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Archive for August, 2010

Don’t ask me why, but I’ve had two blogs for awhile now. So I’ve decided to make this one my “For Writers Only” blog because I know a lot of writers, and we all need each other. Hopefully, I can bring some knowledge, inspiration and author information to my creative, hard-working friends.

So without further ado, as they say, let’s get to it!

I plan to address many of the issues that often keep us writers up nights: Time management (do I have to get up at 4 in the morning to squeeze in my writing?). Story development (conflict, conflict, conflict). Characterization (why are the characters going in the opposite direction that I had planned for them?). Plotting (now what?). Setting (should my story take place in the big city, the suburbs, the country . . . and what era? 1940s, 2010?). Research (should I believe everything I read? Maybe I should talk to some experts). And, when I’m working on my own personal stories, how much should I reveal? Must I change names to protect the guilty?. . . .

And so on. 

I’m sure you all can relate.

But first, I’d like to nip something in the bud (forgive the cliché!). I get a little nuts whenever I hear that common misconception about writers: that all writers experience Writers’ Block. That well-worn image of the frustrated writer bent over the keyboard staring mindless at the blank piece of paper—or nowadays, computer screen—is still engraved in minds as part of the pain of being a struggling writer.

Hogwash.

I personally don’t believe there is such a thing as writers’ block and I’ll tell you why. A true writer “writes” all the time in their mind. When you’re working on a story, you think about it while driving, or potty-training your little one, or lying on the beach, and sometimes, even in your dreams. So many times we get these great ideas when we’re not at the keyboard. So write it down, or carry a little recorder and enter it as soon as possible. Because those great thoughts oftentimes do not magically reappear.  You may think, oh that’s exactly how I want to phrase it, it’s so good, I know I’ll remember it. You won’t. Not always. Trust me on that. So when you do find—no, make—time to write, you’ll already have those notes and recordings at the ready.

So that brings us to the first way in which to banish that writers’ myth and abandon the silly notion forever. Here are more:

Preparation is Key

If you prepare for your work, you will never experience writers’ block. You will have recorded your ideas that came during your lunch hour, or rush hour, or those middle-of-the-night hours when you laid awake while your mind created complete scenes for your novel.

You will have at your writing desk, an updated dictionary and thesaurus (sure your computer has those, but the books offer much broader selections), as well as educational writing books and magazines that are wonderful resources.

And sure, there will be days you won’t feel like writing. That’s the perfect time to read a good book. Read not just for entertainment, but to learn how the author put the story together. How he developed his characters so well, you feel you know each one. How she managed to keep you interested page after page, chapter after chapter, then finished by successfully wrapping up all the loose ends to bring the story to a satisfying conclusion.

Have Literary Heroes

These are your mentors. You cannot be a great writer, or even a good one, without reading great works. So learn from the best. How did that author get you involved from the first sentence on? How did he use backstory to fill in details? How did she use dialogue to further the story? All of this, and more, is important for nonfiction and memoirs as well. (More on that another time.)

If you’re working on a mystery novel, you should have a list of favorite mystery writers. Same for romance, memoirs, etc. Let them be your guides. Highlight their perfect sentences, write notes on the pages of their books. Let them teach you how it’s done.

Dreams vs. Goals

What’s this have to do with writers’ block? If you simply dream it, it won’t happen. You have to do the work. That means setting goals.

There is a distinct difference between a Dream and a Goal. Dreams are purely illusionary. Goals are concrete plans for the future. Yet we really can’t have one without the other. Dreams are what first provide us the inspiration and vision for what we ultimately want. Goals, in turn, gives us a sense of direction, motivation, and, if accomplished, a wonderful sense of satisfaction, and success!

 Norman Vincent Peale said: “The greatest power we have is the power of choice.”  Right now you are living your past choices. Where you are today—at this very moment—is the result of your past decisions.

Think about it. The decisions you make today will be your experiences tomorrow.

Here are just a few examples of people who worked hard at their Goals to become the successful writer of their Dreams:

Novelist John Grisham began by subscribing to the Writers’ Digest, then wrote chapters of his first novel while riding every morning on the subway to his job as a lawyer. Novelist Elizabeth Berg was a nurse and mother of small children in 1984 when she began writing for her small town newspaper. Soon after, she submitted an essay to Parents magazine – and won $500! She started publishing regularly in national magazines, then went on to write her first of many successful novels.

Prolific novelist Nora Roberts was “one of the worst secretaries ever!” But she always loved stories and soon found she had a knack. A simple act of nature—a snowstorm—prompted her first book, published in 1981. Since then, she has written more than 50 novels, some under the name, J. D. Robb.  

Mary Karr had a childhood that certainly didn’t lend itself to a successful life, yet wrote a memoir (in an era when publishers said you best be a celebrity if you want to sell your memoirs) so brilliantly that her first book, The Liars’ Club became the bar in which creative nonfiction writers aspire to.

Anne Lamott was a clerk/typist who wrote every night for an hour, and although received her share of rejections (as did other greats like J.K.Rowling) – even receiving terrible reviews on her first book – kept at it and is today is mentioned among all the other great writers of this century.

If you are unfamiliar with the works of these authors  (and remember, these are just a select few of many successful ones), go to the library, get their books, read their work, study their work.

Now stop reading this blog and start writing. 

But don’t forget to come back during your breaks!

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