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.

Continue reading

How Do I Get Stories From My Head To My Page?

Over the last year I’ve presented a number of writing workshops, and something I’m asked over and over again by budding authors is this: “How do I get what’s in my head out onto a page?”

I’ve always found this a fascinating question, because for me, it just happens, and very little thought process goes into making it so. But given the regularity of this question, I know that’s not the case for everyone. Much like writer’s block, this is a very real conundrum for a number of people, so I want to offer my advice in the hope that it might encourage some people.

The way I see it, there are three (main) things that can help turn your imagined-stories into written-stories:

First up, just like when it comes to writer’s block, we need to accept that writing is not always rainbows and butterflies; sometimes it’s purely a result of self-discipline. For me, writing is a complete joy 90% of the time , but 10% of the time it’s just plain hard work. There’s no easy way to say it: sometimes you just have to make yourself write—even if the result of that isn’t very ‘good’. It might be a total mess of words on a page, it might not even make sense. But if that idea in your head is ever going to get out of your head, then you need to start somewhere. Listen to the wisdom from Lao Tzu: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” The same goes for writing: A story of a hundred thousand words begins with a single letter.

Secondly, gain a fresh perspective. Go for a walk, spend some time amongst nature, head to the beach, visit a friend—just get out of your house or office or wherever you’re normally confined with your laptop, and see what the rest of the world is doing. Experiencing a new environment will give you a boost of energy and get those endorphins running (even more so if you actually do something active like exercising), and it’ll clear the cobwebs from your mind enough that you’ll have more clarity when you sit down to write again.

Lastly, sometimes it helps to see your story play out like a movie across your mind, or like a script that a director would be following. If that’s the case, then write it down as it comes to you—words, impressions, sounds, sights, smells, whatever it is that you’re experiencing. Even if you just bullet-point your notes down, you can then go back and do these wonderful things call “fleshing out” and “editing”. (Authors everywhere rejoice at the power of these two writerly gems.) This final point kind of merges in with the first point, that being just to start writing. Because if you don’t start, you won’t start. (Sheer genius, right there.)

There are heaps of other things that can help, and it all depends on the kind of personality you have (for instance, some people might not be good in nature and you’d instead benefit from watching a television show, while others might be inspired from reading a wonderful book—both methods of which can also help with generalised writer’s block). But all in all, the most important thing is to find out what works for you—and to just start doing it.

To finish, I personally think the main reason writers struggle to get ideas out of their heads and onto pages is because they just don’t think they have the ability to harness words well enough to capture the entire “perfect” vision of their story. As writers, we are our own worst critics, and sometimes that can stop us in our tracks and keep us from trying to begin with. This makes me sad, because there are so many people out there with such incredible stories inside of them, but they don’t believe in themselves enough to have a crack at actually writing those stories. But my rebuttal to the argument of “I’m not a good enough writer yet” is simply this: “How will you ever become a “good enough” writer if you don’t take a risk and just start writing?”

You’ll never know if you never try. So dust off those writing caps, folks, and ignore the mess of where you might begin.

… Just begin.

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!

The Importance Of An Author Platform

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!

Top 10 Writing Tips

A few months ago I was asked by the Gold Coast Bulletin to come up with a list of writing tips that they could publish in their newspaper. I really wanted to include those tips in a blog post back then too, but the Bulletin asked me to wait until they’d published them first, which is fair enough. I’d pretty much forgotten about it, but this week my wonderful publicist tracked down the link for the whole article that they wrote up on me back in May in the aftermath of Supanova, which means I can now share my tips with you all!

Top 10 Tips (Portrait) JPEG

 

Feel free to share the above tips if you find them helpful at all. And if you want to read the whole article (it’s an entire page, which is so cool!), you can do so by clicking on this link to find a screenshot JPEG of it here: Gold Coast Bulletin. (I’m seriously chuffed that they called me “Queensland’s darling of fantasy writing” – how lovely!)

That’s all for now. I hope the tips come in handy for any fellow writers reading this – whether you’re aspiring, emerging, or seasoned! Be encouraged!

ATTENTION SYDNEY READERS AND WRITERS

I’m visiting the beautiful Sydney at the moment and giving a couple of writing workshops and Q&As over the next couple of days – woohoo! I’m pretty sure Monday’s workshop is fully booked out, but they’ve opened up a second time slot for tomorrow because of the demand and there are still a handful of spots available (for tomorrow only). The workshops are a great idea for if you have kids on school holidays who love to read or write, since they’re targeted for youths aged between 11-18 years (ish).

I also have a Dymocks bookshop (CBD store) event on Tuesday that is for all ages and has no attendance restrictions or limits (as far as I know). Come one, come all!!

Everything is free, btw, plus the workshops also provide a free lunch for the kids!

Here’s what you need to know…

Workshops on Saturday and Monday:

Dymocks event on Tuesday:


Feel free to ask any questions or share these details with anyone you want! And if you end up coming along to anything, make sure you let me know you follow my blog because then I can be like, “HEY!!!” :-)