Writer’s Block

“How do you deal with writer’s block?”

This is easily the most common question I get asked. But the very fact that so many people ask implies that it’s a real thing that writers struggle with, so I figured I should finally post my advice for all to read.

Do I struggle with writer’s block? Maybe. I’m not convinced that I do. I definitely struggle from “writer’s lack of motivation” and “writer’s procrastination.” But writer’s block? When you’re facing imminent deadlines, as the saying goes:

That said, there have been moments where I’ve hit a wall in my writing and have had no idea how to proceed. Things like characters causing unforeseen problems and plot holes that I don’t know how to write my way out of. And things like having no idea what to write next, or — worse — having too many ideas and not sure which is the best way to go. These things all make it really difficult to continue writing. They “block” the path, so to speak.

So, what do I do when I hit these blocks? Here are a few things that help me:

1. Get active

I’m not a natural plotter. Every time I’ve tried to plot out a novel, it hasn’t worked for me — my characters decide they want to go in a different direction to what I’ve planned, and they drag me (kicking and screaming) after them, trailing ink and paper in my wake. (Okay, not really, but you get the visual.) When this happens and I have no idea where they’re taking me or how to write their journey, I find the best thing I can do is to get outside and get moving. Something about being active really helps get my “creative juices” flowing, the stimulation of exercise heightening my imagination. Personally, I like to get my heart pumping for this to be most effective, but if you’re not inclined towards that kind of thing, then just a relaxing walk in the sunshine can do wonders for your creativity. Go to the beach, go to the mountains or the forest or the field or wherever you live, just get outside and amongst nature. Breathe it in, still your mind, and let the ideas flow naturally. Some will be inspiring, some won’t, but they’ll all help nudge you forward so that when you’re back with your laptop or notebook, you’ll have some motivation to press onwards.

2. Read a book

This is the oldest trick in the book (excuse the pun). There’s nothing more inspiring than reading a (good) book. There have been way too many times in my life where I’ve been reading something and have had to put it down just so I could stare into space and think, “This. This is the kind of magic I want to create for people.” There’s something so incredibly motivating about being inspired by the words of others. (Also, when I’m really struggling with my equivalent of writer’s block, I’ll often re-read an old favourite, knowing that it has encouraged me in the past, rather than risking a new book that may not be wonderful enough to give me the push I need.)

3. Spend time with family and friends

Don’t be so hard on yourself — sometimes the reason we struggle so hard with writer’s block is because we’re pushing ourselves too hard. The “I should be writing!” reprimand is dangerous, because the more we say it to ourselves, the worse we feel, and the harder it is to actually get writing. So, don’t. Instead, do something you love. Spend time with your family or your friends and just experience the world. Gain a fresh perspective. Go easier on yourself, and soon you’ll feel ready to give writing another shot. Rinse and repeat.

4. Seek entertainment

Don’t underestimate the power of a good movie or TV show or game. These are all called “entertainment” for a reason, and the power of storytelling is strong in them. Like reading a good book, it can be incredibly inspiring to watch or play something, and like exercising, it can relax your brain enough for your writer’s block to unblock.

5. Get creative

Do something else on the creative side of things that is unrelated to writing. Buy one of those colouring books. Paint or sketch something (or even just doodle). Knit something. Act out a scene from your favourite book or movie. Bake something. Pick up an instrument or sing along to your favourite tunes (it doesn’t matter if you’re tone- deaf — just have fun and belt out those notes!). Do some scrapbooking. Go out and take some photos. Just do something — anything — creative.

NOTE: If you’re up for it, try and do something that is related to writing, but not the project that’s causing you problems. (For example, right now I’m at a sticky spot in my current manuscript, so I’m writing this blog post instead. And now that I’m coming towards the end of it, I’m already feeling refreshed enough that I’m ready to get back into the manuscript!)

6. Just do it

This last point is the one you won’t want to read, but I have to add it from a “tough love” perspective. I’m sorry to say, sometimes you just have to give your own butt a kick and, as Nike’s slogan encourages, “Just do it.” By this, I mean, just write. Write messy, write bad, write nonsense. It might (and likely will) be awful, especially if you’re so blocked that you have no idea what to write. You’ll probably cringe your whole way through it. But — and I promise you this — you’ll eventually write yourself out of your block. You’ll reach a place where you find some momentum, and your story will start coming together again. And that’s when you can go back and clean up the messy words that got you from the bad place into the good place.

Writing is mostly about discipline. Hopefully it’s something you love to do, but it’s also hard work. And like any hard work, it is mentally and emotionally draining. (Sometimes physically, too.) So when you reach the point where you’re blocked, where you can’t go on, where you don’t know what to do, sometimes you just have to make yourself get on with it. That can be challenging. No — that can be impossible. You may want to rip out your hair and scream at the top of your lungs. You’ll consider throwing your laptop out the window. You will likely want to give up. You will have self-doubt and, on the worst days, self-loathing. It’s painful, tiring, endlessly frustrating.

But… if writing means something to you, then you have to take the hard days with the easy days. You have to press on and push past whatever is blocking you, and more often than not, it’s that writerly discipline that will get you through. To use the common exercise example, to strengthen any muscle, you have to work it. Over and over again. Same with your writing muscle — to get through writer’s block, you have to keep writing. Over and over again. No matter how difficult it is, no matter how messy the result. Because, as Ernest Hemingway says:

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.

How Do I Get My Book Published?

One of the questions I’m frequently asked is along these lines:

“I’ve written a book… but how do I get it published?”

The thing is, as simple as that question might seem, the answer is considerably more complicated—and lengthy. But given how many people ask, I figure I should try and answer it as best as I can, so here goes.

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Journal entry after completing RAELIA in 2011

Given that RAELIA will be officially released in a week, imagine my excitement at stumbling upon this journal entry I wrote after I finished my first draft of book two!

For those who don’t know, both AKARNAE and RAELIA were written before I was offered a publishing deal at the beginning of 2014, and I’m pleased to confirm that the word count culling I mention briefly below ended up being well worth it! (I successfully cut the original 185,000 words of AKARNAE down to a much more realistic 116,000 words – and after working with my editor, it bounced up again to just under 120,000. For the record, RAELIA is being published at just under 130,000.)

Forgive the redactions, but, well… spoilers! :-D

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Q&A With An Author

I had so much fun vlogging the other day that I’m thinking I’ll do a series of shorter videos in a kind of “Q&A” theme. Sort of like “Q&A With An Author” – the author being me!

SO… If you have any questions you think would be interesting for me to answer via vlog, then hit me up in the comments below! It could be anything regarding The Medoran Chronicles (Akarnae, Raelia, or the rest of the books in the series – but I won’t reveal spoilers!)… to other upcoming projects… to writing questions in general… to books I’m reading or have read or loved etc… Or really, ANY question that might be fun to answer!!

(Though, let’s avoid all mentions of orange juice, okay? I learned my lesson in my previous vlogging adventure! *Awkward laugh*)

The Necessary Discipline Of Writing

I wrote over 11,000 words today! If you read my Facebook post earlier, you’ll know some of those words were spent trudging through a particularly challenging scene, which wasn’t all that much fun. Here’s an honesty moment: I desperately considered giving up and binge-watching repeats of The 100.
 
BUT… I didn’t do that. Instead, I pushed on until I got to the good stuff and I’m only stopping now due to the necessity of sleep. (Annoying!)
 
I get asked this a lot, but it’s important enough to reiterate: sometimes writing is more a matter of discipline than anything else. It’s like climbing a mountain—the upward trek can be difficult, but once you reach the summit, there’s a stunning view and an enjoyable journey back down.
 
If you’re a writer, let me encourage you to press on through the hard parts, because if you do, you’ll eventually reach a place where things will begin to flow naturally. The discipline will be worth it, guaranteed!
Neil Gaiman Quote

The Importance Of An Author Platform

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In this day and age, as painful as it is to admit, agents and publishers are drawn to writers who have evidence of a platform already in play. This is partly because it means there is already a readership ready to purchase any books that may be signed on, but it’s also partly because it shows a willingness on your end to do some of the hard yards of marketing. And I say ‘hard yards’ because building a following is not easy. It takes time, it takes dedication, it takes vulnerability. So if an agent or publisher can see you already have people interested in your words – whether through blogging or other social media avenues – that tells them that they can consider taking you seriously as well.

I know, I know, it kind of sucks. I mean, what happened to the good old days when all you needed was to write a decent story? Well the truth is, writing an amazing book is not enough anymore. The literary world is saturated with fantastic, mind-blowing tales… yet only a few of them ever see any kind of limelight. Sure, the better ones might get a publishing contract, but that doesn’t guarantee them the true glory they deserve. And that’s quite often not because of any lack on the writing side of things, but rather due to a lack of awareness on the readership side of things. And these days, awareness needs to start early on if you want even a chance of building a strong readership.

I’ve been really fortunate with building a healthy platform through this blog – in fact, I’m amazed that there are nearly 8,000 of you following my random ramblings, and that is truly humbling, believe me. But I’ve recently tried to be more active on my Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts too, mostly because they’re fabulous ways for me to give short, sharp updates about what’s going on in my writing world. (Okay, to be honest, Twitter and FB are where I give updates about my writing, but Instagram is where I just post a lot of funny memes, usually to do with books and/or writing and/or reading. I can’t help myself!)

Because of this, in the lead up to all the juicy details I’ll be giving over the next little while about the release of my upcoming book(s) – including cover reveals and a few other really exciting things that are happening in the near future – I want to ask a favour. This blog is going really strong so it’d be great to build on that with my other platform areas as well.

…. So….

If it’s not too much to ask, I would be super appreciative if you’d jump on over to follow me on my Twitter/Instagram/Facebook pages. I promise I’m not one of those spammy updaters – you can even scroll through my recent feeds to see for yourself that pretty much everything I post is wacky, funny, or helpful in some way.

In advance, I want to say thank you! And as a token of my appreciation, sometime within the next few days I promise to give some exciting news about a hugely awesome author event I’ve been invited to that’s coming up reeaaaalllly soon. It’s been a massive secret for months, but stay tuned on my social media pages for the big reveal!

Here are the following details you’ll need:

Twitter – https://twitter.com/LynetteNoni

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/lynette.noni

Instagram – https://instagram.com/lynettenoni/

And for any writers out there who are looking to get published, let me encourage you to start building your platform today!

Giggle-worthy acknowledgements

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So I have a confession to make. I love reading the acknowledgements pages of novels. This probably started back when I realised I wanted to become a published author, and I quickly became fascinated by seeing who the other authors out there were thanking for helping their books get out to the world. There were always the common denominators – family, friends, agents, editors, publishers, etc. – and reading their gratitude always filled me with warm and fuzzies and the wishful longing of hope that one day it would be me writing out those lists to be inked into pages forevermore. And let me tell you, when that time came, it was as awesome as I’d imagined. (Yet also rather nerve-wracking, since it’s rather personal, in a weird way!)

But as I was saying, most acknowledgements follow a similar pattern, yet every once in a while I’ll find myself surprised. And this is exactly what happened to me the other day after a book was recommended to me by the amazing YA aficionado at Dymocks Sydney. When I was at the CBD store for an author event last month, I met with Emily and was honoured to take part in the inaugural “YA bookmeet” that she had organised. Since I live in a different state and can’t make it every month due to the obvious travel-related reasons, Emily offered to email me the recommendations that will be given at each meeting. The August catch up has recently come and gone, and I believe they discussed YA science fiction and dystopian novels (I’ve attached a copy of her recommendations at the bottom of this blog in case anyone is interested in those genres).

Where I’m going with all this is, one of the titles on the list made me have an “Umm???” moment – enough that I emailed Emily back and asked for more information. And that was because of Libba Bray’s ‘Going Bovine’. I mean, let’s start with the title and the brief description given below. A teen with Mad Cow Disease who has to save the world? Needless to say, my interest was piqued – if only because it sounded mildly ridiculous, to be quite frank. But after Emily replied to me with a glowing recommendation (“I was not expecting the YA rebirth of The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy but that’s exactly what I got! It’s absolutely absurd and wild and it’s probably the title I would most highly recommend out of that selection…“), I decided to look into this strange-sounding book.

Long story short, I’m deep in writing mode at the moment and have only had a chance to read the first couple of chapters (and boy, was Emily correct in calling it “absolutely absurd and wild” – because that’s definitely what it is!) but it’s the acknowledgements that I want to talk about here.

… Because they are beyond hilarious.

You know how I said earlier that sometimes acknowledgements can surprise you? Well, Libba Bray provides the perfect example with Going Bovine. In fact, she goes on for a whole four pages, each of which is filled with humour. Exhibit A:

I’d like to thank the guy who once validated my parking ticket when I had no money, and the homeless lady who said my hair looked like a dandelion with pieces blown away. I’d like to thank the people who save the whales and the whales themselves, especially the whales stuck in middle management, because that is tough. I would like to thank the people in this world who are weirder than I am—all three of you, plus Crispin Glover. I’d like to thank people who read and think and people who have made me think and read and those who think while reading and read while thinking, but you shouldn’t read while driving because that’s a safety issue. If I possibly met you in some parallel universe, I would like to say welcome and thank you, too, and, you know, sorry about not calling—that time travel thing’s tricky with my rollover minutes—and also, is there a way to get that sticky stuff from the Higgs field off the bottom of your shoe? I’m asking.

I issue these copious thanks because I’m always afraid I’ll forget somebody. By the time the pages are in copyediting, and my brain feels like it’s gone a few rounds with Ali in his prime, I have a hard time remembering to pick up milk, let alone remembering the many wonderful people who helped midwife this book…

So, you know, thanks. To everybody. Everywhere. Well, maybe not the guy who vomited on my new shoes after the True Believers concert that time in Austin. I don’t want to thank him. But most people—thanks.

Still. In acknowledgements pages, they like you to get specific with your shout-outs. Otherwise, people stop inviting you to dinner. And I like dinner…

 

She goes on to mention some specific people, and those are still really quite amusing to read, especially things like:

The Tea Lounge on 7th Avenue, 2001-2008. RIP.

and

Pete Townshend. I don’t actually know Pete Townshend either, but I’ve just always wanted to be able to thank him in my acknowledgements pages.

and

The makers of Rock Band, because it’s cheaper and more fun than antianxiety meds.

So as you can see, these acknowledgements surprised me. They were so much fun to read! Plus, without even having opened to the first page of the actual novel (since the acknowledgements were printed at the front of the book, rather than the back), I already knew I was in for a fun, humorous adventure because the voice of the author came through loud and clear early on. And this turned out to be true, as seen when I did open up the first chapter, which begins with, “The best day of my life happened when I was five and almost died at Disney World. I’m sixteen now, so you can imagine that’s left me with quite a few days of major suckage.”

See? That’s a fun voice to listen to. I have no idea if it will last throughout the entire book – and if it does, whether it will get old, fast, but it was certainly enough to draw me in. Not to mention, enough for me to write a whole blog post about it!

So, yeah. Let me encourage you to read acknowledgements, as weird as it sounds – because you never know what surprises you might find. And I say that especially to all the aspiring authors out there. Because it truly is fascinating to see the amount of effort that goes into getting a novel out into the world and all the people who help make that happen.

All righty, I think it’s time for me to get back into my writing cave. Happy weekend, everyone!

Oh, and below are the YA recommendations from Emily/Dymocks. If you live in Sydney, their next YA Bookmeet is on September 5th in store (George Street) – all are welcome!

 

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