Battling Writer’s Block

HELP! Writers Block

Writer’s Block. The time when your imaginary friends refuse to talk to you. We all go through it, even famous authors. No one is immune to it’s evil grasp! However, you can unsheathe your sword and fight against Writer’s Block once you know what you’re up against.

There are a few places that Writer’s Block comes from, but every reason is psychological and it stems from fear. Fear of being judged, fear of failure, fear of lack of originality… I could go on. It’s true, writing a novel (or other piece of literature) and publishing it is like standing in the middle of New York City naked. Your work of art has only seen your eyes up until that moment. And really, it is your baby. Every character, every scene is special and you love every word in it’s perfect place. But you, like every other author, knows that there will always be critics. Always. No matter what you write about, there will always be people who hate it.

But so what? Why should you care?

  1. Write for your future fans not future critics. Heck, you don’t even have to write for them. Write for yourself. As long as the story you write is something that you want to read, who cares what other people think? I promise, if you think like that, not only does writing become easier, but Writer’s Block will become almost nonexistent. Why? Well, if you’re only writing for yourself, you enjoy it. And when you enjoy what you write, the quality will naturally increase.
  2. Walk away for 10 minutes. Sometimes walking away for a few minutes will refresh your brain. Take your mind off the story for a moment. Eat a snack. Meditate. Dance. Sing. Something! Anything that makes you relax will tear down the walls your brain has built up. It will cause you to let your guard down and that’s a good thing.
  3. Don’t worry about what else is being written. News flash! You aren’t the only author writing their next story. There are thousands of other people around the globe who share the same hope and aspiration of becoming the next J.K. Rowling. Just like #1, you should focus on you. If it helps, write down the reason(s) why you are writing this work of art.
  4. What defines failure? Fear of failure is my biggest obstacle when crafting and writing a novel. What if no one wants to buy it when it’s published? What if no one likes it? All of these “What if…?” scenarios are realistic to think, but completely unproductive. When in doubt, I refer to #1. Remember who I’m writing for… ME! Even if no one likes it, I do! And I’m still going to write the entire trilogy. Yes, this mentality seems easier said than done… and it is. But what does failure mean to you? No fans? No money? Once you nail the reason, ponder whether or not these answers are helping or hurting you. I can take a good guess to say that it’s hurting you. Don’t think about failing, think about success!
  5. Perhaps your outline needs to be expanded. Maybe it’s not Writer’s Block at all! Maybe your idea is too vague or not vague enough. Take a look at your notes and outline. Are there plot holes that need to be addressed? Is there enough content to reach your word count goal? How about the characters, are they dynamic enough to write quality dialogue? Is there enough content in the story to create a well-rounded novel?

Don’t worry, future author, you can and you will get over Writer’s Block! Search for inspiration and you will find it. On the other hand, if you search for reasons to quit, you will find that as well. But please don’t! Me and the rest of the writing community want to read what you finished! Keep going and do what works for you!!! 🙂

Creating Realistic Settings

Part 3 Settings

Welcome Back! 🙂

Hopefully by now you have your general story idea and a few characters created and ready to go. To me, the setting is the most fun. You have numerous options. How creative do you want to be? Are you starting with an existing setting like London, Australia, San Francisco, or Midwest US? Will you be creating an entire planet on your own? Make sure you ask yourself these types of questions before getting started. But, most importantly, write down everything you brainstorm!

So you’ve got a handle on how in-depth you want to go for your setting. What’s next? Depending on whether you have an existing location or creating an entirely new world will change the process a bit.

For Existing Settings

Choosing a location that already exists like a city, state, region, coral reef, or Sashquach hang-out (yeah, maybe not that one but who knows?) is a great start for a new writer that doesn’t want to take a significant amount of time to create. It also is a great option for post-apocalyptic, romance, and a few other genres.

One thing you will have to do is research. If you have never been to your chosen location, a decent amount of research will have to be done. Not only do you need to know the physical attributes of your setting (sight), you will want to focus on the other 4 senses as well. This will help create amazing descriptions as you introduce various environments in the story.

Sense of sound will be the next step. This doesn’t necessarily require you to look up audio for a busy city (although it may), but you will want to ask questions about what your character will hear. For example, The Wanderer Trilogy is set in a post-apocalyptic Midwest state. And while I don’t need to disclose which state it is, I do know that Midwestern states generally get all four seasons in a year. As for noises, the question I must ask myself is “How many people/animals inhabit (X) setting?” Whether Eva (my MC) is inside her shack (only inhabited by her with occasional secondary characters (SC) coming in and out), or inside a Gang compound (houses hundreds of armed guards as well has hundreds of slaves) – I have to be aware of the bustle of people, the clicking of loaded guns or cracking of whips, and even the chirping of birds or rustling of leaves in the wind. You’ll want to be aware of any sounds/noises you want to convey and write them down.

The next relatively easy sense is touch. What do the buildings/structures feel like? What are they made of? Are they old? New? Have they been warped or changed by the elements? How about the ground? Seasons? Temperature? Everything physical plays a part in this sense of touch. If your environment is a desert, the feeling of hot, dry air will play just as significant a part as the rare but inviting rainfall. Think about how the age of your buildings change it’s texture. An example of my novel is how wood warps after 500 years of spring rain. The city withstood a bombing all those years prior so many of the buildings near the center have been reduced to rubble. The continual storms and other weather patterns will continue to effect what remains of the buildings, long after the bombs detonated.

Whew! Two more to go! You can do this!

Smell and taste? How do you integrate that into your settings. And why bother? Well, these two senses will be used more sparingly than the other three, but they are important when used properly. When your character is hungry and their neighbor is baking a pie with the windows open, sense of smell and taste would be important to convey the level of hunger. You would want your character to be able to smell the pie so well that they could taste it on their tongue. That could make their stomach growl. See? Using the senses conveys the hunger without actually saying “They were hungry.”

In settings where you already have an existing location, these 5 senses are very important. There is research required (especially in regards to the society and subcultures within the city/town/state/etc. that you choose).

Unique Settings/World Building

There are a few things in this section that may or may not be helpful if you are utilizing an existing setting. I found this handy-dandy list of things to focus on in World Building –

world building

Some of these may or may not be relevant to your story, but it definitely gets the juices flowing!

Now, it isn’t just enough to jot down one or two sentences for each point above. You have to dig a ten-foot hole and jump in head first. Smash into the mud and worms of it all… okay I’m done 🙂

Anyway, with each of these topics, expand them! Write multiple types of religions/spiritualities for #15 and pick the best one later. Give yourself more options to single out when you go to outline your novel. And don’t stop at the #17 listed above. That’s just a place to get started! Remember, you are building an entire world or region. Different languages have different dialects which have different slang.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself for each topic:

  1. Language:
    • Does everyone speak the same language? Different languages completely? Dialects between the regions? Slang? Pronunciation differences? Accents?
  2. Origin Tales
    • How did your people/creatures migrate to their region? What is the origin of their magic? How did they adapt to their climate? Does their religion/spirituality change as they migrate?
  3. Folklore
    • Are there specific areas that your cultures do not venture because of curses? Do each regions believe the world was created differently? Any stories passed from generation to generation?
  4. Family Tree
    • Who are your MC’s family? Friends? Other Kin? The Royalty Family Tree? Coat of Arms? Any family rivalries?
  5. Jobs/Professions
    • Depending on the time period, this could change. What type of jobs are needed in your society? Blacksmith or lawyer? Knight or Pizza Delivery Person? How do their jobs impact the story? How does it impact the environment?
  6. Gender Roles
    • Are your people more conservative? Are you switching up the gender roles? Women in the armies and men as homemakers? Or is your society more of an egalitarian culture?
  7. Clothing/Costumes
    • Pant Suit? Jeans and a Tshirt? Renaissance dresses with corsets? What about animal hides?
  8. Weather
    • Is the weather in your story normal? Perhaps something catastrophic happens. Maybe non-stop storms?
  9. Flora & Fauna
    • What type of foliage grows in your city/village? What about animals? Any unusual or unique animal/plants? Do your people use them for medicine or remedies? What about poisons?
  10. Food
    • Are your people fishermen or hunters? Do they go to the store? Does their heritage change their food preferences? How does the culture celebrate holidays with food? Is any food sensual for relationships?
  11. Geography
    • Is the environment mountainous? Perhaps a desert? Maybe a beautiful forest or a beach? How would that change their clothing/food options? How would it change your character’s appearance (more tan because they see more sun, etc.)?
  12. Annual Rituals
    • Think about their religion or spirituality, what or who do they worship? What type of rituals would be celebrated by the village? Are their regional or worldwide holidays? Are their costumes, special foods, or sacrifices associated with these celebrations?
  13. Technology
    • Is this a technologically advanced civilization? How does the overwhelming technology play into people’s daily lives? Can the technology turn on them? Can it make them go crazy? (Don’t just think about computers or cell phones. Think about medicines, vehicles, and foods.)
  14. Animals
    • See Flora & Fauna. Are animals domesticated for food or pets? Do the people ride them for transportation? Can they fly? Where do they live?
  15. Religion/Spirituality
    • Are your people religious? Do they conform to an existing religion like Christianity? Are they Atheist? Do they worship animals? How do they perceive death? Are there wars or battles about whose god or gods are real?
  16. Magic
    • Is the magic energy finite? Can those who use magic replenish their energy? How? Is it elemental magic or elemental manipulation? Can only certain people do magic or can everyone? How does magic change their society?
  17. Politics/Power
    • Is there a council or government? Are their royalty? How do they govern? What about corruption or tyranny? Is the general population free or suppressed? If they are suppressed, will their be an uprising?

The setting development may take some time. And while my last post about character creation said to ‘stay somewhat vague’ the setting development is the opposite. Every single nuance needs to be written down because, if it is not consistent, your reader will catch it. The setting remains fixed (unless there’s a huge event like a meteor) while the characters change. Don’t get discouraged, be creative!

Next post in the Let’s Write a Novel Series will be about Outlining Your Story! I hope it’s getting exciting as you get closer to the 1st draft! I’m excited to see what you’ve been working on! 🙂

Creating Believable Characters

If it scares you,it might be agood thing to try.

Welcome back! Today, I’m going to show you how I create characters for my novels. I wrote this as Part 2 instead of the creation of settings. Why? Welllll… you probably already got a lot of setting creation completed when you were searching for inspiration (Part 1). Plus, I believe that environments can change significantly with your characters. Characters are malleable to a point, but they take on a certain life that is inflexible, whereas a setting is created to fit the characters. Stay tuned for Part 3 where I offer insight into Setting Creation.

So, how does one create an entire human being out of thin air? Well that’s an author’s gift! Guys, Gals, and everyone in between – not everyone can do this. You have the ability  to create and entire story with your own flair. Don’t downplay this gift! But understand that it can be difficult as well. I hope to make it a bit easier 🙂

One thing that almost every author can agree on is utilizing people you know to create characters for your novel, novella, short story, etc. Especially with your first project, you are experimenting with techniques. The story itself is where you spend the majority of your time. Wouldn’t it be easier to have character foundations already created? Duh – of course it would! And hey, no one says you can’t make a character after yourself. Whether that’s the main or a supporting character, it is really your choice.

As for me, my main character for The Wanderer Trilogy, Eva, is created from certain aspects of my personality as well as traits that I wish I had or did not have. It definitely helps me ask important questions like “What would Eva do in this situation?” “How would she react to finding this out?” – Makes my life much easier when I can put myself in her shoes and it also causes the character to be much more tangible.

Secondary characters in The Wanderer Trilogy are based off people I know. Again, I use certain aspects of their personalities, not necessarily the entire package. Trust me, it is so much easier to focus on the story line when you create from existing individuals. Start paying more attention to your friends and family for interesting and unique characters!

That’s one option.

Another place to search for character inspiration is public places. If you are really good at ‘people watching’, this could be the best option for you! A coffee shop, the local shopping mall, a park, pubs/bars, a fast food restaurant, etc. – all great places to bring a pen and paper for character inspiration. They key here is… don’t make it creepy. You may get a few questions or odd looks if you’re sitting right next to someone and writing down their gestures or physical traits. Yeah. Don’t do that. Another tip, don’t discriminate! Write about as many people as you can. There may be a trait that you dislike at first, but that could quickly change when you sit down to write.

Once you master the early steps of Character Creation, you will be able to make humans, elves, and robots from scratch. No people watching. Nothing. Repetition is the best way to learn and find out what works for you.

The next step is expanding the minor notes that you have made thus far. Personally, I don’t hold myself to too much detail because I like being flexible. Sometimes the plot can change a big thing about a specific character, so I just let it happen and jot down the trait later. The Internet has quite a few templates for characters, but here is what I use:

  • Basic Information
    • Name
    • Age
    • Family/Friends
    • Main Character? Secondary Character?
  • Physical Characteristics
    • Includes stature, complexion, unique traits, attire, weapons (if applicable)
  • Personality Characteristics
    • Includes unique gestures, sayings, specific quotes to use in the novel
  • Notes
    • Anything else I can think of

And that’s it. No, really. That’s all I use. When I write, I feel like the plot forms better characters if they aren’t held to a specific mold. You don’t want stagnant, cardboard characters like Bella from Twilight (she’s always used as an example for bland characters). Dynamic characters are much more realistic and will make your novel a thousand times better. Whatever it takes for you to create a multi-faceted character, do it! I’m a huge advocate to doing whatever works for you (if you haven’t guessed by now). Just like your characters, you do not fit in a one-size mold.

Another invaluable resource for character inspiration is Pinterest. (You’d think I own Pinterest by the way I talk about it :/ ) Seriously. Search “[Your Genre] Character Inspiration” and you will not be disappointed. There are thousands of photos to help visualize your characters.

Let’s recap… Character Creation does not have to be difficult. In my experience, using myself or people I know as the base of a character is a great way to start out. If no one you know “strikes your fancy”, go to a public place and search for inspiration there. And if all else fails, use the Internet! It is totally up to you how much detail you plan out. But don’t sell yourself short and force a specific cookie-cutter character when you start your first draft. In the end, you must let the words flow out of you. So be flexible and believe in your craft!

How to Find Inspiration

Let's Write a Novel Part 1.png

Perhaps you want to write a novel but don’t have any clue where to get started. Where does an author get inspiration? How do you know it’s a good idea? Inspiration is the very first seed in writing a novel, or anything for that matter. That’s why I wanted to start here. In this category of blog posts, I will offer any insight that helped me get that first book to near publication. However, I do want to note that there isn’t a specific order to take these steps and what worked for me may not work for you. I just hope that some of this helps you! 🙂

Okay, whew. So where can you get inspiration for your writing project? Whether it’s a novel, short story, poem, haiku, or anything else, you can get inspiration anywhere. Yeah, I know it sounds crazy, but it’s true! The key to getting that “eureka” moment is keeping an open mind and writing down everything.

Personally, I find my best ideas come from bits and pieces of dreams. It never comes all in one night, but certain scenes and plot twists will find their way into a short story idea or part of my novel. I do have one rule though, keep a notebook by my bed. If, in the morning, I think the idea is crappy, I don’t feel bad about scrapping it. Stay positive that amazing inspiration will come eventually!

Not every author (and yes – you are an author!) will find great ideas in their dreams. Like in my last post, find what works for you. Try meditating, taking a walk, painting, search Pinterest for writing prompts, ANYTHING you can think of! Personally, I think the key to getting that inspiration is relaxing your mind. It is only natural to have some anxiety or need for perfection, but that will hinder you from getting out that awesome novel!

Pinterest is a wonderful source of inspiration. There are countless writing prompts for all types of genres and pictures that depicts scenes, characters, and environments. Any type of book you could ever want to write, there is something to pin. Not only that, there are many resources for designing book covers, where and how to self-publish (if you choose that route), and how to market your novel when it is available. I would definitely suggest making an account (and follow me, of course!) if only for the purpose organizing your inspiration.

How do you know that your idea could be a book? Another post will deal with ways to outline your novel, but understanding whether your idea is able to be outlined is a good start. Also, be sure that you are passionate about the idea itself. Give it a few days and expand on the blurb, create characters, polish the environment, etc. After a week or so, scrap it if you aren’t excited about writing it. Basically, if it has enough substance, it can be expanded to at least 70,000 words. And if you make it that far (which I know you will), BAM. You have a first draft!

I hope this helped a bit. Remember:

  1. Find a way to relax and ‘let your guard down’.
  2. Always keep a notebook and writing utensil close.
  3. If you don’t think it’s a great idea, scrap it.
  4. Get a Pinterest Account.
  5. Stay positive and keep going! 🙂

My next “Let’s Write a Novel” post will be about dealing with too many ideas.

As always, thanks for reading and following my blog. Much appreciated! 🙂

The Secret to Writing

blog post 2 picOne of the most frustrating things about being a new writer is finding out what works for you. How do you get yourself to actually sit down and write? Do you have to listen to music? Do you have to lock yourself in a room alone or do you prefer writing at Starbucks? Is the internet turned off or are you allowing yourself breaks? What do other authors do to get that first (or tenth) book complete???

It seems like every author claims to know the secrets to writing that will work for you too. And let me say, there are hundreds of blogs claiming to know the secret to get you started. Because it worked for them, then why won’t it work for you, right? Well, it isn’t always that easy. At least for me, I’ve tried several different ways to keep focused, but what works for others does not work for me. And that is totally okay.

What I do when I sit down and write.

1. Plan out when I am going to write – Almost like a date. I went out and purchased a planner and literally wrote out what chapter I am editing that day. In the same way, when I was writing the first draft, I would jot down goals for completing each section. Based on how many words I could write per day, one chapter could take up to two weeks.

2. Force myself to sit down and actually write – This is the single easiest and most difficult part of writing for me… actually writing. No, I don’t turn off the internet. But I do turn on some classical music on and close out of every open tab that I have. For quick access to my books, I use Google Drive. After I get a chapter completed, I move it to Scrivener for formatting when I go to publish. Because of this, I need the internet on so Google Docs can save and update as I type.

3. Take breaks every hour – To me, breaks are essential to my writing process. However, I have to be sure that they are both strategic and constructive. Wait, what? Constructive breaks? Yes! Usually, I spend my 10-15 minute breaks on Pinterest looking up writing prompts, author inspiration, or tips to self-publishing. It gives me something else to look at, but also helps keep me motivated to get back to my novel.

Tips for the aspiring writer.

  1. Find what works for youThink outside the box! Don’t stop until you are comfortable with a routine. Many blogs have their own ‘solutions’, but that just means that it worked for that particular author. You? You’re different! Unique! Utilize other blogs for ideas, but change things up if it doesn’t work. Don’t be afraid to try new things, new environments, etc. On the flip side, don’t force yourself into a routine that doesn’t work. It’s your passion! Make it fun!
  2. Get to it! Whatever gets you inspired, use it. Put up a quote in your work space – anything! Inspiration and motivation may not come every day you sit down to write, but keep going.  Hold yourself accountable to a specific word count or specific amount of time. Cherish it. No excuses! I promise that once you sit down to write, it only takes a few minutes before you realize that you are already immersed in your story.
  3. Procrastination is your enemy. In the realm of writers, procrastination stems from fear of failure and being judged. It’s a natural reaction! I mean, you spend a year or so writing something that you love and craft from scratch. When you go to publish and the world can read your work, it feels similar to standing in the middle of a busy mall, completely naked. With that kind of exposure, no wonder we procrastinate. The only thing that worked for me was ignoring that feeling of dread and just write. Again, do whatever works for you to keep from procrastinating.
  4. Don’t feel bad if you have to scrap it. I can’t tell you how many bad ideas I had to go through, attempt to write, and cry internally when I had to scrap them. Remember, it’s paving the way for a really great idea! Don’t get discouraged or feel like you’re failing if your first few ideas don’t work out. It happens to all of us, but it is a learning experience.
  5. Don’t worry about what other authors do. There are thousands of blogs out there with their own opinions and tips, but it can get easily overwhelming. If you feel like you are being bombarded with conflicting information, just put down the computer and walk away for a while. Always remember that you will have to find your own way. When you are honest with yourself, you will turn out a better product. 🙂

I hope this helps and is broad enough to cover everything. But I will be the first to admit that I don’t know everything. Tell me, what do you do that works? Any tips for me??? Comment below!