Author Topic: Writer's block again  (Read 450 times)

alhawke

Writer's block again
« on: September 12, 2022, 08:34:10 AM »
Thoughts? Do you get writer's block? I didn't revive a zombie thread 'cause it was two years old. Here's a bit of something new I thought I'd share.

I have a new project I'm working on... from an old one. Talking about writer's block, I've written three versions of this novel. And I don't mean a few pages, I mean, start to finish, about three entirely different one-hundred-and-fifty page versions--each one a failure. Well, I looked at the manuscript today and decided to finish and use it.  grint I think we can be our worse critic. My story is something that's been in my mind for many, many years, so in an effort to make it perfect, I just didn't get it done. I think many of us do this and some never even publish a single novel. Now I realize I have a workable manuscript and I'm gonna get it published.

If I complete this book (and, who knows, I still might not), it also means that all the crazy workings in my head for years that might never have been seen by anyone but me will be published by next year. Many of my "new release" novels actually have ideas and characters I made up a decade or so ago. So, as much as we complain about this industry, the fact that I'm getting my stories seen is very exciting to me. And hopefully I can spread some of that excitement to all of you (cause we're all doing this with our projects, aren't we?).
 

Anarchist

Re: Writer's block again
« Reply #1 on: September 12, 2022, 08:58:25 AM »
Re: writer's block: I never struggle with it.

Re: perfectionism: I publish knowing I can always make my books better. I'd rather publish an imperfect book than toil endlessly to perfect it.
"The first lesson of economics is scarcity: there is never enough of anything to fully satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics.” – Thomas Sowell

"The State is an institution run by gangs of murderers, plunderers and thieves, surrounded by willing executioners, propagandists, sycophants, crooks, liars, clowns, charlatans, dupes and useful idiots—an institution that dirties and taints everything it touches.” - Hans Hoppe

"Virtue is more to be feared than vice, because its excesses are not subject to the regulation of conscience." - Adam Smith

Nothing that requires the labor of others is a basic human right.

I keep a stiff upper lip and shoot from the hip. - AC/DC
 
The following users thanked this post: Lorri Moulton, sliderule, djmills, Jackie, alhawke

LilyBLily

Re: Writer's block again
« Reply #2 on: September 12, 2022, 09:23:01 AM »
I know the stories I publish are imperfect, but the stories I read are imperfect, too. Readers do give authors some latitude and I expect to be given that courtesy by my readers. I don't usually sweat making my novels utterly perfect. The story simply has got to work. Once I think it does work and I have a beginning, a middle, and an end, I'm done except for some tweaks.

When a story isn't going the right way for me I have learned to listen to my muse, because it is trying to tell me that my idea for the story or a particular character is wrong. When I don't listen, that's when writer's block can occur. I can't force my characters to do what I want; I'm only the sculptor revealing what is there already. (Well, not that arty, but you get the idea.)

However, there is more than one kind of writer's block and I suffered through the disastrous kind for many years. Soon I am going to decide if I will ever attempt to rewrite a story I rewrote completely but abandoned. It doesn't feel good to have abandoned a story I put so much into but, as we have discussed previously, some themes are simply passe and I can't imagine anyone wanting to read that particular plot today. So I'd have to completely rewrite it again. What's the point? To say I finished it? Maybe, but is that a good use of my time?

 
The following users thanked this post: Lorri Moulton, alhawke

Jeff Tanyard

Re: Writer's block again
« Reply #3 on: September 12, 2022, 09:24:58 AM »
Yes, but it's no mystery as to why it happens.  When I get it, it's because I don't know where the story's going or I've written myself into a corner.

The cure for writer's block, for me at least, is to outline the story so I know where I'm going and how to get there.  And by "outline," I really mean a detailed synopsis.

I envy the pantsers, and I wish I was one of them, but I simply can't do what they do.  (I'm talking about novels here; short stories are a different matter.)
v  v  v  v  v    Short Stories    v  v  v  v  v    vv FREE! vv
     
Genres: Science Fiction, Fantasy (some day) | Author Website
 
The following users thanked this post: Anarchist, alhawke

Hopscotch

Re: Writer's block again
« Reply #4 on: September 12, 2022, 10:04:09 AM »
Re: perfectionism: I publish knowing I can always make my books better. I'd rather publish an imperfect book than toil endlessly to perfect it.

Entirely true but here's the but:  Walt Whitman continually revised/republished Leaves of Grass across his whole writing career.  Did him/his career no harm.  Did us reading today a lot of good.  Sometimes w/some books you just gotta do that.
 
The following users thanked this post: alhawke

alhawke

Re: Writer's block again
« Reply #5 on: September 12, 2022, 10:38:39 AM »
Soon I am going to decide if I will ever attempt to rewrite a story I rewrote completely but abandoned. It doesn't feel good to have abandoned a story I put so much into but, as we have discussed previously, some themes are simply passe and I can't imagine anyone wanting to read that particular plot today.
The advantage to working on projects already worked on is that you have, at the very least, an outline of ideas that you can work with. And, if editing it turns out well, it's worth releasing. I'm not sure if mine will but, after today's review, I think it can. And I think I can work it into something vogue enough for today. If it doesn't, it will be filed as a fourth rewrite. :tap
The cure for writer's block, for me at least, is to outline the story so I know where I'm going and how to get there.  And by "outline," I really mean a detailed synopsis.
I'm a pantser. All my books were written without outlines. However some projects, like potentially this one, might have needed an outline. I suppose full length throw away novels will suffice as "outlines". Could have saved a lot of time with an outline, in this case, but I'm just not comfortable using them. :shrug
« Last Edit: September 12, 2022, 10:42:48 AM by alhawke »
 

LilyBLily

Re: Writer's block again
« Reply #6 on: September 12, 2022, 11:59:33 AM »
My rewrite was basically an outline--a synopsis submitted to an editor--and it got rejected. So...back to just feeling my way. Pantsing is really lots of fun if one has the right attitude.
 
The following users thanked this post: Lorri Moulton, alhawke

The Bass Bagwhan

Re: Writer's block again
« Reply #7 on: September 13, 2022, 11:09:35 AM »
Everyone's touched on roughly the same idea, with which I agree. Situations like usually come about from deep-seated, even tacit acknowledgement that the story is somehow flawed. Your writer's instincts are telling you it has a real problem - maybe more than one - and that stops you from feeling the narrative is properly resolved.

You need to either seriously anaylse the story, or introduce a new, radical story arc while somehow holding onto the original premise that attracted you in the first place.

Good luck.
 
The following users thanked this post: Jackie, alhawke

cecilia_writer

Re: Writer's block again
« Reply #8 on: September 13, 2022, 05:04:12 PM »
Everyone's touched on roughly the same idea, with which I agree. Situations like usually come about from deep-seated, even tacit acknowledgement that the story is somehow flawed. Your writer's instincts are telling you it has a real problem - maybe more than one - and that stops you from feeling the narrative is properly resolved.

You need to either seriously anaylse the story, or introduce a new, radical story arc while somehow holding onto the original premise that attracted you in the first place.

Good luck.

This is very true - I hadn't really thought of myself ever having  writer's block as I usually just keep writing until I've come out at the far side of the problem, so to speak, but only a few days ago I realised my novel (the 25th in a mystery series) looked as if it would end up quite a lot shorter than the others in the series because I had almost run out of plot. I had to pause and look back at the chapters I'd already written and work out where to introduce some characters who could make things more complicated,. Having done that I've returned to the end and decided that the scenes of characters in peril that I had thought would come almost at the end of the novel will have to be resolved now so that I can work towards a more satisfying conclusion, with the antagonist, who had been working alone, becoming part of something larger.
I think this would have escalated into full-scale writer's block if I hadn't stopped to disentangle it. One reason I think this is that I actually had to abandon my previous work in progress at 40,000 words because I couldn't see where to go with it. Maybe this is nature's way of telling me to start planning ahead in a more organised way!
Cecilia Peartree - Woman of Mystery
 
The following users thanked this post: Jackie, alhawke

Hopscotch

Re: Writer's block again
« Reply #9 on: September 14, 2022, 08:02:36 AM »
I think what we're calling writer's block is just getting stalled in a story.  Not the same thing.  Writer's block is like cancer - it hits you unexpectedly w/the potential to write The End to your writing career.  Getting stalled in a story is less dramatic.  You cure it by hammering keys writing crap until you hit a solution and carry on w/the story.  Or you slide that ms into the bottom drawer of your desk and let it season a year or a decade until the solution pops into your mind.  Meantime, you write something else or do haiku or learn welding to clear your mind.  No stalled story is worth the misery of worrying that you've got writer's block and will never write again.
 
The following users thanked this post: Jackie

cecilia_writer

Re: Writer's block again
« Reply #10 on: September 15, 2022, 01:50:23 AM »
I think the term writer's block may have evolved to mean something a bit less drastic than not being able to write at all,  and there are now different degrees of it. I have been lucky enough only to have felt the merest threat of getting it! On the other hand, for quite a long time I just physically didn't have enough time to write anything very much, and so I probably have lots of untold stories in my head to fall back on.
Cecilia Peartree - Woman of Mystery
 

Hopscotch

Re: Writer's block again
« Reply #11 on: October 13, 2022, 03:27:50 AM »
From “The 5,000-year history of writer’s block” - The Conversation 10/10/2022

“Ann Patchett, who has written eight novels and five books of nonfiction, says that when faced with writer’s block, sometimes it seems that the muse has ‘gone out back for a smoke.’…No matter how accomplished a writer, he or she will inevitably struggle with writer’s block. Pulitzer Prize−winning author John McPhee, who began contributing to The New Yorker in 1963, details his writer’s block in a 2013 article: ‘Block. It puts some writers down for months. It puts some writers down for life.’ Another famous writer for The New Yorker, Joseph Mitchell, was struck by writer’s block in 1964 and simply sat and stared at his typewriter for 30 years.”

https://theconversation.com/the-5-000-year-history-of-writers-block-190037
 

Hopscotch

Re: Writer's block again
« Reply #12 on: October 13, 2022, 04:18:56 AM »
Re: perfectionism: I publish knowing I can always make my books better. I'd rather publish an imperfect book than toil endlessly to perfect it.

Couldn't resist one more counter example:  “Hallelujah is one of the most famous songs ever written, yet a new film reveals it took Leonard Cohen 180 attempts over a decade to perfect – only for it to be rejected by his record company.” – The Guardian (UK)
 

Bill Hiatt

  • Trilogy unlocked
  • *****
  • Posts: 2436
  • Thanked: 913 times
  • Gender: Male
  • Tickling the imagination one book at a time
    • Bill Hiatt's Author Website
Re: Writer's block again
« Reply #13 on: October 13, 2022, 04:31:01 AM »
I think getting stalled on a story and never being able to write again may be questions of degree rather totally different phenomena, though it may be that the latter grows out of more severe psychological issues.

For me, sometimes the answer is as simple as getting some rest a good-night's sleep. Your subconscious mind keeps working on things even when your conscious mind is otherwise engaged. Nine times out of ten, I come back the next day with a path forward. Had I just kept pounding my head against the wall, I might not have recovered as fast.

Alternating among different series also works for me. If I have two that are currently active, for example, I write a book for one and then for another rather than pounding through the whole series before moving on to another.


Tickling the imagination one book at a time
Bill Hiatt | fiction website | education website | Facebook author page | Twitter
 

littleauthor

Re: Writer's block again
« Reply #14 on: October 13, 2022, 07:08:19 AM »
I've heard a couple of irritating comments in the past few weeks from writing guru types who said writer's block didn't exist. Going on to say that plumbers don't get plumber's block, doctors don't get doctor's block, etc. Which annoys the f*ck out of me because every profession can lead to some sort of burn-out that "blocks" the individual from doing their job.  Doctors crash, policemen need extended leave, waiters throw in the towel--but a writer says I'm stuck for words, ideas, the ability to turn on the computer without throwing up and we're told it doesn't exist.
I've had true writer's block once in my career and it's real. I wrote erotica to get out of it. Erotica is a very forgiving genre.
/rant
"Not working to her full potential."
 
The following users thanked this post: LilyBLily

LilyBLily

Re: Writer's block again
« Reply #15 on: October 13, 2022, 07:34:26 AM »
Of course writer's block is real, although it can have many versions and sources. I had writer's block for decades. I currently would describe it as a lack of confidence that I could get the job done. Once I realized I could finish a novel, that block fell away. I credit NaNoWriMo. After finishing the first ms., I have never looked back.

On the other hand, when a close relative died, I stared at my computer, wondering if I would ever feel happy enough to write my silly stories again. Death is so much more important and permanent than ephemeral romantic fiction. That block didn't last long, because I decided to write a book to celebrate my lost person. (The story wasn't about that person per se.)

I knew someone who had writer's block because a publisher wanted a major rewrite and she couldn't do it. Once I helped her see how, that block vanished.
 
The following users thanked this post: Cabbages and kings

Al Stevens

  • Medium Novel unlocked
  • ***
  • Posts: 560
  • Thanked: 165 times
  • Gender: Male
  • Coffee-drinking, insomniac binge writer
    • Al Stevens, Author, Musician
Re: Writer's block again
« Reply #16 on: October 13, 2022, 08:11:11 AM »
I wrote a monthly magazine column for 15 years and about 30 nonfiction books during that same time, all traditionally published. All but one of my novels are self-published. The treatment I found for the ailment called "writer's block" was simply: deadlines with associated paydays. the same thing that works for plumbers, the difference being their work is more repetitive.
     
 
The following users thanked this post: PJ Post, Anarchist, LilyBLily, alhawke

LilyBLily

Re: Writer's block again
« Reply #17 on: October 13, 2022, 11:01:07 AM »
I wrote a monthly magazine column for 15 years and about 30 nonfiction books during that same time, all traditionally published. All but one of my novels are self-published. The treatment I found for the ailment called "writer's block" was simply: deadlines with associated paydays. the same thing that works for plumbers, the difference being their work is more repetitive.

A deadline and a check are both highly motivating to me. Which of course was the problem with novels. Nobody was offering a deadline. Then I started making them up for myself.
 
The following users thanked this post: alhawke

Vijaya

Re: Writer's block again
« Reply #18 on: October 13, 2022, 12:28:50 PM »
I wrote a monthly magazine column for 15 years and about 30 nonfiction books during that same time, all traditionally published. All but one of my novels are self-published. The treatment I found for the ailment called "writer's block" was simply: deadlines with associated paydays. the same thing that works for plumbers, the difference being their work is more repetitive.

A deadline and a check are both highly motivating to me. Which of course was the problem with novels. Nobody was offering a deadline. Then I started making them up for myself.

Yes to deadlines and checks. But my brain seems to know the difference between a real deadline and one that I make up for myself. I'm always juggling multiple projects so the self-imposed deadlines tend to get put aside. I also seem to have writer's block in various degrees for the stories that I care about too much. There's so much fear, of everything, including success. I'm learning to chip away at the fear bit by bit. Getting older is helping.


Author of over 100 books and magazine pieces, primarily for children
Vijaya Bodach | Personal Blog | Bodach Books
 
The following users thanked this post: alhawke

alhawke

Re: Writer's block again
« Reply #19 on: October 14, 2022, 01:10:28 AM »
The treatment I found for the ailment called "writer's block" was simply: deadlines with associated paydays. the same thing that works for plumbers, the difference being their work is more repetitive.
Yes to deadlines and checks. But my brain seems to know the difference between a real deadline and one that I make up for myself.
Deadlines? Me too.  :cheers They get things done, don't they? Because I utilize editors and cover artists, deadlines help get me off my rear. My problem is I always set them sooner rather than later--Good for business, bad for stresses, I suppose.

{btw, as an update, I just contacted my cover artist three months in advance. The book I spoke of when I began this thread is only 75% complete. It needs an ending. Nothing like a deadline to get me to finish it.
« Last Edit: October 14, 2022, 01:35:48 AM by alhawke »