
~read another great book to help inspire me to work harder
~did I mention eat chocolate??

Thank you so much for offering an incredibly generous, one-of-a-kind gift. I know we're all excited at the possibility to win this ARC, not to mention having in annotated by you. WOW!! :D

bethany griffin said...

I'm going to try to really get the annotating done this week, it's fun to do, but sort of tiring. Anyway, I'm working on it!