OK so I confess I am stuck...

Hi Skybluemornings

Turning Writer’s Block Into Stepping Stones
By Steven Barnes

Stephen says he gave a presentation at the UCLA Extension Writer’s Program about how to beat writer’s block and later, another instructor approached him and said “why did you say that to those people? It’s not possible.”

[i]Poor woman. All she was saying is that SHE cannot break writer’s block, which told me all I need to know about her career. In all likelihood a promising beginning, perhaps an award-winning poem or book…and then pain.

It is not only possible to end writer’s block forever, but you can actually use it to your advantage!

First, let us define it in some useful way: Writer’s block is the inability to:

  1. Produce new text.
  2. Edit and polish existing text
  3. Finish projects on a reasonable schedule
  4. Send those projects out for editorial judgment.
  5. Continue sending them out until they are sold.

Accepting the above, I’m going to give you a definition of the root cause of Writer’s Block that will actually help you in every arena of your life.

Writer’s Block is nothing more than a confusion of two different states of mind: the Flow state, where you produce new text, and the Editing state, where you evaluate and polish what you have written.

When we try to create text, we measure our first draft efforts against the polished work of the world’s great writers. Immediately, that “this is garbage!” voice goes off in your head, and you have a block.

It is said that novice writers must work through a million words of garbage before reaching their true voice. How in the world will you ever get through it if you constantly judge every word? If you will learn to turn that voice off, you will learn a massive and important lesson about the structure of the human psyche.

But what exactly is “Flow”? It is the psychological state where time seems to vanish, where you “fall into the page”, where the rest of the world floats away as you concentrate. This is similar to the “hypnogogic” state experienced just prior to sleep, and the first thing in the morning. It is experienced in distance running, dancing (remember the lyrics to “Flashdance”? “She’s moved into the danger zone, where the dancer becomes the dance”) and, to be perfectly frank, it is experienced during sexual relations in the moments just prior to orgasm. It is the dissolution of the subject-object relationship sought by numerous schools of meditation.

  1. Alternate days (or work sessions) between flow and editing. If necessary, wear different hats, or sit in different chairs for each. NEVER DO BOTH IN THE SAME SESSION

  2. Set yourself a daily output that will get you to your goal of one million words in less than 5 years. 1000 words a day will do it in three years. That’s roughly comparable to earning an AA degree. Not too shabby!

  3. Explore and specifically study “Flow State” as a discipline. Do your internet searches and find a physical or mental activity (running, dancing, meditation, Tai chi, yoga, etc.) that opens a doorway to this inner world.

  4. Listen to largo rhythm, sixty-beat per minute string music. Vivaldi is perfect for this, and induces “Alpha” (flow) state rapidly and effectively. Stay away from music with lyrics, but soft jazz is also terrific.

  5. Practice making pictures in your mind, and then writing down what you see WITHOUT judging the quality of your descriptions. You want to enhance the connection between your deep consciousness and your typing or writing.

  6. If you can’t find a good meditation technique, just sit and “listen” to your own heartbeat for 15-30 minutes a day.



@Pink - just remember that templates are a tool, not a rule as they say. If a template helps you ask questions that you feel are important to developing your story, all well and good, but don’t feel the need to follow it slavishly.

There are no rules in fiction writing, and no “right” way. Don’t let yourself be shoehorned into following a template if, deep down, you know it doesn’t fit.

If you’re just starting out, imho you’ll find more value in stuff that advises on the page-level dynamics of scene/sequel progression, conflict structure, and character creation, as opposed to the “big picture” thinking.

Big pictures are what I am good at - what I am working on now is getting the essential details ironed out and set straight in my words. :slight_smile: This is the challenging bit for me, but I’ve discovered that as I continue on the path I can see where I need to go back and add or edit what I’ve written. The details are becoming stronger. It’s really quite exciting!

I certainly wouldn’t follow any template that didn’t suit my story, but it was very good to realise certain things that my reader would need to know early on. They won’t just read on if my character is wandering about aimlessly with no real drive behind her actions.

Have you read much “Contemporary Literature”? :wink:

Your character isn’t wandering without purpose. You just haven’t discovered it yet.

Perhaps she is wandering to discover her purpose. (Thus, Contemporary Literature!)

She came into your mind and demanded to have her story told, and even if she doesn’t know what the purpose is yet, it is only by sending her on the journey that both of you will discover it.

Just write! Half of what you write won’t work. But half will. Write some more! Now we are starting to see a little bit more, and we have a goal to work toward. Write towards it!

You don’t have to know what’s going on always. Especially at the beginning. That’s why we go on journeys in the first place.

Thanks for the advice!

I know what her purpose is, and I vaguely know what the outcome will be. As I write details become clearer, and I am aware of what I need to go back and fix. But I am holding off on fixing until I have written more :slight_smile:

Right now SHE has no idea what’s going to hit her!

Don`t be too surprised, if the final product, bears no resemblance to your current perception, of what it should be. Creation and evolution, for the writer of fiction, are as one, like lovers, entwined, each having a profound and beneficial influence on the other. IMHO :wink:

Take care

oh yes, that’s happening already!

This story began about 8 years ago, and it’s only now that I’ve started to put it into actual words. I typed up my various hand scrawled synopses, and they are so vastly different to start with. And then the story i started writing was a new take on it entirely.

There is really one one minor detail that remains the same in all of them (and that’s my secret ingredient!!).

Good on y` Sheila!!

“There is really one one minor detail that remains the same in all of them (and that’s my secret ingredient!!).”[end quote]

I think I know what it is: She`s a sex crazed foul mouthed cow :smiling_imp: Yeah!?

Not a cow… maybe a sow. Maybe secretly she’s actually a badger.

Novel, short story… what-ever.

Writers block is a myth.
Your sentance (story) travels into a paragraph (story) to a chapter (story) to The End of the story.

Hundreds of stories making up the one. If you can write the first sentance (story) you can write the rest.

I’m a new guy here.
Never had writers block only made a CD on it.

I just became LAZY and stopped writing.

Now at 61 *** I figure it is time to get the [color=darkred]lead :smiley:


Nice to be here.

Hello Dave!

DaveOwen wrote:

Quite true. Incontrovertible, one might say.

However, as is the way of myth, WB is powerful and profound.

Its application is wide-spread, perhaps universal; its victims – no, let us say its subjects – are legion.

Each writer who deals with it does so in isolation; the suggestions and warnings of others, who have found their own way through or over or around, are usually taken to heart and in good spirit.

Yet there are moments – for those of us willy-nilly mired in narrative muck – when we want to scream WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING HERE AND HOW CAN I GET MY STUPID LAZY ASS OUT?

And the answer from one’s own inner and truer and occasionally mischievous self usually is on the order of, “Dunno. I’m a stranger here myself.”

Myth. Powerful. Profound. And, despite its near-universal applicability, frequently idiosyncratic.

And if I could just get my fumble-fingered numbskull protagonist out of the middle of chapter 17, I wouldn’t be wasting time writing this.


Phil calm down :wink:

A myth is only a, story A story is all in the mind (somebody`s). Probably shares synapses with WB.

Of course WB exists! :open_mouth: If it didnt we wouldnt know about it…would we?

Werebear, I applaud you. I agree completely on the character issue. Stories emerge often from putting pressure on your characters and seeing how they react - someone seeking something, plans thwarted, changes as a result, for better or worse.

Recommend Robert McKee’s book, STORY, which although is mainly about screenwriting, is also good for fiction writing. He talks about why story is different from, and better than, plot. And how to go about creating one.

I’m 29, and started kicking around a novel when I was 19. I had this problem as well, but instead of David Eddings, I blamed Hironobu Sakaguchi and his Final Fantasy games. :slight_smile:

I don’t know if this will help you, but my protagonist doesn’t set out on a journey. He’s not even a farm boy, and he doesn’t give a damn about saving the world. He just wants to avenge his lover’s murder (which also destroyed his heavy metal band), and get on with his life. Of course, the guy who faked my protagonist’s lover’s death has different plans. In my novel, it’s the villain who wants to save the world.

Skybluemornings - I can certainly empathize with your plight; I have changed one scene in my manuscript at least three times now due to the “unreality” of the circumstances. However, what I’ve concluded is this: reality is a matter of perception and if questioning whether something seems likely to happen, just remember that it probably HAS happened to someone in the course of time! Do two people meet in the dead of night at a crossroads, or in a town square at mid day? It’s your story, so decide what is most likely for your characters and the plot. If you WANT it to seem more realistic, then close your eyes and imagine yourself truly experiencing it. If such an incident were to occur - regardless of whether it is fantasy or historical fiction - how would the scene unfold. Sometimes it pays to roll play a bit…

Skybluemorning. If I were you, I’d forget Eddings altogether, especially if the motives for the group journey aren’t clear.

Can I refer you instead to the classic core text for screenwriters and novelists: The Hero’s Journey by Joseph Campbell. You will find the Hero’s Journey has also been turned into a writer’s tool, by way of a summary, in a number of books and websites.

Here’s one I’d recommend: THE WRITER’S JOURNEY: Mythic structure for screenwriters and storytellers by Christopher Vogler. He has a website, too, with plenty of useful stuff on it.

I can also recommend Michael A. Stackpole’s The Secrets podcast:

I loathed Vogler’s book. THE HERO’S JOURNEY itself is interesting, and sometimes insightful, but THE WRITER’S JOURNEY is the worst kind of ‘writing advice’ book, full of vacuous platitudes, empty phrases, and no practical advice whatsoever. (Learning that Vogler worked at Disney during one of their most creatively bankrupt periods didn’t surprise me in the least.)

See also Linda Seger’s CREATING UNFORGETTABLE CHARACTERS. Utter, shallow rubbish.

If you’re looking for a general “the structure of a story” book, you could do far worse than STORY itself (Robert McKee), or any of Lawrence Block’s books (WRITING THE NOVEL FROM PLOT TO PRINT, TELLING LIES FOR FUN AND PROFIT, SPIDER SPIN ME A WEB) as has been mentioned earlier in this thread.

I second Stackpole’s podcasts, though. Very useful.