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.
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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. 

Music. 

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: 

Nothing. 

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?