Writing November 30, 2017 14

Take a Glock to Writer’s Block

Confession time!

Okay, me first. Here goes.

My name is Traci Finlay and I absolutely and irrevocably suck at time management. No, it’s that I BLOW. At time management.

I’m that person who starts a project and then sacrifices my soul to complete it, and I don’t breathe until it’s finished. I obsess, I put everything else on the back burner, and I devote my entire life into sculpting this project into a work of perfection (maybe that’s why I don’t have a life?).

This is why I wrote an entire novel in one month. It’s not healthy, friends. I have no concept of “setting aside time to do things,” I go in with one mentality—MUST! FINISH! MANUSCRIPT!

Then when it’s all finished, I sit and stare at the wall because I’m bored with nothing to do. I feel like my life is pointless and going nowhere because yesterday, I had a lot to do, and today, I have nothing.

I’m not proud of this.

So this last month, I’ve been delving into the self-edits. I’m almost finished and ready to send it off to my editor. But in attempt to practice time management, I’m stepping away and writing a blogpost on writer’s block. Small victory!

So many are struggling with it right now, including me—not even with the book, but with the blog. It’s literally taken me all day just to write this much, and you don’t even want to know how many times I’ve deleted and rewritten lines. It’s stupid.

Second confession: Still Traci Finlay, and I’ve never dealt with serious writer’s block while writing a book. Yes, I’ve hit a couple stumbling blocks and had to iron out some wrinkles, but I’ve always had a relatively clear path and there are two reasons:

Reason the First: Because whenever I hit a wall, I sit back and say, “What is my MC’s goal?” You should have one sentence that sums that up, and you’re going to repeat it in your mind so many times while writing, it’s going to drive you crazy. Nothing clever or intricate, not a book jacket description or catch phrase, just something simply stating what your MC wants. For Wind Chime Poison, it was: Aubrey wants to give her daughter the perfect life. With Rules of Burken, it was: Charlotte wants to find out why her brother wants to kill her. With this most recent one, my MC wants to investigate a teen suicide to see if bullying was involved (more details coming soon).

What’s funny is that those three sentences actually have very little to do with the plots as a whole. But they are the rudders that propel the MCs from chapter to chapter. So when disaster hits for her, or a total smoke show comes and distracts her on her quest, I could easily divert off the main course and hit a serious wall of writer’s block. But then I repeat my mantra and get right back on track. And this is coming from someone who has anxiety attacks because I pull up to the gas pump on the wrong side of my tank, people. So if I can do it, you can do it.

Don’t let your subplots get hairy and cumbersome and overshadow the quest. Compile your MC’s goal into one non-fancy sentence. And when things start getting crazy, and side characters start manifesting, and subplots are on the rise, and you’re freaking out, always come back to that one sentence. Breathe. Repeat the sentence. Get a snack. Repeat the sentence.

Reason the Second: I had a brainstorming buddy. While my husband is not a writer, he does love a good thriller, and he recognizes a good plot when he sees one. He would brainstorm with me. I’d basically tell him, “Listen, I need to get from point A to point B, and I don’t know how to do that.” And we would go over many different scenarios. He’d recommend various plot twists, throw out random facts about an object he knew I was writing about, or suggest villainizing characters to thrust the plot along. Sometimes it just takes talking about it. To actually hear yourself state the problem. And other times it takes a fresh brain—a completely different outlook—during the developmental phase to kick-start that motivation and give you a boost over that wall.

On a side note, I do help with developmental plotting, so if you’re suffering from writer’s block for that reason, get another snack, and email me.

While there are many other ways of dealing with writer’s block, also realize that there is no formulaic cure. What works for one person may not work for another. For example, one thing you always hear about dealing with writer’s block is, no matter what you do, just keep writing.

Well, guess what? That route doesn’t work for me. I end up writing thousands of words that I’m going to have to trash, and I know this as I’m writing it, and I just get frustrated. When I feel like that, I actually take a few days away from the computer. It allows me to clear my mind, focus on other things, and then when I come back to it, the words tend to flow more easily.

Oh! You wanna know another popular method that DOESN’T work for me, and also gives me anxiety? Deadlines! So many of you guys are posting screenshots on Facebook of your statistics of daily words written, the daily goal, if you’ve hit the daily goal, and I swear on the Holy Scriptures that I start breaking out in hives when I see those. I don’t know what program that is you’re all using, and I don’t want to know. Keep it away from me. I’ll be the first to say I DO NOT work well with deadlines. A lot of people are different, I get it. But as an editor, I’m gonna tell you a secret. I have had MANY clients come to me with a beautifully laid out design of when they plan to have the first draft finished, when they plan to have the rewrites finished, and then a release date. I gulp, power through the hives, and reply, “Okay, you let me know how that goes for ya.” And as sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti (song trivia! Go!), they reply a few weeks into their rewrites: THIS IS NOT GOING AS PLANNED!

And they’re suffering from writer’s block because they’re so worried about their damn deadline. I’m not saying you absolutely have to take my route and not give yourself deadlines, but please don’t make them life-or-death. Don’t set them in stone; set them in … pudding. Or a flan. Life happens, my friends. Bad things attack, and plans get ruined. The holidays are coming and schedules are going to get busier, so if you’re planning on finishing that manuscript before Christmas and you’re only a quarter of the way in, please don’t shit all over your holiday season when that doesn’t happen.

Shhhh, it’s okay.

Come back in January and your mind will be clear, your stress will be less, and you’ll be amazed at how much better you’ll be able to focus.

I can’t think of anything else, because I currently have writer’s block, too. I mean, I’m struggling right now. I need a snack. And you’ve already had two, so now it’s my turn.

So let’s call it a day. These are obviously just suggestions, folks. Like I said, certain things work for certain people, and every situation is different. I’d love to hear everyone’s ideas and methods on dealing with writer’s block. What do you do when you’ve hit the wall? What doesn’t work for you, and actually makes you break out into hives or do other weird things?

Please tell me the weird things. I love the weird things.

Oh, and one last confession…

…I don’t like chocolate. Or pumpkin spice lattes.

(scampers out of the room)

About the author

Traci:

14 Comments

  1. Cassie

    November 30, 2017
    Reply

    Thank God someone else doesn't like pumpkin spice. Ew. Just...no. Oh, and also that others suffer with writers block and deadlines and fucking gas pumps.

    To combat writers block, I get an intervention from my wonderful critique partner and bestie, get a bit inebriated, and binge watch Criminal Minds. Seeing inside the brain of a psycho gets my creative juices pumping. Ok, yeah, I may be disturbed, but whatever...it works!

    • Traci

      November 30, 2017
      Reply

      Oh, yes!!! Criminal minds! I've heard that TV doesn't help writer's block, but I think that's bull. Film is an AMAZING inspiration, especially if you write suspense, which I know you do. I did the same thing with Dexter and Breaking Bad. LOL

  2. Leila

    November 30, 2017
    Reply

    Writers block more like self block, I put off sorting out my plot holes because of self doubt & instead attempted Nanowrimo!!

    Yeah that didn’t happen, 30k shy! But I’m okay with that.

    I just seem to sit in a trance with my writers block it’s like white noise, but then out of no where like when I’m at work boom! I want to sneak to the ladies to make notes on my phone before I forget it,

    • Traci

      November 30, 2017
      Reply

      I have notes like that on my phone, too! I swear, if anyone ever saw them, they'd probably baker act me or something.

  3. Crystal

    November 30, 2017
    Reply

    Oh Traci, your posts make me happy. It’s nice to know that I’m not the only one that goes through all of this. My writers block is more self doubt then anything. There was a time in my writing that I loved everything I wrote. Now that I’m so close to the end I hate it all...even the stuff I use to love. I love this sentence idea to help push us to the end. Thank you for everything you teach us! (My favorite snack is chocolate. I wish I could live with only consuming it.)

    • Traci

      December 1, 2017
      Reply

      I only like chocolate when I'm PMSing. TMI??

  4. Bill

    November 30, 2017
    Reply

    Hmm, I dont like pumpkin spice either, but chocolate? Bring it!

    • Traci

      December 1, 2017
      Reply

      What about chocolate covered pumpkin spice?!?!

  5. Chasity Tarantino

    November 30, 2017
    Reply

    Ok there is nothing about pumpkin or pumkin spice I like. There I said it! I am so relieved someone else feels the way I do with deadlines. I just simply cannot. It sends my anxiety riddled brain into a frenzy!! I cannot work like that. I will put out crap writing. This article couldn't have come at a better time. I am fighting with a scene that I'm afraid isn't necessary because I'm battling with writer's block. but I don't want to stop writing. S.O.S! Also I am in desperate need of a cookie.

    • Traci

      December 1, 2017
      Reply

      I want a cookie, too!!!!!

  6. Ann Cole

    November 30, 2017
    Reply

    Great, helpful post, Traci! Though I had to read in short breaks because the white on black hurts my eyes and blurrs all the words. Looking forward to your next post!

    • Traci

      December 1, 2017
      Reply

      Did you read it on your phone or a computer?

  7. Kristen P

    December 3, 2017
    Reply

    Traci,

    Thank you for posting this! I think I am having major developmental plotting issues perhaps. My story (first book to be) keeps changing direction in regards to the characters, locations, or things I want to happen and it's beyond frustrating. I started this about 6 years ago and I have yet to finish. On top of that I have several other stories in the lineup and I can't get anything done. I may need to start working with you!! Help me!

    • Traci

      December 27, 2017
      Reply

      Hi Kristen! I'm so sorry that I'm just now seeing this. If you want, shoot me an email and maybe we can brainstorm a little. I think my contact page is down, so just send it to traci@tracifinlay.com. Happy Holidays!

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