Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Overcoming Writer’s Block – Making the Word Count
I hear rumors that some people do not ever suffer from writer’s block. I also hear rumors that some people actually don’t like chocolate. Hah! For those of us who do battle writer’s block, frequently or infrequently, I’d like to share some ideas. One of the hardest parts of writing and attempting to get published is the mind game involved, the game of winning over the gremlins in your brain who sow doubt at every step.
When someone first starts writing, a common cause of writer’s block can be the fear that you will fail or that what you write will be terrible. The mind tricks you into thinking it’s better not to try because you are setting yourself up for a downfall. How do you overcome that? I found it was not to have a goal to write a polished, worthy-to-be-published manuscript. Too much pressure! I just had a goal to finish something, no matter how bad it turned out. What a great feeling it was the very first time I typed ‘the end’. If you make that your goal, you can remind yourself no one ever has to read it and that might ease some of the fear. And once the first is done, then you can think about revising it, or move on to something else, but having finished will silence a few of those vicious gremlins.
So once you have that goal to just finish, whether it’s your first or your tenth, how do you actually manage to get words down? I have several different methods. If I’m really struggling, I just write dialogue, because that’s the easiest part of the story for me to imagine. Sometimes I’ll switch to writing a few paragraphs describing the setting, even though I know I won’t use most of it in the final story. Other times I’ll just write a laundry list of the action, more like stage directions. The important part for me is to actually get real words on the screen, because I can’t revise without anything to work with.
Another thing I do is to set realistic goals and force myself to keep them, by not allowing myself to do anything else until I'm done. I don’t write quickly, so a maximum word count goal for me is one thousand words a day. On days when I know I will have very little time to make a goal, I lower the word count, sometimes down to as little as 250 words. Once I start writing, I often go beyond that, but the feeling of meeting one goal helps me go back to it the next day. Those 250 words may just be a description of what a character is wearing, or what they like to eat, or a bit of backstory. I don’t care. They are words.
Some people swear by a program called Write or Die. This is a much more drastic method to force yourself to write. As I understand it, you basically have to keep writing without pauses or else your work will disappear. That’s too much pressure for me and doesn’t fit the way I write, but every person has to find their own method. Anyone else have tips to share?
~ Dee Garretson