Tag Archives: Writer

Writer’s Block…Fact or Fiction?

One of the most common terms in a writer’s vocabulary is ‘writer’s block.’  This ubiquitous term encompasses a vast plethora of arguments which writers use to justify why they have not written a word, despite the numerous hours, headaches, and tears spent in front of the blank page.

My long time writing mentor, a brilliant writer we will call “L”, is of a philosophy with which I have most reluctantly found myself in agreement when it comes to this subject: writer’s block does not actually exist.  Now, this is not to say that writing is easy or that there aren’t days where writers cannot find the time or words to craft their next chapter, scene, or even sentence.  Instead, what “L” means is that there is no magic, invisible force preventing the writer from putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.  Instead, the writer is being “blocked” (if you will) by some very real, identifiable issues.  Issues which, with time and practice, can be overcome.

Many possible solutions and suggestions exist in the idea of how to overcome the obstacles which might prevent one from writing.  As with many other facets of life, each method is not a perfect fit, and it may not be included here.  I offer only a partial list of what many professional writers recommend and have passed down to younger authors like myself.  It is up to you, the individual writer, to discover what method works best for you on a personal level.

For myself, the most simplistic solution I can give is that writing is a matter of habit.  The sooner an author gets into the habit of writing, the easier writing should become.  Developing habitual writing requires a person to write every single day.  Whether it is for fifteen minutes or several hours does not matter nearly as much as the act of writing itself.

This is a habit whose importance many professional authors stress.  For example, at a recent speech given during the Dublin Writer’s Festival, bestselling author Dan Brown (The DaVinci Code) stated that while writing a book, he sets his alarm somewhere between 4 and 5 AM every morning, every day of the year.  By doing this, Brown is able to ensure that he has time to write, undisturbed, for a least a few hours before other members of his household are even awake.  He states this helps eliminate distractions and helps him to focus.

Not a morning person?  (I know I am certainly not!)  Perhaps try writing at night instead.  Some of my best writing is done at the end of the day, when my other work is completed and I can use writing to help relax.  The time of day, much like the amount of time, is far less relevant when compared to the importance of forming the habit of writing on a daily basis.

Now, once the issue of finding and setting aside the time to write has been established, there comes the issue of finding the words to put on the page.  A common complaint is that, despite an author’s best efforts and their willingness to transcribe a character’s latest adventures, the character refuses to relate their tale to the author.

E.M. Forster once stated that characters, “arrive when evoked, but full of the spirit of mutiny.”   Because of this, an author must often find ways to negotiate and connect with their characters in, at times, unusual ways.  Personal favourites include 1) conducting an interview with the character in question 2) skipping ahead to a different scene or even 3) actually acting out the scene I am attempting to write (behind closed door with the curtains drawn with no audience… besides my cat).  All of these methods may serve to help you find new ways to speak to characters when they become silent or uncooperative.

As I previously stated, these are just a few possibilities that may help the next time your characters aren’t in a talkative mood or the words simply aren’t flowing.  Remember, like the majority of things in life, writing takes time, dedication, and often, lots and lots of practice.

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Writing Process:

Writing is not easy.  It takes years to learn the craft, and even longer to learn the complex process of editing, revision and the difficulties of entering the world where one gets to call themselves a ‘published’ author.

This process begins with the most simplistic rule that writing has to offer: In order to be a writer…one must write!  As fundamental as this sounds, it can also be one of the most difficult writing tasks to perform.  To be a dedicated writer, a person must write consistently, every day with regularity.  This does not mean that you must write for a long period of time, or reach a certain word-count.  There are days where a writer may find themselves writing nothing more “I don’t know what to write” over and over again.  What you write, especially at the beginning of the writing process, is not nearly as important as the fact that you, as a writer, sit down every day for a set period of time, whether it be ten minutes or ten hours, and force yourself to write.

The second most important part of writing is to finish what you begin.  This is a feat which 90% of people who begin a writing project, will never achieve.  At this stage, the quality of the first draft does not matter.  It is what some writers actually refer to as a zero draft, one that no other than yourself (and in my case, my cat) will ever see.  It does not matter if there draft is full of errors or gaps within the plot, as long as you have a beginning, middle and end, then you have achieved what the majority never will.

Next is the editing process.  For this, many find either a first reader or a small group of fellow writers to assist in the editing process.  The person or people entrusted with this should be above all, honest.  I can assure you from experience that if there are problems with your story, it is far better to hear it at this point, from your trusted readers, than to learn of them later from an agent or audience.  Self-editing is not enough, as you are the person who is least likely to see the issues with your work.  This is because, among other reasons, that you know the answer to the gaps in the plot of your story, where a different reader will not.

Only after all of this can you call what you have a “first draft,” and you then have the privilege of repeating the revision process several more times, before you reach a final draft.  Then comes the process of attempting to transition into the publishing process.

Traditional publishing is a tough, competitive world.  In this day and age, even those with true skill, talent, or even connections can have difficulty breaking into this world.  The majority of major publishing houses will not consider manuscripts without an agent.  The number of manuscripts sent to agents are far more than can ever be accepted, and sometimes even the best of works can be rejected based on an agent’s time, client load, and personal taste.  This is where the advice comes in, ““Pick a wall in your house. Cover it with rejection letters. When the wall is completely full, then, and only then, will you get published.”

The other option, which has risen in popularity over the past few years, is self-publishing.  This option has gained more ground in the new day and age.  On this topic, I am going to add a link to an article posted today featuring an interview of three writers who decides to take the “self-publishing” route.


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