“You know how it is when…”
This is a phrase you will end up using often when talking with fellow writers. That’s because there are certain identifiers you will have once you’ve been writing long enough. Here are some of the phases and quirks most every regular writer will have:
PLAYING CHARADES WITH YOUR COMPUTER OR NOTEBOOK
You know how it is when you have a specific action, gesture, sound, or facial expression that you are trying to put into words your readers will understand? What’s the best way to figure out how to describe it the way you want? Act it out!
More often than not, you will find yourself experimenting with all the things your face can do and the inflections your voice can make. You’ll start waving your arms around in an effort to get the right gesture. Sometimes, you may even get up out of your chair and break into a random dance number so you can give an adequate description of the “very distinct style” your character decides to show off at his or her high school prom.
Before you freak out, let me assure you you’re not going crazy. This happens to more people than you might think-myself included.
Despite how strange this may seem, I have often found it helpful in making my descriptions better and more realistic. It is similar to the effect of reading your work aloud as opposed to just reading it silently in your head, because your ears tend to pick up on things your mind might miss. As a matter of fact, one extra bonus it can have for us introverts is it helps us to loosen up and be more spontaneous. The more comfortable we become with it in the comfort of our bedrooms when no one else is home, the more comfortable we become in expressing ourselves with others. Writing, in this way and so many others, can prove to be very therapeutic and help you break out of your shell if you let it.
THIS IS AWESOME…THIS IS AWFUL
You know how it is when you first write a scene, or maybe even a chapter or two, and at first you think, “Oh yeah, this is unparalleled writing perfection right here. Pure gold.”?
Maybe you remain convinced of that for a while-until you go back to it and begin your proofreading of that part. Eventually you find yourself becoming less and less impressed. Inevitably you end up looking at it and a few days or a couple of weeks later, you say something more like, “Oh, this is horrible! Why did I ever think this was good?”
Again, before you get too discouraged, understand that every writer goes through this at times, especially beginners. Also keep in mind that you are your own worst critic. We writers like to treat our works like our masterpieces, much like any other artist, and we want it to be spectacular and flawless once it’s done. Anything less than that simply won’t do in our minds. Believe me, I’m never more of a perfectionist than when I’m writing (except sometimes when I’m drawing).
This is one of the reasons why having at least one other person you trust who can read your work and give you feedback is important. Do they notice the same things you do? Does it bother them or do they think it actually helps add something to your story? Listen to their suggestions and reflect on them. This doesn’t mean you have to do everything they suggest-it is your work after all, and so you will ultimately be the judge of what should be changed and what shouldn’t. But these people can also help us find out where to go from where we are and maybe even think of things we didn’t.
Seriously, invite a friend out to lunch or coffee, read them what you’ve got, and be open-minded to their responses.
A PERIOD OF WRITER’S BLOCK HITS HEAD ON WITH IDEAS FOR ANOTHER STORY
You know how it is when you’re working on a piece-maybe a science-fiction novel with an intriguing romantic twist to it. You get halfway through, building up to an exciting climax…and hit a wall.
So you decide to take a break from it for a time, thinking maybe eventually, something will hit you again.
Then suddenly, your mind starts bringing in fresh ideas hot off the press for an epic fantasy thriller. Your computer becomes alive with the frantic clacking of keyboards or your notepad with the scribbling of notes once more. You become so invested in it, that you forget all about your sci-fi which never developed beyond the middle.
Again, this will likely happen to you, sometimes time and time again. When it does, go ahead and write down your ideas as they come to you, but proceed with caution, because this can often lead to a bunch of partially-finished stories that never reach an end.
How can you avoid this? First of all, don’t condemn any ideas that may come to you while you’re working on something else. As I said, write them down, but remain determined to stay focused on only one or two pieces at a time. For starters, it can help avoid confusion between characters, events, places, and the plot itself. It also helps discipline you to see a project through to the end, no matter how long it takes you. I have been working almost exclusively for three years on one book for a fantasy series, and those years have seen all of these phases and then some. And yet my work is much better now than it ever has been, and I’m expecting it to continue to improve. Don’t give up. If it’s meant to be, it will be.
Always remember that inspiration can come to you from anywhere, so if you’re stuck in a rut, pick up a book, watch a movie and take notes, or call up your friend and ask what he or she thinks. These simple strategies have helped me more than once on my own writing journey.
Embrace your writer side, and let the words of your imagination run free.