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Monday, April 13, 2015

Writer's Block: Conquering It Just Like Any Messy Room

Author Stephanie Fowers

Posted by Michelle Griep

I recently discovered a new author with a zippy style. Meet Stephanie Fowers, guest rocketeer for today's post . . .


Stephanie Fowers loves bringing stories to life, and depending on her latest madcap ideas will do it through written word, song, and/ or film. She absolutely adores Bollywood and bonnet movies; i.e., BBC (which she supposes includes non-bonnet movies Sherlock and Dr. Who). Presently, she lives in Salt Lake where she's living the life of the starving artist. 
“Clean your room!”

Raise your hand if you remember this moment from your childhood. Your mom looks narrowly at your messy room and she packs you inside it saying that you can’t leave until it’s clean. Instead of tackling the mess by picking up one toy…and then another…and another until the job is done, what do you do instead? Well, if you were anything like me, you sit in your room all day and sing prison songs, running a metal cup against the doors.

But you are much more disciplined and sophisticated now. Years later, you sit at your computer ready to write the great American novel and instead, you:
A- Read blogs (like this one)
B-Check stats on Amazon
C-Look through pictures
D-Check Facebook
E- Basically doing ANYTHING than writing your novel.

Oh, the delights of writer’s block. It’s comparable to standing in the middle of your messy room when you were a kid, so how do you tackle that mess like you did in the old days? Well, let’s listen to mom on this one . . .

Define Your Goal 
“Clean this room!” she says. Or in our case: “Write that book!” Great goal, but it’s overwhelming. Break it down into smaller goals (write the story idea, outline, characters’ bios, chapters). Make your goal resemble a mission statement (what, where, why, how, when). Your reason for writing needs to be meaningful to you. It cannot be based on fame, riches, # of downloads, raving reviews, or anything that someone can take away from you. Figure out why you love writing and make that your reason, or you’ll quit at every failure.

Prioritize 
“This room looks like a pigsty!” What mom means is that it’s time to do something about your procrastinating! Your goal is important. Put writing on a list with the rest of your other priorities and see where it lies. This will give you an idea of how much time you want to dedicate to that novel of yours.

Sacrifice 
“You are not going to bed until this is done.” This means you might not get as much sleep; you can’t watch as much TV or play as long on social media; the kitchen won’t be as clean, etc. To avoid any unpleasant shock, be aware of and plan for the sacrifices that writing a book will require. 

When you're writing is a mess, edit it clean.
Deadline 
“This had better be done by the time your father gets home.” Sadly, there’s no one but yourself to answer to now; it’s up to you to make that book happen. Make a goal to have so many words, chapters, books, etc. done by the end of each day, week, month, year, etc. No matter if you make your deadline or not, working towards your goals will increase your productivity.

Writing Schedule 
“Put your things away when you get home from school.” Take mom’s advice and make good habits now—treat your writing like a job or like you’re preparing for a marathon. Set aside a specified time to write and make it a part of your life.

Checklist 
“Make your bed first.” There is something satisfying about checking off that To-Do list, so make a daily list. Break your chores down like this: 1-Give cruel villain a motivation. 2-Find a reason Martha loves John. 3-Write the “I can’t pay the rent scene.” After that, you can check, check, check the list off. It feels great!

Reward 
“I’ll give you a sticker to put in your sticker book.” It was irresistible when mom gave incentives back in the day. Try it out for yourself. If you work until a specified time, you can: 1-Watch your favorite TV show. 2-Read a chapter from that book you’re really into. 3-Hang out with awesome people. 4-Take the kids to the park. 5-Make dinner. Whatever it is, make sure it’s tempting, doesn’t take too much money, and/or give you a heart attack.

Feng Shui 
“How can you live like this?” Really listen to that snarky question this time around…because your workspace makes a difference. Do you write better in a hole-in-the-wall café, a quiet place at home, or a garden with a view over the city? Figure it out. Try all sorts of places and keep track of which settings works best for you—switch it up sometimes.
Sometimes all it takes is to make a decision.
Sit and Do It
“Just get it over with.” I always wished that I had listened to mom’s advice after I had wasted a whole Saturday sitting in that messy room and hoping it would miraculously clean itself. It’s easy to “just do it” in theory, but….well, try it. Turn on your computer, pull out your chair, and get into your story. Sometimes all it takes is to make a decision.


Clear Away Distractions 
“No, you can’t play Barbies in there!” Yeah, mom always caught me playing in my room instead of cleaning. So here’s the question of the hour; are you working or playing on your computer? Well, cut the internet (put it on a timer). Put the phone on silent. Can you not work with family and/ or friends in the room? Try working while they sleep or put headphones on. You can even remove yourself from the fun (this works better when you have a writing schedule, so that you don’t feel like you’re completely missing out and your loved ones also know when you WILL be available).

Inspiration 
“Put music on if you have to.” As I learned back then, a little entertainment gives you energy to get the job done. Listen to music while you write if it helps. Change the font and color you’re typing with—you can change it all back to boring Times New Roman later. Set your screensavers to castles, beaches, steampunk cities or wherever your novel is set. Cast your books with your favorite actors, anything that helps you to see your story better.

Balanced Life 
“You have until the timer goes off.” Believe me—writing breaks help your motivation. Are you not getting enough social interaction, exercise, and fulfilling other responsibilities, etc.? Do yourself and your writing a favor by balancing your life—just make sure that you set a time to start writing again.

Brainstorming 
“Go get your big brother to help you.” When stuck, get outside help. Tell someone where you are in your story and where you are trying to go and then ask how to get there. Usually, by the time you’re done explaining what you need, you’ve already come up with a solution on your own.

A System 
“Rake it up!” Yes, under my mom’s encouragement, I raked my room. It was how I kept myself organized…and then I divided everything into workable piles (laundry, toys, books, etc.). I’m comparing that strategy on how to plot out your story. I like to follow a detailed outline; some use different software programs like scrivener, others use post-it-notes. 

Resolve Technical Problems 
“It looks like a tornado came through here!” If your story resembles the catastrophe of my childhood room, don’t get overwhelmed. Identify the reason why your novel feels like a mess—do you not know how Billy breaks out of jail? Write down your questions then address them in a brainstorm.

Productivity 
“If you just got it over with an hour ago, you’d be outside playing with Molly by now.” So just get it over with! Start free writing, even if it’s out of order and it’s just the scenes you see most vividly in your head, or even if it’s not that writing project you thought you’d be working on that day. You might even hate what’s on your screen, but you’ll eventually get some gems out of it (even if it takes heavy editing).

Support Group 
“You did such a good job!” Everyone needs a nice pat on the back. Find people who love what you write and write for them. Feed them chapters. Have them threaten to break your knuckles if you don’t deliver on those chapters—those people are sometimes called a writing group.

Enjoy Yourself 
“Would you stop cleaning your room and play video games!” Okay, my mom NEVER told me that in my whole career as a child; but eventually as you write, you’ll start to enjoy writing so much that it will be hard to stop. THAT’S the mindset you need to get your novel done. If you don’t enjoy the process right now then roll up your sleeves, get out the rake, and defeat that writer’s block. I promise that once you do, your novel will become a labor of love.


Meet Jane and Austen. First there's Jane—an impractical, starry-eyed wedding planner; if love can’t match what she’s read in a book, she doesn’t want it. And then there’s Austen—a pragmatic, logical-to-a-fault financial consultant; even if he were interested in someone, he wouldn’t know.

The two have one thing in common: they can’t leave each other alone. Jane believes that if Austen could just experience a fairy tale romance, he would secretly love it. And Austen’s pretty sure that if one of Jane’s beloved heroes escaped from the pages of her dog-eared novels, she’d run and hide.

Both are about to be proven right.

When the rivals are called on to help a friend plan the biggest wedding of the year, an entire resort full of colorful wedding guests descends upon them—many sharing uncanny similarities to characters in a Jane Austen novel. It doesn’t take long before Jane gets everything she thinks she wants. After all, too much of a good thing can’t be all that bad, right?

But when Jane’s life turns upside down, the only one she can turn to is Austen; though he’s got his own troubles of the heart…and she's afraid that he's enjoying them more than he should.



2 comments:

Ane Mulligan said...

With each new book, I have to clean up my office. I can't begin in chaos. Actually, I have to do that every couple of weeks. lol It gets messy fast! Of course, I always cling to the old saying: A clean desk is a sign of a empty mind. ;o)

Kathy Rupff said...

This was sooo helpful. Thanks so much Michelle and Stephanie!