Saturday, April 17, 2010

What Happens Next?

Last summer I participated in the Central Utah Writing Project, a program that helps teachers become better writers and better teachers of writing.

I credit the program and its members for giving me the courage to start writing my first manuscript, a dream I'd had for over a decade.  

During the Summer Institute, A.E. Cannon, author of The Loser's Guide to Life and Love, gave us valuable advice about writing.  She said you should always end your daily writing in a place where you know what is going to happen next.  That way, you won't waste time the next day staring at your computer screen, wondering what to write.

You know what made me think of her advice?  Sitting in front of my screen, wondering what to write next, and wishing I'd followed her advice.  I'm at a point in my novel where I'm stuck.  I've hit the dreaded writer's block.  

What do you do to overcome writer's block?  How do you avoid it?

17 comments:

Jen said...

Great writers think alike! I love that we had the same concept today... though I must say yours was definitely more thought out... I'm not kidding when I say the writing isn't coming like I'd hoped!

I plan on drawing a map today of my world, the Travelers house and what it looks like on the inside and outside and see if that helps. I figure it will give me a loop whole that I haven't tried yet!

Jen said...

Gosh how selfish of me!!! Good Luck on your writers block!!! :)

Sandy Shin said...

I've heard of that advice before and think that it's a very sound one. If you end the story where you're excited or know what will happen next, it's easier to pick up the pace the next way.

Good luck overcoming your writer's block!

Shelley Sly said...

I use a lot of different tactics to overcome writer's block, because something different helps me every time.

Lately when I'm stuck, I've either opened a blank Word document or found a scrap piece of paper and just jotted down anything I could think of pertaining to the scene I'm in: things that might happen, should happen, or won't happen, potential snippets of dialogue, anything. It doesn't have to be in order and it doesn't have to make much sense. Just whatever comes to mind.

Then sometimes I write a temporary scene using whatever information I wrote down. (Key word being temporary... if it doesn't work, I just get rid of it.)

Something else I try -- Do you have a part in your book past the stuck point that you know what's going to happen? Sometimes I skip ahead and write a scene I'm comfortable with, and then go back and fill in the gaps.

Good luck! You will break that writer's block in no time!

Crystal Cook said...

I think Shelly's advice is perfect!!

Good luck with this, I just hit a patch of this the other day.

What I do is just. keep. writing. Anything that pops into my head. Which means I write a lot of crap, but in the process I always figure out what I need to do and how I need to get there.


Let me know what works for you k?

Amy Jo Lavin said...

@Jen: The map idea sounds cool. I've thought about working on characterization. Good luck on your writer's block too!

@Sandy: Thanks for the wishes of luck!

@Shelley: Lots of great ideas! Thanks! I'll have to give them a try.

@Crystal: Good idea. I've got the Nemo mantra in my head now. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming ... er writing. :)

Lisa and Laura said...

I'm sure others have given the same advice, but I stop writing and read. I'm always inspired by other authors' writing--it's what made me want to start writing in the first place! Either that or watch a good movie or TV show. I always look at it from a writer's perspective. I guess that's how I look at everything now!

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

Ugh, writer's block stinks. I don't get it often, but I find when I do, it's usually stress. At those times, I think it's best to take a break. Read or watch a movie. I can't tell you how many times I've been in the middle of a movie or a book when suddenly an idea strikes.

Good luck!!

Paul C said...

Perfect advice. It's like reading when you stop at a place where you just want to return. My advice for writer's block is to incubate ahead of time where you generally want to go, and then sit down later and free write....let your thoughts run.

Elaine AM Smith said...

That is great advice - you can leave your work for as long as you need to that way.
Remember the other great piece of advice is to write anything - describe the picture on the wall nearby - just to get you going again; you can always take it out later.
Cheers
Elaine

Andria said...

You could make one of your characters a serial killer...

When I was feeling stuck with the Never-ending Novel, I just spent some time brainstorming a bunch of different ways the story could go. I thought about different things that could happen between characters, gave them deep, dark secrets, etc. That seemed to really help me. I'm still not sure what's always going to happen, but I'm actually writing again, so it was very helpful.

Or you could put it in a circle...

Piedmont Writer said...

Even though I'm generally a panster, I still keep a smallish outline of what I think the major points of the story should be, so when when I get stuck I can always figure out a way to get from Point A to Point B.

But, when I do get really stuck, I clean the house, from top to bottom. The physical activity somehow gets my brain flowing in another direction so the next time I sit down to write, the stuff just pours out of me. It has to do with the magical powers of rumination I guess.

Aubrie said...

I hate that feelings of staring at a computer screen and not knowing what to write next! Usually if that happens, I go for a walk or do the dishes and think about it for awhile. That usually helps. :)

#167 Dad said...

I'm in a similar situation with my novel. I've been going back and reworking story lines. It seems to help me find some semblance of direction.

J. Kaye said...

For writer's block, I recommend book blogging. All those debut authors helped shake me up...not to mention the advice of the pros. After three years of doing that, I'm good to go for a decade. ;)

Mary Aalgaard said...

Try jumping ahead and not worrying about how the scenes will connect. You can go back and write in a transition later.

Jon Paul said...

I find WB, or "Da Blok" as I call it, unavoidable. In other words, I can't predict when it will arrive; it shows up unannounced.

But I do know what I do about it: I pick a scene at some point in the future (or occasionally pull out another project) where I know what will happen and I chop away at that. It usually comes out pretty poorly, but it's enough to get the juices flowing again.

Nice post, and thanks BTW for stopping by my place and becoming a follower.