Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Reader Questions Part 6

How do you get into “the zone” to write? Have you ever had to deal with writer’s block? How do you get around it?

Seems appropriate to answer all of these questions in one post. You would be amazed how often I get these questions. Seriously. All the time. Even from other writers.

First, let me dispel this concept of “the zone.” There is no such thing. Sure, there are things that you like to do to make it more enjoyable, things that get you into the right mood, maybe, but other than that? Nope.

If you want to be a writer the plain and simple truth is you have to write. People have so many excuses why they don’t have time to write or why they couldn’t yesterday or how tired they are today. Blah blah blah.

I write fulltime now; this is my job. But before I had “all the time in the world” I wrote while having a day job. I’m not a morning person so I didn’t write before work. I like spending time with my husband so I didn’t write after work. I wrote during work. Oh yeah, that’s right. How did I manage it? Easy, you are given breaks at work so I took that time to write. For every four hours you get a 15 min break and if you work eight hours a day you get a lunch break. So, every day I wrote through my breaks. Sometimes I would save up my two breaks and lump them onto my lunch break to give myself that extra time, sometimes I didn’t.

I set myself a word count, back then the minimum amount of words I would demand of myself per day was 1,000. Now that I write full time I aim for 2,500. I know, doesn’t seem like enough, but writing full time and being self-published means I have a lot of other things I have to do that take up time. Like writing this blog. But recently I’ve managed to write 3,500 or more a day. I don’t like to get more than 5,500 words in one day though because it does wear you down.

I do enjoy writing to music and I do like noise to drown out the neighborhood, the dogs and even my husband. And I like to have something to drink with me. But other than that, everything else is just procrastinating. And sometimes I don’t have music to write to, or something to drink, but I still write. Hell, I wrote two chapters one day when I was waiting to be called for Jury Duty. Talk about less than ideal.

But if you want to write, you have to write. Consistently. This is not a hobby for me. Is it a hobby for you?

Writer’s block. I think this is a myth. I think there are days where you don’t feel like writing. I think there are days where you’ve written so much for so many days in a row that you need a break. I think there are times where you’ve written yourself into a corner and can’t figure out how to get out of it. I think you can drop a plot point and mess up the entire roadmap of your story and feel stuck. But there is no such thing as writer’s block.

Sure, there are days where you’ll just stare at the computer, the cursor blinking at you and hours will pass before you start typing, but eventually you do start typing.

On days where I’m having trouble with one scene and I just can’t get into it, I’ll open a blank document and start writing a scene I know is coming so that I can work the kinks out of my brain. While I’m working on that suddenly I’ll realize where I went wrong or where I have to go in that other scene and I’ll pick up where I left off. Because I have to.

For much of The Elemental Series I was a panster, that is to say, I wrote by the seat of my pants, with no outline or idea of where it was going to go. This gave me a sense of urgency to tell the story before I lost it. I always knew what the last scene or great battle was going to be, but I went on the journey to that point much like you, the reader, did – having no idea what was going to happen or what characters were going to walk on stage.

It wasn’t until I was writing Fire that I found I needed to start loosely plotting and outlining. For this new book, I have a full outline. I’m not following it closely, things have changed as I went along, but when I have gotten stuck, I can look back at that outline and remember things I wanted to include. You have to figure out what kind of writer you are and remember every book is going to be different.

But writer’s block is just another excuse not to write. Remember that. If you want to call yourself a writer then you have to write. Simple as that.


David Jón Fuller said...

"But writer’s block is just another excuse not to write."

I . LOVE. THIS. It can't be said enough. Nobody asks electricians if they get "electrician's block" or surgeons if they get "doctor's block." Writers are only different in that when they make a mistake on the first draft, nobody's actual house burns down or actual body dies.
I think what writer's block really is is the writer's inner critic whispering, "whatever you think of, it isn't good enough." It's the job of every writer to tell that voice to shut up and just write.
And, I do think planning and plotting help with this, not because it's a better way to get ideas, but because it can help you evaluate whether those ideas are really good before you start your draft. I've pantsed enough drafts to become fed up with how slow the process is, compared to knocking out ideas in outline form and finding plot holes, lack of character motivation, and stretches where not enough is happening. And I still feel free to change things as I go, because hey, inspiration may strike!

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Damien said...

This post is so on line with my thinking that it is though I wrote it. I teach writing at a small university and I stress all of your points - writing, reasonable word count (not time count), etc. I would only add one thing that has been successful for me and students: give yourself a reward for achieving your goals. Whether it's a couple beers or a movie, reward thyself! Also, if you don't reach your goal you have to be strict and not allow your reward. It's been helpful.

Great post.

Shauna Granger said...

Great comments everyone! And yes, Damien, REWARDS! I do reward myself, especially on epic word count days but when I finish a book, I make sure I've planned something big. When I had a day job, if I met my word count all week I got to take the weekends off, if I didn't, then I didn't.

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