Writer’s block is a goddamn thing.
I never used to think it was. I always thought it was a bit of a silly concept, really. You can’t think what to write? Just write something else! If you’re struggling to complete a scene/chapter/book, simply switch to writing a different scene/chapter/book and all your problems will be solved. It doesn’t matter what you write, after all, as long as you’re writing.
That’s probably reasonable advice for a normal case of being stuck, but true writer’s block is different. Or at least, the thing that I’m now calling writer’s block – having experienced it, and still experiencing it right now – is different from any other kind of writing struggle I’ve had before.
I’ve posted a few times recently about the difficulty I’m experiencing with my third Darkhaven novel, and people have come back with a ton of advice. Set a certain amount of time aside for writing each day – it doesn’t matter if you only write a sentence during that time, as long as you’re doing it. Write something else, something fun instead of deadline-driven. Give yourself a break – walk away, do other things, come back to it when you’re feeling refreshed. I love all my writer friends, and I really, really appreciate the time they’ve taken to support me. But the thing is, I’m on a deadline.
Now, I usually love deadlines. They’re the main impetus I have to get anything done. In the past, writing without a deadline has been equivalent to never finishing, because I have no reason to draw a line under what I’ve done and say That’s good enough. So I just tinker endlessly. But with this particular deadline … well, I’ve already pushed it back once, and that’s once too many. I meet deadlines. I pride myself on meeting deadlines. I don’t want to feel like I’m failing as a deadline-meeter as well as a writer.
At this point, you may be detecting a certain level of obsessiveness. Everyone misses deadlines sometimes. It happens. Just ask for another extension. But my problem with that is that I’m afraid it will push me deeper into the cycle of I can’t do this. I’m already pretty deep in it. I need it to crack open and release me, not sink its teeth in further. Having more time would stretch the problem into the future, making it more daunting, and sending my brain more tightly into its relentless spiral of self-doubt.
So as a result, I don’t have time to take a break or write something different. And while setting aside a certain amount of time for writing every day would be lovely, it’s not going to happen. I get time when I get time. Sometimes my children are ill. Sometimes my husband needs help with something. Sometimes there’s another job to do. And since I get a maximum of two hours a day for everything that’s not kids or work, there’s no way I can consistently spend those two hours on writing.
(And yes, I could sleep less. But I have a full-time job, and I don’t consider it ethical to function at less than my full capability at work because I’ve deliberately cut my sleep short in order to write. I know how much sleep I need to do a good job. With children around, I don’t always get it as it is. I certainly can’t justify getting less than what I do get.)
But all of this is missing the point, really. Because the thing about writer’s block is that it stops me from writing anything at all. (Fiction, anyway – I seem to be perfectly capable of writing reviews and opinion pieces and articles about goddamn writer’s block.) No matter whether the period of time I have to write in is big or small, no matter what I try to write, there’s a little voice that tells me I’m useless. And not only that – there is what almost seems to be a literal block in my brain, preventing me from being able to think about what I’m working on. I try and think about it, and my brain throws up distractions – or, failing that, it just goes completely blank. And yet when I’m not writing, that exact same brain nags me constantly about it: you should be writing. You’re going to miss your deadline. You’re going to fail. So even the option of relaxing and doing something else is closed to me, because I can’t relax. Ever. Ever.
I can imagine some of the more seasoned writers among you nodding wisely and saying It sounds as though your heart isn’t really in this book. You don’t love it enough. Maybe your subconscious knows there’s a plot hole, maybe you’ve made a narrative or stylistic choice somewhere that you don’t like, maybe you’re simply fed up with the characters. But honestly? I’m pretty sure that none of that is true. I like this book. I think it could be the best one yet. I just don’t know how to get it out of me.
My fingers have moved faster over the keys, typing this article, than they have done for months writing the thing I want and need to write. That’s pretty sad.
Today I have a guest post for you from Liana Brooks, whose twisty sci-fi thriller CONVERGENCE POINT - the second volume in the Time & Shadows Mystery series - has recently been released. You can find out more about the book after the post, but for now, here's Liana!
Today I'm pleased to present a guest post from Auston Habershaw, whose fantasy novel The Oldest Trick is out today. Over to you, Auston!
I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.
- Douglas Adams
I am a terrible procrastinator, and I'm also never satisfied with anything I do. These two factors in combination have tended to mean that I don't spend nearly enough time writing – and when I do, more often than not it's rewriting something I've already written.
As the year approaches its end, I tend to suffer from an increasing sense of melancholy. And as a result – though it may seem counterintuitive – I always become more productive.
Perhaps the short days remind me that time is passing and so I need to make the most of it (I don't know about you, but somehow I feel more mortal on a winter's evening than on a long and lazy summer's day). Perhaps it's the sinking feeling that another new year is coming, and then another birthday, and this time I'd better have something to show for the milestone. Or perhaps it's a throwback to the days when I used to distract myself from school by writing fantasy (is there anything bleaker than the month of November when you're a socially awkward teenager?)
Here's a question for you: what makes you decide to buy a particular book? For me as a reader, it could be one or more of a number of factors:
1. I’ve heard good things about it from someone I trust, be that a review site or a friend.
2. I’ve interacted with the author in some way that didn’t involve them trying to sell me their book.
3. It’s by an author I know I like, and/or it’s been released by a publisher whose other books I’ve enjoyed.
4. It’s on sale so I figure it’s worth giving it a shot.
5. I needed something to read in a hurry and this one caught my eye in the bookstore (physical or virtual).
A couple of weeks ago, I was tagged by fellow fantasy author Kate Jack to take part in the WIP Blog Hop. So after thoroughly gorging myself on last week’s Chocolate Bar Challenge, I’ve taken up this new opportunity with alacrity! No chocolate in this one, I’m afraid, but you will get to find out a little bit more about my writing … oh, OK, and I’ll open a box of truffles at the end.
First, a word about Kate: she is a wonderful writer of young adult fantasy, a never-failing supporter of other authors and one of the founding members of the Alliance of Worldbuilders. You can find out much more about her and her excellent books at kateannejack.wordpress.com. Please do pay her a visit!
So, now to the challenge. The idea is to answer seven questions about my current work in progress, but I’m going to cheat a little bit. My actual current WIP is the first sequel to Darkhaven, but talking about it would reveal a fair bit about Darkhaven itself – which I really don’t want to do, seeing as it hasn’t even been released yet! So instead, I’m going to talk about Darkhaven. I think we can count it as a WIP right up to its publication date, right? ;-)
People have been throwing the phrase 'strong female characters' around for years now, and yet there still seems to be a lot of confusion about what it means. So just to add to the melting pot of misapprehension, here's my contribution to the debate. Because as far as I can tell, there are two very fundamental aspects of the phrase that contribute to the general crossing of wires.
If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you’re probably already aware that my first novel is being released this summer by Harper Voyager Digital. There’s more information about Darkhaven elsewhere on this website, but in brief, it’s … well, a murder mystery. Except I'm a fantasy writer, so this is a murder mystery that includes shapeshifters, swordfights, carriage chases and a rampaging Wyvern. Be warned.
I was in two minds over whether to write this post, because it does feel a little self-indulgent. OK, a lot self-indulgent. OK, like standing in the street with a megaphone and shouting “Yay, me!” But there are a few pieces of advice I've extracted from my journey up to this point that are probably worth sharing. And I think they’re relevant whatever your publishing dreams and whatever stage of your own journey you’re at. So here goes.
What with Baby Smith's cold and his corresponding rejection of anything sleep-related, I haven't got a great deal of writing done recently; but I have, at least, managed a little bit of editing.
Here's the scene from Dawn Rising where Oriana is about to be married to the man who killed her mother. My difficulty with Oriana is that I'm always afraid people will read her as weak or passive. She isn't: she's badly hurt, out of options and being controlled by someone with far more power and cruelty than she possesses. Sometimes, strength can be as simple as refusing to let our tears fall. (Sometimes it can be as simple as letting them fall, but that's another story.) Anyway, I'd welcome your comments and/or criticism.