Writer’s Block

Everything Update 04/20/2017

Someone once asked why I call this my Everything Update. I think the real question was why do I update everything all at once. The answer is in the name of my blog: Writerish Ramblings. I do tend to ramble on. I’m so full of words that I can’t contain them all inside my head, so I let them out on paper, on the screen, and in person, I never shut up (unless I’m talking to a stranger).

If I did separate updates for each of the items in this post, then I would overload everyone. So I put it all here.

The other reason is pain. I can’t sit at the computer for as long as I want to, so it’s easier for me to update on everything in one post. What you don’t see is I don’t always type it up in one sitting.

So, on to the updating.

Writing: I purchased an online course about writing a series. I know how to write, but there are different rules for series, as well as many different types of series. Each kind has its own set of dictates. I figure I will learn something and add to my writing toolbox and it’s worth it to me. I also bought a book that I would call a refresher.

My reasoning on these items is I have not been writing. No work on my trilogy, no short stories, no new ideas (besides a few jotted notes).

Part of my problem is pain medication. I had to choose between a nightmare surgery or pills, so I chose pills. I hate it, but I’m doing what I can to put off the inevitable for as long as possible.

So the meds make me a little flighty and a lot sleepy. Since I’ll be on them for at least a couple of months, I need to do something to fight through it. Following instructions in a class or book seems to be my best choice for keeping my muse awake.

Besides, why wouldn’t I want to keep learning, and trying new techniques? Talent/skills can stagnate if you don’t take the time to help them grow.

I also plan to use writing prompts I normally ignore. I like prompts for writing short stories, but I never do the ones that want you to answer questions about your life. For example, Why do you want to write? Or Where do you see yourself in ten years? Maybe even Describe your hometown.

Fiction won’t come out of using these but words will. Any writing leads to more writing. I shouldn’t be ignoring them. An essay using the prompt: Why do you want to be a writer led me to win a scholarship to the West Texas Writer’s Academy. Clearly, any prompt has value!

So I’ll use them and I’ll probably post some of the results of my experiment.

Medical: BLAH! I had an injection for pain relief, but it didn’t really work. They added something to dissolve some scar tissue at the same time. I don’t know how long it takes to work, but at this point, there isn’t much difference. I’m sure it is doing something, but at this level of pain, it’s hard to appreciate a small change.

Two days ago I must have overdone it at the gym because the pain was so bad that I spent most of the day in bed. It was much the same the next day. So I skipped working out yesterday, and I’m much better now. On the upside, I watched the extended cut of The Lord of the Rings trilogy (over two days) with no writer’s guilt. I also analyzed the hell out of all three movies. Everything from dialog to structure. I almost took notes, but it’s hard to write anything when lying down.

I really enjoy those movies, but I found myself laughing at some of the speeches and Eowyn’s face when she was shocked, those eyes!

Everything else: I had to rearrange my work space. I have an L-shaped desk, and where I had, it wasn’t causing me problems. One of the desks was in the middle of the room. The space was too tight, and I was getting into my chair in a way that hurt a lot. Now, that desk is against a wall. The area is open and I’m better off.

My dogs love it because they can’t sprawl out but still be close to me. I miss my ‘nest’ but overall, I like this arrangement better.

I also moved all my books around. Every time I can’t do things because of pain, I want to do all the things! So I do some of the things even though it’s going to hurt. A rebellious nature sucks when you’re rebelling against your own body and it fights back!

I’ll try to post more often. I’ve been slacking but I’m trying to push through all these roadblocks. That’s all for now.  I’ll let you all know how it goes.

Random Observations (A Ramble)

If you don’t like meandering ramblings then this post is not for you. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

I’m sitting in a Starbucks. It’s not my normal writing spot but for some reason I felt the need to change it up. I hear people say either this place has the best coffee or the grossest brew. I don’t really care because I get hot tea, English Breakfast, which is nearly impossible to mess up. I’m here for the atmosphere and the aroma.

If you know me at all you know I despise the flavor of coffee but adore how it smells. Something about it improves my creativity.

Anyway, I ordered my tea and sat down. As I pulled out my laptop and my spiral I overheard a short conversation between two men dressed in business suits. They were talking about work when suddenly one changed the subject.

“I love my wife but she calls me at work about the kids and it drives me  crazy. I mean I’m at work, how does she not get that. She never even asks if I can talk. As soon as I say hello she’s all ‘blah blah blah blah,'”

The other man nodded then talked about an app that tracks everything for his baby. Diapers, feeding schedule, everything. So he and his wife were on the same page and she doesn’t call him at work. Though she does text.

I had several thoughts as this conversation unfolded. First was why on earth had I tuned into this? Second was that the first guy was a moron and the second guy was smart. I get it that when you’re busy with work it’s rarely good to be interrupted with a personal call, especially when it happens often.

However, why hasn’t this guy done something about it? Perhaps a conversation with his wife would take care of the issue. Ask her to text or something, get the app, don’t answer unless you are able to talk, etc. Also, I hate it when people piss and moan about their significant other. It’s disrespectful and crappy.

The other guy handled this issue in a much better way. He and his wife got an app, probably had a conversation and he never said one negative word about her. His nod to his coworker indicated he understood and that was enough.

I’m feeling pretty judgy right now but he struck a nerve. I never gripe about my husband to anyone and he never complains about me to anyone. We respect each other enough to keep out mouths shut, even when we’re angry or irritated with each other. Well, to be honest I have complained that my husband never puts himself first but I don’t think that one counts as negative. It’s okay if you think I’m a hypocrite lol.

To change the subject, let’s talk writing. I made an important connection this morning while at the gym today. I was on the elliptical and thinking about my fantasy trilogy. Yesterday I started having new ideas for the first book. They came out of nowhere during physical therapy and grew throughout the day.

I woke up today with even more ideas and I was thinking about them while working out. I made a plan for what I wanted to write today and it hit me. Exercise. It was the key to unlocking my sad case of writer’s block!

Since coming home from vacation I had only gone to the gym once until Tuesday. Once I restarted my gym habit my muse came out of hiding. She’d poked her head out a bit for a writing prompt but not much else for a month. Now ideas are flowing easily. I almost have too many!

My writing was always easier and better after working out but I never realized I had inadvertently trained my muse to almost need the exercise first. When I look back to when the block started it all makes sense. It began with me getting into vacation mode. I was still working out but as it go closer to time to leave town I slacked. I wasn’t really writing much but it was fine because I was gathering stuff and making lists and generally preparing (excuses all).

I told myself I’d get work done on the plane or when there was down time at my in-laws’ house. It never happened. Then I came back home and I don’t know what came over me. I went to physical therapy two days in a row that week and it kicked my butt. I went to the gym once after that and my tooth disaster wrecked any chance of me working out again until this week. If you’ve ever had an abscessed tooth then you understand why I stayed home and felt sorry for myself. Also, no writing happened.

So on Monday school started and I had a PT appointment after dropping my daughter off. I told them I was done. I wanted back in the gym and they previously didn’t want me doing anything other than cardio while in their care. I plateaued a long time ago and at this point I was only making them money and getting nothing out of it.

On Tuesday I worked out, and yes I was careful not to overdo it. Or so I thought. I was so sore but I felt great. I went back to PT on Wednesday for one last time and asked a lot of questions about what I could and couldn’t do in the gym. They had me do all my exercise a final time, including some alterations so I could do some of them at home. I was almost done when the random idea struck. I must have had a dramatic physical reaction because when I came out of my writer’s trance several therapists were staring at me haha.

My husband had come with me so he had to listen to me babble about the idea all the way home. I was so excited that I don’t think he minded too much. He knows how I’ve struggled and how disheartened I’ve been about it.

This morning I went to work out again. It was hard! It was amazing too. Almost the entire time I was making stuff up, just like a writer should! It was even about the project I want to work on.

There are still issues I have to work through of course. For example. I came to Starbucks to write all these ideas down but instead I eavesdropped on someone’s conversation and decided to write about it. I’ll have to find a way to push distractions away. Writing a blog post isn’t so bad but other things need to be ignored.

I am a creature of habit so once I reestablish my routine, or come up with a new one and get used to it I’ll be good. My plan is to always write after working out. If I’m able to write again after lunch then I will. My muse likes structure so I will give her structure!  I will go to the gym daily to at least get on the elliptical for a while. I’m not sure what my schedule will be for the weights and machines yet but I’ll figure it out quickly.

The best thing about working out today is at this moment I feel no pain. I might wreck that by sitting here writing but I’ll find my way.

In other news there is a nerdy convention this weekend. I’m trying to decide if we’re going. It’s also my husband’s birthday on Saturday. He’s into the same stuff I am and I know he wants to go but with my unresolved (and expensive) dental issues we don’t know if it’s feasible to go to this thing. He says we shouldn’t do it just for him. I say we should. Now it’s in my hands. I need to decide soon but I haven’t heard back from the dentist about my insurance and price.

Okay, this is random but some guy just did one of my biggest pet peeves. It ranks up there with people complaining about their spouses to their coworkers, friends and family. I live in Texas, in a biggish hub city surrounded by many farms and ranches. This means there are more trucks on the road than small cars. There are some smaller trucks but I’m talking F150 and bigger.

This guy in an overly large Ford (a 250 I think) pulled into the parking lot here, deliberately taking up several spaces and actually blocking another car. My car. He’s lucky I’m hanging out for a while! I mean come on buddy. I know the truck is big but it can fit in ONE space. Or if his driving is so sucky he could have taken up two spaces further way from the door, where people don’t normally park. He was only here for a few minutes but still, he and his truck are not so important they should have the right to do that. What a dipsh…nevermind.

20160825_101018 I’ll just leave this here.

Okay, rant over. Time to get to work. I’ll post a writing update soon. I hope to have a lot to say!

 

 

Let’s Talk NaNoWriMo

Do you plan on participating in Nanowrimo in November this year?

What is NaNoWriMo? It stands for National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. In my case it’s more just write 50,000 words. I write fantasy so it will be about half a novel.

Why would you want to do something so crazy? It’s complicated and depends on who you ask so I’ll give you come pros and cons in seemingly random order:

  • Pro – It’s a good way to get yourself writing every day.
  • Con – You might not write 1667 every day.
  • Pro – By the end you could have a complete first draft.
  • Con – What you write will be utter crap.
  • Pro – When you remember all first drafts are terrible you’ll get over the previous con fast.
  • Pro -You might win.
  • Con -You might not win. So what? This is a made up competition you choose to have with yourself. The point is to write. However many words you write is that many more words than you had on October 31st.
  • Pro – If you get involved with your region’s group you will connect with other writers. I know writing is a solitary endeavor but sometimes we all need some socializing. Since writers tend to lean in the introvert direction you’ll probably be around a bunch of people as awkward and uncomfortable as you, for a few minutes. Then you realize you’ve found your people and can enjoy yourself. Picking up on writer vibes is a good thing. I like to call it positive peer pressure because when I’m around other people being creative I buckle down and get to work.
  • Pro – Also with getting involved you’re more likely to ‘win.’ The first year I did it I wrote about 25,000 words but I did it all on my own. The next year I got involved and went to write-ins and became active in my region’s Facebook group. I won easily and I’m convinced it was because I surrounded myself with other writers.
  • Pro – You’ll learn you can write more in a day than you ever believed, even if it’s not 1667 words.
  • Pro – You can plan or not. Some people are planners and some are pantsers. I previously believed I was a pantser and I still am to an extent. However I’m learning that a little loose planning goes a long way. I didn’t plan at all the first year but I managed to make it to the halfway mark. I did some minor planning last year and won. Everyone has a different system and you need to do what works for you.

If you choose to participate and it’s your first time, or if you don’t think you did well the first time, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Don’t write sentences that could have been and perhaps should have been much shorter than they end up being simply to satisfy your desire to meet your goals. Ugh! Horrible right? The first year I found myself trying so hard to make the word count goals that half my sentences looked like the one above! I was horrified when I read back through and swore to never do Nano again if crap like that was the result. Last year I didn’t exactly edit but when I found myself writing junk like this I mentally backtracked a bit and learned to not overdo it.
  • Meeting a word count is not worth the frustration of editing something you normally wouldn’t write. If you write bare bones in the first draft then by all means keep doing it.
  • Don’t beat yourself up if you write 99% dialog. Your muse is trying to get the story out, let it.
  • Same with he/she/it/the. If you find most of your sentences start with one of those words, it’s okay. You can’t type as fast as your muse can throw out ideas. Your brain auto inserts the same beginnings to give you time to get more thoughts out. You can make your sentences beautiful later.
  • Don’t fret if you write zero description. When I do Nanowrimo I don’t write about how the trees smell or what type they are. I don’t talk about how you can’t see the sky and only small shafts of sunlight penetrate the foliage. I don’t mention the sound of the horses’ hooves crunching fallen leaves or clattering on a dilapidated roadway. I say: “They rode through the dark forest,” and move on to the action. I can add the rest later.
  • Don’t compare your progress to anyone else’s! Everyone’s process is different and each person will be a different level. If you compare your 1600 words a day to that one woman who writes 10,000 a day you will only make yourself miserable. I did this exact thing the first year. What I didn’t realize is the woman I was envious of was writing what she called ‘smutty romance’ with very little plot. She didn’t care if it was good and neither did her readers. I write fantasy which is much more complicated. How on earth could there ever be a comparison? I’ll keep my envy reserved for Stephen King since I’d love to be that prolific.
  • Do be encouraging to others. You’ll find your effort appreciated and reciprocated. Besides, feeling good about yourself for helping another human being isn’t such a bad thing.
  • Don’t be disappointed if you don’t win. Remember that you are doing this to help yourself not to stress yourself out. Be happy with however many words you get on paper.
  • Do have a conversation with your loved ones. Even if you only are able to set aside an hour a day your family can deal with it. It’s not unreasonable for you to take some time for yourself.
  • Don’t become obsessed. Just write.
  • Do consider freezer meals. Look it up online and spend a day or two preparing meals you can freeze and throw in a slow cooker later. Even though I said don’t stress and don’t become obsessed you probably will. You’ll forget to eat or lose track of time. If you have your meals lined up you and your family will be forever grateful (if you’re the one who cooks).
  • Do invest in a few boxes of protein, cereal and granola bars for those times when your muse refuses to let you stop writing.
  • Do spend some time this month to plan. You can be a pantser and still do a little planning. A basic outline or synopsis could go a long way to keeping you on track. You don’t have to and probably won’t stick to either but at least you won’t forget what you were trying to accomplish. My personal suggestion is plot cards. Pin them up or use Scrivener (which has a lovely cork board feature and a free trial) to keep them organized.
  • If you blog, keep your readers updated on your progress. It will help keep you accountable to yourself and we want to know how you’re doing.
  • Do be prepared to explain what NaNoWriMo means to everyone who doesn’t write.
  • Do change locations. If you normally write on your couch or at your desk at home then go to a coffee shop for an hour or two. You’ll feel less isolated and a new environment could provide inspiration. If you usually go to coffee shops then go to a pub. I suggest going during the day though. You don’t have to get drunk, unless you want to.  Or try sitting on a park bench.
  • Do make a playlist if you like listening to music while you write. I don’t suggest something you’ll sing along to! I like soundtracks because there is normally powerful music in movies and I love that stuff.
  • Do consider using a timer for word sprints when you’re stuck. Once you get used to 10 minute spurts your happy muse will thank you!
  • Do go to nanowrimo.org later today to sign up and learn your way around the site. They are wiping out last years info and starting fresh for this year. I’m not sure when they will be up and running but probably lunch time.
  • As stated in the pros and cons, do get involved with your local region if one is available. It will make a world of difference. If one is not available then take advantage of the national forums, Facebook and Twitter. You’ll find tons of info and support. There are live word sprints and many other things designed to help you succeed.
  • One final tip. If you start planning your novel now and your muse starts begging to write it, give in and do it. Never deny yourself when the ideas are flowing. Remember, Nano is what you make it. There may be rules but they aren’t meant to stifle creativity. If you start now you can continue on in November. Just start word counting with what you write on November 1st.

I think every writer should try their hand at Nanowrimo at least once. This will be my third year. If I win, cool. If I don’t, fine. I’m looking forward to getting back in the habit of daily writing and creative bursts. Good luck to all who try it and happy writing!

Sidenote: The daily word count goal to reach 50,000 words is 1667. If it sounds unreasonably high consider this blog post. I started writing a list last night and used that to write the post this morning. I spent maybe a grand total of an hour and a half on it, which includes coming up with the dos and don’ts, the pros and cons and making the list (so basically the thinking) before actually writing the article. Not including the list from last night, I wrote 1563 words before this side note. Even if I’d taken twice as long, or three times that, I was still able to write a lot of words, in one morning. Don’t let the numbers overwhelm you! (This makes 1667 words!)

Writing Update

Sadly, for me, I don’t have much writing to update you on. I somehow managed to hurt my back. I didn’t do anything spectacular or fun to cause this. Over the last two weeks the pain I’ve had on and off for several months has gradually gotten worse. I can’t stay in any one position for longer than a couple of minutes. Bending forward, even a little, is awful and I’m a slumper so sitting at the computer for very long is out of the question. As my mother would say: I have to pain tolerance of a piss ant.

It’s gotten bad enough that I am going to go to the doctor tomorrow. That’s a pretty big deal for me. I never go to the doctor unless I find there is no other course of action. To give you an idea of my dislike for being seen by medical personnel: A couple of years ago I think I broke my tailbone (for the second time). I never went to the doctor because I had the first time and there was nothing they could do for me besides give me pain pills. I can’t take narcotic pain relievers so basically I paid a bunch of money to be told I would heal in time. Why go back just to be told the same thing?

I’m learning this decision was probably a mistake because I’m pretty sure all the things I do to keep my tailbone from hurting have contributed to whatever is happening with my back. I only hope that they don’t say “Here, have some pain meds.” But I’d love to hear the doctor tell me all I need is a little recuperation time. My mother has had many back surgeries due to pinched nerves and various vertebrae issues. I’m crossing my fingers this isn’t some ‘run in the family’ thing. I know I’m scaring myself unnecessarily but I’d rather be prepared for the worst than surprised by it.

On the bright side, all this pain has greatly influenced some horrible things I’m going to do to one of my main characters. I’ve been taking notes and running scenes through my head constantly even though I haven’t written them yet. This poor guy will be in almost constant pain for a good portion of the first book. That was always the plan, but now I have more detailed plans and I certainly know how to describe it better. One friend told me when he reads a book he wants the protagonist to suffer. Another said “Everything is writing.” I’m taking both of these things to heart. If I can’t sit and type it, I can always imagine it for later writing. It sounds odd but I hope I can hold onto the negative emotions swirling around long enough to write some of these planned scenes.

The big class I’m taking is temporarily on hold but there is a smaller course that I work on periodically I can concentrate on for a while. It’s mostly reading and I can do that whether I’m sitting up, laying down, pacing, etc.

I may or may not be able to do my regular Wednesday and Saturday posts. If I don’t and you would like a prompt, I went back and numbered all the Saturday challenge posts and the Wednesday ones are dated so you can use older prompts if you’re so inclined.

Hopefully my next update will be less complaining and more writing!

I Don’t Feel Like Writing Today

As the title states, I don’t feel like writing today. I could give you a ton excuses/reasons why:

  1. I don’t feel good.
  2. I’m having a massive reaction/adjustment to allergy medicine.
  3. I didn’t sleep last night.
  4. I’m grumpy.
  5. I can hardly concentrate.
  6. My daughter is home sick and the TV is LOUD!
  7. Blah, blah, blah, yadda, yadda, yadda.

As a writer who actually wants to be successful and takes the job seriously, there is only one answer I could give myself to the list above. I’m going to write.

So I feel crappy, so do thousands of other people who are at work right now. Sleep deprivation? Well that tends to come with the territory so I might as well strike if from the excuse list. Grumpy? I’m a typical redhead, I’ll get over it soon. Concentration issues? Well that’s been an issue for years, since I quit smoking, so I already know how to handle that. The allergy thing is in its final stages and quite frankly I’m tired of it controlling my life so I’ll fight through all that. As for my kid being sick, she’s fourteen and fully capable of calling out if she needs something. The TV however, is going to be turned down!

I’m treating this blog post (and two others I scheduled) as a warm up, a lot like I do for my Saturday six-minute thing. I have too much to do to sit here and feel sorry for myself because I don’t feel like doing anything. I’ve already wasted the morning away watching Buffy sing and reading nonsense online.

So, wish me luck. I intend to finish a lesson of my writing class and write a flash fiction piece or two. If I’m lucky I’ll get a couple of chapters of my WIP written.


Sidenote: Flash fiction stories are what I’m writing for Camp Nanowrimo this year, so that is two goals in one for the day.

Random Writing Tip – Free-writing to Prime Your Muse

Sometimes when I want to work on my WIP I sit down at the computer and…nothing. No ideas, no creativity, no words come out. My muse is: sleeping, hiding, sulking, missing, etc. I used to get irritated and try to force myself to work. Still nothing. Finally I turned to free-writing. It’s kind of like stretching before exercising. It’s priming the pump. If I do this for either 10, 15, or 20 minutes (depending on mood) then I generally manage to get my creativity going. If you want to try this all you need to do is grab a timer and either pen and paper or get on your computer. Set the timer for 10 minutes the first time, to see if that works for you, and write. It doesn’t matter what you write. It can be awful, it can be a whole lot of nothing. The point is to do the process and get yourself in the mood to create. I personally like to use a pen and paper to do this. Since I normally do my writing on a computer, this works as a nice little change-up for my brain. The first time I did it, I felt ridiculous. What I wrote in the beginning was silly. It started a lot like this:

I have no idea what on earth to write. All I know is I can’t seem to get started today. My muse hates me or it’s busy. I wish I could just write whenever I want to. It’s really frustrating to finally have the time to do it and then have nothing to say.

More of this went on for several minutes but about halfway into it I started writing the pros and cons of writing when you have a timer sitting next to you. When said timer went off I ignored it and kept going for another 10 minutes. After that I upped the time I did this exercise for. I certainly didn’t write a thing of beauty, but I did write. Afterwards I turned to the computer and ended up writing several scenes, some back story meant only for me, and an amazing fight scene. It won’t be that great every single time, but if it helps even a little then it’s worth it. Some people work better when under pressure and if you’re one of those then I encourage you to use a timer often. http://lifehacker.com/productivity-101-a-primer-to-the-pomodoro-technique-1598992730. This link will take you to one of the many ways to use a timer effectively.

I’ll be honest with you. The first few times I did this I wrote more like the quote above. Eventually I got to the point where I would write about my day, or my dogs, kids, husband. Sometimes I would look around my office and pick something random and write anything I could think of about it. Again, think of this like stretching. If your pen is moving, or your fingers are hitting keys, then you are doing it right. Experiment to find the amount of time that works for you.

Happy writing!

Eureka and all that…

I had a breakthrough in re-plotting tonight. Thanks to Ryan at A Writer’s Path. In his post he explains the seven point structure. It isn’t something I have ever tried to before. I’m not even sure why, I’ve read a little about it before. I guess I somehow assumed it wouldn’t work for me. When I saw Ryan’s post I figured nothing else was working, I should give it a try. It’s so simple and makes so much sense. I feel silly for not trying it earlier. I have no idea if it will work with other projects I have but I certainly will try it out. I can’t keep being a creature of habit. Change is good. Obviously trying something new can break you out of a rut. If you haven’t already, go visit A Writer’s Path, it could help you too.

Writing Prompts, Helpful or Not?

I’m of two minds when it comes to writing prompts. Some can be helpful and others aren’t. I got a book of daily prompts. It consisted of a list of words that you were supposed to pick three of and write, well anything. That did nothing for me. It made me freeze up and anything I managed to write was awful. I hear that type works for a lot of people and if you’re one of those people, that’s awesome. Continue doing what you’re doing. For me, it makes me feel boxed in and pressured. I have the type of personality that rebels against being told what to do, even when it’s ME doing the bossing around. Occasionally the list of words worked for me. Mostly it was nonsense that came out. I’ll give some examples of these lists.

  • money, great, sort, now, flower
  • torch, pop, swallow, beige, snow
  • kind, wonderful, chicken, yogurt, after

If you’re anything like me you see those lists and think: huh? That doesn’t do much for me. Added that almost everything I write is fantasy, I get nothing. Not one thing in that list interests me. If seeing that gives you the best idea on the planet then you need to buy one of those books that gives you 365 days worth of lists and have at it. Let me know what you came up with.

One kind of prompt can do wonders for me. I saw one recently that said something like – You are given a key that can unlock only one lock, any lock, what would you do with it? I can make a story out of that! Another said – Your character finds something small lying on the ground along their path, what is it and what does it do? I can and did use that to make a cool subplot in a series I’ve been working on. I see that type of prompt as almost a what-if question and I love what-ifs for plotting, characters, anything!

Another prompt I don’t care for is the ‘describe me’ type. Examples: 1. Describe your hometown to someone who’s never been there. 2. Write the rules to your favorite game. That’s boring!

A better one would be: Pretend you’re a rock, tree, building, etc, and tell the story of a momentous event from its point of view. I haven’t tried this one but it’s on my list because that could be interesting.

So some work for me and some don’t Do writing prompts work for you? Please tell me most of you actually get writer’s block too. If prompts don’t work, what does it for you?

What If?

I don’t know about the rest of the writers out there but I find what if questions extremely helpful. If I’m trying to figure out a character, or I’m struck with writer’s block that kind of question is my go-to first step.

I’ll give an example of how it’s helped me. About a year and a half ago I decided to write a middle grade fantasy story. I had this random idea for a story about a fairy that didn’t really fit in with other fairies. I don’t normally like fairy stuff but I went with it. Maybe she would suck at magic or maybe be clumsy when flying. I didn’t like either of those so I started with the what-if’s.

What if she wasn’t good at magic because she couldn’t do magic the way the other fairies wanted her to because her magic worked different? What if all she wanted in life was to become a fairy godmother but failed to achieve that? What if she had no idea if she could fly because fairies didn’t fly anymore? What if she looked different than all the other fairies? What if she made some friends that also wanted to be fairy godmothers but couldn’t for some reason?

I somehow came up with hundreds more. Each what-if made me think of another. Eventually this turned into my nanowrimo project for this year. The idea wasn’t new but I had been working on other things. Plus I was too scared to write it because I had never written something like that before.

So a story idea about a fairy who didn’t fit in turned into more. It is about a fairy named Tomorrow (Tommie) who wants to be a fairy godmother more than anything. In the Fairy Godmother Academy, she learned that magic had to be carefully controlled. Creation magic was forbidden. For centuries the fairy community had used creation magic to change themselves to look more human. They got taller and their wings got smaller until most were born with no wings. No fairy alive could fly. As a whole the fairies were less powerful than that had been. No one remembered why, but everyone agreed that creation magic had been depleted and it was dangerous to use. Then Tommie was born. She was like the fairies of old. She was small, about four feet tall when the rest were near five feet. She had wings that were larger than her body was. She had huge purple eyes. But the biggest difference was that she was more powerful than the rest of her community. A lot more powerful. Controlling her magic only caused chaos and using it the way that came natural to her only got her in trouble. Eventually she has her final exam to become a godmother but failed. Various adventures ensue. Along the way she makes some friends who want to become fairy godparents too. Not one of them is a fairy and each of them is a little different than their families and peers. They start a campaign to change the rules when a bigger problem occurs. The gates to the fairy realm are failing.

Not too bad a base to start with. All of it started with the one what-if question: What if there was a fairy that wasn’t good at magic because hers worked differently than everyone else?

I still have a long way to go and I’ll keep asking my what-if’s until I don’t need them. This is only the beginning of a series. What tricks work for the rest of you? I hear people say ideas are cheap but I’m always looking for new ways to generate them.

Now I know I said I might talk about minotaurs in my last post. That one is in the next book. As I was researching him and making a character sketch, I realized I haven’t quite figured him out. What I know is that he is not evil. He might have evil urges but he’s choosing to be good. He’s got perfect memory. I mean he lived in a labyrinth, he had to be able to find his way around. I think instead of it being just one guy from Greek mythology, he will come from an actual race (maybe a created one). There aren’t that many around though and they are all bad. He might be a vegetarian. Tommie and her friends will meet him in their travels along with a really tall gnome, who was raised by garden gnomes.