Tag Archives: writer’s block

I Finished an 8,500 Word Short Story


When sudden stroke or paralysis knocks a person off the track of life, it takes time and rehabilitation to re-order things. One starts walking again one baby step at a time.

In my recovery from my writing paralysis, it is similar. Time helps. Writing therapy (exercises) does, too. Finally, I reach the point where I decide I am going to finish a story I started two years ago, and I do. It feels good. A friend of mine, an avid reader, looks at it and says it works. That feels good, too. I like the story. That feels best.

Final editing and getting the story formatted for publication comes next. Baby steps. Each step gets me closer to my goal of professional author.

I Am Scared to Say It


Every Monday morning I have a date to write. For fear of jinxing it–for we creative types tend to be superstitious types–I am scared to say I am writing again.

Saying it is like making a promise. If I say I am writing, someone is going to hold me to it. The good part is I tend to do what I promise. The bad part is, for eighteen months, I have been incapable of keeping the promise.

Nevertheless, I will say it. Hallelujah. I am writing again. I hope for keeps this time.

The one difference between now and the other attempts is I am enjoying the writing this time. Earlier, my heart wasn’t in it. That change alone buoys me.

So the writing lessons resume for me, and then I will share them with you. As I draw in a deep breath, lift my head, lock my eyes on the sunrise, I will say it again.

I am writing.

Breakthrough


Today the breakthrough came! I finished the first chapter of the re-write on Dead with Envy. This is huge. The dreaded writer’s block is gone! Tomorrow, I’ll finish chapter two.

The Value of a Support Group? Priceless!


In the words of author Shelton Keys Dunning, “Writing is a solitary action.” Thus, the only advice I get is me talking to myself. Not good. That is one of the reasons I started this blog–to reach out to other authors and share feedback.

I got feedback in spades to my previous post “Fear of Finishing.” The advice is good for every writer facing self-doubt. So, at the risk of pink cheeks on my part, I share the tips and counsel that seasoned author and editor Shelton Keys Dunning gave me.

Before you read Shelton’s words, know this. Writers are like actors–we die without an audience. Writers are also human. We wither without someone to stroke us and fertilize our creative machine once in a while. Hence, the necessity of a support group.

The support group can exist through friends cultivated on-line or in person through a face-to-face writers group or in fellow students in a classroom setting. However or wherever, a support group of fellow penmen is invaluable to an author in turmoil.

Now to the feedback:

Fear is as normal as it is debilitating. I’m concerned that my edit contributed to your self-doubt. Honestly though, I will champion your talent through to the hellfires and back again. This next step is critical yes, heart-wrenching and laced with every type of harbinger of doom possible. It’s how you channel that fear that will make you or break you. I want you to read the following and take it to heart.

1. You have the talent. You have more than most. I would not lie to you about this.
2. Dead with Envy is a story only you can tell. And it is a story worthy of bookshelves. Again, I’m not lying.
3. Editing is the most difficult thing to do as a writer. You get through this, you can do anything. Period.
4. Writing is a very solitary action, it isn’t always clear that you have a support group. But you do have one. And I am your biggest fan. You can lean on me.
5. My mother wants to buy your book. I’m not lying. So you have already touched readers and you’re not even finished yet.
6. Set-backs aren’t permanent. Neither are road blocks. What can be permanent, though, is the wall you build around your heart to shield you from the unknown. Surround yourself instead with supportive voices. AND
BELIEVE THEM WHEN THEY SAY THAT YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL AND TALENTED.
7. Once your story is published, do not worry about your audience. The phrase: You build it, they will come, applies here. It worked for baseball. It can work for you. Will there be people that don’t like it?
Sure. Just like not everyone likes fried pickles. That’s okay. There will be others who will LOVE it.
8. Fear of the unknown is normal. I’ve been there. I am there. You are not alone.
9. My book: The Trouble with Henry? That took me two years to publish it. Two years passed since writing “Finis” before I felt ready to hit the publish button. I’m still finding flaws, but I am my own worst critic. Just like you are your own worst critic. You don’t have to take two years for Dead With Envy, but you can if you want to. You are in control.
10. Have I told you not to worry yet, that you are talented and beautiful? Have I said that Dead with Envy deserves to be on bookshelves? Just checking.

It’s hard to find your heart when you are mired in self-doubt. Every writer faces this. Every one. Even Stephen King. And if he claims he doesn’t, he’s lying. Think back to the first time you had to send an email to someone, anyone. I don’t know about you, but the first email I
ever sent terrified me witless. What if I did it wrong? What if I didn’t make any sense? What if I got lost in the world like snail mail through the post office and if the email did arrive, it arrived broken and torn and unreadable? There are still days when I face job hunts that I stare at the emails and wonder if I’ve forgotten the entire English language. Or what about blog posts? The first blog post you ever did, how did you feel then? How do you feel now? I promise publishing a book might feel bigger than a blog post, but it’s only ’cause it took more hours to do.

It might help to write all your questions down on paper, and answer them, on paper. If you ask yourself a question and you don’t know the answer, write “I need to research this” for the answer. That way, you’ve  acknowledged that you don’t know, but you can find the answer. Breaking all your fears down into little pieces and tackling one at a time, helps.

And now that I’ve taken up your blog, I will leave you with this: I am here. I’m not going anywhere, heaven forbid, and you couldn’t be safer than among your peers. I promise this too shall pass.

Guest Post from Jim Denney, Take Two


At Fay Moore: I Want To Be a Writer, we are fortunate to have published authors share insight into how to move forward as writers. Today Jim Denney, author of Writing in Overdrive, has been kind enough to offer some advice in his second appearance here on the blog.

Denney book cover Writing in Overdrive

Write Every Day

By Jim Denney, author of Writing in Overdrive

“The only thing you need to know about writing is that you must do it. The rest is just showing up.”

—Jeff Goins

I love to write. I begin writing every day, almost as soon as I tumble out of bed. Writing is not merely my daily habit, it’s something I can’t wait to begin.

But I haven’t always been this way. When I was in my twenties, writing was a chore. I wanted to write, but I resisted and procrastinated and made excuses for not writing. It wasn’t until I turned thirty that I began building a daily habit of writing. Today, I can’t imagine going all day without writing. It’s actually more difficult for me not to write than to write.

If you struggle with resistance and procrastination, if you want to write but find it hard to drag yourself to the keyboard, I know how you feel. I’ve been there. And I want you to know you can learn to love writing and make it your daily habit. But before writing becomes your love, it has to become your discipline.

Begin by viewing writing as your profession—even if you have a non-writing day job. Stop calling yourself an “aspiring writer” or a “wannabe writer” or a “weekend writer.” Tell yourself, “I’m a writer,” period. Once you accept the fact that you are a professional, you will begin to treat writing as a profession, not a hobby.

Now that writing is your profession, recognize that you are your own employer, your own boss. And part of your job as your own boss is to get yourself to work every day. No one else will do it for you. You have to set regular, working hours for yourself, and you have to show up for work on time every day. As the boss, you must be ruthless with yourself about keeping your writing time inviolate.

As John Steinbeck wrote in his journal while writing The Grapes of Wrath, “In writing, habit seems to be a much stronger force than either willpower or inspiration. Consequently there must be some little quality of fierceness until the habit pattern of a certain number of words is established. … I must get my words down every day whether they are any good or not.”

When building a habit, it helps to write at the same time and place every day. Your unconscious mind learns to associate that time, that place, with the creative process. Whether you write a desktop computer in your office, on a laptop computer in your secluded garden, or in longhand in a notebook at a café, build a daily habit.

You may say, “I’m so busy with my job and my kids that I only have fifteen minutes a day to write. What can anyone accomplish in fifteen minutes a day?” Well, if you write every day without fail for fifteen minutes a day, you can accomplish quite a lot.

Fifteen minutes a day adds up to 91.25 hours per year, or the equivalent of more than two forty-hour work weeks. That’s a lot of writing time. And by writing every day, even for just a quarter hour, you will boost your creativity enormously. You’ll remain focused on your novel, your story, your characters, and your goals every day. You’ll find you are thinking about your story when you wake up, when you’re in the shower, when you drive to work, when you’re at lunch, when you drive home, and before you go to sleep. That added focus on your story magnifies your productivity and creativity in your fifteen-minute sessions. You may find yourself feeling so inspired that will keep writing for thirty, sixty, ninety minutes or more. And you’ll build some excellent daily writing habits in the process.

Most important, you’ll build a deep love for writing that will carry you through the rest of your life. Build a daily habit of writing—and watch writing become the dream job you love.

_______________________________

Jim Denney has written more than 100 books, including the Timebenders science fantasy adventure series for young readers—Battle Before Time, Doorway to Doom, Invasion of the Time Troopers, and Lost in Cydonia. His latest book for writers is Writing in Overdrive: Writer Faster, Write Freely, Write Brilliantly. A veteran of both traditional and indie publishing, Jim is a member of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). Follow Jim on Twitter at @WriterJimDenney. He blogs at http://unearthlyfiction.wordpress.com/.

The Mental War with Fear and Self-Doubt


As a writer, I have struggled with self-doubt throughout writing my first novel.  When I made the decision to create a book, I wrestled with selecting a story. My imagination had several threads that had been dreamed up over the years. I couldn’t settle on one because I doubted whether anyone would like the characters.

My friend Debbie decided she would push me a bit. She has always been an avid reader of murder mysteries, so she came to me with a cast of characters and insisted I write her story.

I want to thank Debbie for doing that. The psychology of writing someone else’s story erased the fear of starting. After all, this wasn’t my story or my characters. What was there to fear? My brain converted the assignment to the equivalent of classroom homework. The writing began.

By the end of the first chapter, all that was left of Debbie’s story were the main character names. My imagination kicked in. Debbie’s plot was replaced by one of my creation, and I was on my way to writing a book of my own.

Because I didn’t start the story with a preconceived plot, I would run into walls at times, not knowing where the story was going to go next. Sometimes it was days, while other times it was weeks or months between writing bursts. My characters were the ones writing the story, not me. I had to wait for them to tell me what was coming next.

Sometimes real life inspired a segment. A happening would get incorporated into the plot, which then led to the next tangent in the storyline. I was as enthralled as any reader in what was coming next because I didn’t know.

In the end, the story told itself and came together nicely. Looking back, I am amazed at how it got done.

Now what?

It has been roughly six months since I finished the first draft. This week I am wrapping up work on this book. Why has it taken so long? The only truthful explanation is me. My fear. My self-doubt. I am scared to put it out there.

My friend, and prolific author, Lauren Carr has taught me that I am my own worst enemy. In the time between finishing the novel’s first draft to the time it goes to press, Lauren has published TWO novels. She is my inspiration and role model.

She is already broadcasting news about my next novel in order to get me moving. The pressure is on. My new characters are percolating and throwing story parts at me. This time I have a grand storyline in my head already. I know the beginning and the end. The middle is still being created.

At the moment, I am not fearful. I am excited. That will change. The first bad review will crank up the self-doubt inside me. But I have a few defenses against my fears this time around.

First, I know I am still on a learning curve. Like any first, my novel will have beginner errors in it. I know that, and I will learn from my mistakes.

Second, I have written a complete book already. So there is no question about whether or not I can. I’ve already done it.

Third, I have set a goal. By this time next year, book two will be done. I will have cut the time it takes me to tell a story in half. Then I will write book three in six months. That’s my plan. With an end target in sight, I have something to aim for. The finish line is concrete. That is a motivator.

I hope telling my experience has been helpful to you. Maybe you see yourself or maybe light has been shed on the source of your own block. My wish for you is that you get a strangle hold on the neck of your own fear. Choke it, so that you, too, can make a breakthrough in your writing.