Monday, March 21, 2011

How to deal with writer's block

   I have been fortunate in my writing experience to almost NEVER experience writer's block, but it seems to be a big problem for a lot of authors out there. I decided to take this article to give some tips on things that I do to prevent writers block. I think the most common cause of writer's block is poor planning. Most people come up with a brilliant concept (mine usually come through dreams!) and then they take that little nugget of brilliance and start writing. Problem is, it is a LITTLE nugget and it is very rarely the beginning or the end, it is usually the middle. But since you know where you are going it is fairly easy to piece together an acceptable opening to get to your golden nugget, then you have the nugget and... writer's block strikes!!
     This occurred because the writer did not have proper planning. I always make sure that I have a solid opening, middle and end before I start writing a project. I have tried several methods and depending on your story line, some of these may help you. The first method is writing it in my head. This is actually my preferred method. I have been writing an apocalypse story in my head for the last... hmmm... two years? Not one piece of it has made it to paper yet, because I've had so many other projects going on and because I have not figured out the ending. (I suppose I could be suffering from writer's block, but since I haven't started writing it, I don't let it count!!!) When I get to a point where I am ready to start seriously working on this project I will sit down and map the story line. I used to do this on paper the same way we would outline school papers, but I recently got this fabulous dry erase board that I am using for another project and I ABSOLUTELY love it!!! I draw it out in a time-line format and it helps me to stay on track and not ramble! Yep, my absolute favorite!
     Now, once you have done all of that and you sit down to write, I have heard that some people get to a point and they know where they need to go from point F to point G, but they just can't come up with anything. Well, my rule of thumb is that while I am writing I NEVER stop at a logical place. For example at the end of a chapter or scene. I stop in the middle so that the next day I pick up with what I was already creating. AVOID cold-starts. Engines don't like them and neither do our brains. Another thing that I will do is that sometimes I just need to take a few moments to step away from the computer and do something else. But while I am doing that something else (usually cleaning house) I am acting out the next scene in my head visualizing it like a movie and finding the way that feels like it fits best.
   The last thing I do, is make sure that I work on other projects in between my re-writes. For example, over Christmas break I wrote a stalker story before I started my sequel to my next book. After I finished the first draft on the stalker story I started working on the sequel. I am just over half way finished with the sequel and once I am done with that, THEN I will go back to the stalker book. If you give the story time to breath, it allows you to have a fresh eye when looking at it.
   The last bit of advice to prevent writer's block is to write a little bit every day. Even if you are in-between projects, find some writing exercises on the computer. (Some of my favorites are randomly selecting a dozen words from the dictionary and then using them to write a poem, short story, etc.) You see our creativity is like a muscle and if you do not use it and flex it regularly then it will atrophy.  Just as you work out several times a week (if you don't, you should!!) You have to work out your creativity as well.
   And there is my advice on dealing with writer's block! Hope it helps any of you out there plagued with this problem. If any of you have any other tips, please feel free to share them in the comments section. I have seen lots of other suggestions on-line and what works for one may not work for another. I just told you what I do! Thanks so much and see you next week!!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Book Review Blog

So, I posted my book review on Friday and as of this morning I currently have 53 upload views. For any of you who haven't seen it yet, you can find it at It is a review on the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Meade. I wanted to talk a little bit today about the motivations that went into this video and the ones to come. I am an avid entertainment junkie, as is my husband. One of our favorite entertainment sites is the Escapist network and the two guys I love to watch the most are MovieBob and Yahtzee. Now here is the funny thing about this: Moviebob and I generally have very different opinions about what movies are good and what are not. Yahtzee does game reviews. (For those of you who don't know me... the closest I get to gaming is Dance Dance on the Wii and the occasional round of solitair or spider solitaire.)
   Which begs one to ask, why do I like these guys? Well, for those of you with sensitive ears, avoid Yahtzee. But that is why I like him. He is British and has been living in Australia for some time. His accent is a really fun blend of the two. Plus he has learned a most creative method of insulting in the most graphic way without hardly ever cursing! As for Moviebob... well, watch his videos and you will see. 
    One night, oh about a year ago, I was in the middle of a very good book when my husband asked me to join him for our regular Yahtzee/Bob time. While I was watching it I though 'You know, someone should do book reviews like this!!'. If any of you have surfed the internet looking for reviews.... Grrr, right? Even the good reviews (and by good, I mean accurate) are so... mmmm... boring. Which is why the non-book people think that book people are boring. (For the record, I know LOTS of book people who are ANYTHING but boring!!!) But the point is that books are long and usually complex. Authors aren't restricted by our medium to only 90 minutes or to a limited story-line to allow for more action in the way that movies and games are. It is impossible to do a book review in less than three minutes and when you talk for three minutes (known as a monologue in the acting world) you had better have something else going on or your audience will get BORED!!!!
   Which led to the inspiration to do artwork with the video (that and it was a great way to keep myself OUT of the video!!)  Of course this led to a whole host of other problems, not the least of which is copyrighting. It took forever to get the right images to fit the story and to get enough that there wasn't too much down time. Not being a natural artist myself and not having the time to take all the shots I wanted with my own camera (I mean, my goal is to do two of these a month and I have to read the book, write the review and splice the whole thing together in basically two weeks.... while being a mom, cleaning house, being a wife, covering my volunteer work and... oh, yeah WRITING!! That is the whole point of this venture, right... to give me more time to write!!!) 
    Then after you put it all together you have to market it. Why? Do you have any idea how many videos there are on Youtube? A LOT!!! and mine is just one little book review. So how do you go about that? Well, use your resources: Friends and family, social networking sites (Facebook in my case) and e-mail. So, I did all that and got a very nice response... out of the 189 people I asked to watch and re-post etc.... 53 responded. (BIG SHOUT OUT TO YOU GUYS!!!) So, where do you go from there? Well, you have to increase your visibility on the web. I went to different search engines trying to search for my video and got nothing. (so depressing!) Then I searched for my blog. Neither were coming up. So I did what everyone does when they have a question. I searched and found that you can register your sites on a variety of search engines and that will get them up sooner than waiting for their crawlers. Then there is this whole webmasters tool box on all of them (as an independent business owner, you are your own webmaster and IT tech!!!) There are all sorts of free, legal ways to increase your views and that is what I will be working on this week... along with the next review and well.... writing. Because that is what it is REALLY all about!!!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Challenges for Writers

       The hardest thing about being a writer, for me, is the interminable time between paychecks. It isn’t like most jobs, where you work forty hours a week then you get paid for forty hours a week. Writing is a totally different animal. It is possible to get a job writing speeches, news articles and contemporary journals; but even those jobs are becoming subcontracted more and more.  The difficulty with subcontracting as a writer is that there are so many opportunities, and so many people vying for those opportunities, that until you have an established name with established credentials the work goes to someone else.
    Basically as a subcontractor you own your own business. With that comes all the responsibilities of running your own business… including figuring out the payroll. You are a business of one. You have to handle your own PR, marketing, taxes, office supplies, powers, lights and do what you love. (In this case writing.) Now if that isn’t daunting enough, you also have to figure out how to get the work. The image of a writer sitting at a cafĂ© doodling in a notebook is pure fantasy. Those guys aren’t getting paid. They do it as a hobby.
     Writing books takes time and getting a book published takes even more time. I have finally gotten an agent for my first book and in the contract it states that the contract is for one year with a possible renewal up to two years. The contract was signed December of this year and I still haven’t heard anything about a publishing contract. Even though I have an agent, I don’t know when the paycheck will come in for it. I am working on the sequel for that book as we speak, particularly as that is one of the key selling points of the book. Series have a better appeal to publishers.
   At the same time, without a paycheck yet, I have to find other ways to make money in between. Since January I have been applying for all sorts of contracts from ghost writer to writing a human resource manual, but haven’t gotten any bites yet. But writers are a creative bunch and those who are truly passionate will find a way to make things work. My current venture, along with everything else, is to start a book review. The review will be posted on You tube, and I will share the link as soon as the first one is ready. Look forward to it!
    If anyone has a suggestion of a new book that I can review, let me know and I will see what I can do! Gotta keep the lights on!