I've been on vacation for a couple weeks now. I was counting down the days until my break because I had intended to write. I haven't written as much as I intended, but break's not over yet.
I've been mulling over my YA soccer WIP for a while now, trying to make various plot pieces fit, but I haven't written anything in what feels like ages. Honestly, I've had a bit of writer's block. Every idea I came up with seemed wrong and so I was hesitant to put my fingers to the keys because I've already done two major overhauls on this manuscript. So how have I been combating writer's block and turning into something productive? Here are a few tips.
1. Writing Podcasts
I've never listed to podcasts before. I know. I know. I'm behind the times. But I found some wonderful podcasts. Sara Zarr has a wonderful podcast that comes out roughly twice a month. It's called "This Creative Life with Sara Zarr." Ms. Zarr interviews other influential writers like A.S. King, Sara Dessen, Siobhan Vivian and Stephanie Perkins. These interviews often discuss the writing process, the struggles of being a writer (i.e. self-doubt), and the benefits of the writing community. It was nice to know that successful writers have experience/are experiencing some of the struggles I have faced/am facing. Plus, I love hearing about other writer's processes and where their inspirations comes from. Other noteworthy podcasts include Authors are Rockstars! and Girls in the Stacks.
Do you listen to podcasts? Which ones do you like?
2. Write when you aren't "writing."
As I said before, I haven't put my fingers to the keys in a while, but I've been mulling over plot points. I find myself thinking about my book before bed, at the gym while I'm on the treadmill, even in the shower and in the car. Writers are busy people, but we do have some time to ourselves, and sometimes, we just need to think. This is still "writing." At least in my opinion it is. I'm a planner, and while I have read some scenes by the seat of my pants and ADORED them and the feeling of doing so, I work best when I have a clear idea of what I want to write before I sit down to try. Otherwise, I end up staring at a blank screen. Even if all that thinking leads to "Person A and Person B need to have a talk about X," that's at least progress.
3. Work on something else.
For me, this has meant editing another WIP and putting together the materials for an upcoming blog tour for Podium Finish. I'm still doing writerly things, but have put some distance between me and this WIP that is driving me crazy.
**Side note: The reason it's "driving me crazy" is because I know the idea is worth pursuing and has potential. I just need to find the path of least resistance to fix these plot issues. So a tip for those experiencing writer's block: try to pin point why. Are you intimidated by the idea? Do you know it's good and question your ability to write it? Is doubt starting to creep in? Combating writer's block is easier when you know the cause.
4. Read and read like a writer.
Since I'm on break, I've had a lot more time to read. But what does reading like a writer mean? It means finding literary models and determining what you like or don't like about them. Do you like how the romance develops? Do you like the complexity of the narrator? Does it have a knock-out voice? Is it an old tale with a new twist? I've been reading YA contemporary books since that is what my WIP is, but reading outside of the genre you are working in can be helpful too.
**Another tip: It's almost 2014, so there have been lots of lists posted recently about the books that are coming out next year. Read these lists. At the very least, it will grow your TBR list, but it could get the juices flowing. You never know.
**Random thought I had recently: wouldn't it be cool if there was a way to sync your goodreads TBR list with your amazon wishlist? Is there a way to do this and I just don't know it?
5. Practice your pitch and/or query.
Ideally, there will come a point when said troublesome WIP will be ready to be pitched to agents. Work on the pitch now. There are lots of twitter pitch contests out there and getting the main idea of your novel down in 140 characters can be hard. (Sometimes harder than writing the novel.) Working on a pitch is still productive, and it could help you combat writer's block, as makes you focus on your book in a different way. If you're having trouble with plot points or a story arc, trying to come up with a 140 character pitch or a 35 word pitch really makes you get to the heart of your story and what makes it interesting. Writing a draft of a query or working on a synopsis can help too. Both options are another way of doing something productive (though they might not be used immediately and will likely need to be tweaked later on when they are needed) but also looking at your manuscript through a different lens.
6. Ask yourself "what is the worst thing that could happen to my character?"
In trying to streamline my plot, I asked myself this question and doing so helped me better realize my main character's arc and what major plot points need to happen.
7. Work out of order.
If you are stuck at a certain point in your book, why not fast forward and write a later scene. Even if it's just a single scene, it's something, and often times, writing one scene can lead to momentum. I did this with the MG WIP I have. I had a solid beginning third and a middle I was not-so-into at that point, so I skipped ahead to the last third. I don't think this will work for everyone and it definitely won't work for every project, but in this instance, after writing part A and part C, it was very easy to write Part B.
What other tips do you have?
Back in October 2012, I did a similar post about writer's block that can be viewed here.