Quick Mini-Writer’s Block Tricks

Anyone who has had mini-writer’s block knows that it can be painful. I’m sure most of you know mini-writer’s block, even if you don’t call it that. It’s where you know what you want to write, but you can’t quite get the words to start flowing. Everything you try doesn’t seem to work, or you can’t even get the ball rolling to see if it does work. Fear not! There are a few tricks that can help. And these truly are tricks, done to trick you brain into cooperating. I have four of them for you to try: two for you computer-writers, and two for you longhand writers (like me).

1: If you normally write on a computer, why not throw your brain–and the mini-writer’s block–a curve ball? Switch it up by grabbing a notebook and pen and write longhand for a session. Once you get into the groove, you can switch back to your normal style of typing the words directly into your word processor, thoughts of your mini-writer’s block gone.

2: If you flat out refuse to write without your computer (and I’ve heard stories of writers who do), you can also trick your brain by using a different font or text color. Seeing the words look different than you’re used to could trigger a burst of creativity, sending that mini-writer’s block away faster than two football teams out of Los Angeles (yes, I’m 15 years late on that joke, but that’s always the first simile that pops into my mind–blame six months of working on the Jungle Cruise for that one).

3: For those of you who write longhand, why not go the opposite route of what I suggest in example one? Try writing on your computer. Again, it only has to be a single or partial writing session, but if it gets results, why not? Plus you won’t have to copy that first part over again later.

4: Again for you longhand writers, if you don’t want to write directly into your computer, try a different colored pen. Like example two, a new look could trigger ideas. Or try a pen that feels different in your hand. This may bump up the creativity in the short term. Or write with a pencil. Not only will this likely feel different in your hand and look different on the page, but it also has a different texture when you’re actually writing. This triple whammy might be exactly what you need to get the words flowing.

So next time you know what you want to say, but you’re stumped about how you actually want to get it on the page, try one of these steps. Your conscious mind will be focusing on how this is unlike your normal habit, and your unconscious mind can swoop in and save the day. Good luck, and have fun!

Counting Words Longhand-My Mini Writing Break

A quick hit today.

I write longhand–the words don’t seem to flow when I write on the computer. I also need to take a lot of breaks when I write. I’m not one of those authors who starts and then looks up to see hours have passed. I’m usually pretty aware of every passing minute. I used to break every page or two to read something in a book, check the Internet, or simply get up and get a drink of water–not because I’m thirsty, but because I need the mini break. I’ve since found a solution to my problem–I count the words I’ve written.

Since I write longhand, I don’t have an handy-dandy word count button. This can be frustrating since that’s how I like to track my daily writing goals. I’ve now found a solution to both of my problems–I count the words when I finish a page. Not only do I track my progress, but it gives me that mini-break I need. While I count, my subconscious is working on what comes next. How do I know? Quite often, before I start counting, I’m not sure what I’m going to put down on the page next. But after I’ve written down my number and added it to the day’s running total, I often find the words flow a bit easier.

What’s the lesson here? Should you do this, too? Probably not, but if you’re situation is like mine, give it a shot. I think the real lesson I’m trying to pass on is to simply find a routine that works for you, even if it seems silly. No one has to know (unless you post it on your blog for all to see!), and if it helps, that’s all that matters. So try something quirky. You may just find it helps both your word count and word quality!

Ideas–The Writer’s Frame of Mind

I’m sure, if you’re a writer, you’ve been asked where you get your ideas. And no matter how you answer, I’m also sure the true answer is both “Who knows? ” and “Everywhere!” That’s because you have to be going out of your way to not find ideas wherever you go, wherever you look. With the right frame of mind–the writer’s frame of mind–ideas are the easiest part of the entire process.

What is the writer’s frame of mind? Simple. That’s where you see potential stories everywhere you look. You see two kids enraptured by something in the grass. Did they find a tiny alien? A camouflaged doorway that leads to the bowels of the earth? An injured fairy? You see a vanity licence plate that you can’t quite decipher. Is it code for a secret society? Dew dances off a spider web in the morning light. Is that web really made of crystal? It could mean a terrifying tale of a new breed of killer spiders, or a humorous take on bumblers trying to make a buck off simple web they think is diamond. Someone drops a letter into a mailbox. Maybe it’s a ransom note. Maybe it’s a “Dear John” letter. Or it could be a strange correspondence with the mail box creature. You get the picture. When you’re in the writer’s frame of mind, you’ll see potential in everything, from the truly strange to the absolutely mundane.

What should you do with these ideas once you get them? I used to be a proponent of an idea notebook, where I’d jot down these gems as soon as I got them, be it a sentence, a paragraph, or a full page. I quickly filled notebooks with more ideas than I’d ever have the chance to use. I’ve since decided, however, that this type of notebook is mostly pointless. I put ideas in, but more often than not, all they’d do is become stale. Why use that old idea when I have a half-dozen fresh ones at my fingertips? Now, if I can’t get to it immediately,  I find it best to put the “can’t miss” idea on a scrap of paper and leave it at my writing desk. If I haven’t done anything with it in a week or two, I toss it. My thinking is, if I wasn’t compelled into working the idea into something wonderful yet, it couldn’t have been that great of an idea. And if I’m wrong, I don’t need that piece of paper to remind me of it; it’ll continue to worm its way into my subconscious until I’m absolutely ready to mold it into a story.

Next time you’re in the market for a new idea, open your eyes and put yourself into the writer’s frame of mind. You’ll soon see it’s impossible not to find plenty of super ideas to write about, no matter what genre you dabble in. Now go spin a great tale!

What I Learned in July

At the beginning of July, I decided to undertake two big projects–revising a novel while writing another. To some of you, that’s no big deal, and you’re wondering why I stopped at two. Others are thinking I bit off more than I could chew–one big project is all a writer should focus on. While there is no right answer when it comes to how many projects to work on at one time (every writer is different), I discovered I belong in the latter group: One project at a time is enough.

My revision is for a YA modern fantasy, while my draft is a supernatural tale aimed at adults. I figured there is enough difference in the tone of the two pieces that I wouldn’t have any problems keeping one out of the other. And I was correct on that account. The problem became more of a mental challenge. In splitting my focus between the two projects, I didn’t feel I was giving enough time to each. When I was writing, I thought I should be revising, and when I was revising, I realized I should be getting words down on the page. Other authors may be able to get over that, but I’m not one of them. (Keep in mind that neither of these is on a deadline. Deadlines have a way of focusing the mind, which would have made this easier. So why not impose an artificial deadline? To me, artificial deadlines are just that: artificial.)

In addition to learning that I work best with one project, I also learned another important  tidbit: don’t over-outline. I know it works for some authors, but, again, I’m not one of them. I can’t simply sit down and write and expect to create a book (what some call “pantsing”). I’d like to, and I’ve tried, but it doesn’t work. I can do it for flash fiction and short stories, but for longer works, I need an outline. On the current first draft for the adult supernatural story, I put far too much in the outline, so as I’m writing, it feels as if I’ve already told the story. That, to me, is not a satisfying way to write, and it ultimately leads to weaker prose.

I’ve decided to focus on the revision for the time being. I’m currently at the stage where I’m letting beta readers look it over, so in the meantime, I’m going to focus more on flash fiction (for those of you in the #fridayflash community, yes, that means I will be rejoining each weekend, at least for the time being) and other smaller tasks. I thought about working more on my adult supernatural story while I was waiting to return to the revisions, but ultimately decided to hold off until the revisions and beginning marketing were done on the YA novel. I’ve learned my lesson: One big project at a time.

Writing Music

From what I can tell by listening to other authors, music is a big part of most everyone’s writing habit. Be it classical music, such as Beethoven (which, thanks to Bill and Ted, I pronounce Beeth-Oven) and Mozart, soundtrack scores, or other popular tunes. Personally, my iPod is filled mostly with hard rock and heavy metal. If I feel the words coming out are starting to be influenced by the lyrics, I can always listen to the “cookie monster” bands–you know, those grindcore and death metal bands that have a lead singer that belts out grunts instead of melodically singing.

Sometimes songs also spark story ideas. I’ve had a few flash fiction stories based on song lyrics. Sometimes it’s quite overt and hard to miss (especially if the reader knows the song), and sometimes no one would know unless they really dove into the analysis. At the moment I’m working on the first draft of a ghost story/horror novel aimed at adults. I hadn’t planned on working on this yet, as I’m also working on revising a young adult modern fantasy story. I don’t often work on two big projects at the same time, so the plan was to revise the YA book and then tackle the first draft of the horror novel. I had a good idea what I wanted to do with it, but I still needed a good hook. It’d wait until after the revisions, and then I’d find my hook which would add that extra excitement to the project. Little did I know, that would come a bit early.

One of my favorite songs is “Rapture” by Hurt. Honestly, when I listen to songs, I don’t usually dig into the lyrics. The voice is simply another instrument in the band, and I’m happy to sing along with the catchier parts. Works for me. But occasionally I will analyze what’s being said in a song. I did this not too long ago with Rapture. And once I did, something snapped in my brain, and I knew what I wanted to do with my horror story. And I also knew I wanted to start right away–only doing one project at a time be damned!

For those of you who have never heard the song, here’s a link to it on youtube: “Rapture” by Hurt. That link has the lyrics underneath, if you’re interested. The parts that really sparked my imagination come from the 2nd verse and the outro. Once I had those in mind, I knew what my story was missing, and I was off and running. At the moment, I’m writing close to 1000 words a day (not as fast as I could go, but not bad), and also spending a couple of hours revising that YA book. I’m happy with how the work for both is going. Would my life have been easier if I’d simply decided to work on one thing at a time? Sure. Would I have felt as excited, as fulfilled? No, probably not.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this look into my writing life. I’d love to see some comments about what you like to listen to when you write and/or if any certain song has ever sparked a story. I also hope you enjoyed the song “Rapture.” If you did, check out more from Hurt. They’re an awesome band! And if you either don’t want to click on the link above, or already have and simply want to hear the song again, here you go:

Introduction Post

Hi everyone! Welcome to my debut post at WordPress. This will simply be, as the title suggests, an introductory post about this blog. I’ll also be talking a bit about what I’m working on now.

I plan on posting once a week here, usually on Wednesdays. Topics will range from news on my writing, news on the writing world at large, interesting tidbits about writing I’ve found on the Internet, pop culture items that mesh with the types of things I write (horror, fantasy, science fiction, and the like), and other interesting things I feel like posting. Yeah, I guess this blog can be pretty much about anything, though the overall theme will be writing.

At the moment I’m working on two novels (as well as marketing a third to agents and publishers). One novel is a YA modern fantasy tale about a teen finding his soul mate is a dragon, and learning he has interesting powers because of her. I’m in the early stages of revision on that one. I’ve also just started writing an adult supernatural horror novel that I’m excited about. Those two projects (and trying to sell the third) are taking up all of my writing time at the moment, so I’m not currently working on flash fiction and short stories. I do have plenty of shorts you can read over at my other blog: Eric J. Krause’s Writing Spot Check that out if you’d like to see what I’ve already done.

Until next week, I’m going to sign off. My plan for the next post is to talk a bit about music. There is a certain song that really sparked my imagination in starting to write the adult horror story I’m working on, so I’ll post a link to that song and talk a bit about music and writing in general. See you then!

Hello world!

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