Help, I’m stuck on the page! — 10 Tips to Get Your Pen Moving Again~

1) Breathe!  Slowly, deeply, it’s all okay and normal and you will be fine, truly. (And repeat.) 2) Put the story structure info away—in a drawer, in a trash can, in a virtual trash can—and don’t look at it again. When it causes anxiety it is no longer useful. Shred any piece of paper that tells you that there are rules for writing a novel. 3) Know that finishing is difficult for your creative self (and mine and everyone’s!). Resistance can swell a bit when the end of a draft (or even “almost-draft”) nears. 4) Know that you are the …

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Pump Up the Faith Muscles

I just finished a phone conversation with a writer I know. He is new to writing and he’s eager to learn his craft—although he already understands how to write strong, entertaining scenes. I remind him of this often. Still, he worries a lot. I remind him, also, that his characters are strong and they have suffered and we care about them. Characters have the power to invite us into their book so we follow them eagerly across the most tumultuous narrative seas; characters also have the less-than-desirable power to shoo us away from reading because we don’t care about them …

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December’s Writing Child…more

More miscellaneous, so-not profound musings on writing: 4) If you are constantly doubting your work, ask yourself if you trust your own creative process. If the answer is anything but yes, add “TRUST” to your daily mantra. 5) You need a safe–some call it sacred–space to write, where you are free from interruptions and intrusion. That safe place might be your office, your car, the nearest library or cafe. If you write on a computer, you need to know others will not be reading your stories before you are ready to share. 6) You need psychic privacy to write–a sense …

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A REASON NOT TO WRITE

Recently a writer shared a list of all the reasons why she needed to wait until winter to begin her new writing schedule. I read it over, paused a moment, and responded, “There will always be reasons not to write.”   Those times when life seems most overwhelming–when it comes rolling straight at us full-tilt–present some of the richest challenges and also opportunities. No better time to be writing with full commitment to your practice. A writing life is just that, a writing life. It goes on, whether times are smooth or filled with upheaval. When you feel tested, I …

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WOOING YOU BACK

One of the best essays I’ve read about reconnecting to your novel and moving past “stuckness” was penned by Gail Godwin and published in The Writer. Godwin suggests that a creative work in progress may react to the fear of abandonment like an aggrieved pet, giving you, the author, the cold shoulder or even turning its back on you completely. The provocation of this punishment may be as slight as a busy weekend you spent with your family or a missed writing session. It may be more dramatic–weeks of putting your manuscript on the back-burner. When disconnect occurs, you the writer …

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NIGHT SWEATS

A writer friend confides that he suffers from nightmares as he nears completion of his first novel. “I wake in a cold sweat,” he confesses. “What if it’s not good enough? What if it’s no good? It’s like one of those dreams where you show up naked for the final exam. I didn’t used to be this scared–I didn’t doubt myself.” After we talk for several minutes, we agree the dreams, however uncomfortable, are a good sign. He is about to share his novel with a select audience of first readers, and he will be asking for their feedback. The …

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TEN THINGS I’D DIE FOR

When I asked Stephanie, a writer friend, to list ten things she would die for, her initial response was that she could handle it in one of two ways: “the mushy stuff you could get serious about such as dying for family. But I thought to myself that would never happen so I took the other approach…somewhat self-centered and fun and it has some mushy stuff but not much.”  The list is reprinted (fresh and wild) with her permission. *  A life size replica of Shaquille O’Neal as a Reese’s Peanut Butter cup *  The ability to fly *  A …

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Quote of the Day: “Lower Your Standards”

My friend Marty G., a professional writer and editor, who has been at it for thirty-plus years, does not believe in writer’s block. When a writer complains she can’t make progress on the first draft of her book, Marty advises, “Lower your standards.” When it comes to the craft of writing, Marty is an advocate for excellence, but he also knows the difference between writing a first draft and a third draft. First, get the words on the page; second, make it better; third, make it zing!

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The Wild Freedom of 100 Lines

My writing friend in Mexico introduced me months ago to author CM Mayo’s generous web offering: 365 five-minute writing exercises. Somewhere among those exercises is one that suggests writing 100 lines about a story, scene, idea. I don’t remember the exact details of her exercise, but I am completely addicted to the flexibility it has inspired, and I use it all the time. These days, when I’m diving into a new scene, I begin with 100 lines of free association. These free me of fear and lead me to infinite discoveries, including: dialogue, emotionally evocative sensory details, physical descriptions, various …

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Tricksters, Saboteurs, Gremlins, and Other Early Risers

You wake early because you’ve highlighted two hours in your schedule and you’re going to work on your book. The last time you sat down to write, two days ago, the words flowed effortlessly and you felt elated. Now, you touch your fingers to the keys, but instead of joy, you feel a chill at the base of your neck. You are not quite present, a bit out of sorts. You try to shake off the shadow, shake the mood, but you find yourself forcing the words onto the page. You persevere for another ten minutes but it only gets …

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