Tag Archives: Writer’s Block

Remember: Tomorrow Never Comes with AJ Best

OK, here’s the deal, tomorrow will never come.  That sounds like a very philosophical statement coming from me and I’m not normally a philosophical writer, but hear me out.  To prove my point check out my waistline.  I know, what does that have to do with writing!?  EVERYTHING!  I keep telling myself that I will diet, and I will exercise, but I’ll do it tomorrow. I’ll do it tomorrow because I’m too tired, or that roast beast (beef) looks too good to only have one helping.  I can’t diet today because that Almond Joy cake Momma made for dessert can’t possibly be left for her to eat!  She’s a diabetic for crying out loud.  I’m saving her from herself.  I must save her and I must do it twice TODAY!  So TOMORROW I will diet.  But for some strange reason it is always today.  Today is the only day that we have to think about, so let’s make the most of it.

You need to make yourself write sometimes.  At first it will come easily.  You are going to be so stoked by a great story. You are going to do nothing but write, write, write.  They ideas are going to flow from your fingers.  The sparks will fly, and your significant other will be standing nearby with a fire extinguisher to make sure that no fires are started.  Then your darling child comes up to you and says, “I’m hungry!” or my personal favorite, “I’m bored!” So you get up quickly and run to the kitchen to make a quick PB&J and then you are headed back to write.  You then see the mail on the table that has to be put away.  Dang is that the credit card bill that was due last week?  Why didn’t that get paid?  Now you are making a mad dash for the check book to pay it before too many late fees get added.  Hold up, the check book’s not balanced?  It’s always balanced, do you have enough to pay the bill?  By this time, you have forgotten that you were writing in the first place. 

It’s especially hard on a nice sunny day.  But you need to set a goal, even if it’s small. 

  • My goal for today is 400 words, in other words, you can set a word count goal!

So if you decide that you are going to write that 400 words act like the Nike commercial and Just Do It! Sit down and write 400 words.  It needs to be something.  It doesn’t have to be the most wonderful thing you have ever written and if you are stuck on the story that you are writing, start on something else.  Don’t force the words to come that makes for something that will only frustrate you and drive a very painful and potentially LONG writers block into your near future. (I hate writers block!  In the infamous words of my children, “It sooooo       sucks!”)

  • My goal is 5 pages, I’m sure you get where this is going, a page goal right!?

It’s time to be selfish.  Have your spouse watch the kids.  Go somewhere quiet, or semi-quiet if you live in my house and close the door.  Put several full laundry baskets in front of the door and sit down to write.  You have to take the time to do this.  If you don’t take the time to be selfish with your writing, no one else is going to do it for you.  If you don’t take care of this child, (Yes, your writing is your baby too!  Don’t believe me?  Wait till your first not so good review when you want to beat the heck out of some reviewer for having an opinion.  And do remember folks, it’s just an opinion.  OK?) no one is going to do it for you.  So you need to get off your duff and take time for it.  You can not blame anyone but yourself if you don’t get it done. 

  • My goal is to write for 30 minutes and last but not least…a timed goal!


I know you’ve heard it before but use a timer.  The advice is sound, tried and true guys.  If you don’t have an egg timer, a timer on your microwave, your stove, your phone, or an alarm clock, I do have solutions.  I absolutely love this site: http://www.nakedalarmclock.com/ because you are able to set it and have it go off whenever your goal time is complete. Besides, the name is fun.  (I bet over half of you have already clicked on the link thinking you would find something naked on there, HA fooled you.)  Make sure that when you set a timer for yourself, you are not punishing yourself.  Try not to make this a time out like you would give your child.  So, don’t do it for 3 straight hours in a row.  When I tutored college Accounting, I always told students never to study for more than an hour at a time, take a 10-15 minute break and then go back to studying.  That way your brain doesn’t go into overload.  If you force your brain to work non-stop for 3-4 hours then you may end up resenting the time that you are sitting there, and won’t enjoy what you are doing. Another fun thing that I can tell you about is http://lab.drwicked.com/writeordie.html.  You can go to that site and put in your word goal, a time limit, and if you would prefer the program it to go easy on you, be strict or just be plain evil.  It’s a little difficult to explain, so you may want to go there and play with it just for fun!  If nothing else, it kicks you in the butt and gets your mind working and breaks the monotony of a brain fart or writers block.

Overcoming the Muddle in the Middle

by Kay Springsteen

Whether you plot your story or pants it as you go, at some point you have to get to the middle. Many authors I’ve spoken with complain about the same thing. Getting to the middle and losing momentum. For whatever reason, characters stop cooperating, the story feels stale. An author might start wondering things like, “What was I thinking?”

I know from experience if I can just reach that turning point in the story arc, from introduction to first inciting incident (or sometimes second, depending on how complicated the story is with plot twists), and onward into the first obstacle, I will be fine and the climax and end of the story will come easily.

But how to overcome that muddle in the middle, when my characters seem to want to spin their wheels and loll in the mud while I’m trying to get them to tell their stories? I’ve put more characters into timeout for being uncooperative than is good for my writing lately.

Lately, I’ve taken to skipping the muddle completely when the characters decide to become couch potatoes. I simply bypass their reticence to cooperate and move into the meat of the story. Now, I know a lot of non-writers have heard some of us talking about the voices in our head, and thankfully, you all haven’t run screaming when we say something along those lines. With that in mind, I’m going to detail the conversation I had with the main characters from my latest WIP so you can see just how temperamental these characters you enjoy so much can become even before they hit the big time (a published book).

ME: This is a sweet scene where you’re having a nice time getting to know one another, but I’m on a deadline, so we have to get through this today. I need to get your first obstacle up on the board.

HEROINE:  But I’m only just getting to know this guy. I don’t want any obstacles.

ME:  Well, the obstacle’s already there. I already know what the complication is going to be. So let’s just get to it.

HERIONE (Grabs hero around the waist): No! We LIKE the way things are. Why can’t you just leave us alone?

ME (looking at hero): Do you have anything to say?

HERO (leans in and gives heroine a kiss): Mmmmm.

ME: Don’t make me put you in time-out.

HEROINE: You won’t do that. You already have six of us in timeout.

HERO: We could bring beer and have a party in time-out.

ME: Fine, no time-out. I’ll just keep writing.

I type a few lines.

HERO: Hey, we’re in a hospital! How did we get here? We were on the sofa making out just a minute ago.

HEROINE: Why am I crying? I don’t remember anything bad happening. And who are all these strangers around us?

HERO: And why the hell am I holding a baby carrier???

ME: I jumped ahead.

HERO/HEROINE: You can’t do that!

ME (smiling): I just did.

They started behaving after this. The thing is, whatever it takes to get through the slump before all the action starts, you need to do it. There will be time during the editing and revision process to go back and fill in details and close plot holes. The point is to get past the road blocks that stop the writing process.

Questions for writers:  What things halt your writing process? How do you overcome these barriers to writing?

Writer’s Block – Fixes…or not!

I’ve spent an entire week trying to figure out what I’m going to put down for this post. I really hate when I get a writer’s ‘brain fart’. I’ve talked to author friends and told them that they can get through their block and given them GREAT advice (if I do say so myself), but implementing that advice is harder than I thought.

1. Sit down and write anything. Type out exactly what you are thinking.

‘OMG, this post has to make sense to someone. What if I make a total fool of myself? What if….my brain just fried. Now what do I do? Um. Help?’

2. Go to my favorite site for motivation: http://writeordie.com/ Put in 500 words in 10 minutes. Have it in Kamikaze mode and Evil grace period. So this is what comes out of that:

I’m trying to get the writer’s block from my head and to the paper. Do you think that I am going to be able to break it out of my head and onto the paper? Will it work? Can I do it? OH, flashing red lights, focus. I can do it. Yes, I can. I wonder what my brain is doing wrong….maybe it’s not my brain.

3. I tell my friends not to be too hard on themselves. (So much for that advice for me!)

Come on AJ, why can’t you pull something good from what you have in your brain? Maybe you don’t have a brain. Why do you write anyway! You suck.

4. Writing is a job not a hobby – set aside time. (My hardest solution.)

I’ve really lost the battle with this one. I sit down to write and nothing comes out. So I get distracted by email, Twitter (yes, I’ve gotten sucked back in), Facebook, cleaning, family, music, eating. If I were at what I call a ‘real’ job, I would have my butt in the chair doing what I was supposed to be doing. Why do I not consider writing a real job? It is, but I’ve been kicked so often lately that sometimes writing hurts. I think back on the recent rejection letter for my story forgiveness, and hear all they have to say and wonder if they are right. I know they aren’t. My friends who have read it say they aren’t. But why does the horrible mean things that people say about your work stick, and the good things don’t? I guess that’s the same thing with life. It’s hard to realize that you can do it.

So, it’s time for me to stop making excuses and sit butt in chair and write. Even if I think it sucks (which it might) just write. That’s what edits are for. To fix spelling, plot holes and other inconsistencies. No writer I’ve ever known has a perfect MS from the first draft, no one I know who has been contracted has ever had to skip edits. It’s OK to make mistakes, and it’s even better if you take the time to realize them and fix them.

What keeps you from writing the way you should? What do you do to overcome it when it happens? I’d love to hear from you!


AJ Best can be found and harassed at http://www.ajbestwrites.com. She tries to make sure that there is a touch of real life in every one of her stories. Feel free to drop her a line at ajbestwrites@gmail.com.

The Muse is Out to Lunch

“Today I have nothing to say,” I typed after staring at the screen for what seemed to be hours. I tried to think of something witty, compelling. After all I’m a writer aren’t I? I started over again, itching to pull the paper out of the typewriter roller, crush it and throw it in the basket. But that too was unsatisfying. I’m using a computer. I heave a heavy sigh, *sigh,* and once again look at the blank screen. Oh no! I have it, the dreaded writer’s block!

There are lots of reasons why we reach a barrier: we censor our work, stress in our ‘other’ life, rejections, low self esteem, I could go on but you get the picture.

Here are some tips I found on About.com to help you move forward:

  1. Develop and follow a writing schedule even if you write only a few hundred words. If you are consistent and sit down to write on a schedule, your mind will react accordingly.
  2. Don’t be hard on yourself. Just write. Save the critique for later when you edit.
  3. Don’t panic. Panicking will only make the block worse. The less you think about what you’re doing the better your writing will be. Let it flow.
  4. Take some time off especially if you have just finished one project. Give yourself time to recharge your batteries and gather new experiences.
  5. Set reasonable deadlines and goals for yourself. You may also want to find a writing group for support. It’s good to touch base with other writers and understand you are not alone. Commiserating puts things in perspective.
  6. Take a good look at any long standing issues that stop you from writing. Writing can be cathartic. Write about your anxieties and talk them out, preferably with another writer.
  7. Work on more than one project. Sometimes a second project can spur ideas for the first.
  8. Try a writing exercise. Just for fun. Finish this sentence: Like a butterfly, she magically …
  9. Get away from your desk for awhile. You need to stretch your legs, get the blood going. Go to the gym, browse your favorite book store, or go for a walk. When you come back to your desk you will feel renewed.
  10. Remember why you started writing and don’t give up. Think about the excitement, how much fun you had getting the words down. Recapture the spirit that is the muse.

Personally, I went for a walk and reconnected with some friends. With encouragement from my son, I contacted the editor who passed on my story and asked if she would consider re-reading it once the editing was done. The weight lifted but I have one more thing to do before I invite the muse back to my desk. I found this great romance novel. A few chapters should get me in the mood to write!

Happy Spring everyone which ever holiday you celebrate.

… Ruth

Writer’s Block

For the second week in a row, I’m late submitting my post. Sorry, April!

I don’t have an excuse, though I could say the cat ate my computer. Seriously, if you knew my cat, you wouldn’t find that all that outrageous. Having taught in public schools for over 15 years, I’ve heard pretty much every excuse that exists. So I won’t burden you with any. I will, however, explain.

Last week, I had a child home from school with bronchitis. Pretty scary for a while; she had such a bad cough she could barely breathe. That kind of stymied my creativity. My energy and thoughts focused more on taking care of her and wishing her health than on writing a blog post, or even writing much of anything, to be honest.

She’s better this week. So the only explanation I have now is that I just plain didn’t know what to write!

It happens to the best authors. Every once in a while, the words just plain dry up. Your brain throws a nice, tall concrete wall up in front of you, and nothing even remotely creative makes it through. Sometimes it happens when you’re just starting a new story. That first sentence is always a doozy. Staring at the blank paper or computer monitor… *shudder*.

Sometimes it hits you in the middle of a story. You’ve gotten off to a good start, the characters are on stage and doing what you want them to do, and all of a sudden, WHAM! You can’t figure out what you want them to do next. They’re left standing there blinking at you in confusion as you try to get through that concrete wall.

(And no, I don’t actually see my characters blinking at me. At least, not in the same room…)

The worst time writer’s block can hit, and the time when it usually strikes me, is after all of the above. I got off to a great start. The middle of the story flowed so quickly my typing fingers could barely keep up. The climax (figurative or literal, depending on what kind of story it is) has occurred.

And I have no idea how to end the blasted thing. That concrete wall just sits there waiting for me at the end of the story, and I have to work around it till I’m actually able to finish.

Then there are times when that wall waits for the author to have a commitment. A guest blog, an interview, or a regularly scheduled blog post. And then it strikes, leaving you completely clueless as to how to fill that commitment.

Which is what happened to me last week and this week. Fortunately, the wall seems to have gone on vacation temporarily, maybe to the Bahamas or someplace warmer. So I’ve finished this post, and hopefully from now on will be more on top of things.

Does anyone have a wrecking ball, though, just in case that wall comes back?