Category Archives: Blogumentary

Blogumentary: Writer’s Block

 

The biggest villain for any writer isn’t the one they write about in their works.  It’s the one that lurks in the shadows and preys on the innocent.  It’s a hideous beast that sucks creativity out of creators and inspiration out of artists.  Okay, so maybe I’m being a bit dramatic.  I tend to have a flair for it, after all.  Regardless of my wording, the sentiment remains.  Writer’s Block is a beast that lives in dark alleys of the mind, and nobody wants to talk about it out loud.  Mentioning it is akin to talking about a no-hitter in baseball.  If you bring it up, you’re just tempting fate and jinxing yourself.  Or so they say.  Yet here I am writing a whole post about it, so that should tell you how smart I am!

So is it actually a real thing, or some mythical concept that mustn’t ever be spoken of?  If it exists, then what is it? Where does it come from and what causes it?  It really all depends on who you ask.  I personally think most writers have experienced it in some fashion to some degree, but there are other writers who refuse to acknowledge it.  It’s not some scary monster hiding in your closet or under your bed waiting to eat your brilliant ideas as you think of them, so no worries there.  In reality, writer’s block comes from a creative lull or the inability to create original ideas.  For whatever reason, sometimes people just struggle to be creative.  Writer’s block isn’t some physical hurdle that one must overcome like a giant wall, but it is a mental obstacle that can be just as daunting.  And typically, the longer it lasts, the harder it is to shake.  The longer it hangs around, the more space it creates for self doubt to creep in.  “Well what if I never think of anything original ever again?”  “Maybe I should just give up.”  And so on.

Why does it happen?  This question needs a paragraph all to itself (since I didn’t answer it the first time I asked up above).  There is a myriad of reasons why people find themselves tripping over the writer’s block pothole of life.  (Sorry, I live in Indianapolis where potholes are always a clear and present danger.)  Pressure: fast approaching deadlines, or trying to follow up success.  Stress: changes in brain activity due to outside factors such as health, finances, or really any major life change.  Motivation: maybe due to the lack of a deadline, or just generally not feeling inspired.  I could go on and on with reasons and excuses, but I think you probably get the idea.

Let’s take a look at a sampling of responses on this topic with a few author friends of mine, shall we?

What are your thoughts on “writers block?” Do you think it’s a real thing? If so, how long does it usually last and what methods do you use to get past it?

Patrick J. O’Brian

For me, writer’s block is usually not knowing exactly where I want the plot to go next, or what I want the characters to say in a key conversation. There are those major turning points in every book, and I like to get them right, so I stew about it until the right scenario finally comes to me. That’s my writer’s block. 

Andrew Miller:

Writer’s block is an accurate way of describing the feeling associated with a lack of motivation. You could just call it a lack of motivation. For me I find having a deadline helps. Not a self-imposed deadline, there’s not enough shame in ignoring that. A deadline imposed by an outside party, particularly one that offers some sort of prompt. With both of those items in hand I can write.

What I refuse to beat myself up over is not writing when my non-writing-life prevents it. Writing is emotionally draining. The writer is constantly drawing from their own emotional and mental well for the sake of creating fully formed characters – even in non-fiction – and that can’t happen if the writer’s own life is in chaos. This too can be called writer’s block, but really it is just life.

Christian Scully:

Writer’s block is definitely a real thing. Personally, it can last from a week or two up to a few months. It’s really draining on my writing process and motivation. To get over it, I usually have a playlist of songs I feel my characters would listen to. Just getting into their head seems to help usually.

Adam K. Moore:

Definitely a real thing for me. Some days, it’s just not going to happen. I’ve sat and stared at a blank document for quite some time. Writers block is a real thing, though there are ways to cope with it.

So what is a writer supposed to do when they hit the wall with writer’s block?  As you may have noticed from the quotes above, different people seem to use different tactics.  Each method is effective for that individual, and that’s why they do it.  Some may change the time of day to write, while others use music when writing.  Depending on their normal tendency, maybe they opt for silence instead of music.  Some might brainstorm about another project to try to get their creative juices kick-started, or possibly they’ll write an unrelated short story.

A strategy I’ve employed in the past is jumping ahead in the story and then coming back later to bridge the gap.  When I was writing Crossroads I came to a point where I had no clue where to take the story.  I knew where I wanted it to end up, but I couldn’t figure out how to get there for the life of me.  One of my friends told me to start writing the next plot point and see if that might help me just get back in the rhythm of writing.  It worked beautifully.  As soon as I got re-engaged with the story I was able to go back and connect the dots rather quickly.  That method might not work for everybody depending on your writing style and how much plotting you do before you start writing the first draft, but it worked for me and that will be my go-to strategy in the future as well.

Basically what I’m getting at is this: writer’s block is a very real thing, and every writer has to find their own way of dealing with it.  There’s no one guaranteed method that’ll cure writer’s block for everybody.  Try something that you think might work.  If it doesn’t, then try something else.  There’s no right or wrong way to get through it, as long as you keep trying.

Thank you, that is all.

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Blogumentary: Editing, Proofreading, Beta Reading, and Rewrites

Now that the first draft of Crossover is in the books (get it?), it’s time to start the editing process. Or is it proofreading? Or any of those other words from the title of this post? What do all those words have in common, other than basically being synonyms for one another? Most people use them interchangeably, but indeed, they each serve a specific part of the editing process. Writers always talk about the importance of editing, and the amount of time it entails, but what exactly does that look like?  I’ve touched on this concept previously, but today we’ll get a little deeper into the weeds.

For my own projects, I break it into steps. I start by reading through and making sure the story makes sense. I look for scenes that need expanded, characters that need rounded out, and other major themes. I also look for obvious spelling, grammar, and punctuation issues that are easy to catch and quick to fix.  After that, I disperse it to my beta readers and let some outside eyes get a peek at it. I have them look for the same things to make sure my brain isn’t overlooking any glaring issues since I know what is intended.  Next, I go through with a fine tooth comb and look for any final spelling, grammar, and punctuation issues. This is the hard part because as the creator of the material, your eyes know what’s supposed to be there and are really good at glancing over things.  After that, I order the first physical copy of the book and read through it again, line by line to check one more time for any issues or mistakes.

For other works I review, I ask what the author is looking for.  Some writers feel confident in the material and just want another set of eyes to find misspelled words and unnecessary commas.  Others want to make sure they haven’t overlooked any major issues with the plot structure.  Are they only worried about punctuation, spelling, and grammar? Or are they looking for plot holes and pacing issues?  These questions fall into more specific categories of editing that I haven’t even mentioned yet (but don’t worry, I’ve basically already described them all, so now I just need to tell you the name for each process)!  Here we go!

  • Developmental editing – typically used when a writer has a concept for a story and possibly a rough outline, but still needs to fill in some gaps.  The first draft usually isn’t even completed at this point.
  • Structural editing – this looks at content, plot structure, and overall flow of the story.  This would normally be the first step after completing a first draft, and this is usually where the re-writes are the heaviest.  Re-writes fall in here, which just means going through and modifying/adding to what’s already there.
  • Content editing or Substantive editing – this is where the editing process starts to break down the content that’s on the page. This type of editing begins to break the story down chapter by chapter and paragraph by paragraph to make sure things are ordered properly and make sense.
  • Line editing – exactly like it sounds. This type of editing is going like by line, word by word, looking for run-on sentences, fragments, and word usage.
  • Copy editing – this is where editing really gets in the weeds. This is where we pull out that fine tooth comb for the first time and start looking for grammar, spelling, and punctuation issues.
  • Proofreading – this is usually the last round of edits, and this person is looking for anything the copy editor might’ve missed. The key difference between a proofreader and a copy editor is that copy editing is the last step before a manuscript goes to the printer. Proofreading is taking the first printed, hard copy of the book (usually called the proof copy), and making sure the formatting is correct and looking for any final issues with punctuation, spelling, and grammar.
  • Beta Readers – this part of the process can fall almost anywhere on this list, depending on the personal preference of each individual author.  I would encourage every writer to find a trusted group of beta readers.  Friends and family might be willing to read your work, but they’re all going to feel bad giving you critical feedback.  While it’s nice to hear how great your work is, you also need somebody that’ll tell you what could be improved.  Hopefully they’ll keep in mind the emotional attachment you have with your creation and be gentle with their delivery, but you still want to make sure they can offer helpful, constructive criticism.

That all seems like a lot, huh?  And yeah, if you want a high quality, polished, finished product, then each and every step above is very necessary before going to print.  So strap in, because writing the first draft is only the beginning!

Thank you, that is all.

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Blogumentary: Books Vs Movies

 

We all know it. Movies based on books are rarely good, and are never as deep and rich as the source material. The author creates a story and characters that we love, and we can’t help ourselves but get excited to see them on the big screen. We know it hardly ever ends well, but we simply can’t manage our hopes and expectations.  That’s what makes a book worthy of being adapted in the first place.

But who do we blame for the disappointment?  Does the burden fall on the author, who’s responsible for creating the content, or the studio who writes the checks and has the final say?  Does the author have any obligation to be involved? What if they don’t know anything about the industry or the process? Story telling and screen writing are two completely different things. Or does their responsibility end once they cash the check?  That’s a whole lot of relevant, valid questions, and naturally, I certainly think there’s more than one answer.  Each scenario has its own quirks, perks, flaws, budgets, and people involved that all have an effect on the outcome, so let’s look at these questions a little more in-depth, shall we? Continue reading

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Blogumentary: Part-time writer with full-time aspirations

Being an author is a pretty cool thing. People are always intrigued when they learn that I write. There are usually a string of questions and comments that follow. Most of them are good, well-intentioned questions. Others could probably be worded differently and expressed more concisely. The second group typically revolve around the “I’ve thought about writing, but I have a real job,” type of back-handed comment.  I also have a “real job” that requires a lot of time and attention.  On the other hand, I also have an undeniable urge and desire to write, so I make time for that too.  Just like with everything else in life, it all boils down to prioritizing.  I value my need for creativity, so I account for that in my day-to-day routine. Continue reading

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Blogumentary: Inspiration – What, When, Where, Why, and How?

Inspiration; it’s such a grand concept. I always envision somebody typing feverishly in a picturesque setting whenever I think of inspiration. Ideal scenarios always jump to mind, but let’s be honest, when do ideal scenarios ever actually present themselves in real life? Sure, maybe if we all lived in a Hallmark movie, but I’m pretty sure we don’t. A quick glance at the nightly news confirms this.  Which leaves the reality of inspiration.  Instead of having an immaculate work station in front of a giant picture window overlooking an isolated lake, I’m left with frantic scribbling on a piece of scrap paper while I’m trying to clear the table after dinner.  There are countless memes about inspiration striking right before you drift off to sleep, only to wake up the next morning with no recollection with the brilliant idea you had mere hours before.  Or in the shower, when you don’t have access to your phone, computer, or notepad.    It never hits at an opportune time, so as a writer, you just have to make it work whenever the muse finds you.

Personally, if I’m unable to make a note in that instant (whether it be due to being in the shower, or driving, or what have you), I will continue to cycle the idea through my head, possibly expanding on it depending on the idea, until I’m able to jot it down.  That keeps it from being forgotten, and even gives me a little extra time to develop it a little more.  Then I get it noted the second I’m able to before it leaves me forever.  It never fails, my ideas and creativity kick into overdrive every Sunday morning in church.  Talk about awkward, try pulling your phone out of your pocket in the middle of a sermon and jotting down a note that just smacked you in the face.  What makes it even more uncomfortable is that my subject matter tends to be about outlaw bikers, illegal substances, and illicit activities – not really topics I would call wholesome. Continue reading

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Blogumentary: Forced Perspective – Finding My Voice as a Writer

I started this series to document the process I was going through while writing and publishing my first book.  I figured that maybe there would be other people out there who have a desire to try to write, but have never made the attempt.  (That should be a safe assumption based on all the people who say they’ve always wanted to write a book or have been thinking about writing a book whenever they find out I’m an author.)  Along with that process comes other topics that could be helpful for people to be aware of.

For me, my interest in writing came from a love of reading.  I certainly don’t have a background in writing outside of simply being an avid reader.  So when I started writing, it was a challenge to find my voice – to figure out my writing style.  I knew what I liked to read, so my assumption was that my writing would be similar to that.  Man, if only it was that easy! Continue reading

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Blogumentary: Step 6 – Publicizing

Now we have a completely finished product, so it’s time to sit back and rake in the cash from all the sales, right? Not so fast. After all the work we’ve done to get here, now comes the hard part!  Yeah – the hard part.

Writing is the easy part. That’s the part we’re comfortable with. Well, aside from the insecurity.  I can fight through the self-doubt and everything that comes with the writing process, but then what? Advertising and publicity is a whole other ball game. There’s an entire industry that is overflowing with experts on how to sell things. I don’t know about you, but I don’t do that and have no idea where to start…and it shows! This is where being an author turns from writing stories to becoming a small business owner. Didn’t know you were signing up for that, did you? I sure didn’t!

Just because you’ve written a book doesn’t mean that anybody knows about it.  Or even that they care about it.  Sure, you may get a few supportive family members who buy a copy out of obligation, but trust me when I say that even these sales aren’t guaranteed.  There is a lot of work involved to publicize your work once it’s released in order to get people to actually give it a chance.  That last sentence says there’s a lot of work involved to publicize your work once it’s released.  In reality, if you wait until it’s released to start publicizing, then you’re already behind the eight ball. Continue reading

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