tips

Tips to Beat Writer’s Block

I’ve been struggling with writer’s block for the past few weeks, and it is very frustrating. I go to write and I have nothing, but once I am busy and cannot write, all of my ideas starting coming in. It’s a difficult cycle, but here are a few things that helped me along the way.

1. Give Yourself a Break…Literally!

Unfortunately, the more you try, the harder it is going to be to find the inspiration. Just like when you’re working on a puzzle (jigsaw or crossword) and you’re stuck, taking a break and going back to it with a clear mind helps immensely! Taking 15-20 minutes to regroup and come back has helped me so much. Whether I go for a walk, watch one episode of something on Netflix (The Office or Parks and Rec are my favorites!), take a nap, or even just scroll through my phone—not thinking about the article/post/whatever I’m trying to get done actually helps me more after a rest.

2. Read through old material.

Sometimes, when I’m trying to write a blog post on my personal blog, I don’t feel motivated. I feel like I’m just writing into the abyss of the internet and it’s just a waste of time. And then, (because I’m trying to prove myself right), I read through old posts. Seeing what I’ve already done inspires me to write more because I’m perfecting my craft, and even through this short comparison between older pieces and newer, I see how much I’ve improved. So even if you’re trying to write a sports piece and you’re reading through an old screenplay you wrote five years ago, it still gets the gears turning in your head and helps bring the motivation back.

3. Meditate.

About a solid 65% of my writer’s block is pure anxiety. “I can’t write now, I have laundry and dishes and FILL IN THE BLANK”…and then I never actually get to writing. Or the dreaded procrastination bug: “Ah, this isn’t due for awhile, I still have time,” and then it’s the night before (or the day of) and I haven’t even opened up Word yet. Since I deal with anxiety about most things (thanks to a generalized anxiety disorder), I’ve learned to combat these thoughts. I take a few deep breaths, and I tell myself that I’m too frazzled to do anything right now, so I might as well meditate. I like TheHonestGuys channel, and I just do one of their shorter ones to refresh my mind. After doing so, I feel relaxed and don’t feel the pressure from earlier to get everything done right now, and it’s easier to write because I don’t feel as rushed or pressured.

4. Try Not to Psyche Yourself Out…or Should You?

Whenever I’m writing for myself and don’t care about my audience, I’m more comfortable and therefore it’s easier to write. I don’t worry about format or grammar. I just write. However, whenever I have to write for a purpose like a school assignment or something for work, etc.,  I find myself so caught up with everything being perfect that I forget that I am good at this. What I have found is if I tell myself that this is just for fun and only content matters, my thoughts and ideas flow more freely. I then take a break (more often than not I get a snack!) and then go back and edit. This helps keep me at ease and keep my mind thinking outside the box, not just what I think my audience will want to hear. And then once I edit, I can always make sure it meets the expectation.

5. Read Other Authors.

There are a few authors I follow on Instagram, and seeing their pieces throughout the day keeps me motivated to always be ready to write. And sometimes, when I feel particularly unmotivated, I read chapters from my favorite books or a few of my favorite poems.

These are just a few of my tricks to help me beat my writer’s block. And sometimes they don’t work, but that’s okay. As long as there is a will, and ink, there’s a way.

 

Meet Jenna LaBollita!

Jenna’s passion for writing started very young, even winning her a Young Author Award in elementary school. Since then, she has written for The Odyssey and Puckermob, and has read countless books in many genres.

Her love for writing is unmatched, and she hopes to become a published author herself one day. Jenna holds an associate degree in Liberal Arts from Ocean County College in Toms River, New Jersey.

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Writing Interesting Beginnings

As an author we want our readers to be sucked into the worlds that we painstakingly develop. We don’t want them to be on the other side of the glass looking in, but to be immersed within it. We are immersed, so why is it that we occasionally see these types of faces staring at our books?

whatcha_reading

Well, it may be because we are slow to start. I am guilty of this in every first, second and even third draft of my own works. I call it: Author Information Vomit. Lovely name, I know but it reminds me of word vomit – and it has a bit of a Mean Girls connection. How you can find yourself unable to keep all the words you should, or should not be saying contained. It just kind of spills out of you. That is exactly what happens with a lot of authors who are focused on world building and character background. This is not to say that your world building/character background isn’t important, but placing it all at the forefront is just information overload for the reader.

Rule of thumb: beginnings should be interesting. Easy, right? Nope. Interesting is important, but as the author you have to make sure that the “interesting” thing happening, is a) appropriate to the story line, b) fits the timeline, c) doesn’t give too much away, and d) propels the story forward towards the main conflict and resolution.

As a side note, I do try to avoid prologues when possible — a lot of the time they aren’t necessary, and may set up your readers for a different kind of story. But use your judgement!

My best advice during the writing process is to write down everything that comes to mind. Everything. Leave it there for the first edit. At the second edit, step back and try to read it as if you have never read your book before and evaluate; don’t take huge chunks out until you have read the whole draft twice. Finally, let yourself read novel and make your cuts. It can hurt to delete beautiful lines, or great paragraphs full of background information. To ease the blow of “killing your darlings,” copy and paste the larger and more beautiful lines that you are cutting. Save them in a separate document in case you can utilize that information later on!

The editing process is a slow, dark and oftentimes unfair process where writers question their motivation to follow through to the polished manuscript. I urge you to follow through, it will absolutely, 100 percent be worth it in the end.

Keep on writing, editing and killing your darlings – your novel will be better off with a savagely determined captain at the helm.

 

 

Corinne can be reached at AndersonEditingServices@gmail.com

Connect with me on Twitter! @AndersonCorinne

Corinne is an editor at Ink Smith Publishing. Since her first trip to the library when she was a toddler, Corinne has been collecting books, recommending her favorites and providing commentary on the less-than-stellar. Her belief is that if you have a problem, it’s nothing that a good book can’t solve. She holds her MFA in Creative Writing from Lindenwood University, and is currently pursuing her MPS in Publishing at George Washington University. She hopes that her experience editing and her blog posts here will help writers improve and publish their work.

What You Know vs. Branching Out

When I was first starting out as a writer, people constantly told me to “write what you know.” That makes a lot of sense. Writing what you know gives your story a solid basis in reality, accurate reality.

What do I mean by accurate reality? You can create any reality you want as a writer. A world where dogs live on the moon, where people are born with hands as their ears–any world you want. But it has to make sense, it has to be believable. Connection to the reader matters.

One of the reasons people love books, is the idea that it represents someone or something they can connect with in addition to reading for enjoyment. Even though your manuscript falls into the fiction category, it doesn’t mean the entire book is made up. Relationships, people, emotions: they are based in reality.

I came across this conundrum during a class in my master’s program at Lindenwood University. We read the book, Rose Metal Press Guide to Writing Flash Fiction: Tips from Editors, Teachers and Writers in the field. It talked about truths and making sure that when you are writing about certain types of people that you get them accurate. (A great source for writers – in addition to the Writing Flash Non-Fiction edition as well!)

If you aren’t someone who is intimate with the particular group of people you are writing about, than you need to be careful about writing about them. You don’t want to misrepresent their culture just because you felt like writing about them one morning. This goes for any group or culture–misrepresentation does two things: offends the group you are misrepresenting and provides inaccurate information to people who are not familiar with said group/culture.

The basis of belief for Quakers, is that God exists in every person, and therefore should be treated in accordance with that belief. LGBTQ have their own slang, different parts of the U.S. have different accents, it is impolite in some countries to wear your shoes into the house–these facts may seem inconsequential to someone who is on the outside of these groups, but is essential in the representation of the culture.

So, if you are looking to write about the Aboriginals – do your research, make sure you understand their way of life. If you can, submerge yourself in the culture, talk to some of the people. Experience is the strongest learning tool.

Make sure you understand them and their way of life before you write. In essence,  the notion of “write what you know” is 100 percent accurate. You may want to write something new, but make sure you do the research and write the truth!

Happy writing, and happier researching!

 

Connect with me @AndersonCorinne on Twitter!

Corinne is an editor at Ink Smith Publishing, with an MFA in Writing from Lindenwood University. Since her first trip to the library when she was a toddler, Corinne has been collecting books, recommending her favorites and providing commentary on the less-than-stellar. Her belief is that if you have a problem, it’s nothing that a good book can’t solve. She is currently pursuing her MPS in Publishing at George Washington University, editing for Ink Smith Publishing, and hoping that her blog posts here will help writers improve and publish their work.

Author Interview with Rod Baker

Ink Smith: Where do you do most of your writing? What is your process like?

Rod: I write on my computer in a large room on the ground level of our home. I use two monitors–one screen for the manuscript, the other for research.
 

Ink Smith: How did you come up with the idea of this book? How long did it take you to write?

Rod: I am a big horror film fan. I love the A-Horror films as well as the B Horror Devil's Scribefilms. In the past, I wrote many TV police shows. I wanted to mix a police story with horror and paranormal activity. This triggered the “idea bank” in my head I guess. The idea started small and singular but then branched out as I outlined it until it became the complete Devil’s Scribe. I was busy in life with other things when I started jotting down notes for the book before I could start writing it. I would say actual writing time was 12-18 months.

 

Ink Smith: Who are your favorite authors/books? Why?

Rod: When I started my writing career, I read everything that William Goldman and Richard Matheson ever wrote. I love the way they write, their style. I also read Dean Koontz and Stephen King. I like Clive Cussler—the way he uses a historic event as the catalyst for his stories and the big adventure that results. But what attracts me to a book is usually not the author. It’s the story. If the story grabs my attention, I will read the book no matter who wrote it. Good stories always have the best characters in my opinion.

 

Meet the Author

Rod BRod Bakeraker is an Emmy Nominated, NAACP Image Award and Youth in Film Award winning television writer (with Glen Olson). Rod also co-authored the 10 book children’s series The Adventures of Gabby Bear.  He has a BA in Radio, Television and Film and lives in Thousand Oaks, CA with his wife. Rod is a member of the Writers Guild of America, west.

Author Interview with S. A. Check

Ink Smith Publishing is extraordinarily proud of our authors and want to show them off in any way we can. This week, S.A. Check, author of the recent release Maxx Fragg, VPI, talked about some of his writing techniques and favorite authors.

Q: Who are your favorite authors/books? 

A: Wow, that’s rough to only pick a few. I’d have to say I have, or at least I think I have, a rather eclectic taste in books. In no particular order – let’s see where this goes….

1) I make no qualms about the fact I’m a geek and in my early geekly training one of the greatest influences has always been comic books. The late 1970’s to early 80’s Marvel comics, Ditka / Shooter / Lee / Kirby / Simonson era played a huge role in my literary development. (I know that’s not one book. I’m warming up here.)

2) Robert Asprin’s “MythAdventures” series has always remained a favorite of mine. This series was just straight up fun. It pulled you in to a brilliantly imagined world with compelling characters that you just loved more and more with each new book. I can still remember pestering the guy at the book store waiting for the next one to come out. (Still not a single book but I’m getting closer.)

3) Piers Anthony – On a Pale Horse (See, I did it.) Truly a classic that just blew me away the first time I read it. The first of his Incarnations of Immortality series and the one that will always stand out to me.

4) Dan Brown – author – I love all his books. As a writer, he stretches the line so thin between reality and story that it makes a seamless step for the reader to get lost in his worlds.

5) A. Lee Martinez – I’ve been enjoying a lot of his books recently from Gil’s All Fright Diner to Monster. He’s entertaining and finds a great balance between comedy and horror, a genre-blend I’ve always loved.

That wasn’t nearly as painful as I thought.

Q: Where do you do most of your writing?

A: While I always wanted a “writing room” like a Ray Bradbury, stuffed with trinkets to inspire creativity, I have to admit, most of my writing takes place on the couch, as unglamorous as that sounds.

Q: What is your writing process like? 

A: My writing process is ever-evolving but I stick to the same basics for each book. When I have an idea that I think is book worthy, I’ll usually put three or four paragraphs together to capture the main points or ideas and put it in my “books I need to write” file. When it’s time to start a new book, I’m a firm believer in outlining but this is the one point in the process that I like a more organic feel, meaning I’ll set aside the laptop and go straight to pen and tablet. I can fill up a tablet with notes and arrows, scribbles and sometimes even sketches. It becomes my story roadmap but like any good trip, a few detours make it all the more interesting. I can’t say I’ve ever started a book that ended how I originally planned.

I sum up my writing with this philosophy – It’s there, in the brief moments that we allow fantasy to reflect into reality that as authors, we are given the privilege of building worlds to capture a reader’s imagination and try to hold on long enough to leave them with something more than when we started. If I can change a perception or add to a perspective, then I’ve accomplished something worthwhile.

Maxx-Fragg-OFFICIAL-350x500Q: How did you come up with the idea of this book (Maxx Fragg, VPI)?

A: I was always fascinated with virtual reality worlds and the endless possibilities that they bring to a writer. When I considered crossing the paranormal with that, it was an exciting blend that needed explored to me. While ghosts and technology aren’t exactly a new theme in literature, mixing the two genres using the idea that virtual reality could be the bridge to crossing over to the other side was something I hadn’t seen done before. Having Maxx run a virtual ghost hunting business to deal with the death of his brother pretty much sealed the deal for me to start writing.

Q: How long did it take you to write?

A: It usually takes me about six months to get a rough draft for a novel done and then the editing process starts, which can take me weeks to months to get it where I’m comfortable releasing it to the world. With Maxx Fragg, the book took on a few versions and travelled quite a few paths before finding a home with Ink Smith Publishing.

 

Meet the Author

SA CheckS.A. Check is a Sci-Fi / Fantasy / Comic Book writer living in Southwestern Pennsylvania with his E.R. nurse wife and tween daughter, enjoying all the small dramas that come his way. He earned his degree in English / Writing from Penn State University and has been writing all his life.

 

He can be found at his website www.SACheck.com , his profile page over at Ink Smith Publishing, Amazon, Goodreads, Facebook, or shoot him a tweet @S_A_Check.

 

The Query Letter

The dreaded query letter. It makes my entire being cringe, both when I am writing one, and when I am reading some.

Personally, I’ve spent days writing queries. They shouldn’t be insanely long, but they can’t be too short either, you don’t want to bore the reader, but then again you don’t want to come across as overeager either. So what do you do?

There are countless websites that can help you model the perfect cover letter, but no matter which one you select to use as your model there are a few things that you need to include in your query letter.

1. Introduce yourself
2. Brag a bit
3. Talk about your work

Sounds easy, right? Most people do these things, but some include some unnecessary information, or unrelated tidbits.

When you’re introducing yourself to the publishing company it’s okay to tell them what your accomplishments are – but you may want to eliminate the fifth grade writing award you received twenty-three years ago. It’s not relevant, and you should have made large strides in your writing capabilities since then. Stick to the basics: Your most recent education, your experience in the field, and previous publications (if you have them).

As editors and publishers, we like to get a feel for personality. We like to know who you are, so we anticipate the voice of your letter to reflect you in some way. To reveal something about yourself that makes you special. For example, if you used to raise horses, tell us – if it relates to your work. If your book is about aliens and time travel, horses aren’t really related. Unless the “aliens” are an advanced society of intelligent space horses.

Almost every website I’ve visited about writing a query letter, talks about comparing your work to other pieces in your genre. First, make sure you identify your work, and the genre it would be classified in. Second, be well read in your genre; not just the super popular stuff either, read it all! And third, compare your work to current titles in the genre. Really think about what books your work would be competing with. DO NOT use Harry Potter, Twilight, The Hunger Games, Divergent, The Maze Runner, or any other big success to compare your YA Fantasy work with. If you write mystery, don’t compare yourself to Mary Higgins Clark, if you are writing romance, don’t relate your piece to Danielle Steel. In short, utilize your comparison titles to show: You know the genre, and you are realistic about your competitors. Could your book be the next Harry Potter success? It’s possible – but don’t present it as such. Just present the idea, the book and know your market.

After you have introduced yourself and your book, close out your letter respectfully. Too many writers close their letters with things like:

“You’d be a fool not to publish my work.”
“Only idiots would pass up this great opportunity.”
“Don’t make a mistake.”

I can’t speak for everyone, but for me that is an automatic rejection. As a final note, make sure you don’t copy and paste your query letter. If you send it off and forget to change names it does not compel a publisher to accept your work.

So, be yourself, show off a bit, tell the publisher about your work, and don’t copy and paste!

Easy, peasy! Good luck writers!

 

Some helpful links:
WritersDigest.com
JaneFriedman.com
AdWeek.com

 

Connect with me on Twitter! @AndersonCorinne

Connect with me on Twitter! @AndersonCorinne

Corinne is an editor at Ink Smith Publishing. Since her first trip to the library when she was a toddler, Corinne has been collecting books, recommending her favorites and providing commentary on the less-than-stellar. Her belief is that if you have a problem, it’s nothing that a good book can’t solve. Currently, she is pursuing her MFA in Creative Writing at Lindenwood University, editing for Ink Smith Publishing and hoping that her blog posts here will help writers improve and publish their work.