Tag Archives: writers block

Day 10 at Camp NaNoWriMo – Forget About Writer’s Block!

Advice-On-Writing-For-Writers-From-Writers

I was interviewed today and one of the questions asked me was “How do I find time to write?”

Well, these days I make time.

These last ten days I have been making time to get my writing done.

I intend to make this a year-long habit.

Don’t get me wrong. For the last year I haven’t written every day. In fact there were way too many days that I did not write a single word – unless you count diddling about on Facebook and the like.

It can happen.

Some folks out there probably want to ask me if I had WRITER’S BLOCK!

(Did you ever notice how some people say those two words in big loud concrete capitol letters when they say them?)

That is the condition that some people say they have when they cannot write – but I will not give that condition the benefit of an actual label. Once you name something it becomes a whole lot bigger in your mind.

So no, I did not suffer from WRITER’S BLOCK.

I was just being lazy.

There is nothing wrong with being lazy. I work a good job and I do my best to pay the bills on time. I’ve written an awful lot of words over these last ten years or so – so I am certainly entitled to a little slack time.

I mow the lawn when it needs it.

I shovel the snow when it needs it.

So I am not a LAZY man – but when it came to writing over this last year I was indulging myself for far too long.

That will change.

That has already begun to change.

So the next time you find yourself stuck at a certain point and you are tempted to drag out those big two words – WRITER’S BLOCK.

The next time you find yourself using those two big words to bang yourself together a genuine police-sized road block of creativity.

The moment you begin to wallow rather than resist – do yourself a favor, would you?

If you find yourself in that position perform a triple somersault in mid-air and kick yourself squarely in the ass.

You’ll thank me later.

*************

I wrote the answers to an interview today – about 1000 words or so.

I edited a story and submitted it.

And I wrote 1700 words.

That brings me to 23,827 words in ten days.

That’s not too bad for a fellow who does not suffer from WRITER’S BLOCK!

Let me leave you now so that you get back to making time to write while I get ready to go and work a night shift.

Unfortunately, I do not suffer from JOB BLOCK either.

 

yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon

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Writing Blindly – When You Don’t Know Where A Story Is Going

blind-cartoon

We’ve all been there.

That point in the story where you are NOT sure where you are going.

That’s when doubt creeps in.

That’s when you begin to second-guess yourself.

“I’m no good,” you say.

“I don’t know what I am doing,” you say.

“I ought to rewrite. I ought to give up. I ought to take up needlepoint or knitting or counting itches at the flea circus.”

flea_circushigh

Remember the first line (roughly translated) in Dante’s Inferno?

“In the middle of my life I found myself in a dark wood for the right way was lost.”

Keep on writing. Remember, your words are nothing more than steps in the wilderness. You might feel lost – but keep on going – and step by step you’ll find out that you were right where you needed be the whole time.

Write blindly.

Let your pen be your compass needle.

Have faith that your story knows where you are going.

Remember the words of my Uncle Bob – “When you are waist-deep in alligator it is important to remember that you set out to drain the swamp.”

What does that mean?

You set to write the first draft of a story.

Don’t let that second-thought alligator talk you out of completing that first draft.

So never mind that gator.

Keep on draining the swamp – one Solo cup at a time.

Remember – it is AWFULLY hard to revise a blank page.

yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon

Alligator

 

 

 

First Drafts NEED to be F*cked Up!

Blog ButtonI found this picture on the BEGIN WITH YES Facebook page today and it started me thinking about first drafts.

Sometimes the single biggest obstacle towards completing a first draft manuscript is that overpowering urge towards perfection.

“I don’t want to f*ck this up!”

“Every word HAS to be right!”

“Oh my god, I better not screw this up!”

Gets to sound like a drill instructor after a while.

You remember that movie FULL METAL JACKET where drill instructor R. Lee Ermey totally warps the mind of a young Vincent D’Onofrio? Well – sometimes that is what a drill instructor will do to you. A drill instructor’s job is to you yell at you in a creative fashion in order to achieve a certain degree of learned instinct. Now, a drill instructor can be a useful muse – but you cannot let that urge towards perfection prevent you from completing what NEEDS to get done.

Just remember – writing is like sculpture. First thing you need is a big old hunk of stone or a mess of clay. That is all that a first draft is supposed to be. So don’t freak out and worry so much about getting the job done right. Put a little duct tape across that drill instructor’s mouth and just get it done.

Say it with me.

It’s just a first draft.

First drafts NEED to be f*cked up!

So get it done FIRST, damn it!

Just remember – nobody is marking you on this – and it is awfully hard to revise a blank page.

Remember – when you find yourself stuck fast two-thirds of the way through your first draft manuscript –

keep-calm-and-just-do-it-1660

yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon

The Bloody Valentine’s Day Blog Hop 2014 – Part 3 – dealing with that “Block” word

There’s always comes a time when the celebrating is over and it is time to clean up all of the wrapping paper and the empty beer bottles and the cheese rinds and that funny-colored stain that looks a little bit like pre-World-War-1 Manchuria that Uncle Walter left upon the fabric of the ottoman that he was hunkered down upon.

If any of you want to make some kind of witticism about the “Ottoman Empire” well go right on ahead. I won’t stop you. However, I refuse to stoop to such low-brow pun-ridden humor.

Too bad Uncle Walter refused to stoop.

In some provinces they refer to this state – (I know, I know, make up your mind Vernon – is it a state or a province) – as the hangover.

It can be the worst or the best part of any sort of situation – depending on how you look at it.

We writers know this feeling. There is nothing worse that getting to that “wrapping-up” part of the manuscript.

For example – I’ve been attempting to “wrap up” a Bigfoot novel for about six months now and I keep beating my head against a stone wall.

I’m not going to use the “block” word.

Let’s just say that I am a little momentumously-challenged right about now.

So what does a writer do when they find themselves in the realm of negative-momentum?

Well, for starters I like to puddle about. Then I fart around for a brief spell. When farting around gets too much to handle I put off and procrastinate and occasionally redudanticize a phrase or two.

Up here in the snowy regions of Canada we refer to this stage as “spinning one’s tires”.

Suffice it to say that it doesn’t accomplish all that much.

But sometimes a fellow just needs to buy himself a little time.

And other times he just needs to spend a little time doing sweet diddly-squat.

I wanted to write about this today because sometimes some folks might think me glib while others think of me as some sort of a “writing god”.

“Well, Steve,” they’ll say. “You’ve got about thirty self-published e-books and seven regionally released trade paperbacks and a about a hundred or so published short stories and maybe another hundred published poems – some of which EVEN made money. You’ve written umpteen thousand reviews and a large handful of interviews and over four hundred blog entries – not counting your old blog. Surely you MUST know what you are doing by now.”

Well – bullshit.

The truth is we writers are in a constant state of perpetual adlib.

(or would that be a province?)

We are ALWAYS making things up as we go along.

This last month or so I have found solace and shelter in the more practical aspects of farting around. I’ve released a couple of new e-books and have just recently commissioned a brand new cover for my e-novella HAMMURABI ROAD.

I’ll show you that cover in a week or two – suffice it to say it is awesome.

I have also written over 7000 words in a brand-new Biblically-oriented piece of literature that I have been REALLY excited about.

In short – I keep busy.

Sometimes that is ALL a fella can do to keep the fire burning.

So – the next time you find yourself faced with that big old “block” word – pause for just a little while to fart around.

That’s step one.

Go fishing or fix that leaky faucet or replace every light bulb in your house whether it needs or not.

Then – proceed to step 2 and pause again and begin to futz about creatively. Find a new market for your old work. Repackage it or re-promote it. Write a blog entry or two.

Then if you are still stuck – find something NEW to get excited about and go forth and write the hell out of it. Main thing is to finish this second thing through – which I anticipate I will do with this new Biblical project.

The main thing to remember is to NEVER give up.

I will get back to Bigfoot – just shortly after I finish up with this Biblical project – which ought to take another two or three weeks.

Meanwhile – I am giving that Bigfoot project time to percolate without all of that static electricity of needless worry and fret.

The fact is there are TWO Bigfoot e-book projects on my plate – and one of them is ALREADY written – so I just have to finish the other one – and then I’ll release them both.

So take heart if you are faced by that big bad old “block” word. Don’t panic and don’t flounder around. Regroup and find your footing – even if you are waist-deep in the mud.

♥  ♥  ♥

Meanwhile, let me tell you about Valentine’s Day.

The morning was given over to work for both Belinda and I.

She had to go to her classes at Community College. They were having a fund-raising cake sale to raise money for QEII BONE MARROW COMFORT FUND. This is a fund set up by Halifax’s QEII Hospital to raise money for folks who have to face a bone marrow transplant. The Nova Scotia Community College has been supporting this particular fund for several years now. On Valentine’s Day this year the culinary department – (that’s chefs in training) – get together and bake some magnificent cakes which are then sold to the students to raise funds for the program.

Now I am supposed to be watching my weight – so Belinda did not bring home a whole cake. Instead, she brought along some plates and forks and a cake cutter and bought a whole cake herself and gave each of her classmates a slice of cake. She did bring some home herself and it was a chocolate raspberry cream cake that tasted like plated-up temptation.

Meanwhile I was visiting a local school – telling my stories and talking about how to write and tell a good story to several classes of Grade 8 and Grade 9 students at the Dartmouth Bicentennial School. I had a great time and met a lot of great kids and luckily happened to show up in time for a big Chinese dinner Valentine’s lunch party that the teachers were having. I had a couple of egg rolls and some chicken balls and some broccoli and beef and fried rice and Soo Guy and what was that I was saying about watching my weight???

So I got home and Belinda had set up an amazing buffet assortment of Valentine’s Day treats.

Valentine's Day 2014 003

Let me see if I can get all this right.

We’ve got – moving from left to right – pickled onions, olives, gherkins and Branston Pickle. Above that is a bottle of Toasted Head Cabernet Sauvignon and a tower of pear slices, blood oranges in brandy, grapes and apple. There is a tray full of  fancy black pepper crackers and sweet and savory jellies hidden behind the candles – apricot reisling, cabernet fig, and spicy peach chutney. Then a tray full of cheese – toffee cheese which tastes like dessert, mango cheese, Stilton and a Borsin and a dark black Guinness-infused Stilton which I love to eat but makes my tailpipe exhaust smell a little like an arthritic nine hundred year old dying moose.

Not to mention that bottle of locally brewed Martello Stout which likewise contributes to that whole dying moose effect.

Then in front we had a modest cheese fondue with freshly baked white bread and some somewhat over-proofed olive bread – which I adore.

My contribution to the feast was the wine, the beer and the appetite.

I also contributed the evening entertainment as we sat down and watched our new DVD set of VIKINGS season one. We are eagerly awaiting the second season and I thought it was high-time we sat down and rewatched the first season without any of those irritating History channel commercials – HAVE YOU WATCHED PAWN STARS MEETS AMERICAN RESTORATION WHILE AMERICAN PICKERS AND CANADIAN PICKERS DUKE IT OUT IN A STORAGE GARAGE SPECIAL?

(note – I actually really enjoy watching Canadian Pickers and Pawn Stars occasionally – but I get tired of the commercials)

Today we are going to carry on watching the rest of the season – after I get done a bit more writing, the dishes, my laundry and maybe some groceries and cooking. While Belinda is in college I pick up as much of the housework duties as I can manage to.

Today we are also going to make time to go through our Bag of Hearts.

This was Belinda’s idea originally. Many years ago on a February when we were REALLY tight on extra money – she decided to sit down and cut out three hundred and sixty-five reasons why we’re in love with each other.

Just yesterday I pulled the bag down off of my keepsake shelf and she could not believe that I had actually hung onto the homemade gift – but the way I see it, homemade gifts are the best kind – unless you count beer.

(grin)

In fact I’ve ALSO got every Christmas, Valentine’s and Birthday card she ever got me wedged into a shelf here on my writing desk. I take them out every now and then and look through a few of them.

It always makes me smile.

That’s what love is, folks. Love is a three hundred and sixty five day a year adventure.

Don’t waste your time aiming for one or two days out of the year.  Bring home a flower or a donut or a greeting card – just because it’s Tuesday.

Listen to the old moose, eh?

♥  ♥  ♥

Funny thing about entertainment – but sooner or later there is ALWAYS a commercial.

If you enjoyed this blog entry why not pick up a copy of my brand-new collection of six twisted love stories – BAD VALENTINES 2?

Bad Valentines - High ResolutionYou can buy it on Kindle and Kobo for only 99 cents this week.

(regularly priced $2.99)

AND REMEMBER – be sure to check out the two dozen OTHER authors taking part in the BLOODY VALENTINE’S DAY 2014 BLOG HOP!

yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon

A Blizzard of Words – Plowing Yourself Out of a Writing Rut

Well, it snowed yesterday.

How bad did it snow?

Let me show you a picture. After all, a picture is supposed to be worth a thousand words.

Halifax, Jan. 3, 2014

Not much you can add to that photo. It came down hard – maybe 40 cm. of snow all told.

Heck, it IS winter, isn’t it?

So this morning I rolled out of bed and prepared myself a hearty breakfast. A pork chop, some pan-fried veggies and a heap of hash browns. Two slices of rocks & twigs toast, heavily buttered. A tall glass of water to hydrate myself. A cup of strong black coffee to stir up the inner fire.

These days I shovel in shifts. I’ll go for a bit and then I’ll come in and take a breather.

Here’s what our driveway looked like after the first round of digging.

Car Jan. 4, 2014 001

The worst part of it was the end of the driveway where the plow had crammed the snow chest deep.

Car Jan. 4, 2014 002That heap wasn’t QUITE as bad as it looks. It did get smaller on the other side.

Here’s a side-on view.

Car Jan. 4, 2014 003Well, it took me six hours of digging but now the end of the driveway looks like this.

Car Jan. 4, 2014 005And the driveway itself looks like this.

Car Jan. 4, 2014 006

(And yes – our car DOES have a red nose. And we call her Goldie)

As you can see the sun came out today and once I got the driveway scraped down to pavement a couple of bags of road salt worked their wonderful magic.

Some folks might say that I am a bad man for using salt – but they can just talk to my aching back.

* * *

So – what’s this got to do with writing?

Well, sometimes a manuscript can look an awful lot like that snowed-in driveway. A part of you will cringe at all of that work that lies ahead. A part of you will suddenly see a need to watch your entire collection of Bonanza episodes – all 430 of them.

Do not listen to Lorne Greene.

Step away from that horse, pilgrim.

It’s time for a little elbow grease. Start the shovel swinging and the words a’flinging.

(who said old farts can’t rap?)

yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon

Submarine Weather…

It has been way too long since I posted a blog entry.

That’s the problem with keeping a blog. You need to keep it regularly – and sometimes it is awfully hard to keep regular. Bran helps, so does prune juice. Baked beans and dark beer are pretty good too.

But none of that helps your writing.

I am sure that all of you writers out there have fallen prey to that terrible phenomenon that some folks call writers block. I want to say something about it – but not just yet.

For now, let’s just talk about the weather.

It has been raining for nearly forever – here in Halifax.

Since Easter we have had about 90% rate of precipitation. One day of sunshine followed by nine days of gray cold drizzling rain. All of this vertical wet-itude will really depress the hell out of a person’s disposition. Your skin begins to gray out. Your toes begin to mildew. You smell funny. Your mouth forgets how to work those smile muscles. Life begins to slowly sag.

Will it never end – you ask?

Will the sky never clear up?

Will the clouds never forget to pay their water bill?

Did the weathergirl lie to me?

Writing is like that sometimes as well. You begin to feel that you just can’t squeeze out anymore. Your fingers have forgotten how to type. Your brain is all futzy, fugued-out, and funked up.

I can’t write – is what you tell yourself.

So you try a little harder. You take up yoga and tantric  rhomboid mantra chanting. You learn to hula and you wonder if maybe  you need to cash in the family savings bonds and send yourself on a trip  around the world. You beat your head against the keyboard until Q-W-E-R-T-Y is permanently tattooed above your left eyebrow.

Times like this you have to think like a submarine.

You’re not blocked. You’ve just gone under for a little while. Like the ten thousand times ten thousand times that tourists have looked out over Loch Ness compared to the half a dozen times that funky old sea monster has been seen – sometimes creativity must submerge a little.

Don’t let it block you. Don’t let it stop you. Come at the problem from a different angle.  If you’re stuck on one chapter then start working on that section three chapters down the road. Pick a different scene or a different character. Fool around with the thing. Turn it inside out and wring it dry.

It’s not a block. It’s just another bend in the road.

Oh look. The sky is graying a little brighter now. I can hear birds singing in my lilacs. If I squint I can even smell the lilacs.

That is the thing to remember, you understand.

Sooner or later rain will stop.

Sooner or later your writing will begin again.

Sooner or later I will have completed another blog entry.

Like right now.

Yours in storytelling,

 

Steve Vernon