How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Blank Page (Writing Again 4)

On the eve of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), 2015, I stand at a quandry about my Big Fat Historical Novel. I’m not sure where to go with it. I have changed so many things! But I’m not worried, or fussed, despite the NaNo-Sized draft I have cooling in my Google Docs, because I learned past few months that the most important thing about getting back into writing is just the act itself, with no expectation attached.

This is the draft I sent to my friends to get their insight on the characters; the original "raw" prose is over 54k. Hardly any of it will make it into the next stage, and I am totally fine with that.

This is the draft I sent to my friends to get their insight on the characters; the original “raw” prose is over 54k. Hardly any of it will make it into the next stage, and I am totally fine with that.

In the first post, I talked briefly about my years-long block with functional, long-term writing. I discussed how I recognized my personal “crutches” when it came to writing shortcuts, and how I learned to begin writing in a healthier way for both my craft AND my sanity.

The second post was about Over-Planning, which involved tiring yourself out with a story before you could start the prose properly. This article is basically about giving yourself permission to put something down if it isn’t working, or if you’re tired of it.

The third post detailed the importance of writing for writing’s sake, without caring if it was going somewhere or not! I gave you my monthly word counts and project word counts. I told you that none of it will see the light of day, and how I am just fine with that. I told you to indulge your craziest writing fantasies and do it just for you.

And finally, the last in this initial series of Writing Advice Posts, is about bringing those things together to get back to healthy writing so that you can work on those projects burning on your tongue. … Fingers. …You know what I mean.

“Writing Again” means writing first, and storytelling second. Please note this can apply to those of you already in the publishing phase, but your milage may vary, and I’d check the links at the bottom to help you get un-stuck in your stories!

1) Identify your fears. This is advice a lot of people give, and for good reason. What are you afraid of? For me, that fear was just that I could no longer share my stories with L and the few friends that I showed my fanfiction to. I feared that I would never be able to finish a project. I had to come around and accept the fact that to do ANY project, I needed to get my legs back under me with the craft of writing on its own.

2) Identify your writing “crutches” or shortcuts. Do you roleplay or write collaboratively? You might find it hard to take on new characters, or balance things out. Do you write ahead and then can’t connect the dots later? A crutch or shortcut isn’t inherently bad, it just might keep you from finishing a cohesive story down the line.

3) If you are writing something that you are either digging too far into with no interest, or have fatigued yourself on the details so much you don’t want to write: STOP. STOP NOW. You have my permission to put it down, either temporarily or forever. Use the prose for parts. Sit on it for over a year and see how it treats you.

Do not slug through another SECOND of something you’re tired of. You have not wasted your time. You have worked very hard and your writing is already better for it. If you are bound by contract/time to finish something, check out my links below for other articles/books to help you get unstuck! But hopefully some of this advice will work for you, too. Especially…

4) Now that you know what you’re fighting against, you get to take a break. You get to indulge. Write the schmoopiest, funnest things you have ever wanted with your original characters or ones from your favorite media. Write something gory and ridiculous, write the most over-the-top stuff that no one in the world will ever see. Go hog-effing-wild. This teaches you how to just write with no expectations, save for the rush of emotions and endorphins you’ll get from putting those words to proverbial paper.

THIS is a great place to do all those in media res snippets. If you do have a story you want to work on when you’re feeling better, indulgent writing is the place to do so. Just make sure you’re not focusing on the whole story yet… you’re not quite out of the block phase! Be patient with yourself. You can do this!

In closing… While I love numbers and achievements in my own writing, that isn’t for everyone! Even if you don’t write Every Day– because that’s an expectation that can make or break you– find some time just to do that indulgent stuff I stated above. Little sprints of inspiration. Even just sentences you like. Find new ways to turn phrases. Focus on yourself, your goals for how you want your prose to feel, and don’t worry about anyone judging you. 

Leave a message here or talk to me on Twitter — don’t worry, I don’t bite! 🙂

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Please check out Rachel Aaron’s blog and her book about writing, 2k to 10k. Her work helped turn a lot of things around for me, and she’s got some lovely posts recently that you’ve got to read! She’s got detailed advice regarding success in writing stories and self-publishing and she’s cheerful and encouraging on Twitter!

Meanwhile, I’ll still be here, talking about bare-bones writing, hoping to help you all feel better about going forward with those stories. I’m not there, yet. I have a lot of things I want to do, and I’ll be recording that process, as well as continuing to write more articles. But for now: dayjob and editing a short story for our Patreon. Stay tuned!

Please fill out this survey to see what would make you a monthly patron at our Patreon!

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