Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Writing When You Don't Want To

Time spent writing is never time wasted.

There are many writers who are able to diligently button down (as in "butt-on-chair" down) and hit that daily word limit they set for themselves. Others (who shall remain nameless but might be me) need more of a challenge to push them to reach that goal. Challenges could include working with a reading/critique group or signing up for a challenge that encourages accountability (such as NANOWRIMO--a novel in a month?! Sign me up!). And for others still, that word count is an elusive specter to be chased but never quite caught. So maybe you just give up. Surf the internet for a while. Teach yourself to crochet.


On the off-chance that I'm not the only one who struggles in reaching that word limit, I offer the above advice when it seems like you can't write or don't want to write or can't find the storyline. Spend your time writing and you are working, honing your craft. Just like an athlete needs to cross-train and try some different exercises, perhaps you just need to diversity a bit.

Take Your Characters on a Playdate.

Butt-on chair required. Laptop and coffee optional.
Photo copyright Mari Farthing. All rights reserved.
No matter which of the three writer types you fit into (the buttoned-down, the connected or the wanderer), sometimes it's helpful to take your writing off the beaten path a bit, explore ideas or characters that complement your work or even take it off onto tangents you never imagined.

Take a trip down the road less traveled and ideas may present that you never considered before. Consider a scene and rewrite it from the POV of another character in the scene--or maybe a character who observed the scene from off the page.

What about an unconventional encounter that informs an event in your plot? You may be surprised what you learn about your characters during the process. I'm always amazed by what my characters can teach me--these people who live inside my head and are generated from my imagination seem to have lives and experiences that I don't know about.

You Always Hurt the Ones You Love.

Repeat after me:

This is pretend. I can write anything I want. I can erase it or remove it and it never happened.

Yes, so your characters may help to inform some events you might not have imagined (that's the magic part of writing), but you always must keep the other part of the statement in mind--these people are generated from your imagination.

Are you suffering from a particularly vexing block? Do you feel like lashing out? Lash out at your characters. Make them suffer a bit. Twist and turn your story, distort it and mess around with it and get all of your anger out. Don't take it out on your actual, flesh-and-blood loved ones. Your writing can be a catharsis, and again--time spent writing is never wasted; you're investing in yourself, you're practicing and if you're not generating scenes for your current story, you are generating ideas for future works.

Also consider that if you have a block, there is a reason. You know how Lassie would always stop Timmy before he found real trouble? What is the block stopping you from stumbling over? There might be something there you need to explore.

 

Bonus Features

If you're not convinced of the value of this writing, consider how excited you get when you see that a favorite author of yours has a short story that features the characters of a favorite book or series. It's like a little treat, and many popular authors are known for doing just this.

As writers, we are encouraged to self-promote to help our books to stand out among the hundreds of thousands of titles released each year, and what a great way to do that than by providing something that nobody else can provide: more of what you do. What can you do with these scraps of writing?
  • Blog posts on your author site
  • Exclusive guest posts
  • Bonus chapters in reissued titles
  • Exclusive readings at book signings or events
  • Short story e-books (singles)
  • Ideas for new books, characters or subplots
So, the next time you feel blocked, don't take "no" for an answer. Don't stress out--take it out on your characters instead. Get them talking and write your way out of it.

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