Tag Archives: writer’s block

Defense Against the Dark Arts – Writer’s Block Edition

Help! I’m Stuck at 10K Words!

First of all, don’t panic. Ten thousand words is nothing to sneeze at and you’re well on your way towards a complete novel. In fact, congratulations are in order.

Normally when my brain stops sending typing instructions to my fingertips it’s because there is something it’s still working on. Some piece of information is missing like what comes next or what should the main character do now that she’s up to her neck in quicksand.

Here are some techniques I use to get through “writer’s block”:

Time Travel

Pick a different chapter of your novel and start writing. If your protagonist is in quicksand now, you know she’ll get out somehow and get to the town of Quadloon because she has to confront Prince Evilson. Feel free to leave her hanging (don’t worry, she won’t mind) and just jump to where she walks into Quadloon. Continue the story from that point. Eventually your brain will come up with some fantastic bridge between the two points and you can go back and fill that section in.

Dimension Travel

Can’t figure out anything that is supposed to happen to your hapless characters without getting her out of that quicksand? Are you a dedicated pantser and have to let the characters dictate what happens next? That’s certainly one of the perils of not planning anything out at all.

There’s nothing in the rules that says you have to work on one novel at a time. If you had another idea for a novel in your head, go ahead and start writing that one. It would be best if it was a different genre, but work with what your brain hands you. Even if you get stuck at ten thousand words with the second novel, you can start three more and hit your 50K goal. Perfectly legal and valid to do so! The idea is to get you in the habit of writing.

Form Travel

You can always switch out to writing short stories during NaNoWriMo. Indeed, ending up with ten 5K stories should up your odds to getting one or more published after a bit of polish. Even getting half a novel and five or six short stories should add up to your goal.

If you’re a student and you’re going to have a research paper due in December, get to work on it now and kill two birds with one stone. Turn something in early and shock your instructor and have it count for your output. That’s a win-win!



About the Author:DeMarco_Web-5963

Guy Anthony De Marco is a disabled US Navy veteran speculative fiction author; a Graphic Novel Bram Stoker Award® nominee; winner of the HWA Silver Hammer Award; a prolific short story and flash fiction crafter; a novelist; an invisible man with superhero powers; a game writer (Sojourner Tales modules, Interface Zero 2.0 core team, third-party D&D modules); and a coffee addict. One of these is false.
A writer since 1977, Guy is a member of the following organizations: SFWA, WWA, SFPA, IAMTW, ASCAP, RMFW, NCW, HWA. He hopes to collect the rest of the letters of the alphabet one day. Additional information can be found at Wikipedia and GuyAnthonyDeMarco.com.

Writing with Lemons: Cheaper than a Therapist

We’ve all heard the tired old saying, “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade!” Many of us have heard the much better version from Portal 2, “When life hands you lemons, burn life’s house down!” The message of the first saying is clear: work with what you’ve got. The message of the second is, like so many things, more fun in theory than in practice.

The truth is that most people reading this blog would probably like to spend more time writing. The trouble is that other things, things which are not writing, keep getting in the way. Work, food preparation, family time, video games, root canals, repelling boarding parties, getting your car worked on, mowing the lawn, fulfilling ancient prophecies and exercise are just some of the potential distractions that keep you from your wordcount potential.

I can’t help with any of those things. What I am trying to help you with are the days where you’ve got the time but not the will. Mostly, I’ve found that lack of willpower points either to lack of energy or too much stress. In today’s increasingly specific blog post, I’ll discuss how to write through the daily stresses that accumulate and hamper you by turning their energy, aikido-like, against them.

There’s a well-known therapeutic benefit to writing out your problems, as though we can only unburden ourselves of something painful when we are certain we can’t ever forget about it. What that says about human psychology I don’t know, and there’s nothing revolutionary or innovative about this idea, but it can be so easy to forget that it bears reminding. Because while lots of people write out journals or diaries to put their stresses down on paper and get them out of their head, if you happen to write fiction there’s a way to have your cake and eat it too.

The answer is something I’m sure you’ve all heard before: map your real-world problems onto the pages of your stories. Now, it’s a little more complicated than that. Obviously I can’t put the bureaucratic stress I feel every time I have to order IT supplies at my day job into my second world YA fantasy. But if you strip away the specifics and dig down to the root cause of the stress, in my example the primal reaction to the sense of helplessness I feel whenever a powerful entity or person imposes arbitrary rules that make my life harder, there’s plenty of stuff to work with there.

You can come at this any number of ways. Maybe you’re trying to quit smoking and having trouble, so you project the same struggles onto your protagonist. The mere act of transferring the burden to another person’s shoulders, even a pretend person, can be therapeutic and make you feel as though you are less alone in your struggle.

The bottom line is that stress doesn’t have to be a block on the path to finishing your story. If you’re willing to dig into it a bit, you can even leverage quality character beats from your own real-world problems. Best of all, you know they’ll come across as authentic, because you are living them!

We all know what life is like. Some days it feels like the lemons just won’t stop. And writing your problems into your stories will not, sadly, make them go away. But sharing your real burden with your imaginary friends can help a surprising amount. Maybe they’ll overcome these obstacles and give you the courage to do the same. Or maybe they won’t and will give you the courage to accept that not every battle needs to be won.


About the Author: Gregory D. LittleHeadshot

Rocket scientist by day, fantasy and science fiction author by night, Gregory D. Little began his writing career in high school when he and his friend wrote Star Wars fanfic before it was cool, passing a notebook around between (sometimes during) classes. His first novel, Unwilling Souls, is available now from ebook retailers and trade paperback through Amazon.com. His short fiction can be found in The Colored Lens and A Game of Horns: A Red Unicorn Anthology. He lives in Virginia with his wife and their yellow lab.

You can reach him at his website (www.gregorydlittle.com), his Twitter handle (@litgreg) or at his Author Page on Facebook.



Does Writer’s Block Exist?

Back in April, I posted about procrastination.  Since then I’ve been thinking about writer’s block and whether or not it actually exists.  Sure, I struggle to write at times.  Actually I struggle to write most of the time.  But I can usually identify a reason: fatigue, stress, not knowing my characters well enough, not knowing where the story is heading, not being in a creative mood…  I can give you any number of reasons why I can’t write today.  But is it “writer’s block”?  Or is it just me making excuses?

In the movie Stranger than Fiction, one of the lead characters is a writer who is unable to come up with a way to kill off a character in her book.  The plot paints her as a wildly successful writer who is paralysed by her own success.  But is this necessarily “writer’s block” or a case of someone who lets herself be overcome by circumstances to the point where she can no longer write?

I’ve read several theories about what causes writer’s block – it’s a result of stressful conditions, it’s a disruption to activity in a particular part of the brain, it’s a writer running out of inspiration…  I’m not arguing these aren’t all real issues that can halt the flow of words but aren’t we using them as excuses?  We’re too tired, too stressed, too busy to write, so we tell ourselves we have writer’s block.  What other profession would accept this as a valid reason for not producing the required work?  I’m sorry, I can’t paint your house today because I have painter’s block.  I can’t clean your teeth because I have dentist’s block.  I can’t sell you any milk because I have shop assistant’s block.  It’s really quite ludicrous when you think about it.

So I’ve decided I will no longer believe in writer’s block.  If Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny stop coming around because we no longer believe in them then I choose to believe that writer’s block will disappear if I don’t believe in that either.

This doesn’t mean I won’t ever be too tired or too busy to write.  It doesn’t mean I won’t ever have one of those days when I sit at the computer for hours without writing a single word.  It doesn’t mean writing will suddenly become easy.  It just means I have one fewer excuse for why I’m not producing what I know I can.

What excuses do you dress up as writer’s block?