Posts Tagged ‘writer’s block’

Why Do I Need (or Want) an Outline?

Happy Tuesday, squiders! It is freezing in my house and I can’t find–oh, here they are. Never mind.

We’re continuing to talk about outlining today, tackling why you might want–or need–to have an outline.

What’s the point of an outline?

An outline serves as a guide for you while you’re writing the story (or nonfiction book). It helps you remember what your plan was, keeps all your information in one handy spot, and can help you develop ideas from vague thoughts into something deep and meaningful that will make your story super cool. It can even help you spot problems before you get started.

An outline helps you write your story, simple as that.

Aren’t I trapped?

This is a common misconception that comes with outlining. Many people think that if you have an outline, you’re trapped. The story must happen exactly as you’ve planned it. Creativity is dead!

This is not true at all. An outline works for you, not the other way around.

That’s why, in the intro section, we talked about experimenting with what information, and how much, you need for your outline. And the good news is that an outline is not a static document. 

If you write a scene, and it’s more natural to go a different way than you’d originally envisioned? Great! Update your outline. If your planned ending feels forced? Try something else. There’s nothing that says you have to stay with your outline if it stops fitting the story.

I would recommend updating your outline if you decide to radically change things, but we’ll go into that in a minute.

Additionally, you can outline at any point in your writing process. If you started off pantsing and find yourself in a corner, you can start outlining from that point as a way to figure out how to get from where you are to where you want to be. This is actually how I started, once upon a time–I would pants the first half or so of the book, then outline the end, so I could make sure all my loose threads would be tied up in a logical and entertaining manner.

You can also outline revisions and rewrites. Because you already know the story (and what’s wrong with it), it can help to lay out what needs to be changed and how, to limit the amount of drafts you have to go through in the end.

Outlines are the solution to writer’s block

The biggest pro of outlining is that it virtually eliminates writer’s block.

(There are exceptions, as there are to everything. That’s another subject.)

Have you ever been happily writing along, throwing every terrible thing you can think of at your main character, and run into a brick wall? Things have gotten too terrible, and you don’t see how they can ever get out of it. Or your main character is flitting around from subplot to subplot, not getting anywhere, because you’re not sure what they’re trying to get to?

As I said before, an outline can be basic. Just knowing what your character wants (and whether it will be a good or bad thing when–if–they get it) can help shape your entire narrative. A little more structure, and you can know where you’re supposed to be at what point (“okay, at the midpoint, she finds out that who she thought was her sister isn’t her sister at all”). Nothing has to be specific–you don’t have to do any great detail–but knowing where you’re going, even vaguely, helps eliminate that flailing feeling where you don’t know where to go next.

NOTE: It can also be useful to outline the next day’s writing when you stop writing for the day. This can help you easily remember where you were and what was happening when you come back, and it gives you an idea of what you need to do for the day. It’s always faster to write when you know what you’re doing versus when you don’t.

(If you’ve ever read one of those books or articles about increasing your daily word count, you’ll know they almost always talk about having a plan for your daily writing. Same idea here.)

Next week, squiders, we’ll start delving into the types of outlines (complete with examples).

Thoughts on outlining?

Results, a Poll, and a Crazy Week in General

Good news, Squiders! I think my crazy plan of fixing the writer’s block on one novel by starting a completely different novel may actually be working. It’s a miracle, I know. I don’t have a huge amount of words on the new novel (which is tentatively titled Gabe and Rafe’s Fabulous Adventures on the Ark) but it is going, and going fairly easily, and some of the cobwebs are shaking off of Book 1 as well. Plus I think stepping away has helped me to refocus a bit, to remind myself that the characters are what are most important, and to focus on them and their specific problems, and that I can add in more stuff about the world and the overarcing plot as time goes on. Whew.

(We were on a cruise, which is why I missed Thursday’s post, and though I have been off the ship for over 24 hours it still feels like I’m on it, which is very annoying and makes me feel a little sick. But anyway.)

My general plan is to poke at the new story and let Book 1 percolate until Friday, at which point we switch back. This week is mostly a waste anyway because MY MUSICAL OPENS ON FRIDAY AAAAAHHHH.

Sorry. That’s about how I feel on the matter. Anyway, every night this week is eaten by dress rehearsals, so who knows if there will be any writing time at all. Percolating is good for my schedule.

(Also, I hope I haven’t forgotten anything since I missed a few rehearsals. I mean, it was only a few, but aaaahhhhh)


Anyway, for my own sanity, I’m going to do the poll for the next nonfic book subject today, and we might dive into it on Thursday, or I might talk about something else on Thursday and then start the nonfiction topics next week when my sanity shall hopefully be back to mostly full.

Anyway, please pick a topic that interests you!

Is It Really All Fear?

For storycraft on Tuesday night, we discussed the bane of so many writers: Writer’s Block.

Before the meeting, I trolled about on the Internet for a bit to help formulate points for discussion. And I came across this post, which states that all writer’s block has one cause: fear.

I brought this idea up to the group, and the unanimous response was disagreement. (And, actually, if read on to the rest of the post, I feel like even the original author somewhat contradicts his original statement.)

The thing is that there are different types of writer’s block. Sure, maybe some do stem from fear. Certainly when one is afraid of how something will be received, that can have a negative effect on the creation process. And previous failure or fear of failure can add to that. My group dubbed this particular type of writer’s block the Inner Critic block.

But all writer’s block?

I would argue that most writer’s block stems more from a planning standpoint than fear. You know, when you can’t figure out a logical way to get from point A to point B. When your characters can’t complete planned plot because they’ve changed through their arc and the actions no longer fit. When you’ve thrown so much at your characters that you can’t see how to get them out of the mess. Stuff like that.

What do you think, squiders? Is fear the cause of all creative block? I would say no, but let me know if you disagree.

We also discussed what types of writer’s block is most common for each of us. For me, at least recently, it’s been that I’ve had so many projects that need to worked on that I haven’t been managed to make much headway on any of them. We also talked about fixes–and mine is that I need to prioritize and focus on finishing one thing before moving on to another. What’s your most common block? What do you find helps?

Death to Writer’s Block!

So, my friends, I am making my way through the edits of an urban fantasy novel of mine that’s being published this December. It’s due to my editor on August 1st.

(Don’t remind me of what day it is. Believe me, I know.)

This particular novel, in its initial form, was missing villain motivation and a logical progression in said villains’ modus operandi (jumping rather staggeringly from “let’s be friends” with the target to violence), so I’m having to insert in some scenes to have everything read more coherently. Luckily, most of these scenes are going well, but every now and then I run into one that just does not want to be written.

Writer’s block at any time is infuriating. When you’ve got less than two weeks to make sure your story is ready to go? Your nerves start to tingle and you seriously consider giving up the whole writing thing to hide under your desk for the rest of the day.

But, of course, that’s not an option, but it’s still not fun to stare at the same page for three hours.

I have two main courses of action for dealing with writer’s block, and the one I tend to use the most is to just push through it until it’s finished, no matter how long it takes. (The other is to go do something else and see if things percolate in the back of my mind. I find if something doesn’t percolate within a few hours, it’s probably not going to, and then it’s back to pushing through it.)

So, Squiders, in the interest of timeliness, do you have any other techniques that you find help you break through your block? Or, if you’re not a writer yourself, have you heard of techniques that creative-type people have told you work?

Time is, alas, of the essence.

Handwriting for Fun and Profit

If you’re anything like me, Squiders, you mostly write by typing. Word processor, blank page, type type type. It’s faster, it tells you when you misspell a word (though not when you put the wrong word in), it’s easy to transfer in between devices, and it’s faster to get to your readers/betas/critique group.

So why ever go back to handwriting, with its wrist cramping? You have to be able to read your handwriting (increasingly difficult in this digital age). It takes much longer, and it wastes paper and ink. (Or graphite. Or crayon, if you’re really desperate.)

Well, here are a few reasons you might consider switching to handwriting, if only for a little bit.

1) Portability
There may be times when you can’t take your laptop with you, or you just simply don’t (like you’ve run to the dentist for an appointment, only to find your dentist is running 45 minutes late). You can waste time by reading expired magazines. You can try to type on your phone. (It’s possible that people – probably people who text waaaay more than I do – can actually type at a reasonable speed on their phones. If you are one of these, you are a crazy mutant.)

It’s much easier to just carry a notebook around with you. I usually try to have one with me. I can start stories, continue ones from earlier, or plot out a new idea. You can doodle characters and freewrite around plot issues. Sure, it may be slow, and your wrist may hurt after a while, but it’s better than just wasting time playing Angry Birds. (I am terrible at Angry Birds.)

2) Writer’s Block
Have you ever been stuck? Days spent staring at a blank page with little to no words to show for it?

I find, when the story gets stuck, that a change of technique can help. Trying to write by hand can sometimes free up something in your head and get the story flowing. And then you can switch back to your general writing manners, and usually the block will stay gone, though you may have to handwrite a few days in a row to get there.

3) Stealthiness
For those of you who work in an office, have you ever had a period of time where you have nothing to do? You’re waiting on three people to get back to you, or your program needs to compile, or the lab said they’d get your stuff back to you on Friday.

Sure, you can hang out on Facebook, but sometimes it’s too obvious. Admittedly, depending on your work, you might be able to type in a word document without raising too many questions, but writing in a notebook adds another level of security. You look busy. It’s hard for other people to see exactly what you’re doing. And, at the end of the day, you can take the pages home with you, leaving no evidence, bwhahaha.

Any additional thoughts to add?