How to Get Back Into the Writing Groove

Lately, my advice posts have fell a bit to the way-side. Mainly, I blame a bit of a writer’s burn-out that I suffered from since mid-November.

It’s hard enough to write a thoughtful, useful post without feeling like I’m sipping yogurt through a thin straw. (Don’t know what I mean? Try it sometime. The feeling compares remarkably well to writing while burned out.)
The only thing I advise people to do when burned out is to rest. But what to do when the burn-out is gone and you just can’t get into the writing groove again? 
Oh, I’m glad you asked. 
I know that everyone is different, but I’ve found that the following steps work for me: 
Step 1: Find a big enough stick. 

I’m serious. Resting during a burn-out is all about spoiling ourselves rotten and doing all those things we usually do to procrastinate without feeling guilty about it. This is a good thing in its time, but now that time is over. But why promise yourself a reward when you’re already in the zone of instant gratification? 
It just won’t work. So find what will really make yourself feel crap if you don’t do it within a certain time, and commit to it now. I picked saying yes to two anthologies and setting up a book for pre-order. 
Of the two, the pre-order thing is worse. I like having the pre-order option. And Amazon will take that option away for a year if I don’t submit the finished work in time. See? Pretty big stick. 
And already, I’ve started making sure that I’ll have everything done. Just make sure that the big stick won’t be falling too soon. You’ve got to be reasonable. Setting something up for pre-orders a week from now isn’t reasonable unless you were close to done to begin with. 
Step 2: Get into the habit of delayed gratification.

You used to do this before. It’s not so hard. Say: “Yes, I want to watch TV, but first I need to finish this chapter.”
This is a tricky thing to do, because the excuses are a dime a dozen. But if you want to get that book done, you need to say: “Later.” to everything that isn’t finishing your book. 
Except, you know, your family needing your attention or something like that. Family is important. Writing is important. Sometimes, friends are important. TV…. not so much. 
And be careful of the social networking you “need” to do. Not that important either. 
Step 3: Find a nice, juicy carrot. 

That’s the nice thing about delayed gratification. Telling yourself you’ll do something after finishing a chapter means that you’ll want to finish that chapter even if it’s only to get to a guilt-free session of that other thing. 
I go a bit bigger, though. I’ve promised myself something really nice and expensive if I publish my book on time. Actually, that was a new laptop, but the old one broke. So I’m going to have to think of something else. 
I’ll probably feed my addiction to pretty notebooks. (NOTE: if you’re ever a die-hard fan that wants to send me stuff for Christmas or my birthday… NOTEBOOKS. The beautiful hard-cover kinds with the high quality paper.) 
In the short term, I promised myself a decadent chocolate and banana smoothie once I’ve finished this post. 
Step 4: Actually write, nitwit. 

You know? It’s kind of important. 
And that’s pretty much it. Simple, right? 
How do you get back into the writing groove after a long break? 

Back to the subject of putting books on pre-order. I’ll be putting Endless up on Amazon this weekend. It’s already up on B&N, Kobo and Apple. In the meantime, though, I’m looking for people who’d like to help me spread the word in May after the launch. If you’re interested, please click here. Thanks! You’re awesome.

Sometimes, it’s just necessary to talk to someone.

I’ve been having a frustrating couple of writing weeks centering around the third book in The War of Six Crowns. 

In case you’ve missed updates on it, I’ve had to re-draft it twice now. I haven’t had time to mention that right before the house move came, I got seriously stuck. The moment I got past the re-introduction of the characters in the current draft, the wheels fell off spectacularly.

I just couldn’t seem to make the book work in my head. It even got to the point where I was wondering whether I had to scrap the whole idea for what I had in mind for this book, which meant scrapping the whole rest of the series, because a significant amount of it depends on the events taking place right now.

Just like everything depends on the two first books.

And you know what? There comes a point where one’s fears multiply to such a point that you can’t even think straight about something. No amount of telling myself to be rational and just think things through helped. The moment I put serious thought into this book, any thoughts that might have been stewing away vanished and I was again left with nothing but a vague yet growing sense of panic.

So what’s a girl to do? I went to the Untethered Realms Facebook group and said:

“I can’t seem to make book three in my series work. *curls up into a sobbing little ball of misery.*”

Luckily Graeme Ing stepped in and offered to help. How? Basically by asking me a ton of questions about the first two books, then the third. 
It might sound silly, but it really helps. I think it’s just the fact that writing out the answers for him required that at least at first, I had to stick with what I knew. Once there, I could focus on what I didn’t know and needed. 
Scary thing: Everything that’s not working comes from two causes: 1) I’ve been nitpicking just to add more problems to my process. (Panic does that. Creates problems where there aren’t any so I have more reason to panic.) 2) I haven’t yet figured out how to get two characters to meet. 
That second one… it’s… well. Stupid. I’ve been panicking about something stupid. It’s just that when one panics, it’s not easy to get into perspective again. Talking to someone else puts things into perspective. Even if I’d talked other writers through their plot problems in exactly the same way. 
Sometimes, another set of ears is just necessary. 
Do you have another set of ears? No? Well, you have me. All you have to do is drop me a line. mishagericke(AT)gmail(DOT)com. 

Five ways to get back into the writing groove.

A lot of people take time off from writing during the Christmas season. If they’re anything like me, it means that getting back into writing mode can be a bit tricky. So I thought I’d share some of the more efficient ways I use to get my writing groove back. 


I play music reminding me of the stories I’m writing, even when I’m doing something else. These are also the soundtracks I use while writing, so hearing the songs again stirs some creative thoughts up. 

Writing prompts. 

It’s great to be able to just write for the heck of it, without worrying about what you’ll be able to use later. So if you haven’t written in a while, starting off with some low-pressure writing might be exactly what you need to get going. 

Character interviews. 

Starting off just chatting with characters can give amazing inspiration in surprising directions. This also works extremely well when your story’s starting to feel dull. 

Reread what you’ve written. 

Not recommended if you’re an over-editor, but sometimes, all you need to get back into writing gear is to relive the awesomeness you’ve penned down before. Remember to look on the bright side and to ignore the nitpicky issues. 

Start off by writing something totally random. 

The hardest part about writing after a long time away is starting. Writing something random tends to open up the writing channels, letting you think what you actually write down. I once broke a six month writer’s block by opening a chapter with: “The gunk stuck to his mouth like peanut butter. He hated peanut butter.” Funnily enough, those sentences ended up in the final cut of The Vanished Knight. 

As you might see, all of those suggestions have to do with chilling out before you start. Forcing yourself works too, but it’s much easier to want to write. It’s always trickier to start when you’re panicking about how to do it. And the how’s and why’s almost always come when you’re not looking for them. 
I hope this helps! 
Anyone else have pointers for getting back into writing routine?

Re-evaluation completed

Hey all! Before I start, just want to let you know that I’m at S.K. Anthony’s blog talking about how I beat insecurities and at Gwen Gardner’s talking about how I create complex characters.

So, as I mentioned on Friday, I’ll be doing NaNoWriMo again this year, but that at this stage I needed to re-evaluate how I was going to approach it.

I decided I’m going to let myself off the hook while pushing myself at the same time. Sounds crazy, I know, but here’s how I look at it.

As far as drafting’s concerned, I don’t really care what my word counts go towards, as long as I write. So at the moment, I’m a bit too stressed to focus on my current WiPs, but it doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t write. Just means I can write without focusing on a given project.

Does it mean I’m wasting my time? Probably not. The way I see it, I’ll be adding words to most of my projects, since I won’t really be able to stay away from them. Maybe not 50k to one, but I’ll finish all of them anyway.

Also, doing prompts will open up my thoughts again. It’s been weeks since I could focus on writing, so I need to get back into the swing of things.

Besides, who knows? Maybe one or more of those random prompts I’ll do will lead to an awesome story.

Who else is doing NaNo? If you want to buddy up, my user name’s iceangel. What will you be working on?

Return of the Writer’s Block

I don’t know if I mentioned this before, but for the past week, I’ve had visitors from the Netherlands. It was great having them. We took them all over the area to enjoy the beauty of our landscape.

In addition, we went to places like lion sanctuaries etc. which I haven’t ever been to before. Of course, all this is great for my muse. 
She’s probably assimilating everything she saw into even more story ideas. 
Needless to say, I’m glad I had this week out in the world. 
But there’s a bit of a hitch. Now that I’m back, I’m so exhausted that I can’t seem to start writing. I’m past half-way with the Birds vs Bastards rewrite, but right now, I’m just staring at the empty page. Even though I’ve already written the whole thing. 
I already know what’s supposed to happen. But for some reason, something about the section I’m supposed to start now, just doesn’t want to come out. 
It’s like something’s clogging up my mind. Usually, I don’t mind, because usually I know exactly what it is that’s keeping me from writing a given story. Mainly, it’s another idea, so the moment I sit down and write the idea out, I can go back to my main story. 
This time, though, I can’t put my finger on it. I can feel the block. But there’s just no visible reason for it. 
I haven’t felt this way since I finished The Vanished Knight (Doorways, for those or you who missed the announcement). But I do remember. Days and weeks without writing anything because something snarled up my lines of thought. 
Getting so stuck that I couldn’t even write a blog post. 
So in the scheme of things, this isn’t too bad. And I already know what to do to make it better: 


Forcing the issue never works. Even though I’d love to be all gung-ho and I’ll-write-now-because-I-want-to, but that’s not how my mind works. 
So, knowing that my self-imposed deadline for this rewrite is the end of September, I’m taking a gamble. I’m going to take time off from the rewrite (and any writing except blogging) until I’m good and ready to get back to it. Hopefully it’ll be soon. 
How do you deal with writer’s block? 
Before I go. I just want to take a moment to remember those who lost their lives or loved ones on 9/11. 

A bit of a dilemma

As some of you might remember from November 2012, I explained how I picked my NaNo novel based on the thought of creating a production-line of sorts.

The plan is simple: Write all the current ideas in my mind. Stay in draft mode for as long as possible. Then move into edit mode and stay there for as long as possible.

My reasoning is that this way, I’ll eventually get to a point where I have a finished novel to query while having a whole line-up of novels to edit at the same time.

Simple, yes. Except for one thing. The way my creative mind works involves lots of pauses while it sifts through its thoughts.

Like now. I know what I want to happen in my current rough draft, but for some reason, I just don’t feel like writing. It’s actually a bit worse than that, although I don’t know how to put it in words.

Suffice it to say, something’s telling me to give this WiP a break.

But if I do, will I get back to it in time for me to fit it into the production line?

My gut says yes. My brain is wondering.

On the other hand, I know that it’s wise to give this one a break. I’ve spent years on the book before it and I’m querying that one as we speak. Maybe I should just relax and go with the flow.

Except I know it will be much better to have the sequel drafted by the time book 1 is out, which might be much sooner than I thought.

As I write this, however, I can feel a knot forming somewhere in my thoughts. I don’t know what it is, exactly, but if I force myself to continue with the story, I’ll be adding to the problem.

Guess that means I’m moving onto something else. Maybe for a day. Maybe longer.

Wonder which story I’ll move to now.

Anyone else hit upon snags without knowing what they are? What do you do?

Not what I thought it would be

Thanks so much for the sympathy yesterday! Luckily it seems that I’m going through more of a cold than a flue, so it’s a bit more manageable now that I have the medicine I need to keep it under control. 

In the mean time, I have something else niggling at me. I mentioned that I started another WiP after finishing the draft I’d picked for NaNo. It’s another story I dreamed of way back while I was still drafting Doorways. I did some writing, and loved it. 
The voice was so good it felt and sounded as if someone sat next to me, telling the story. I put it away in the second chapter, though, because I was still writing Doorways and learning what it takes to finish a story. Other stories came after I completed the Doorways drafts, so this one stayed shelved. Still, I kept wondering if I shouldn’t get back to it. 
So when it was the only story left available for me to NaNo, I decided to just write and learn what I could. Good idea in theory, but something odd happened. The characters did their own thing. The story veered in a new direction. 
And I don’t know if I like it. It’s just… so different from what I thought it would be. For one thing, it’s no longer YA. For another… my strong female character managed to get herself enslaved to a guy of very dubious morality. 
Especially the latter has me seriously wondering what the hell is happening to my story. My gut says I should go with it and see what happens. After all, that’s what pantsing is about. 
But I don’t know. It’s… just… not what I thought it would be. 
Anyone else go through something similar with a story you wrote? What did you do? How did it turn out? 

Why writers should stretch


I once did a post about Stephen King’s On Writing, where he said that writers should never come lightly to writing.

It’s really true. When I don’t realize what a pleasure it is to write, I get de-sensitized, and that just makes the whole process so much less fun to do. In a way, I write so often, that I stop caring that I write. And in doing so, I stop caring whether I write or not.

Lately, this has become a really great risk for me. It’s one big reason as to why I spent weeks on end editing, but not writing a thing. I took writing too lightly. I forgot what a joy it is for me.

So what, you may ask, does it have to do with stretching?


Yesterday I read a post (sorry, forgot where it came from) about how a writer wrote a very different story from what she was used to, and got a much better response than anything she wrote before. And then (as mentioned above), I promptly forgot about it.

Except part of me kept thinking about stretching boundaries. Toeing out of our comfort zone to write something new and different.

I realized today that I don’t do that any more. I’ve grown so comfortable with Doorways that I stopped stretching. And that’s affecting how I feel about writing. Before, I used to write for the thrill of it. Now the thrill is gone and I write because of my passion for one specific story.

That’s probably the number one reason why I just can’t focus on anything but Doorways. No other story approximates my investment in the Beast, so nothing else is worth my time. Never mind that I was thrilled to write two completely unrelated stories.

I just don’t think that getting stuck on one story at the cost of my passion for writing in general is a good thing. So. I’m going to stretch. I’m going to take an hour or so every day to work on something short, but different. A poem. A flash fiction. Even a short-story I can craft in a week or so.

Something out of my genre. Something in another style. Another tense. Another shape. Different. DIFFICULT.

Because for me, there’s no fun in the routine. Yes, I’ll finish the Doorways series when I stick to a routine, but would I carry on writing after that? I don’t know. What I need is to explore. To continue learning. To overcome new obstacles.

And to go that, I need to stretch. And I need to stretch every day. I suspect most writers do. 

What about you? Do you make a point of stretching your writing? What do you do?

Interview Tuesday: Ciara Quinlan

Hi all! Today I welcome Ciara Quinlan to my blog for another round of Interview Tuesday. Let’s just jump straight in, shall we?
Tell me a little about yourself?

Well, I’m 24 and have been writing since I was 4. My teddy bear turned into a giant green bear with steel teeth and fought nightmares and evil wasps to protect me. I felt his tale needed to be told.

I have two degrees, one in journalism and, more recently, a lesser degree in sales and marketing.
I’m currently interning in a company that makes websites, flyers and branded promotional products. Before that I worked in Dublin for two PR companies after interning at a tabloid newspaper and as a sub-editor for a magazine. I’ve published articles in a few newspapers and in the magazine I was working in. To be honest though, working with news when I spend so much time away in fantasy lands to be trusted with facts. Both of these were done with the hopes of improving my writing.

Right now, I’m writing about a girl who loses something physical (like a lung) every time she makes a wish, a demon who has been sentenced to community service as a good conscience and a more traditional fantasy that features a girl who would have been born blind had someone not decided to steal her some dragon eyes. 

Wow those are some great ideas. Where do you get them from? 

Dreams, adverts, flippant statements other people say, arguing mermaid muses who decide to not let me sleep sometime. The usual.

Do you still have the protector teddy bear? 

Yes, I do. I still can’t sleep without him, which is a little pathetic. I plan to be buried with the thing, strange as that is. I heard a theory from a friend that cuddly toys age 2 years for very normal year. Like dog years. Do you have anything like that?

Yes I still have most of my toys from when I was a baby. Don’t keep them in my room, though, but I can’t give them away either. Do you have any writing quirks?

Writing quirks? Well, I am prone to talking to myself. Usually I have two laptops in front of me as well so I can reward myself with episode of my favourite show or read manga or blogs.
I avoid any books while actually writing. If I write and my rewards are reading, I become an awful copy cat. When I read north hanger abbey, my writing read like a script for some period BBC drama for a week! 

Hahaha I know what you mean. That’s why I mostly avoid the genre that I’m writing in. What does your routine look like, if you have one?

It’s way too easy to absorb another person’s style, or not even notice that you have nicked a phrase.
Sunday has been my ‘writing’ day for awhile now. Everyone I know knows to leave me be. Otherwise I write whenever I have a spare five minutes. I try to write every day, even if it’s just a line or two. I find that not writing makes me feel completely miserable and guilty while writing makes me feel more fulfilled, even if it’s just a few words. 

I feel like that too. If I don’t write, everything annoys me. Do you plan ahead before you write?

It depends on the story. Some I need to have every detail mapped out and trolled through baby-name websites to find theperfect names for the characters. I need blueprints from the important buildings. I need to draw out maps. I need to know the history of the world and the very personal history of the characters and sometimes even their parents. Other stories I just sit and write.

I have noticed that much of it depends on where it’s set and how many characters I have. If it’s a whole new world full of shiny people, it’ll take awhile. However, if it has a small cast of characters and is set either in our world or somewhere similar, I’m more interested in finding out how they will react to each other in sticky situations.

 Makes sense. I also have more complex works that took a lot more time to peg down completely. Want to tell us a bit about your favorite character?

My own favourite character. Let’s see. I like my kick-ass girls and daring rouges, but I have to admit a certain soft spot for a shy little boy named Talon. He can talk to birds and dogs but has trouble talking to people. He’s a complete coward and is afraid of everything but every inch of him is loyal and loving. He wouldn’t hurt a fly. In fact, he would protect that fly while shaking in his boots.
Oh, why do I get a horrible sinking feeling that I will pay in writer’s block for picking a favourite?
He sounds really sweet. Unlike my favorite, who’s anything but. Speaking of writer’s block. What do you do when you get it?

I have a few like that as well. They are the ones I’m worried about. When I have writer’s block I will try anything. I’ll make up play-lists of songs that I think fit the characters. I’ll draw. I’ll free-write. I’ll write a letter. I’ll edit. If that doesn’t work I try to write the scene with just dialogue. When that fails, I sulk and pout.

If there’s a persistent block then something’s missing from the story or it’s not paced right. Something is up.
Not too long ago I wrote something that I liked while writing it (although I did find it difficult at points) but typing it out and editing it felt like a real chore.

So I wrote out all my scenes in post-its and put them in order. I realised that in every chapter they was either someone being saved, or someone new coming into the story. The pacing was all over the place and some of the key scenes felt forced.

It has to be completely re-written, minus two characters I really, really loved. I would have been saved a lot of time and pain if I had listened to my writer’s block earlier and examined the story a bit closer.

What do you do with characters and pieces of narration that you have to edit out?

I keep an excel sheet of all my characters. Hopefully they’ll find their way into another story, but I don’t actively try to put them into stories either. One sentence is always better than two and the same can be said of character. If their job in the story can be done by someone else, they don’t belong there. No matter how wonderful they are.

As for anything else I cut, I’m brutal. It comes from working in newspapers, where word count is very strict, and editing other people’s stuff. It has to fit with the other writing and it has to be as short as you can make it.
Often you’d write something, give it in and hear. “Great, just like that but in 200 words instead of 500.” It’s not nice but it gives you a precision to your writing nothing else can.
Where can people reach you on the social networks?

I’m on facebook but I don’t use it all that often.

Facebook me

I don’t really get twitter, to be honest.
Pinterest though, I’m addicted to
My pinboard.
I think my family may be plotting an intervention soon.

Thanks so much for this interview, Ciara! I really enjoyed it. 

Anyone else want to be interviewed? Just let me know and we can talk about it. My e-mail address is mishagericke(AT)gmail(DOT)com.

Do you keep a stuffed toy from your childhood?

Others have said: Unsought thoughts mean the most.

Write down the thoughts of the moment. Those that come unsought for are commonly the most valuable. 

Francis Bacon

Sometimes we spend hours in front of blank pages, searching and searching for the right thing to write. And then once we wrote what we’ve thought of, we’re critical. Some of us tend to spend hours editing and changing every. single. thing. we’ve written.

I know I do, if I don’t watch my internal editor like a hawk.

But here’s the thing. Those thoughts and ideas that I actively go looking for always have something lacking in them. Which is why I edit the writing that comes from those thoughts to death.

There are other thoughts and ideas, though. Unbidden ones. If I spend too much time on thinking when I write, those ideas are rare. Or maybe they pop up as often as always, but they’re drowned out in all of my forced thoughts.

Those jewels appear, seemingly out of the ether. They’re the ones that are the miracle cures of writing. More often than not, they’re brilliant. All of my original inspirations, plot problem solutions etc. come from unbidden thoughts.

I could be wrong, but from my own experience, unbidden thoughts and ideas come from the subconscious, after my mind has taken into account more aspects than I could even have thought of and untangled the mess. The result therefore is more complex than the one I consciously could have thought of and yet simple to apply.

And usually, it solves more than just the issue that got me thinking in the first place.

Because of this, I never worry about a writer’s block. It’s just my mind working out some issues in the story that I haven’t even perceived.

It’s also the reason why I zone out when I write. I don’t want to consciously decide what I’m writing. Because those conscious decisions have led me astray time and time again. To me, conscious decisions are for revisions and edits.

They have no real place in my creative process. Which is why I always refer to my muse, or to my characters making the calls. I don’t really believe in muses. But for me to write, I have to keep my writing mind (one dependent on unbidden thoughts) as far from my conscious mind as possible.

Without that, I would never have been able to create something as complex as the Doorways series.

While writing, do you consciously decide what you’re going to write? Or do you also try to disconnect your thoughts as far as possible?