Monday, June 6, 2011

Getting yourself to work

Okay, we talked about all the ooie, gooie, nice stuff. The positive side of getting yourself to work. We learned ways to get beyond our fears. Then we used some of those same tricks to drive us in a positive way. Visions not just to get beyond fears, but visions to motivate us.

But what if you're still not doing as well as you'd hoped? What if you're still sitting at your desk, staring at a blank piece of paper.

This blog is going to get a little more down and dirty with some unhappy truths. But, swallow hard and suck it up. Sometimes we need to hear these things.

Reasons you're having trouble writing...

1. You're not ready to write the book you're working on.

Sometimes when we can't think of what to write next, it's an indicator that we don't know our book well enough. I'm not saying that you need a scene by scene outline. Sometimes that takes all the fun out of writing.

What I am saying is that you at least need to know who your characters are, what they want and why they don't have it.

You also need to know why the main characters are in conflict with each other.

If you sit down to write with a vague sense that you're going to write a single title paranormal about shape shifters and the woman who doesn't know she's their only have a bit of the story. Maybe enough to get three chapters, but not enough to drive you for an entire book.

So step away from the computer. Get a notebook and pen. Ask yourself who these people are, what they want, why they don't have it...and why they are in conflict with the antagonist (or hero...if this is a romance).

2. If you're having trouble writing...have you studied enough?

When I first began speaking at conferences, a line that always found its way into all my workshops was...Everybody likes to believe their talent will carry them through, after five years (or 8 or 20 or 25) I've learned that knowing how to write works better.

It's true. There are people out there like Donald Maass, Michael Hague, Debra Dixon, Dwight Swain and Jack Bickham...who are master teachers. They've written books and give workshops that teach the basics and beyond. If you don't read their books or take their classes, you won't just struggle; you'll probably find yourself falling behind the people who have read their books.

Online classes are a fabulous tool. I teach four a year. (Only 4 because I also have books to write.) I have one coming up in August, JOURNEY STEPS (which is about plotting) and one in October PREPPING FOR NANO. (You can get information in the coming attractions section of

People who teach love to share the wealth. Sure, you'll see some teachers pop up who are only teaching to get their name out so their next book sells. And if you've gone to some of their workshops, you've probably come away disappointed and maybe even disillusioned about online workshops.

Don't let a few bad workshops turn you off from one of your greatest writing tools.

There are lots of us who teach regularly. Lots of us who generously share the true wealth. If you find a workshop that interests you, go to the teacher's website. If he or she only seems to teach when they have a book out, that should be a red flag. Also, those of us who love to teach can't help teaching! So there will be free stuff on our websites. I have 2 or 3 workshops on this site and will soon have articles posting. (I don't yet have the articles button connected! I will though. I swear. Writing frequently gets in the way of that! LOL!!!)

Anyway, read the how tos from the really smart people. Dixon, Maass, Swain, Bickham.

Then find the online workshops from people like me who are in the trenches. I know how to write because I write. Especially romance. If you're looking for some real life, every day tricks and tips, I'm your gal.

Put the time in. Do the work. And you will cut down on your "staring at the page" time considerably.

3. Maybe you can't write today because what you think should happen next isn't what should happen next?

Hum. Think that one through. LOL.

Last week, I was having the devil's time with my new proposal. I "wrote" 30 pages, but I wouldn't have sent them to anybody. My husband and I went to his sister's for the weekend and I tell you no lie, I dreamed that what I had as chapter 2 needed to be chapter 3 because something important had been left out...and that should be chapter 2. I got out of bed, set up my laptop, wrote what my dream told me should have been chapter 2 and worked.

If something won't come. There is frequently a reason. In my case, I'd missed some important stuff that needed to go in. But lots of times I'm trying to get a character to behave out of character. Or I'm trying to put in a scene I like because I like it but it doesn't enhance the story. So the writing will be slow, like walking in knee-deep oatmeal. And we all know that's just bad and it's going to result in a bad book.

So what do you do?

Again, get a notepad and pen, sit down in a room that isn't your office and start doodling. Why isn't this working? What should fit here? What's the point of the next scene? What's the point of the story? Just ask yourself a bunch of questions until you find yourself answering honestly and pretty soon you'll have your next scene.

4. Maybe you can't write because you're just not thinking creatively enough.

That happens. You're working diligently, maybe too diligently, and your brain dries up. Or fries.

You think, okay next scene has to show the hero seeing the heroine in a different light. And you sit down and write something totally trite. Because your brain is empty.


How? List of 20. If you know what your scene should be ... Hero needs to begin seeing the heroine in a different light...then get a piece of paper. Number from 1 to 20. Write the question... WHAT ARE 20 WAYS THE HERO CAN SEE THE HEROINE IN A DIFFERENT LIGHT? and start listing answers.

The first few will be trite. Because your brain is tired. The next few will be silly because your brain is harrassing you. But then it will click in and you will start getting better answers. Go with that. Go the whole way to #20. Why? Because even if you get a great answer at #13 (which I always do) if you keep going you will get a fantastic answer at #16 or 18 or 20. And you want fantastic.

Why? Not just to give yourself a better scene, but also to totally wake up your brain so that when you write that scene, it will be magic.

So there you have it. 4 reasons you might be facing a blank page right now and how to get past them.

Even though I was a bit tough today, you still love me, right? Of course, you do. So, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to post them in the comments section.


Oh, and in case you're wondering, I still read how tos and take classes. You can never know too much and you also never know when someone's information can take you to the next level!

And, by the way...A BABY ON THE RANCH comes out this week! Yay! (Go buy it! :) Seriously, I have a mortgage...some day I'll post about how that mortgage drives me to write!)

1 comment:

Cheryle said...

Some good advice there, thanks, Susan!