Today is February 14, 2017 – the halfway mark between January 1, the start of our challenge to write 85,000 words in 90 days, and March 31, the end of our 90 days of writing during the 90-Day Write cycle on the 85K Writing Challenge.
In April, we’ll enter the first of three 30-Day Finish cycles (held every April, July, and December).
During a 30-Day Finish cycle, writers on the 12-month 85K Writing Challenge:
- finish the previous task cycle (for April’s 30-Day Finish cycle, this would mean finishing writing from the 90-Day Write cycle that took place in January, February, and March);
- start the next task cycle (for April’s 30-Day Finish cycle, this would mean starting editing for the 60-Day Edit cycle that takes place in May and June); or
- take a break to rest and recharge.
We’re Smack Dab in the Middle
To celebrate the fact that we’re all smack dab in the middle of the 90-day writing challenge, for the last seven days, and for the next seven days, we’re running “The Smack Dab,” a challenge within a challenge, where writers work to complete an entire chapter, every day, for the fourteen days surrounding February 14.
The Smack Dab comes complete with trail markers to guide you on your journey. Trail Markers on The Smack Dab are writing tips designed to help you write through the middle of your novel.
Read Trail Markers #1-7.
Daily Trail Marker Writing Tips #8-14 resume tomorrow.
Make the Next 45 Days Your Most Productive!
Today, in preparation for the coming 45 days of our 90-day writing challenge, we’re discussing “5 Tips for Banishing Writer’s Block,” a content piece written by 85K Writing Challenge member and content provider, Lauren Kalt.
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5 Tips for Banishing Writer’s Block
by Lauren Kalt
Writer’s block. These two words are fraught with the dread, fears, and self-doubt of many writers. I’m sure you’ve been there. You just finished writing that wicked sword-fighting scene where your blazing heroine decapitates the fire-breathing salamander, and then she looks at you, the writer, expectantly.
“What?” you say. “Go find some damsel prince to save! Don’t look at me!”
She leans on her sword, which is still dripping the blood of the now-deceased amphibian. “But you’re the writer,” she huffs. “I can’t go save some prince if he doesn’t even have a backstory! Give me something to work with!”
Well, you think, maybe an evil salamander-taming sorceress locked him in a tower, or he could be doomed to an eternal slumber because he was bitten by a salamander, whose saliva induces comas. Or…
Suddenly, you’re crippled by the stare of your heroine, who continues to wait for your command. Frustrated, you close your laptop and stare at the wall, which holds no answers to your conundrum.
Call it what you want: Writer’s block or crippling self-doubt (I cycle between the two indefinitely), it sucks, and we can pretty much all relate on some level. In writing this blog post, I hope to offer you a few tools to help combat the paralysis that sometimes ensues when one misplaces their inspiration.
Here are five tips that can get that creative flow flowing once more.
If you haven’t tried outlining before, I recommend it. I used to be a “write by the seat of your pants” type of gal, and I still sometimes am, but outlining can make novel writing much easier. It gives you a framework for where the plot will go, and when you’re stuck, you can return to your outline and remind yourself of the grander scheme of the story. It can also remind you of what scene comes next, in case you lost your way.
One source for learning how to make an effective novel outline is Libbie Hawker’s book on novel outlining. She gives great insight into how to construct a novel that incorporates active characters driven by their flaws and goals. You can also play with other outline structures to see what works for you, such as Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey monomyth or the plethora of other resources you can find through a simple Google search.
2. Knowing when (and when not to) go to your writing community for help
When I start working on a new story, I often consult my writing buddies about the plot, the characters, and my initial ideas. I love the collaborative energy of getting other peoples’ feedback on my work as it develops, and I often get amazing ideas just by asking for their opinions.
This can be a double-edged sword. Sometimes, when I’m blocked, it can be helpful to talk to my writing pals and see if they can help generate ideas for where to take the story. Other times, too much feedback can cloud my judgment, overwhelm me with conflicting opinions, and make me into an even more doubtful mess.Seeking help for writer's block can be a double-edged sword. Lauren Kalt @Lulladiva #85K90 Click To Tweet
It’s good to see what works for you and what doesn’t when it comes to getting help from your inner writing circle. For some, the problem may be that they’re isolated and don’t even have a writing community yet. That’s why sites like this are so great—you have the means to connect with others who may be in the same boat as you.
3. Take a break
Honestly, sometimes you just need a break, and that’s okay. Try reading an author who inspires you, or read something entirely new and different than what you’re writing. Do some yoga, or try tap dancing. Sing a ballad to your cat. Jump on a trampoline. Meditate. Drink some water. Many writers have a bad habit of getting locked into their minds and ignoring the other needs of their bodies, like stretching or having fun or even eating. All aspects of living can help support your writing craft, even just by giving your brain a break. Sometimes that’s all you need to get back into writing.#amwriting? Sometimes you just need a break, and that’s okay. Lauren Kalt @Lulladiva #85K90 Click To Tweet
4. Work on something else
It could be that you’re just not feeling your story right now, or the part you’re stuck at. That’s also very much okay. We all get burned out. Write another scene, one that you’ve been itching to get to. Even if you have to eventually scrap or rewrite it, the important thing is you’re still pushing through the block and generating content.
Not feeling your current story right now? Work on another project, or write a character study. Write something ridiculous and self-indulgent, like a fanfiction for that skating anime you can’t stop thinking about. Write a poem. You’re allowed to take a breath of fresh air and work on something different. I promise the fire-breathing salamanders won’t think any less of you.
5. Practicing self-compassion and self-forgiveness
This is a big one that I’m still working on. Writing is a difficult craft, and it’s okay to struggle and not know what to do. Writing is a lot like life—sometimes you don’t know where it’s going to take you, and there can be rough patches. The important thing is that you don’t beat yourself up about it. I’ve struggled a lot with being too hard on myself throughout the years, and that can be super detrimental to writing when it’s in its early stages. Of course, there will always be room for revision and critique and scrapping entire chapters—but that comes later. Right now, focus on the joy of writing and the delight of the journey. Writing a novel should feel like an adventure, and it’s okay if you stumble along the way.
85K Writing Challenge
Join the conversation about writer’s block by leaving a comment for Lauren below.
Read “Writing Workshops Make Writing a Little Less Lonely” by Lauren Kalt published January 20, 2017, on the 85K Writing Challenge website.
Visit Lauren Kalt’s Member Profile Page on the 85K Writing Challenge.
About the Author: Lauren is an aspiring editor and writer, voracious bookworm, and soon to be graduate of Northern Arizona University with her BA in English and minors in French and Studio Art. She was born and raised in the howling desert inferno of Phoenix, AZ, and has the thin blood to prove it. She’s passionate about helping others with their writing and hopes to work in the publishing industry. When she’s not reading, writing, or editing, she spends her time drawing, mumbling to her dogs in French, and binge-watching Netflix shows. For more about her, visit her website at http://laurenkalt.weebly.com/