I mainly write scripts but sometimes I don't want to do an outline and feel unprepared to write a scene. I like knowing exactly what's supposed to happen in a scene before I dig in. To avoid stagnation, my methods as to how to keep moving forward vary. One thing that works when I want to feel the story more and get in there more is I choose a different form to write my story. So if for example you are a novelist but are having a hard time with a scene, you could write it out script form, as if it were a movie. Just a scene - not the whole bloody thing. And if you're a script writer, write it out like a short a story. So for example, Episode One is a short story, Episode Two is the second one, and so on. In one screenwriting course before I wrote my script, the teacher had us write the movie trailer. It was a great idea, fun, and I realized I had more of a story than I initially thought. It motivated me and we can all use a little extra motivation.
So go into a new form for a beat just to set fire to your ideas, your characters and you might see your world even more realistically. There's the potential to notice nuances you wouldn't have seen otherwise. Might work for a beat in terms of getting your characters down, your story down, and it could help you get closer to the essence of your idea. And it's fun.
Just a tip. Hope it helps! Good writing to you!
p.s. GO OPRAH! Talk about motivation. Jeez Louise!
Is it lame to do New Year's Resolutions? Sure, you can think that. You can talk your way out of every avenue towards motivation if you want to. But I totally believe in setting intentions.
And while the definition of resolve is to firmly define a course of action, it doesn't mean you can't digress in the future about that plan. Even the end game can change as long as the goal is triumph over inaction.
Today I have set my intentions in terms of my writing. I know what I want done by March. I know what I want done by June. And I know what I want done by September. Does that mean I'll not have other ideas? What if I don't achieve my goals? Are these plans realistic?
Gotta go back to Who gives a shit? Really. I'm setting myself up to win because I am consciously looking at my life, my schedule and my desire to create and express and I'm going with it. That's all it takes. I am resolved. If I get to these goals differently than I today imagine I should get to them, that's fine. Doesn't matter. What I do know is I want to achieve and accomplish finished pieces of writing this year and therefore it will happen.
That's why I like New Years Resolutions. You get clear about what you want and the resolutions are votes of faith in yourself you can be all that you can be (no army inference intended).
If I believe this for me, I certainly believe it for you, too. One tip that might be helpful, find a buddy to check in with. Set up a way to check in on a regular schedule about one writing goal and all the little daily and/or weekly goals that are part and parcel towards getting you to that finish line. A trudging buddy is a great way to keep you accountable, have an audience who gets it, and that person is a trusted comrade in arms who is on board and wants you to gloat when you have small and big wins.
WHICH YOU WILL!
I'm excited about this year's possibilities when it comes to writing for me and for you. When it comes to everything else like politics and junk? I can't say. But as for writing, a lot is achievable, the finish line exists and if we're resolved to get to it, then we can get to it.
Any writer will tell you the secret to writing is writing. Any other writer will say the secret to writing is rewriting. And another writer might talk to you about discipline. I don't know. There are no magic bullets. But the reason people give these suggestions or at least one reason is often writers complain about writer's block. If they're totally honest, they can find the time to write, they can carve out at least an hour of their day if not more to really give it a shot, but if they have nothing to say, they have nothing to say. It's boring. It's lonely. And said writer can't help but feel like a fraud.
Currently I'm having a bit of a dearth. I don't have an excuse. I have that daily precious time to do my work and for me, it is work. It not only brings me joy, it can and has generated income. So... do I hate joy and income? Am I out of ideas? Am I a real writer? If I was wouldn't I be writing and prolific and blowing myself and others away with my bright, unusual and pithy ideas?
Well, here's the good news, I'm too old to totally give a shit. Like on many levels I don't even ask myself those questions any longer. I no longer traipse down the rabbit hole towards Existentialism Plaza. I've been writing long enough to know there are downs, dearths, and some real choice moments when nothing is emerging. But do not misunderstand. Not giving a shit doesn't then become not doing anything. Nope. There is a solution.
DOCTOR'S ORDERS FOR WRITER'S BLOCK
1) Show up for it. Even if all you do is write in your diary, show up for your writing. Daily. At least an hour.
2) Keep your notebook by your side. Write down your random thoughts. All day. All night. Have your notebook at arm's reach.
3) READ. Any novelist knows to read and to read a lot. Novelist, TV writer, playwright - no matter, you are a writer and writers read. Reading outside the genre you write is the way I usually go. And I try to mix it up: non-fiction, articles, short stories, scripts -- all to get stimulated. I LOVE good writing. I'm inspired by it. I emulate it. Currently I'm reading Edna O'Brien and I couldn't be happier. I have a bunch of books on the docket and I even listen to good writing. On a recent drive my husband played me a beautiful rendition of a Sylvia Townsend Warner story on the New Yorker podcast. Heaven.
4) Watch TV and film -- shows and movies you wouldn't gravitate towards are ideal. I currently watched "Beguiled." Had little to no interest in it and knew close to nothing about it. Those for me are the best because then when they're good you're rather blindsided by genius. "Beguiled" was like watching moving paintings over and over. And under the beauty was some serious plot shit I never would have thought of. That was a nice kick for my brain.
5) Live outside your box. Go to a museum, take a night and do something you wouldn't typically do, take an exercise class that you're afraid of, snorkel - anything that you haven't done before. On New Year's Day we signed up for a Sun Salutation class at our yoga studio. 54 Sun Salutes. I'm really out of shape. But it's bound to get something going. Or I might just throw up. The point is...
It's about stimulation. It's about shaking it up. You are a full person with a million idea germs but some times those germs get stuck between routine and expectation. They're stuck inside your vessels and your capillaries, between your frontal lobe and your waistband. They're just plain stuck. And if you keep doing more of the same, there your idea germs will stay stuck, bored out of their freakin minds. And if you do nothing to save them, then they'll eventually wither away. But if you live a little, they start to move, collide, and finally emerge. They get unstuck, you get unblocked and boom, your germs mate with each other and ideas are born. And then you can't help but write it down. You go from stuck to fingers dancing on the page. You're back, baby!
And what a great way to start off the new year! You know what I mean? With a brand new idea. That's a nice way to say fuck you to an existential crisis, isn't it now?
That's all I got.
Happy New Year!!!
Sometimes we fall into convention. An exercise I'm doing in my own writing is keeping track of typical conventions per genre, ie.: Horror - someone always goes into the basement. It's usually someone who deserves it and on some level I'm like "yay!". But so like here we are, it's Christmas/Chanukah/Fill-In-the-Blank-Holiday-So-As-Not-To-Offend-Anyone and say in July you're writing about this time of year. Most likely you'll write about what you think are the memories of what this time of year yields (trees, ornaments, tree shopping, gift wrapping, snipping at a loved one...) but in the midst of it, there are unique, atypical or less referenced memories, moments, sights, sounds, feels.. that occur. In that handy notebook you bought at the candy store for writers (Staples) jot down little specificities. Because, and perhaps you've noticed this too, it's beyond refreshing when you go to a movie or a read a book or a pilot and have that feeling of: "That is so true."
The words "That is so true!" only emerge when something stands out that you've never seen before or has never been referenced before. The writer has expressed an experience that is rarely if ever on the page or screen. My guess is while it's happening within the story, it really, in some way, happened in real life. It's true. It's real. It's unique.
Think about what makes certain movies more timeless than others: "It's a Wonderful Life" and "A Christmas Story." There are layers to the magic that culminates into the success of these stories but the unique qualities (Ju-Ju's petals, dancing in the gym with the moveable floor, the knob that comes off the staircase rail, the tongue on the pole, the kid who hides under the sink because, "Daddy's gonna kill Ralphie," putting the kid in the snowsuit) are rooted. The details feel true. They're real.
So I urge you, while you suffer and experience joy this holiday season, take notes. You won't regret it. And if they're in your computer, have a key word to indicate what it's for, (ie.: Christmas). You'll never regret having helped out your future writer self who wants her/his writing to stand out and have a little bit of truth.
Merry Everything and Happy New Year!
Just read in Vanity Fair how Karl Ove pretty much detests everything about himself. I've read all of the My Struggles and I can tell you, that's pretty much the truth. But something that I found so interesting too about the article was if he were to come back as anything, he would come back a window. I mean does he say this shit on purpose? It's so annoying how spot on he is sometimes. Obviously that's what we as writers are. We see things. We observe. We're either inside looking out, or outside looking in. And whether we're talking about the world at large, society, nature or our minds, we are observers. To me, that takes a little pressure off. I'm just writing down what I see or how I see things after they've gone through the funnel of my mind and into my pen or my fingers on the board.
A little tip, and I wish I could remember who I learned this from, but when you watch things, hear things, see things, listen... observe from the vantage point of your characters. How is your character experiencing Alabama? The new Star Wars movie? The hotel room you're staying in? The view from your window?
That's all I got. Ciao for now!
...your characters are a great way to cure loneliness. I was listening to a review about the new novel "Mr. Dickens and his Carol" and it's said Dickens would hole up in his room and BE all the characters. He'd talk in their voices as he wrote. So out loud he would say their lines, dialogue, whatever you wish to call it. People would fight, talk back to one another, profess desires, cry... they would be real.
That's about the only way I can legitimately say I have something in common with Charles Dickens. I've always said my dialogue out loud while I write. And I notice if what people say whether in a novel, in a play or on a screen sounds false. I wonder if the writer is really in touch with his or her characters. I feel like the writer is using the characters but those characters are two dimensional mouth pieces for his or her ego and it drives me nuts. "People don't talk that way!" is what I tend to think and it takes me out of the story.
Your style may not incorporate natural dialogue and that's fine. There's room for a lot of voices in the world. But your character's voices should be real to you. If they're real to you that will come across in what you create. And it makes writing a hell of a lot less boring.
Say it out loud. It's kind of fun. Personally I think that's why I love my catty characters. I get to be a dick without being a dick in the real world. It's very satisfying.
Hope this helps and good luck with your writing!
All I'm saying is when you have a good idea WRITE IT DOWN! I can't tell you how many times throughout the day my husband will go, "Go write that down right now. That's a good idea." And I do so. But you know, he's not always around.
ALWAYS HAVE SOMETHING WITH YOU SO YOU CAN WRITE DOWN YOUR IDEAS! You can use Notes in your phone but I find that to be a little eh-eh. I don't remember what's in my phone. I don’t even think to look there. It's not tangible and my phone is not dedicated to my writing pursuits.
Personally I find going to Staples or Office Depot to be the CVS For Writers. The way I love candy and medicine in the aisles of chain drugstores, I love the paper, notebooks and pens in big box office supply stores. They have all the tools I need to keep track of my divine inspiration PINGS - brilliant thoughts about whatever I'm currently writing or hits about a new book, play, children's story, screenplay, etc., etc.
To that end, when I do my writing session, I have my document open dedicated to the facet of my project I'm currently working on as well as my diary. In my diary, I write down all my incredibly important feelings about the world and my anxieties and sometimes I throw in an impromptu gratitude list, but I also at times have an idea. I believe ideas are precious. So I always type IDEA and then write that idea down just like that, in upper case. That way I can do Control Find, type in IDEA and locate my brilliance in between my mixed up feelings about Whole Foods and why I’m not able to go to yoga again.
That simple tool makes it easy for me to shine; to never be grasping and feel like I have writer's block. Same with having a small notebook I bought at the candy store for writers. My small notebook follows me everywhere – it’s in my bag, on the passenger seat of my car, it sits on my bedside table so when I’m falling asleep and think of something just before I go to unconsciousness, I can turn on the light (sorry, husband) and jot it down. That one little trick simply gives me another opportunity to find what I need to shine when I’m afraid I don’t have any good ideas.
The point of all of this is a) writer's write and b) you do have good ideas but one bad idea is believing you'll remember them all.
More about b...
You're not a superhuman weirdo with ironclad memory as your superpower. Or if you are, tell me more about it. Seems like a great IDEA. (hacky hardy har har follows here).
Okay, writer people. I hope this helps.
It's not easy to do a lot of things but writing is its own brand of hard. It's not difficult to do it in terms of the logistics. In fact, the world has conspired against you to make it easier and easier to do your work. But there's always, it seems, something better to do than write.
My excuse roster is usually pretty simple: I have to clean all the dishes, pay all the bills, do a meal plan for the week, go to the market, cry in the car for a second, put the groceries away, clean the counter, check FB, Instagram, Email, Texts and my newsfeed (every ten minutes) and then I'll be ready. But by then the babysitter is going home and I'm exhausted and my husband just found out there's a Great British Baking Show season we missed.
Yeah, everything you could be doing instead of writing will be there when you get back from your daily writing appointment. But so what do I mean by that?
Create a schedule. You can do it daily or weekly. But you put that appointment on the calendar and then you'll know exactly when you're going to show up for your writing, where you're going to be doing your writing, and how long you plan to write for.
So just like a business date with another person, you're making a business date to write. You know, Monday night at 8:30pm, you are writing for one hour. And how do you know that? Sunday night at 9:30pm you decided and entered that info into your phone. That's how. Bonus points for people who do weekly schedules and stand by them.
Then set up your phone to beep or gong or whatever it does to give you a one hour warning and a ten minute warning before your session begins. That's a warning for the world regarding when you're going to unleash that creative voice that is dying to get out and kick the universe's ass with your originality and productivity. That's a warning to you you have ten more minutes and then YOU MUST PUT DOWN THAT SPONGE AND WORK ON YOUR SCREENPLAY!
Yep. You're going to be show up FOR YOURSELF HELLO! And do your writing. And that writing is not just a gift to you, it's a gift to the world. So for heaven's sake, get with the calendar and let's get this mofo done.
Just make it a simple practice. After two weeks, a habit will be formed and voila, I believe you'll be on your way to finishing your award winning whatever.
Now that I've written all that, I have to do it myself. Ciao for now!
Writer, Writing Coach, Writer Supporter.