Uncategorized, Writing

Stuck in the Block

All writers experience writers block once in a while. For me, it usually happens when I’ve been writing everyday for a few weeks and I run out of steam. I also get writer’s block when I start writing two different pieces at the same time, or if I’m writing a paper for school at the same time as working on a creative piece for myself. It is something that frustrates all writers, and I’m no exception.

I don’t have any tricks in completely getting rid of writers block, but I do have a few that work 50% of the time. The first one is a book that I bought called The Writer’s Block and it’s this fabulous little book that has over 700 ideas to get your motivation going again. There are a combination of pictures and little thought-provoking quotes, and prompts to choose from. Whenever I reach a scene that I just can’t get right, I take a break and do something else, and then come back and flip through this book and after reading a couple pages of it, I’m able to get myself through the scene.

Another little tool that I use is Wordle, an amazing online program that lets you copy and paste what you’re working on, and it’ll pull out your most used words and create this little cloud of writing. Here’s an example of a screen-caped Wordle that is made up of all of the posts on this blog:

Screen Shot 2014-08-23 at 11.53.17 AM
The screen-cap from Wordle using all of the posts from Quillers.

To me, this is something really inspiring about seeing all of your work sitting there in a cloud for you to see. You can tell which words you used the most, and it lets you look at all of the work that you’ve done. It’s one of my favourite programs and I use it after I’ve finished every piece, just to see it all displayed in front of me.

Lastly, I will call up a friend and talk about what I’m working on and the problems that I’m having with it. Even if they can’t suggest anything, just voicing the issues out loud can sometimes get my brain going again. Also, if I’m able to solve the problem on the phone, I get very excited and the only thing I want to do for the rest of the day is write.

If these worked all of the time, I’m sure I would be able to kick writer’s block out the door no problem, but unfortunately, sometimes all it does it make me want to write, but not help me get past the block. Both types of writer’s block are frustrating, because I want to finish something and I have the motivation to write it, but I can’t get past the problem. Or, I have lots of ideas in how to fix the problem, but I don’t have the motivation to actually do it.

Someday I hope to find the perfect solution to the problem of writer’s block, but until then, I’ll keep using what I’ve used previously. Does anyone have any tips for getting over writer’s block that they’d like to share?


The Right Choice

As I mentioned in another blog post, some of my best ideas come to me while I’m in the middle of doing something trivial, like brushing my hair or making a cup of coffee. The plots that grow from those little glimpses are ones that I develop into novels and work on for several months or years. The hardest part about writing a novel, though, is choosing the right title.

When I write short stories or poems, the title will come to me with little or no work at all. I’ll be in the middle of writing a sentence, and WHAM, there’s the title, clear as day. I’ll always tell myself that it’s a working title and I’ll probably end up changing it later, but for the most part, I don’t tend to think of a better one. My main inspiration comes from music. It’s not as though I choose the title from song lyrics, but something about looking up song lyrics awakens the “picking the name” element inside my head. I’ll be scanning through the lyrics to several songs stuck in my head, and part of a line will jump out at me. I only use that tactic if nothing pops into my head during the writing process.

For novels, though, I struggle for months to think of a name that I can use as a solid working title. I think the difference between novels and my shorter pieces is the length. A novel is hundreds of thousands of words, where as a short story is a couple thousand at the most. Picking a title for a short piece doesn’t worry me, whereas trying to come with one for a novel is something I have always found intimidating.

It seems like a big deal to put a name on something so huge and diverse as a novel. You’re picking a name that will forever be linked to what you’re writing, and it’s hard to get it just right. Personally, I really like having short titles. One word titles are the best, and I won’t usually pick a title with over three words in it. I think that the shorter titles pack a punch that the longer titles don’t. They create mystery for a potential buyer who reads the title off a bookshelf, and the more mysterious the title is, the more likely they are to pick it up and read the blurb on the back. When I say “mysterious” I don’t mean that it has to be a question, I’m just referring to peaking the interest of a potential reader. Titles have a powerful effect, and it’s the first impression that a reader will get. So, it has to be a good impression, right?

How do you pick a title? Is it easy or hard? Do you think a title should reflect the writing style on a book, or can it be something totally unrelated? What are some of your favourite titles?

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Outstanding One-Liners

All of us have connected with an emotional scene in a movie or a line in a book that leaves a lasting impact. Some of us remember the line word for word, while others can remember where they were when they read/saw it. It’s interesting how those small little moments make such a huge impact on us. It isn’t the dramatic scenes of dialogue or description, or the funny little quips between characters, but the small fragments of the story that are so powerful. In writing, those are what some of us call “one-liners.” Sentences with four or five words that make a huge impact on the reader. They grab you by the throat and say “connect with me, feel my emotions” and don’t let you go until you’re there. Some people know this one-liners as words of wisdom, like:

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They have the same impact on anyone who reads them. They’re little nuggets of wisdom that make you want to live a better life and live using this little phrases. We are programmed to be impacted by honest, brutal emotions, and that’s why emotional statements like those are so effective. Writers (of all types) aim to create these effective phrases, and connect with an audience that way. A lot of times they will come out of nowhere while you’re working on an intense scene, or when you really start to connect to the character you’re using.

One of my previous posts was about the differences between using a plot that comes naturally versus one that you think of scene by scene. The issue between each of those ideas was the motivation level, and trying to have equal inspiration to write every plot. The beauty of one-liners is that they either come or they don’t. There’s no struggling over how to make an effective phrase, unless you’re editing one that you’ve already written.

One-liners are the true definition of creativity in my opinion, and they should be recognized as such. That being said, there are some amazing writers that don’t include one-liners in their pieces, and that doesn’t mean that they’re not creative. It just means that it comes in all forms and hits us all differently. That’s the beauty of creativity, there are so many layers and routes that it can take, it just amazes me everyday.

What I’m wondering about, though, is if there’s such a thing as over-doing one-liners. Sure, they’re natural and come when they’re welcomed, but what happens if you’re writing a novel, and there’s an effective one-liner in every chapter? I think, personally, there’s such a thing as too many, but I’m not sure where that limit is. I mean, should we put one-liners into the piece wherever they pop up, even if it’s two per page? Or, should we squelch some of them (which is a struggle itself, because we have to choose which ones!) in order to preserve the effectiveness of others? Let me know your thoughts and opinions! Also, what are somer really effective one-liners that you’ve come across? Go ahead and share them!


Inspiration vs Work

Every writer has their strengths and weaknesses, no matter what kind of writing they do. There are many fascinating sides to writing, but the element that is most interesting to me is how people come up with their ideas.

Personally, whenever I read or write, I see the events sprawling in front of me like we would see in a movie or a TV show. I can picture my characters and their physical attributes and they’ll be acting out the plot that I created while I try to get it all down on paper. The part that I struggle with the most, though, is coming up with the initial idea.

In my experience, I am always doing something important when a good idea hits me. For example, I was brushing my hair and trying to smooth out a huge tangle, when I thought of a great idea for a short story involving a young girl who was contemplating cutting all her hair so she could donate it to an organization. Within a minute of this original thought, a scene formed in my head and I felt a thrill from it. I ran frantically around the room looking for paper and a pen to scratch down a couple keywords in order to bring the image back later. Unfortunately for me, my hairbrush was still tangled in my hair and whacked me a number of times while I wrote my idea down. In the end, the bruises were worth it because the idea panned out and I got a good story out of it.

Those exhilarating moments of moments of inspiration can often be sparked by the smallest things, such as my hair brushing incident. That being said, there are times where weeks will pass and I won’t get a single moment of inspiration and, needing to write, I will try to create an idea from scratch that I am passionate about. The inspired moments always give me the energy to write them and make them strong pieces, whereas the ideas I create on my own always lack the initial excitement and, though I tend to get excited when I start writing, it takes long for me to complete them.

There is also the fact that I will be in the middle of writing a story that I created out of thin air, BOOM, an exciting new idea pops into my head and then I’m torn between writing the new, more exciting idea, and finishing the other one that I was halfway through creating. Those moments always leave me frustrated and I have abandoned novels that got ditched for a new idea.

So, here is my debate: Is it better to write a story using the the infrequent, unreliable moments of inspiration? Or is it safer to think of my own plots and create my own inspiration to write about them? Or should I use a combination of the two in order to make a really strong plot?

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