Not a week goes by where authors I’m working with or places that I’m speaking at that, where I don’t get this question: Do you have any quick tips for getting unstuck in writing?
My answer has multiple components, but it starts with one word: Yes
We all get stuck once in a while … so know that you aren’t alone. First, take a break—meaning—transition and move your head to another place. Whether it’s a TV series blitz, a movie day, friend day, moving yourself to a different location, and just absorbing what’s around you … take a break. It’s the first thing I do.
Or this has a talk, a mug of your favorite tea, even a glass of wine, with your “ideal” reader. This is a “virtual” chat—put the laptop top-down; imagine that he or she is directly opposite of you.
What problems are you facing?
Fiction authors will tell you that their characters talk to them. For nonfiction, I put myself in a “scene” where what I’m writing about is actually happening—what flows from that is always insightful … and at times, a surprise.
Sometimes, I get out a grid of unconnected words; close my eyes, and let my finger drop on one, then another, and finally one more. On a piece of paper, I write out by hand for five minutes using those three words in the first paragraph. It can be wacky what comes out; other times, quite perceptive. What the process does is that it pulls me back into the creative zone and I’m off and running again.
Below are additional tips I’ve found in my 30 plus years of publishing that get me across the writing finishing line.
- Get crystal clear on your target reader. Narrow, narrow, narrow. Don’t confuse your thinking—your book is not for everyone.
Picture your ideal reader. For example, if you are writing a cozy mystery, I bet it’s a woman, most likely middle-aged. What else is she? If a YA book, teens are in front of you. What are they doing? Thinking? Texting about? If a business book, what are you revealing? Who in the workplace is dealing with it? What value will your book bring to them?
Keep your target reader in mind as you write. Have a mug of coffee or tea with them. Start a discussion … how’s the day—what problems have occurred the past week. Let your imagination run here.
- Remove distractions. What are your time-wasters? For many authors, social media, i.e. Facebook, can be a huge distraction. TV and YouTube also fill hours. Put yourself on a social media diet. If you have a day job and/or a family to take care of, it means your time is limited. You can’t eliminate the job or the family, but you can control where you waste time—seek and eliminate.
- Write your first draft as fast as you can. Really fast. Wherever authors got the idea that the first chapter, the first draft is close to perfection have been blatantly misled. Neither is. Perfection is your enemy. Let the “mess” unroll, then go back and start the tweaking process. My truthiness: Most writers, write much faster, when they just let the story flow without going back trying to make everything right.
- Stay on focus. Two of my quotes from my book Snappy Sassy Salty-Wise Words for Authors and Writers that I constantly remind authors to memorize and write out are:
If you never say “NO” … your “YESES” are worthless.
Put those two phrases on sticky notes and post them everywhere. It’s the focus factor.
My truthiness: it’s OK to write a bad first draft. Give yourself permission.
Another truthiness: if you don’t get words onto the blank page, you won’t have anything to work with later. Turn off your internal editor and start writing and finishing your book. Let it flow. And have some fun in the process.
And a final truthiness: Stephen King shares, “There is a muse, but he’s not going to come fluttering down into your writing room and scatter creative fairy-dust all over your typewriter…”
What say you?
Judith Briles is a book publishing expert and coach. She empowers authors and works directly with authors who want to be seriously successful and has been writing about and conducting workshops on publishing since the ’80s. Judith is the author of 37 books including Author YOU: Creating and Building Your Author and Book Platforms, Snappy Sassy Salty: Wise Words for Authors and Writers, and How to Create a $1,000,000 Speech. Her personal memoir When God Says NO-Revealing the YES When Adversity and Loss Are Present is a #1 bestseller on Amazon. Collectively, her books have earned over 45 book awards. Judith speaks throughout the year at publishing conferences.
Throughout the year, she holds Judith Briles Book Unplugged experiences: Publishing, Speaking, Marketing, and Social Media. All are two-day intensive limited to a small group of authors who want to be seriously successful. Join Judith live for the “AuthorU-Your Guide to Book Publishing” podcast on the Toginet Radio Network HERE.
Follow @AuthorUYOUBooks and @MyBookShepherd on Twitter and do a “Like” at AuthorU, and join the Facebook group Book Publishing with The Book Shepherd. If you want to create a book that has no regrets, contact me.