Let’s Talk: Writer’s Block and Writerly Inspiration

Hello!  Welcome to my Writer’s Block!  Today, I’d like to bring up the idea of a writerly roller coaster.  Can you relate to any of these ideas?

Being a writer is gratifying:  The pictures in your mind, poured out through your fingertips, and transformed onto the leaves of a page.  It’s a glorious feeling when a project comes to completion, or even simply when an early draft is complete.

But sometimes, being a writer is riddled with frustration.  The pictures in your mind, knotted up in your fingertips, and hurling themselves, if you’re lucky, into a garbled mess on the screen in front of you.  Again, if you’re lucky.  Sometimes, a writer comes up empty.

The struggle is real, folks.  We face the writerly roller coaster each and every day, hour to hour, even minute to minute.  The words may flow with perfection one moment, then…they are gone.  Writer’s block strikes again.

I revel in times of writerly feast, and ride that creative wave for as long as I can, but when writer’s block hits, I have to turn to other sources for help.  When faced with Writer’s Block, there are several things I like to try to dislodge the blocks which hold my words back.

  1. Introduce a new character.  Maybe I’ll keep them, maybe not, but somehow, just putting in a new character’s perspective into the narrative can help.  Who knows!  That character may have just what it take to spin the plot a new and exciting way!
  2. Take the last scene  I wrote, and rewrite it from a different character’s perspective (I think I see a trend…).  As in #1, above, this can help to spin the plot differently.
  3. Seek inspiration online.  Try Googling an image about the scene you are working on.  Sometimes viewing a picture can encourage your mind to come up with words that eluded you before.  This is an image I saw recently, and it really helped with my word flow:  cabin interior
  4. Seek out writerly quotes for inspiration.  Again, these can be effective in getting the writerly juices flowing.  Here is one of my faves: chekhov-moon

The process of writing is both glorious and challenging.  I encourage you to celebrate your successes voraciously; I know I do!  And when writer’s block hits, I challenge you to go after inspiration with just as much gusto!  What are some of your go-to ideas for combatting the inevitable writer’s block?  And how do you celebrate your writing victories?  I’d love to hear all about it!

Thank you for stopping by today.  Please leave your comments below!

Embracing The Courage To Fail

go for it

My husband and I were married in 1996, which, in baseball terms, was Derek Jeter’s Rookie year as a Yankee.  During the years that followed, we watched Jeter and the other members of the Yankees became super-successful in subsequent years.  As a Yankee fan, I can tell you it was a thrilling time to follow the team.

Tonight, Jeter’s Number 2 was retired, and to commemorate the event, there were televised interviews and memories shared.  But, what was it about Jeter that made him so great?  Was it natural born talent?  Was it that his parents raised him a particular way?  Was it that he surrounded himself with people he wanted to emulate?  Perhaps.  More than likely, a combination of these created the baseball player he eventually would become.

During the Jeter event today, one commentator made a statement which stuck with me.  He said something to the effect of “To achieve greatness, you can’t be afraid to fail.”

Ugh.  That’s really hard.  So many of us are programmed to “fail to fail”.  We are taught that failure is bad, that failure will keep you from your goal.  As a writer, failing can mean something small, like I don’t complete my word count, or something large, like secure a publishing contract.  It means I might hit writer’s block and not be able to move a work forward.  It could mean that the concept of a work in progress is a no-go, even when I have spent many months, or even years, trying to develop it.

Failure can be debilitating.

But it doesn’t have to be.  During the Jeter festivities tonight, more than one person commented that Jeter expected to win every day.  He gave his all every time out on the field.  When he “failed” on the field,  his took that failure as an opportunity for growth.  That’s why he was such a good Yankee captain.

#Re2pect

Jeter was successful because he wan’t afraid to fail.

As writer’s, we can use this concept to our advantage.  What does failure as a writer really mean?  Sure, the word count miss, or the lack of a publishing contract seems like they are fails.  However, in the bigger picture, we can look at these little failures as part of our eventual path to greatness.  If we keep at it, refuse to give up, change some things when what we are doing doesn’t work out, we will all get there.

Next time, when writer’s block hits, I think I will try something “radical” with my plot or characters, and see where it takes me.  Maybe next time, I won’t be afraid to play with the structure of a work, if it seems to be “failing”.  I hope I have the courage to do so.

what could go right

I’m glad I got to watch Jeter’s celebration tonight between games of the double header.  It gave me the courage to accept failure as part of a longer, more interesting, path to authorly success.

I hope things are going well with you all, and thanks for reading.  Do you have any advice for spinning failure into the big picture of success?  Let me know in the comments!

David Bowie and Me

Bowie

David Bowie has passed away, and I’m saddened.

Growing up in the 80’s, I would listen to his infectious music often.  His Album, “Let’s Dance” was one of the first that I ordered through my Columbia House Tape Club.  Remember that?  Twelve tapes for a penny!

Listening to his music put a beat I’m my step and a song in my heart.  I know it sounds corny, but still, the sentiment is true.  I could always pop one of his tapes into my Walkman, and escape.  I’m going grab a fresh set of double A batteries, slide one of his greatest hits tapes in right now, and take a trip down memory Lane with David Bowie.

I remember watching a television show called Puttin’On The Hits, a lip sync competition, where one amazingly made-up kid performed Bowie’s China Girl.  I wish I could find a clip of that!  Well, here’s the original, and it’s awesome:

 

Another gem from my Bowie Collection is Modern Love.  That song takes me back to Middle School dances!  I can remember all of us running into the center of the gym floor when the Footloose-like beginning of Modern Love came  pumping through the DJ’s speakers.  We all formed a huge circle in the center of the gym and jumped up and down to the beat, singing along.  (SHOUTING was more like it!)

 

Ooh!!  Next up is Under Pressure!  Fantastic!  Queen and David Bowie was magic!  And then, years later, when Vanilla Ice came under fire for the amazing similarity of Ice Ice Baby’s hook to this original tune.  Do you remember?

 

This next song used to make me cry, but I loved it.  It’s a song that told an amazing story.  I loved Major Tom, and this song made me feel what it might have been like.  Here’s Space Oddity:

 

Does anyone remember Live Aid?  One of my favorite moments from that epic event was when David Bowie and Mick Jagger performed Dancing In The  Streets.  Here is the Live Aid version of the song:

 

Ugh!  I’m running low on batteries again.  (Anyone else have those memories?  The power light on the Walkman always seemed to begin to fade too fast!)  Time for one more fave! Here’s Let’s Dance!

 

Bowie’s music has stood the test of time, with its recognizable vibe and melodic ambition, spanning across the decades.  So, while David Bowie has left us, his words and music will  live on in my Walkman, and on YouTube.

#RIPDavidBowie

Do you have any David Bowie memories?  Share them in the comments!

Taking Our Own Advice

Hello Writerly  Friends!

It’s so hard to believe that it is almost the holiday season!  But this isn’t a post about the holidays.  Not really.  Well, perhaps a little.  It’s a post about how time can get away from us, and the feelings of guilt that can come along with that, from a writer’s perspective.  So, with the holiday season approaching, let us encourage each other with the gift of no guilt.

I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist that picture!

In an earlier post, I outlined how I fit writing into my teaching life.  You can read that post here.  As I look at that post, I freak out a little bit, because, my writing life at the moment isn’t at all what it would typically be at this point.  It’s not that I am so rigid that I have to fit my life to a certain mold to feel fulfilled as a writer.  I know that the aforementioned post is pretty much an outline that I try to follow on a yearly basis.  Historically, it’s a plan that has worked well.

But this year, not so much.

Life Happens 🙂

You see, time has gotten away from me.  My school schedule is somewhat different, and that has thrown a bit of a wrench into the writerly plan I used to follow.  Which coaxes the guilt to set in.  Who else has been there?  We make the grandest plans for writing productivity, and then we torture ourselves with guilt when we can’t meet our goals.  (I hope I am not alone!)

I don’t think it’s a great thing to berate ourselves for not being able to meet them.  Obviously, if you are writing to meet professional deadlines, and you have an income attached to it, that might be a different story.  But for me, I can’t let a little thing like guilt stop me.

It can be difficult to put this into perspective, but it sometimes takes years to get a book right.  Not only that, but many of us have many writing projects going on at the same time; some on submission, some merely outlined, some with Beta readers, some in a very rough first draft.  And as awesome as it is to have created so many projects, it can get overwhelming.  This again fuels the fires of guilt.

We might ask ourselves, “Why can’t I finish anything?”  When these feelings of guilt pounce into my writing life, I need to remember to step back, and appreciate the “little victories”  that I have accomplished.  So I didn’t start a new NaNo this month.  That’s okay.  So I missed a few Sunday blog posts.  It happens.

The good news?  I opened up my “guilt-free” package today and found a whole lot of great stuff!

There are always positive things we writers can look back to, and forward towards the future.  I’ve been inspired to dust off a partially written manuscript, and create some lovely scenes that I hadn’t even considered before.  And the creative mind in me always churns out new ideas to explore.  I’m going to ride that train as long as I can.

So in the end, this post is about me taking my own advice.  And getting back to the pretty little “guilt-free” gift at the beginning of this post…  I hope you can open it up and find some awesomeness to celebrate about your writing life.  Tell me…How do you deal with guilt as a writer?  What kinds of awesome are in you “guilt-free” gift box?  Please share your comments below.

Thanks for stopping by my writer’s block!

Let’s Talk: Is There Value In Diversifying Our Writerly Portfolio?

Welcome Readers!

I have been writing seriously for several years now.  I write mostly novel length fiction, with the occasional short story or novella thrown in.  This past summer, I began to dabble into writing poetry.  I’m not sure how that came about, but it did, and as I always do, I welcomed the inspiration to try it with open arms.  The jury is still out on whether or not I’ve got what it takes to be a poet, however, inspiration is inspiration, and a writer’s got to write.

As I was looking back on my output, I was a little bit shocked.  Last week, I wrote about Learning From The Master’s, and how a writer should seek out and study the works of others in order to perfect their craft and discover their own unique author’s voice.  I believe in that whole heartedly.  It’s great advice for any artist.  But what surprised me as I looked at my own writerly output? There is a lot of different stuff in there!  That “a-ha” moment leads me to ask:  Is there value in diversifying our writerly portfolio?

I would like to believe there is.  One of the great joys I get in life is learning.  Whenever I am tasked with teaching a new course at school, I love to seek out the information needed to become proficient in that area.  I think that with writing, I enjoy the challenge of stretching my wings to embrace a new form or genre.

Last week’s “Learning From The Master’s” post, however, points out the importance of taking the time to perfect one’s craft.  This might account for the amount time it actually takes an author to get from first draft to publication.  It takes a lot of time to create something, let alone keep it true to a style, and further, to develop you voice.

Earlier, I mentioned the variety of styles which my writerly output embodies.  I did notice there are a couple of commonalities, though.  One commonality, for me, is the age of the MC.  It turns out that most of them are in their twenties.  Not all, but most.  Another trend in my writing is Speculative Fiction.  Again, not all, but most.

So what is my take-away from this discovery?  Well, I think it’s that even if someone’s writing output seems very eclectic, there are probably common threads that tie their Writerly Portfolio together.  For me the common threads are age of MC and genre.

What do you think?  Is there value in diversifying a writerly portfolio?  Do you feel it’s better to focus on one style and stick with it?  When you look at your own writing output, what common threads do you find?  What differences?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Thanks for stopping by today!

Let’s Talk: The Writerly Word Count Sweet Spot

Hello Readers!

Summer is winding down.  It’s been a really long time since my last post, but the season has been so busy!  Lots of visits with family, son applying for jobs, driving practice, etc.; It’s been awesome, but my self imposed writing schedule kind of went out the window.

My Summer Writing Bucket List, here, details the plans I had, but a prison break which included a massive manhunt in my neighborhood forced me to switch gears in June as well.  I blog about that experience here (I won’t lie…It was intense).  Finally, I received the latest draft of an incredible screenplay one of my novels inspired, and gave my edits to the screenwriter, just last night.  My bucket list kind of fell by the wayside, but other incredible things took its place.

With the screenplay edits and prison break behind me, I am now free to focus once again on another work in progress.  And I cannot wait!  I have mentioned this here before, but I am a very “lean” writer.  I am envious of my colleagues who over-write and have to do massive cuts to bring their manuscripts down to size.

My writing process always finds me with the opposite problem.  My first draft is often a complete, albeit skeleton of a story, and I go back through editing to fill in gaps, embellish plot, and give more depth to my characters.  I will never be able to craft an epic saga.  I don’t think I have it in me.

This “lean” style of writing, I think, stems from years writing research papers in college.  Outline, get to the point, justify and prove your facts, cite your sources.  It doesn’t leave much room for embellishment.  This factual form of writing is something I did well, and enjoyed.  Writing fiction, however is a whole different ballgame.  Because of my affinity for writing research papers, I think my Writerly Word Count Sweet Spot will always be on the 50-60K range.  I have written longer and shorter fictional works than that range, but most often, that is where I end up.

The Writerly Word Count Sweet Spot.  This is different for everyone, I believe.  Somehow, though I have no scientific proof of this,  it must be connected to us as individual people.  The stories I want to tell are lighter, quicker reads.  Nothing really heavy, since I like to be entertained when I write.  Is that weird?

I posted about word counts on this blog before, too.  I think it’s really important to keep them in mind because agents and editors know what readers expect as far as word count goes, and what sells for each genre.  Works that stray too far from those norms may be problematic to sell to  the public.

Sometimes the storyline can sometimes outweigh the word count.  Think about all of the books we have read through the years.  There are always exceptions.  I try to keep that in mind, because, I believe in my stories.  I believe in my characters.  I don’t like to think that one of my book babies might not see the light of day because its count is a little out of the norm.

So, today, as I prepare to continue on with my edits, I remind myself not to fret about the length my story will end up.  I will move forward, making it the best story it can be, however many words that is.  If it’s a novella, it’s a novella.  If the plot takes off in a meaningful way and ends up longer than my usual Sweet Spot, awesome!  But I have to remain true to the story and characters.  And let me tell you, these characters really make me laugh!  I hope someday they will make you laugh too 🙂  That kind of enjoyment is worth a lot, no matter the word count.

Before I sign off, I ask you these questions:  Do you have a Writerly Word Count Sweet Spot?  Does it fit squarely within the norms?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

I hope you all enjoy the rest of your summer.  Take care, and as always, thank you for stopping by my Writer’s Block!  Enjoy the following video 🙂

Let’s Talk: Word Count!

Welcome to my Writer’s Block!

We are talking about word count today.  Whenever anyone asks me about books I have written or am working on, they inevitably ask me about how long it is. Truth is I know that they want to know how long it is, in pages.  Yet, I answer them in word count.

“Sixty-eight thousand words?  How many pages is that?” they ask.  And I know there is a formula for figuring it out in a general sense.  For the purposes of being able to answer those questions about page count, the following information is listed on fionaraven.com:

Using your current word count and the appropriate formula below, calculate the number of pages you can expect in your finished book:

Your word count divided by 390 = page count for a 5.5″ x 8.5″ book For example: 50,000 divided by 390 = 128.20 pages

Your word count divided by 475 = page count for a 6″ x 9″ book For example: 50,000 divided by 475 = 105.26 pages

In the examples above, use the 5.5” x 8.5” for fiction, and the 6” x 9” for non-fiction.

But Back To Word Count  🙂

Word count is how writers determine what kind of baby we have:  is it a short story, novella, epic novel?  We can generally tell by the word count.  There are several sources for a description of word count “requirements”, but it is also important to realize there is also some grey area there as well.  I tend to lean toward the more flexible word count designations.

Writer’s Digest has a very good post about it here, where they show optimal, acceptable, and unacceptable ranges for just about any fiction book and level.  I like this article, because of that “grey area” I spoke about earlier.  Nothing I do is ever black and white.  I have said this other places on my blog, but the arts, to me, are living things.  They evolve, grow and develop in differing ways.

Does word count really matter?  I think it does.  If you pitch a book to an editor at a press or to a literary agent, it really should fall into the word count range for the genre that it is.  The agents and editors know the market.  They know what readers specific genres expect as far as word count.  So, I think it does matter.

What happens if your novel falls short of the desired word count?  All is not lost.  While I believe in word count ranges, if a story is well told and it’s only a novella length piece, maybe that’s what it was meant to be.  And if your story explodes into the hundreds of thousands for word count?  Perhaps you have a series on your hands!

Is  word count something you should focus on from the beginning of a project?  Maybe, maybe not.  For example, I believe in a free-flow writing process.  I do like outlines (a LOT!), but when actually doing the writing of a first draft, I get the ideas down, and fill in gaps later.  I tend to be a very lean writer, generally speaking.  I don’t think I could ever write a novel of epic length.  It doesn’t suit my style.

But if it is November 1, and I am embarking on another trip through NaNoWriMo, word count is everything to me!  I want to win, so my goal is 50K or more words by the end of the month.

How do you feel about word count?  Do you follow any hard and fast rules, or are you an embracer of the grey area, like me?  Comment below!  I love to connect with my readers J