Thursday, March 8, 2012

Good Friends Old and New



It's official. I've decided that the theme for March, my third blogoversary month, is:

Good Friends Old and New

Not that you need a theme for a blogoversary, but hey, why not? I've met so many great people through blogging, I thought it would be a good opportunity to celebrate wonderful friends. So this month I will include a few special features from friends old and new.

Allow me to introduce you to author Naomi Dathan. Naomi emailed me and asked about doing a guest post. I decided the post she offered would be a good fit for Write Now. Naomi's thoughts apply to fiction and nonfiction writers, so, without further ado...

Six Ways To Get Your Writing Moving Again

by Naomi Dathan

“Aaaaauuugh!” screeched an author friend.  “I can’t write!  Why can’t I write?”

We’ve all been there.  A tired brain, too many distractions, burn out, or that niggling worry that every word you write will end up on the trash heap before you’re done.  You’ve got your story arc figured out, and maybe you even know where you’re headed in this scene.  But the words clog up in your brain before they can filter down to your fingertips.   What can you do?

Here are six things you can do to unclog your writing synapses:

1.       Invoke the Two Sentence Rule.  Write two sentences.  Just the next two.  They might be stilted or sound ridiculous.  Write them anyway.  Now, does a third sentence come to mind?  No? Take a minute, go look out the window or pet the dog.  Then come back and write two more sentences.  Repeat until the writing juices are flowing rapidly and smoothly, causing your phone to ring and your child to storm into the house with a skinned knee and a stray, one-eyed cat.

2.       Decide to write badly.  If you take your writing vocation seriously, you won’t wait for moments of inspiration.  You’ll accept the drudgery that comes with every calling, and you’ll say what you need to say badly, until you can figure out how to say it well.

3.       Come at it from another direction.  If the words aren’t coming, mix it up.  If you’re writing in the third person, switch to the first person for three paragraphs.  Yes, you’ll have to fix it later.  But maybe it will give you fresh insight into your character.  If your characters seem to be going through the motions, toss something new and random at them.  Have a baby crawl on set.  Stage a short earthquake that changes everyone’s perception.  It doesn’t matter if you ultimately keep this part, because you already agreed in Step Two to write badly.  Somehow writing always leads to other writing.  Stay mindful of your goals and work your way back.

4.       Try a new method.  Sometimes just breaking out of your routine is enough to get your story moving again.  Employ family members to act out the unwritten next scene with you (this will involve a sugary bribe).  Try recording instead of typing.  Story-board the next scene and jot dialogue into bubbles.  I met my deadline for one book by buying software that transcribes as you speak into the microphone.  Fascinated by the this new technology, I wrote over 6000 words in a day.  Yes, all of these methods take up time that could be better spent writing.  But stalking past your computer giving it hard looks as you go for another bowl of ice cream doesn’t really count as writing anyway.

5.       Employ positive or negative reinforcement.  I know of two sites designed for writers who are mired in story mud.  The cutest one is www.writtenkitten.net.   Set your word goal at, say, 100 words.  You type into the left half of the screen, and every time you accumulate another 100 words, an adorable kitten photo appears on the right side of the screen.

If you aren’t moved by adorable kittens, try www.writeordie.comSet your word goal and your punishment level and start typing.  Stop, and you’re punished – anything from an abruptly screaming siren (embarrassing in waiting rooms) to kamikaze level, which starts backspacing until you’re back on task.  This one is brutal.  I use it often.    Be vigilant about saving your documents with these, and, in fact, I always select and copy my text before closing the program, just in case.  I’ve made some costly mistakes.

6.       Get by with a little help from your friends.  No one “gets it” like another writer.  Your writer friends will sympathize, brainstorm with you, and make horrible story suggestions that your brain will reflexively reject by generating better ones.  Your truest writer friends will also bring you chocolate, but won’t stay to chat.

Naomi Dathan is the author of Whither Thou Goest, I Will Go (Kirkdale Press).  Visit her website here.

Thank you, Naomi, for sharing your insight. These are great tips for getting the wheels turning again. :)


When your writing stalls out, how do you get it back on track?

Have any fabulous weekend plans?

Happy writing,
Karen 

Image credit: Stock Exchange

38 comments :

  1. Thanks Naomi. I would be so much more productive if I had thought capturing software, or even the speaking-to-typing that you talk about. Although I have recorded thoughts into my cell phone while working in the garden before.

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  2. Thank Naomi and Karen. I think I'd prefer the kittens. Sometimes I just have to walk away, and come back refreshed. Chocolate is my friend.

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  3. I think allowing yourself to write badly is one of the best ones. You can always scrap it later but it might help you just to write.

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  4. I can write badly! And I've pinged a few things off my critique partners and they gave me fresh ideas as well.

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  5. Carol,
    Now there's a good idea, thought capturing software! I need that too. :) Never thought about using my phone to record thoughts. I need to give that one a try, thanks!

    Linda,
    I think the kittens are for me as opposed to the other one. :) Time and space are good ones too. And of course, chocolate!

    Laura,
    I agree. I always tell my teen students to write, even if it isn't great, to get something down. It's something to work with.

    Alex,
    Oh, can't we all! :) Yes, and I like the idea of brainstorming with others. Naomi's thought of even if you don't care for other's ideas - but it can help formulate your own is a good one.

    Happy weekend,
    Karen

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  6. Well mine has been stalled so I loved reading these suggestions. I like the two sentence rule--will do today!

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  7. Hi Karen...I think we all face "stalling" at times. I guess I look through my photograph file and find one I'd like to write about and then get to it.

    Thanks for your interview with Naomi. Have a super day.

    As for the weekend, the main things on the docket are 1) Trip to a maple sugar house and 2) Giving a birthday brunch for my hubs. Susan

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  8. Thanks for the interview! I just watch many scary movies for that jot of inspiration:)

    Best,
    Clara.

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  9. Terri,
    I am glad you might find these helpful. I want to try the two sentence rule too. :)

    Susan,
    I think you are right; we all stall sometimes. Have a fun weekend!

    Clara,
    Now see, there you go, utilizing a resource for ideas. You are one smart lady. :)

    Happy weekend,
    Karen

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  10. Happy blog-anniversary. I like your tips for writing again, and I need to implement them.

    Maybe I should start with the writing badly suggestion. ;)

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  11. Happy blog birthday, Karen.

    Thanks for to your guest for some great practical ideas.

    Fondly,
    Glenda

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  12. Happy third blogoversary month, Karen. When my writing stalls, I know that it's time to set it aside for a bit and do something else. That allows me to refresh.

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  13. Superb advice as usual! We are all there at some point. That's when we need little shots in the arm like this.
    Blessings
    Jan

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  14. Angela,
    Thank you! These are good tips; Naomi's a smart writer. :)

    Glenda,
    Thanks so much! She has some great ideas. I need to give some a try.

    Jean,
    Thank you! I know, time and space are good for me too. As is chocolate!

    Jan,
    Yes, advice like this can go a long way, that's for sure! :)

    Blessings,
    Karen

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  15. Thanks for these excellent ideas! I'll keep these in mind the next time I'm stuck!

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  16. Karen:
    Happy Blogoversary to you. I always look forward to what you have for us.
    Naomi, I have times where things don't come easily to me. I hadn't thought of the two sentence rule. Thank you for this insight.

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  17. Hi Karen and Naomi .. I don't often suffer thankfully - but we're always looking for different ways to look at life ...

    Happy Blogoversary Karen .. and it's starting isn't it .. two sentences, or sitting down and doing it!

    Happy weekends .. Hilary

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  18. Those are great tips! I often give myself permission to write badly - it takes the pressure off.

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  19. Lynn,
    You are very welcome. It was nice of Naomi to share them with us. :)

    Cecelia,
    Thank you! Hope you are feeling better now. :) Hope also, that the two sentence rule helps when you get stuck!

    Hilary,
    I would say that you always have wonderful ideas flowing from the look of your blog. This is a good thing! Yes, for me, it is often just sitting down and doing it! Thanks so much!

    Happy weekend,
    Karen

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  20. Talli,
    I know, I like that idea. And I often find that the writing isn't as horrible as I first thought.
    Happy weekend,
    Karen

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  21. Congrats on your blogaversary!

    “I can’t write! Why can’t I write?”
    Yes, I've been there!

    I love your six rules, especially the first one. I'm going to try it next time. Thanks for the help.

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  22. Wonderful advice, Naomi! I am investing in Aqua Pads. I seem to get ideas while showering or while working in my kitchen and my hands are all wet.

    If you don't write awful stuff, you'll never write at all.

    Amigo, thanks for having Naomi. It is lovely to meet her. Huge hugs.

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  23. Great advice, Naomi. Its nice to meet you :)

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  24. Wow! These are some fresh, new ideas. Thank you for sharing them.

    And I love your theme, Karen. This is going to be a fun month here on "Write Now," I know it. :)

    Congrats, by the way, on your blogoversary.

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  25. Clarissa,
    Thank you! Yes, I suspect we all have been there to some degree. Hope you find Naomi's ideas helpful. :)

    Robyn,
    Sounds like a good plan; you'll have to let us know how you like them. Ideas pop up all the time, don't they? :) Hugs back!

    Rachna,
    It is good advice! I am glad she shared with us. :)

    Rhonda,
    Thanks a bunch! Glad you like the theme. Feel free to stop by and share the stage anytime. :)

    Blessings,
    Kareb

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  26. Oops, signed my name wrong. Karen, not Kareb! It's Friday, what can I say! LOL

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  27. Wait!! Giving the computer dirty looks as I stroll by on my way to a bowl of ice cream doesn't count as writing???

    Thanks you guys for a really fun and inspiring post!!

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  28. Hi Karen & Naomi -

    Excellent advice! #6 is one I use a lot. :)

    Blessings,
    Susan

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  29. Laura,
    Thanks! Glad you liked it. I'm sure Naomi will appreciate your sentiment!

    Cheryl,
    No, sadly it does not. But we really should figure out a way to make it count, shouldn't we? :) Glad you liked it!

    Susan,
    Me too! But you already knew that right? lol

    Blessings,
    Karen

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  30. Congratulations on your 3rd year anniversary Karen! Yippee! sandie

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  31. I left a witty comment on Friday, but I see it didn't stick. Darn, can't remember what I said. Probably something about how dandy these tips are. And they are. I especially like "Write 2 sentences." I can do that. As soon as I finish painting the inside of my house.

    Great post, Karen.

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  32. Sandie,
    Thanks a bunch! Always good to see yo :)

    Joylene,
    Sorry that the first comment didn't make it through. I bet it was both sparkling and witty! Have fun painting!

    Blessings,
    Karen

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  33. I like the idea to be okay with writing poorly to get over the hump.

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  34. I just noticed that the link to Naomi Dathan's book, Whither Thou Goest, I Will Go was not working so I've included it here:

    http://kirkdalepress.com

    If you are a historical fiction fan, and are looking for a book that you "just can't put down," I would give this a read!

    Thanks for the post Karen!

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  35. Christina,
    I know, me too! It is a good exercise. Looking to give all of these a try. :)

    Ryan,
    Thank you for the link. I had trouble with that initially, and when I posted it it seemed to be working. Appreciate you checking that out!

    Blessings,
    Karen

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  36. Ta-dah!

    I have been reading your comments and frantically trying to respond, but couldn't get into the comment screen.

    And, yes, it took me this long to finally think to switch browsers.

    I'm so glad to meet all of you, so happy that you found the tips helpful. What a great community of writers you are! The lonely writer in the garret is such a myth -- we function way better as part of a community, don't we?

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  37. Naomi,
    Hooray for success! So glad you were able to comment. Yes, I've a great gang here - the best! And yes, I agree, writers don't have to be lonely anymore. Thanks a bunch for sharing with us!
    Blessings,
    Karen

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Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. Have a blessed day!