IWSG – February – Confronting Writers Block


It’s Insecure Writers Support Group Day….and this month I really need a day to wallow ;)

Huge thanks as ever to Alex J Cavanaugh for starting the group.

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I’m not a bragger…never have been, never will be…But, I have often said on my blog, and on others, that I don’t suffer from writers block (don’t you just hate writers who say that?) and I’m still of the opinion that it’s true, I don’t. I can always find something to write about. I’m never completely without words. But, I’ve recently discovered that there are several types of writers block (thank you Fred White) which has made me realise that actually, perhaps I do!

1. Procedural Blocks: Where you get to a point in your story and think what do I do now? And can’t figure out where to take the plot next.

2. Creativity Blocks: Lack of ideas (Mr White says this is the hardest to overcome, but I disagree – see above lol).

3. Psychological Blocks: Your inner critic is telling you you’re not good enough, your writing is crap and that you’ll never be published.

4. Distraction Blocks: Chores, friends, commitments, resulting in not being able to focus.

5. Procrastination Blocks: You find every excuse under the sun to put off the writing (probably because of number 3!).

So at the moment I seem to be suffering from number 3 :( Mr Squiggle is definitely winning (you’ll need to read a previous post to know what I’m on about with Mr Squiggle lol).

The last week of January I was editing like a lunatic (the first 5000 words which will be my next submission for class) and I’ve subsequently discovered that I can’t write and edit at the same time, thats fair enough, lesson learnt. But…then I stopped editing, and I’ve hardly touched the WIP since. It’s like I’ve come up against a brick wall :(

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I have over 25,000 words written now of The Last Word Cafe and I’m stuck! Good and proppa! It’s not that I don’t know where the story’s going, I do. It’s not because I’ve got to a hard bit, I haven’t. So what’s the problem? I have a synopsis, I know exactly where the story needs to go. So why can’t I write the damn thing? Is it because its a rewrite of the Nano 2010 novel that I started working on, then stuck in a drawer, then got out again, so I’m bored with it? Or does there just come a point when working on the same “story” for however many years just makes you worn out? And yes, I’m worn out. I have deadlines looming and need to have it completed by June (edited!).

At the weekend i printed off the whole lot and I’m reading through it. Trying to do a bit of planning, in the hopes that it inspires me. In the meantime, come on guys, I need a kick up the arse….how do I get back into it? It seems that I’ve had such a love/hate relationship with this novel over the last 2.2 years…I need to get it finished and put to bed for my own sanity lol

66 thoughts on “IWSG – February – Confronting Writers Block

  1. Oh, I have no suggestions. I made word count for the second draft of my NaNo story, but couldn’t finish for some reason. I think I lost a taste for the story somehow. Would writing something else, even a short story, make the inner critic back off so you can go back to it later? I hope you break through your block.

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    • Thanks CC :)

      Have been writing short stories for the last 10 days but still couldn’t get back into the WIP. Perhaps you’re right about losing the taste for it, but I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s just ALL WRONG lol….I’ve had an epiphany so I’ll tell all on Saturday :)

      Xx

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  2. I had a procedural block with my devil story – doing nano cleared that up

    Right now I have distraction block – too much going on in real life and I have to feel a certain amount of calm in order to write.

    When I really want to write I sit at the computer put my fingers on the keyboard and stop thinking and let my fingers do their work.

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  3. Get a beta reader to read it.. ask them a set of questions, and ask them to answer it after each chapter– suggestions below (will depend on your genre):
    • What do you think will happen next?
    • Do you have a clue about what this book is about?
    • Would you keep reading?
    • Are you, *gulp* , bored?
    • Is there enough action?
    • Do you have a sense of the main character’s conflict or issue?
    • What do you think of the narrator’s voice? Compelling? Annoying?
    • Are there places where I’m explaining too much?

    The answers should provide you with the juice you’re looking for. Just my two cents.

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  4. There are different kinds of writer’s block? Great, even more things to worry about!
    Although, I might be like you. I never seem to run out of words, it’s finding the ‘right’ words that seems to be the problem for me …
    My suggestion might a little different from what others have been saying, but here goes. I think a lot of people are successful at Nano because one of the rules is to keep writing and: Don’t. Look. Back. All that does is provide the Inner Editor (Mr. Scribbles ;) ) an opportunity to sabotage you. Somehow, pressing forward and having faith that all is well in the words your wrote before, seems to help getting to the end.
    (This works for me every time. :) I have a lot of first drafts, messy, but finished. For what it’s worth. I plan to revise them all someday!)

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    • He he he, it was news to me too Kirsten! ;)

      Do you know what, I TOTALLY agree and that’s where I did myself in, by editing before I’d finished. But I had no choice :(

      Now it’s definitely something I’m aware of I can avoid it in the future :)

      Good luck with all those manuscripts honey ;) xx

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  5. That was a really interetsting post. Thanks for that. I tend to skip over the bit that I don’t want to write and move on to one of the more interesting scenes. You have to go back eventually, but you might have more motivation for it then. Good luck.

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    • Ahhhhh, now I know a lot if people who do that Debbie and say that it works, but I could see that causing me problems lol. I’d write all the exciting bits and then not be bothered to write the boring bits lol ;)

      Thanks honey

      Xx

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  6. The inner critic’s a challenge, but I’ve found the best way around it is to ignore my inner critic because a) no one likes critics anyway and b) like my guts, my inner critic has shit for brains…

    Hope the rest of your novel goes well

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  7. I have always found a) moving onto another chapter/incident/scene later in the book helps
    or
    b) lay/recline in a quiet room (I usualy lie on the bed with curtains half closed :)and allow brain to switch of and imagination to come to fore, play the scenes in head as if watching
    may help – good luck:)

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    • Thanks Alberta :)

      I’m not sure (a) would work for me, but I did follow your advice on (b) and I have come up with some new ideas!!!! :) I’m a much happier bunny this morning and will be posting about my ephiany on Saturday :)

      Xx

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  8. Sounds to me like you might be trying too hard and maybe putting too much pressure on yourself, panicking because you feel your writing is stagnating and it has to be done by June!! I have found that I feel much more inclined to do all those tasks from last week that I avoided, this week, primarily because I have taken them off my to-do list and put on some fun stuff.
    My advice? Put it down for a couple of days, write something else – something really fun – and let it work itself out in the back of your mind. Relax a little. Then play with it.
    When I got this this point in my NaNo #1 it took me four months of searching to figure out that the synopsis I had created just wasn’t right for the characters I had written. It would have taken a lot less if I had just chilled out about it rather than focused on it for so long.
    You’ll work it out Vikki, I have much faith in you – that’s why I keep coming back to read your blog. You’re honest, which is why your posts are so relateable and your writing makes your journey real, even from my cosy place on the sofa mile away having never met you!! Good luck with it, you’ll make it through.
    x

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    • Thanks Cat :)

      I have been doing exactly that for the past few days, going over it in my mind. Trying to figure out what wrong, taking time out I can ill afford, and writing other stuff that’s been fun to write :) And I think, I’ve cracked it, last night in fact, after reading everyone’s comments :)

      Ha ha ha, thank you so much honey…and there was me thinking people were probably getting fed up with my constant moaning ;) This writing business is BLOODY HARD! Im a bit sceptical of anyone who finds it easy ;)

      Xx

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  9. I have a permanent #3. My inner critic is a complete $#!+.

    But, to your problem, when that happens to me–when I know the story, but I can’t get my characters there–it’s because I’ve got the story wrong. If I spend some time brainstorming on other directions, no matter how implausible, I soon come to realize where I’ve got to go. I think the story always knows where it needs to go, even if we as writers, haven’t figured it out yet.

    It might be scary or frustrating to think perhaps you have to change it or that the story’s wrong. But in my experience, the new direction can be profoundly rewarding and you find new opportunities all along the way.

    This may or may not be the case for you–but it’s a conundrum I find myself in all the time so I wanted to offer the suggestion.

    Best of luck!

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  10. Not sure of suggestions, but I’d say definitely don’t give up on it. You’ve invested a lot of time into it. I will say, there is something to be said from taking a break from something giving you a lot of frustration, then going back to it later. I’ve gotten aggravated with a sewing project, stopped, picked it up a couple of days later and figured out the problem. On my writer’s blocks, I can say the biggest are distractions and procrastination.

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  11. I agree with an earlier comment – you put too much pressure on yourself. I find that when I’m focused on word counts it stifles my creativity a bit. The same is true of deadlines. I suffered from writer’s block for the better part of a year while I was in school for my MFA because I had a deadline and a certain number of pages that needed to be written. I have taken two semesters off from school, and writing for the most part. Now I’m back. Nano really helped get me going. Now I’m staring at a lot of revision work and I haven’t finished the thing, so I understand where you are. I’ve been pulling sections apart and revising them as if they are individual stories. Then I will put them back in, with some more revision to get them to fit in place with the novel. Don’t be so hard on yourself! I hope the comments from other writers will help get you back on track.

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  12. Another interesting post, thanks, Vikki! Right! Ignore Mr Squiggly, the ugly beast. Stuff a ball of squiggly black string in his mouth. As for the brick wall, I think maybe you could try jumping a bit ( not up and down in frustration, but you can if you think it will help!) Write a scene from elsewhere in the book that you’ve been looking forward to getting to. This brick wall thing happens to me sooooo often and I usually put the work aside for a while, but that will possibly just increase the pressure on you as you’ve got a June deadline. I’m thinking you need to keep going in some way so that June doesn’t loom nearer and scarier. Hugs x

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    • Thanks Bel :)

      Ha ha ha! I need a bloody sledgehammer for the wall!

      No, I’ve made some decisions, had a think, and now, I think (famous last words) I’m there! :)

      Will post more about it on Saturday :)

      Xx

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  13. I was exactly where you are last summer. I had my outline, backstory docs, even 30 scenes written, and was totally stumped. So I started talking (brainstorming) with my writer pals. Turns out I needed to re-arrange about six scenes yet to be written and tweak a couple already done. My dear muse (bless her heart) was trying to tell me I had a problem. I just wish she’d been a little louder. I finished the MS and am getting critiques as we speak.

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    • Brainstorming with other writers is a brilliant idea Joan :)

      And yes, like you, my muse was telling me there was something wrong, and luckily she was being VERY VOCAL so I just had to listen….and I’m glad it did! Yes, I’ve lost thousands of words and a month of time, but, I know it’s the right decision :)

      Thanks honey and good luck with your critiques! Exciting!!!! :)

      Xx

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  14. What a great and new way to look at “writers block”……yeah! I had the same problem. Actually I should say…HAVE….and I’ve had every excuse imaginable as to why those two manuscripts aren’t finished. Or why I’m not working on them. I’ve finally pulled them out again, printed them off and started editing. I needed to do all that before I could actually start writing again. Wow, maybe that’s why I’ve been discouraged. I think you may have helped me solve MY dilemma……ha ha!!!! I’m so glad Alex started this group! Hang in there Vicki——let me know how it goes!

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    • Thanks for stopping by Kathryn :)

      Wow! GO YOU! Excellent :) I wish you lots of luck and no more bouts of block.

      I’m hanging, by the tips of my finger nails, but I have a lot of determination too :)

      Xx

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  15. I think you’re right, Vikki, and you’re probably just sick of it. Writing is intense, you can be working on the same thing for a long time – even trad published authors get sick of edits and rewrites of the same peice. The point you’re at, I think, is the point where it’s become a real job of work – no fun – and the only solution is to keep plugging away. You know what needs to be written, so write it even if every word feeks like it’s being pulled out of you with tweezers ;) Then take a break, then edit. I feel your pain, and I know you can do it. Xxx

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    • You’re totally write Jo :)

      Last week I met the husband of an author I know who described his wife’s book as something he had “lived for 6 years” lol, and that’s what it is isn’t it, you’re not just writing it, you’re living it!

      Awwww, thanks Jo :) I think I’ve found a solution and I’m determined to get there….if it kills me lol ;)

      Xx

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  16. Hmm, super interesting, that there are different types of block. I think I’m suffering from “the next novel won’t be as good as the first,” but since I’m busy on all the tasks to get the first one out there, I’m not too worried yet.
    For you, have you tried the 5-minute (say, 100 words) technique? The idea is, you force yourself to do just 5 minutes, and then usually you can find the momentum to keep going. I think I’d add to that and say you have to give yourself permission that what you write can be terrible, you just have to write something.

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  17. First, for Mr. Squiggle, you need a good eraser, or a bottle of white out. Maybe a bottle of gesso and a coat of Picasso or Van Gogh? That’s only half in fun. Sometimes dabbling in a bit of other creativity helps.
    Next, is there another point in the novel that you could pick up? Write the ending, work backward? Freewrite a scene that you’re completely at sea about. Look at motivation, conflict. Or maybe work on backstory, get at the issue by the back door. There are all sorts of ways around it. That’s how you get around any other kind of block, find an alternate route.
    Also, though you don’t seem to be in need of this kind of help, maybe your well is dry? Need an artist’s date to pick you up? That’s what my block was about back in September. All work and no play made Mellie a dull girl :P
    One way or the other, you’ll work it out, because you’re fabulous :)

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    • Ha ha ha thanks Mel :)

      Ooooo, now, you know what, I’ve been thinking that I don’t get time anymore to do my artwork. Perhaps you’ve hit the nail on the head. Thanks honey….I’m going to try to do something “arty” at the weekend and make some plans for an artists date :)

      Awwwww, thank you :)

      Xx

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  18. I am a genius at #5. My biggest issue. I am starting to feel like you are with my first novel. Although I’ve only been working on it for 8 months. And, I can’t write and edit at the same time. Brain doesn’t work that way, either. I guess there’s nothing more for us to do but just do it. Sorry, I can’t think of anything more inspiring. Good luck Vikki. I am cheering for you.

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  19. My biggest enemy is #1… #3 I simply shut the door in its face and try to ignore. #5 can get a little irritating too. But it won’t move unless we push — kind of like a giant boulder. So roll up those sleeves, take a slug of Gateraid and go for it!!!!

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  20. There is a good saying, Vikki … “If I didn’t have bad luck, I wouldn’t have any luck at all.” Just remember that those NaNo or “panster” novels are the most challenging. It means you have to rearrange a giant puzzle and never seem to find a half-dozen pieces :) Lots of good suggestions here. Mine? Don’t quit. You made it this far because you are good. Read it and do an edit or rewrite as though it was a brand new book. Then put that arse in chair and go for broke :)

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  21. I’ve four novels on my computer (fantasy/sci-fi) and am completely tired of them all — especially after publishers have called for full-manuscripts, following partial submissions, and still turned them down. This is why my New Year’s resolution for 2013 was to shelve them (maybe permanently, or maybe to self-publish later under a pen name) and start afresh.

    Now I’m working on something speculative, which means off-this-planet weird and more literary than before. It’s a liberation, writing exactly what I want to write, but with the learning experience of four novels behind me.

    What I’m saying here, is that perhaps you should put that old manuscript aside if your relationship with it has reached that love/hate place.

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    • Hi Sarah :)

      Good for you honey, self publish them, definitely! Especially as a lot of the agents and publishers are now saying that a writer is a far more attractive proposition if they already have a book self published ;)

      Ooooo, your “speculative” novel sounds great! We had an editor say to us in my class recently that “speculative” is a good way of describing yourself if you want to work across different genres.

      Thanks honey….I’m gunna give it one more go, and at least finish the bloody thing! Lol ;)

      Xx

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      • Haven’t times changed? A few years ago, publishers wouldn’t touch a novelist who’d self-published. I guess now, since the demise of the mid-list, it’s a way of testing out writers rather than take a risk on them.

        Yes, in my earlier days of writing I had my work turned down because I’d cross-genred. That was before the advent of people such as Margaret Atwood. I still think it’s difficult to get away with the whole cross-genre thing, unless it goes hand-in-hand with a more literary style of writing.

        Good luck with “the bloody thing”! LoL ;-)

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  22. Pingback: The Block Party No #Writer Wants To Go To | betweenasleepandawake

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