Monthly Archives: August 2012

A Post from Smart, Pretty and Awkward

“How to be Smarter: The only way I have found to conquer writer’s block is by following a simple rule: don’t get up from the chair until you have written something. You can always go back and revise what you wrote later, but you must write something before you can get up. And usually the something is better than you think it might be.”

–Molly Ford; Smart, Pretty, & Awkward

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The Magic of a Story

Lea At Sea

I was thinking today about the feeling of wonder that appears when reading an amazing story and the sadness that fills you when the story is over. Then I was thinking about how you then turn around and recommend that story to friends and family, and the tiny feeling of jealousy that manifests as they get to read the story for the first time. I both love and hate the feeling of having finished an amazing story. The feeling of sadness and almost emptiness that follows and how it sometimes lasts for even weeks after you flipped the last page. It is amazing to think that written words on a page have the ability to draw you in to the story and lives of the characters and places within. There really is magic within stories.

A few books that made me sad to have finished reading:

The Historian By: Elizabeth…

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More Methods to Overcome Writer’s Block

In my last post, I gave you several prompts and lines of dialogue to jump-start the creative process and help you get back to writing. Occasionally, a line or two of dialogue is simply not enough. When you find yourself facing writer’s block again, give these techniques a try to get your work moving again:

Read a book
Clean your house
Watch television
Go for a walk
Turn on some music and dance
Cook or bake something
Call a friend or loved one
Go for a drive
Go shopping
Play with your pet
Take a long bath or shower
Work in the garden
Have a cup of tea or coffee
Write in your journal
Take a nap
Play a board or video game
Vacuum
Clean the toilet
Do the dishes
Go to the park
Plan a vacation
Light a candle
Do the laundry
Go out and take some pictures
Watch a movie
Listen to an audiobook or a podcast
Have a glass of wine
Cry
Sing like no one can hear you
Go shopping
Go shopping online
Go for a swim
Get some sunshine
Have a snack
Go to the zoo
Visit an aquarium
Go to a museum
Visit an art gallery
Go to a concert
Play in the rain

Here are a few suggestions to help you get unstuck whenever you’re feeling creatively blocked. The key for getting past writer’s block is distracting yourself from your work long enough to let your mind wander.

What do you think of these tips? How do you overcome writer’s block?

Squelch Writer’s Block with These Opening Lines

Writers-block

“I do not hate you.”
“Hit me again.”
“I need another.”
“Stay on this train until the end of the line.”
“This is all I have.”
She stared at him, saying nothing.

He knows it’s wrong, but he can’t help himself.

“What if he says no?”
“You really got ripped off.”
“What kind of woman does something like that?”
I told her I couldn’t.”
“I never said a word.”
“I don’t think it’s a good idea.”
She couldn’t talk to him anymore.
“Turn the music up, please.”
I’ve never been in love before.
“He’s just a friend.”
“Of course it’s stupid.”
“Do you think we should do it?”

All they needed was each other.

“Why do you ask?”
I had never imagined the end of the world.
“Get out of my house.”
“Do you ever get lonely?”
“I don’t need your help.”
She squints in the bright light pouring in through the windows.
“You never listen to me.”
“There’s a time and a place.”
“You promised me.”
“I’m so, so sorry.”
“Your hair smells like strawberries.”
“I don’t like the snow.”
“Funny weather, isn’t it?”
“Excuse me.”
“What do you think?”
“We’re out of milk.”
“What time is it?”
“You’re stupid.”

She was not a beautiful woman.

“How are you, really?”
“Do you find me attractive?”
“Are you married?”
“I’m a moron.”
“How could I have avoided it?”
“No, I’m not sorry.”

He thought he was better off without her.

“Forget I said anything.”
She had grown to love the sound of rain.

The Index Card Method

20071105-index-cards

A little while ago, I introduced you to the Signpost Outline Method for plotting stories. This technique worked for me for a little while, but I’ve never been a fan of outlines. They can feel too rigid sometimes; too strict; too limiting, if you will. While using the Signpost method, you might also find yourself feeling trapped. You might be looking for another, less confining method, and if that’s the case, then I have a potential solution. This next method is something that I discovered around the same time as the Signpost method, but I personally feel that it is much more helpful.

First of all, get a stack of index cards. It doesn’t matter how many – just make sure you have enough to realistically plan a whole novel or short story. If you’d like a number count, I tend to shoot for twenty to twenty-five cards for a novel and four to five cards for a short story. Each index card will represent a scene in your work. On each index card, write a single action. By the time you’re finished, you should have a string of plotted actions that look something like this:

Atalanta leaves Anderson for Julian.
Atalanta stays the week with Julian.
Julian tells Atalanta that he yearns for control and power.
Julian refers Alaric to Atalanta.
Alaric meets with Atalanta for a consultation.

Alternately, you could put the actions down on paper. However, I prefer index cards because a) they’re informal, b) they’re portable, and c) you can move them around to change the sequence of events. Once I have all of my actions written down, I like to spread the cards out on the floor and rearrange them several times until I find the ideal sequence. Sometimes, when you do this, you’ll find arrangements that surprised you – sequences of events you hadn’t thought about before. This method also helps you get past writer’s block by reimagining the story arc.

The Index Card Method might now work for everyone, but I wanted to suggest it in case you were looking to try something new. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this technique! Have you used the Index Card Method before? Which method of outlining do you prefer? Leave your comments below, and I’d be happy to respond to them!

The Importance of Reading in the Life of a Writer

Cat-reading-a-book

The following content is taken from an article I wrote for Every College Girl called “How To… Find More Time to Read.” Reading is vital to the budding writer because it improves his or her vocabulary, teaches flow, and illustrates what does and does not work in the way of structure. Thus, it is absolutely essential you commit yourself to reading. If you’re looking to improve your writing, you must get in the habit of reading. I cannot stress this point enough. Here is the article:

As a self-professed bibliophile, there is nothing I love more than reading. I read whenever I can wherever I can, and I read almost everything that I can get my hands on. Believe it or not, you have more time to read than you think you do. Here are a few tips for finding more time to start that new series you’ve been dying to read.

Make a book your companion
First of all, get used to reading in small sips as well as big swallows. This means always having a book with you because the opportunity to read could come at any time, and you don’t want to be caught unawares. Read in lines, before a movie starts, in the bathroom, between classes, and before bed. Read whenever you have a few free minutes, not only when you can devote hours at a time to the book.

Expand your reading horizons
Also, read in the car. Now, I don’t mean that you should prop your novel against the steering wheel and have at it on the interstate. Today, thank God, we have audiobooks. You can download an audiobook to listen to while cleaning, doing laundry, or walking to class–not just while driving somewhere. Audibooks make it possible to multi-task, and what woman doesn’t want that?

Know yourself
My third and most important point is this: Read what you want to, and put the book down if you aren’t enjoying it. Just because millions of people before you have liked War and Peace doesn’t mean you should feel guilty if it’s not your cup of tea. Life’s too short to read boring books. Find something that piques your interest. If you don’t like something, move on. That’s all there is to it.

What do you think?
Do you love to read, too? What advice do you have to get the most out of your reading sessions?

How often do you read? I’d love to hear your input!

The Signpost Outline Method

Recently, I’ve been researching different outline methods in an effort to find one that works for me. I don’t use outlines as a general rule, but there seems to be a lot of merit to them for everyone else I’ve talked to. Thanks to Writer’s Digest, I’ve discovered the signpost outline. It’s structured, but it allows for a high degree of flexibility. It looks a little something like this:

Scene 1: Action Scene

SETTING: The park, late afternoon

CHARACTERS: Shelly, a stalker

PLOT: Shelly sits on a park bench reading the paper. She feels like someone is watching her, but when she looks around, she can’t see anyone.

Scene 2: Interior/Contemplative Scene

SETTING: Shelly’s house, midnight

CHARACTERS: Shelly, an intruder

PLOT: Shelly wakes to a sound in the middle of the night, but she thinks she must be paranoid. She thinks about the effect that her impending divorce has had on her life as she goes back to sleep. Unbeknownst to her, she has a nighttime visitor.

Scene 3: Dialogue Scene

SETTING: Shelly’s house, an hour later

CHARACTERS: Shelly, the police

PLOT: The next morning, Shelly wakes up to find all of her underwear is missing. She calls the police, and they begin an investigation into the mysterious panty-snatcher.

I’m sure there are some flaws to this method, but it’s working fine for me so far. I don’t prefer to outline, but if you do, this is a great strategy. If you’re averse to outlining, you might want to give this style a shot.