Writing and Editing Archive

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Personalizing Your Character’s Emotional Wound

By jbj_admin

Becca Puglisi

Guest blog by: Becca Puglisi

Emotional wounds are tricky to write about.

Abuse, betrayal, victimization, and the death of a loved one may exist in our characters’ pasts and so must be explored.

But these are also real life events that cause damage to real people.

So as I talk today about personalizing wounds for our characters, please know that I’m aware of the pain they cause in our world, and I applaud the courageous individuals who fight to come to grips with them every day.

Why Wounding Events Matter in Fiction

Wounding events greatly affect a character’s development, so they’re important to identify.

These painful experiences are deeply impactful, giving birth to life-altering fears, new habits and behaviors, even flaws meant to protect her from facing that pain again.

Wounding events are aptly named because they change who the character is; until they’re faced and addressed, she will never be whole.

But pinpointing what that event might be for a character is just the first step.

Traumas affect people differently; something that would destroy one character may have no lasting impact on another.

The wounding experience should be one that stops the protagonist in her tracks, making it impossible for her to achieve that story goal that will result in personal fulfillment.

However, you can maximize the impact of a traumatic event on a character by making it more personal.

You can accomplish this by knowing the following factors that can impact a wound and incorporating them into your story:

Personality

Some people are simply better equipped to deal with difficulty than others. An anxious or embittered person may find it harder to deal with a traumatic event than someone with an optimistic outlook or an adaptable nature.

So build the necessary traits into her personality before tragedy strikes.

Support

A strong support system is hugely helpful in facilitating healing for a victim. Loyal loved ones, a steady faith, or a supportive community can make it easier for someone to spring back, whereas a victim suffering alone may have a harder time.

Physical Proximity

The closer the danger, the more traumatic it can be.

A violent bank robbery may impact the employees, the customers, a security guard, etc. But the teller with the gun stuck in her face may take longer to recover than anyone else.

Emotional Proximity

It’s harrowing to be conned by a stranger, but someone you know causes even more damage, breeding self-doubt and making it difficult to trust others in the future.

Responsibility

It’s commonplace to replay a horrific event, picking it apart to figure out how it could have been avoided. This often results in the victim blaming herself, even when she was in no way at fault.

So if you need to intensify an already difficult circumstance, add an element of self-blame.

Justice

Seeing the perpetrator pay for what he’s done often provides closure that can set the victim on the path to healing.

On the other hand, knowing the criminal is still out there and free to strike again can cause a wound to fester.

Compounding Events

A trauma is horrible enough, but it often sets other events in motion that the wounded character is ill equipped to deal with.

Someone who has lost a child may also face divorce, be unjustly blamed, or lose a job due to depression.

Compounding events are the equivalent of someone kicking the victim when she’s down.

Just as you can use these factors to make a rough circumstance more difficult for your protagonist, you can also tweak them to soften their impact on other characters.

So as you dig into the backstory to unearth your characters’ pain, consider how deeply you want them affected.

Despite having experienced wounding events of our own, applying them to our characters can be daunting.

I’ll be lurking around the comments section to answer any questions.

Thank you, Jerry, for hosting me today!


Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels, including the latest member of the family: The Emotional Wound Thesaurus. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.


Related Posts:

The Ultimate Guide to Character Development: 10 Steps to Creating Memorable Heroes

How to Write a Book: Everything You Need to Know in 20 Steps

249 Powerful Verbs That’ll Instantly Supercharge Your Writing

The post Personalizing Your Character’s Emotional Wound appeared first on Jerry Jenkins | Proven Writing Tips.

Via:: Jerry Jenkins

      

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A Writer’s Guide to Point of View

By jbj_admin

Point of view voices

Budding writers often ask me:

“How do I master Point of View?”

The inability to grasp this concept is the most common problem I see in aspiring novelists.

Veteran editor Dave Lambert says, “No decision you make will impact the shape and texture of your story more than your choice of Point of View.”

So let’s straighten it out, shall we?

After you read this post, you’ll know the crucial POV rules and techniques professional writers use (and publishers look for)—and how to apply them to your story.

What is Point of View?

Things to understand about Point of View before we break it down:

1. Point of View is really two things:

A. The Voice with which you tell your story.

Not to be confused with the tone or sound of your writing (think of that Voice as your writing attitude), this is your choice to tell it in First Person (I), Second Person (you), or Third Person (he, she, or it).

B. Your Perspective Character.

Basically, that answers “Whose story is this?”

2. The cardinal rule of Point of View:

Limit yourself to one Perspective Character per scene, preferably per chapter, ideally per book.

That means no switching POV characters within the same scene, let alone within the same paragraph or sentence.

(Yes, that’s a common amateur mistake, and it results in head-hopping—a giant Point of View no-no I cover in more detail below.)

Point of View is worth stressing over, it’s that important.

Even pros have to remind themselves to avoid sliding into an Omniscient viewpoint.

I avoid that by imagining my Point of View or Perspective Character as my camera—I’m limited to writing only what my character “camera” sees, hears, and knows.

In essence, I’m limited to his or her perspective.

Breaking Down the Point of View Voices

While POV is limited to one perspective character at a time, each of the three primary voices may be written in the present or past tense.

First Person Point of View

In this POV, the perspective character tells the story.

First Person is the second most common voice in fiction, but I recommend it for many beginning novelists, because it forces you to limit your viewpoint to one Perspective Character—which you should do with all POVs except Omniscient.

My first 13 novels (The Margo Mysteries) were written in first-person past tense.

First Person Examples

The most common use of first-person is past tense.

Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick begins in present tense but immediately switches to past:

Call me Ishmael. Some years ago, never mind how long precisely, having little or no money in my purse and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world.

While I recommend first-person, I think you’d find present tense awkward and difficult to sustain.

On the other hand, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is rendered that way and has become one of the most successful novel series ever.

If you have colossal writing talent and an idea as cosmic as hers, feel free to ignore my counsel and go for it. 😊 Here’s how hers begins:

When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold. My fingers stretch out, seeking Prim’s warmth but finding only the rough canvas cover of the mattress. She must have had bad dreams and climbed in with our mother. Of course, she did. This is the day of reaping.

Second Person Point of View

This point of view uses “you, your” construction, and the narrator makes “you,” the reader, become the protagonist.

Though rare in fiction and far more popular in non-fiction, it’s been said that because it plunges the reader into the action of the story, second person can bring a sense of immediacy to a novel.

I wouldn’t dare attempt it and don’t recommend it.

Second Person Examples

Jay McInerney used second-person present tense in Bright Lights, Big City this way:

You are not the kind of guy who would be at a place like this at this time of the morning. But here you are, and you cannot say that the terrain is entirely unfamiliar, although the details are fuzzy. You are at a nightclub talking to a girl with a shaved head.

You can see how this method forces the reader, in essence, to become a character and how difficult that might be for the writer to sustain for 300 or 400 pages.

Third Person Point of View

Finally, we’ve come to the most commonly used point of view in storytelling— third-person.

Third Person Limited

When written in third-person limited, the story is about he or she/him or her, or the character is mentioned by name.

As with all other POVs besides Omniscient, the writer is limited to one perspective character—your camera.

Everything you write must be seen through that camera: your perspective character’s eyes, ears, and mind.

Third Person Omniscient

Here the story is still about he or she, but the narrator writes from the all-knowing, all-seeing perspective and is not even limited by time.

Because so many of us were raised on the classics with their Omniscient author/narrator, it seems ingrained in us to want to know and tell all about every character onstage and off.

We even want to tell unseen things and things yet unseen. Such miraculous foretellings were often worded like: “Little did our hero know that 20 miles away, what would happen to him the next day was already being planned.”

Writing from that perspective might sound like an advantage, but fiction from an Omniscient viewpoint rarely succeeds in the traditional or indie markets today.

In non-fiction, the Omniscient narrator is common and makes sense, because you’re an expert trying to teach or persuade, and so you adopt a posture of knowing everything and telling everything.

Third Person Examples

Because many readers find third-person present tense weird, you won’t find it in many novels.

It would sound something like this:

Fritz skips out to the garage, fishing in his pocket for his keys. He slips behind the wheel and starts the car.

You can imagine how distracting that would be to the reader if maintained throughout.

By far, the most common choice for modern fiction is third-person past tense.

My perspective character at the start of Left Behind is an airline pilot.

I write it in third-person limited, past tense:

Rayford Steele’s mind was on a woman he had never touched. With his fully loaded 747 on autopilot above the Atlantic en route to a 6 a.m. landing at Heathrow, Rayford had pushed from his mind thoughts of his family.

As I mentioned above, the cardinal rule of POV is to limit yourself to one perspective character per scene, preferably per chapter, ideally per book.

If you’re J.K. Rowling, however, whose bestselling Harry Potter series gloriously breaks this rule, you have my wholehearted permission to ignore this advice.

Head-hopping is the problem.

Here’s an example of what it would have looked like, had I forgotten to limit myself to a single camera (Rayford) as the Perspective Character in Left Behind:

Rayford Steele’s mind was on a woman he had never touched. Meanwhile, his co-pilot was wondering what Rayford was thinking as he gazed out the cockpit window.

See how I slipped out of Rayford’s perspective and into the copilot’s from one sentence to the next?

That’s head hopping—hopping in and out of various characters’ heads.

That takes me from Third Person Limited to Omniscient. And Omniscient narrators are decades out of fashion.

The Secret to Using Multiple Points of View in the Same Story

Multiple main characters in a story

In the Left Behind novel series (Tyndale House Publishers), I alternated between as many as five perspective characters per book, but never within the same scene. And I made it crystal clear every time I switched.

I would add an extra space between paragraphs, insert what’s called a typographical dingbat—like this: ###—and fully introduce the new POV character:

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, Buck Williams sat hunched over his laptop…

In my novel The Valley of the Dry Bones (Worthy Publishing), I employ a single Perspective Character for the entire book.

Employing The Most Popular Point of View

If you’re a beginning writer, you might assume you must write in the first person, your Perspective Character referring to himself or herself as I.

But third-person limited is the most common choice for contemporary fiction.

Following is an example of how to effectively employ that voice.

A writer asked how he could better describe his character to portray her legalism and self-righteousness.

You can see how this would be easy if written in first person from her standpoint.

But how do we do it in third person limited?

His original:

Mother Clotilde sat at an ornate desk absentmindedly fingering a string of beads encircling her waist as she leafed through a thick leather-bound Bible. She looked like something unearthed at a dig.

Did you catch the POV violation?

Mother Clotilde is the perspective character, but because she’s alone, we can’t really say she “looked like something unearthed at a dig.”

Another character could say that or think that, if we were in that character’s POV. Needless to say, Mother Clotilde would not describe herself that way.

Which POV Will You Choose?

Choose wisely, because the decision could make the difference between your manuscript landing a contract or being rejected.

Our job as novelists is to pull our readers so deeply into our story that they even forget they’re turning the pages.

Your Point of View choices can make that happen.

What POV have you chosen for your work-in-progress? Tell me and explain why in Comments.

Related Posts:

Showing vs. Telling: What You Need to Know

How to Overcome Writer’s Block Once and for all: My Surprising Solution

How to Write a Book: Everything You Need to Know in 20 Steps

The post A Writer’s Guide to Point of View appeared first on Jerry Jenkins | Proven Writing Tips.

Via:: Jerry Jenkins

      

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How to Write Dialogue That Captivates Your Reader

By jbj_admin

How to write dialogue with backstory

If the dialogue you write bores you, it’ll put your reader to sleep.

And unfortunately, your first reader will be an agent or an editor. You can’t slip anything boring past them.

Your job is to make every word count. That’s the way to keep your reader riveted until the final page—no small task.

Making every word count is how to write compelling dialogue.

Readers love dialogue because:

  • It breaks up intimidating blocks of narrative summary.
  • It differentiates (through dialect and word choice) and reveals characters.
  • Done well, it can move the story without author intrusion.

But, as you have likely discovered, writing great dialogue is hard. If yours is bloated or obvious or telling or is in any other way uninteresting, readers won’t stay with you long.

So how about we leave them no choice?

6 Tips to Writing Effective Dialogue

1. Cut to the Bone

Unless you need to reveal a character as a brainiac or a blowhard pretending to be one, omit needless words.

Obviously, you wouldn’t render a conversation the way a court transcript includes repetition and even um, ah, uh, etc.

But even beyond that, see how much you can chop without losing the point.

Like this:

“What do you want to do this Sunday? I thought wWe could go to the amusement park.”

“I was thinking about renting a rowboat,” Vladimir said.on one of the lakes.

“Oh, Vladimir, that sounds wonderful! I’ve never gone rowing before.”

That doesn’t mean all your dialogue has to be short and choppy—just that you’ll cut the dead wood to keep to the point.

You’ll be surprised by how much power it adds to your prose.

2. Reveal Backstory

Layering in backstory through dialogue is another way to keep your reader turning pages.

Hinting at some incident for the first time is an automatic setup that demands a payoff.

Example:

As they headed toward the house, Janet whispered, “Can we not have a repeat of Cincinnati?”

Jeanie shot her a double take. “Believe me, I don’t want that any more than you do.”

“Good,” Janet said. “I mean—”

“Can we not talk about it, please?”

What normal reader wouldn’t assume they will talk about it at some point and stay with the story until they do?

As the story progresses, you can reveal more and more about your protagonist’s past and have your story come full circle.

This accomplishes two things: it offers a setup that should intrigue the reader, and it helps you avoid flashbacks.

3. Reveal Character

Your reader learns a lot about your characters through dialogue.

You don’t have to TELL us they’re sarcastic, witty, narcissistic, kind, or anything else.

You can SHOW us by how they interact and by what they say.

4. Be Subtle

Dialogue can accomplish a number of tasks.

Here are three:

1. Subtext—where people say other than what they mean.

This can be fun.

Example:

My friend Dr. Dennis E. Hensley sold a short story to a general-market magazine years ago about a girl named Cindy who falls in love with the slightly older boy next door, who sees her as just a little sister type.

When they get to high school, Tommy is the big man on campus, captain of the football team, dating the head cheerleader, and pretty much ignoring Cindy. She’s just his younger neighbor and friend.

Tommy leaves for college and word soon gets back to Cindy during her senior year of high school that he and his girlfriend have broken up.

So when he comes home after his freshman year of college and is changing a tire on his car, Cindy just happens to walk outside. She strikes up a conversation with Tommy, and he looks up, stunned. Who is this beauty…little Cindy from next door?

She says, “Making a change, are you?”

Tommy looks at the tire and back at her and says, “Yeah, I actually I am making a change.”

Cindy says, “Well, I’ve heard that rotating can be a good thing.”

And he says, “Yeah, I’ve heard that too.”

That’s subtext. They’re not saying what they really mean. They’re not really talking about changing the tire, are they?

2. Sidestepping—when a character responds to a question without answering it.

Instead, what the character says is so profound and unexpected that it offers a whole new understanding of what’s going on.

Example:

In the movie Patch Adams, the late Robin Williams played a brilliant young doctor who believes the Old Testament adage that “laughter is the best medicine.”

He goes into the children’s cancer ward of a hospital wearing an inflated surgical glove on his head, making him look like a rooster. He wears bedpans for shoes and stomps about, flapping his arms and squawking.

The children find it hilarious, but hospital directors consider it undignified and demand he stop.

Patch Adams is trying to make one girl in particular—a hospital volunteer—laugh. But while everyone else thinks he’s funny, she never cracks a smile.

Finally, Patch leaves the hospital to open a clinic in the country. Imagine his surprise when that humorless young lady appears to help him set up.

At one point, she goes outside to rest, so Patch follows and sits opposite her. He says, “I’ve got to ask. Everybody thinks I’m hysterical, but you. I’ve tried everything. What is it with you? Why don’t you ever think anything I say is funny?”

After several seconds of silence, she says, “Men have liked me all my life…all my life…” And we realize by the way she says it, she was abused as a child.

Suddenly, we understand what this girl is all about. She doesn’t trust men, and she doesn’t laugh, because life isn’t funny.

The way she responded did not answer his question. Her problem had nothing to do with him or his humor.

Finally, Patch realizes that some things aren’t funny.

Some things you just don’t make fun of. Sometimes, you need to quit cracking jokes and just listen.

It’s a great turnaround in the story. And an example of sidestep dialogue.

3. Silence

The old truism that silence can be golden rings true for our last technique.

Many, including Abraham Lincoln, have been credited with the line: “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.”

One of the toughest things to learn as a writer is to avoid filling silent gaps.

Just like we shouldn’t tell what’s not happening in a story, neither do we need to write that someone didn’t respond or didn’t answer.

If you don’t say they did, the reader will know they didn’t.

Example:

“Well John,” Linda said, “what do you have to say for yourself?”

John set his jaw and stared out the window.

“I’m waiting,” she said.

He lit a cigarette.

Linda shook her head. “I swear, John, honestly.”

Now, too many writers feel the need to write here, “But he refused to say anything,” or “But he never responded.”

Don’t! We know, we get it—and it’s loud, effective, silent dialogue.

The reader knows because John is saying nothing, and yet saying everything. Silence is golden.

5. Read Your Dialogue Out Loud

Reading Your Dialogue Out Loud

One way to be certain your dialogue flows is to read it aloud or even act it out.

Doc Hensley uses this method, and when his children were little, they found it amusing.

They would invite friends over, stand outside his closed door, and listen as he acted out his scenes.

He’d say, “I know you stole the loot!” And then he’d jump into a chair and respond, “I didn’t do it! I’m innocent!”

His kids’ friends would say, “Who’s your dad arguing with?” And his daughter would say, “It’s just him.”

Anything that doesn’t sound right won’t read right either, so rewrite it until it does.

6. Create a “Make My Day” Moment

Certain iconic lines of dialogue have become as legendary as the films and books they originate from:

  • “Frankly my dear…”
  • “There’s no place like home.”
  • “We’re not in Kansas anymore.”
  • “To my big brother George, the richest man in town.”
  • “What we have here is failure to communicate.”
  • “Go ahead, make my day.”
  • “May the force be with you.”
  • “Houston, we have a problem.”
  • “Run, Forrest, run!”
  • “You had me at hello.”

Most writers — even bestselling novelists — never create such an unforgettable line of dialogue. But striving to create one is a worthy effort.

Ironically, it should fit so seamlessly it doesn’t draw attention to itself until fans begin quoting it.

How to Use Dialogue Tags to Identify Speakers

Dialogue attribution tags—he said, she said, etc.—indicate who is speaking.

Resist the urge to get creative here. Said is almost always your best choice.

Teachers who urge you to find alternatives are usually unpublished and believe agents and editors will be impressed.

Trust me, they won’t be.

Avoid mannerisms of attribution. People say things. They don’t wheeze, gasp, sigh, laugh, grunt or snort them.

They might do any of those things while saying them, which might be worth mentioning, but the emphasis should be on what is said, and readers just need to know who is saying it.

Keep it simple. All those other descriptors turn the spotlight on an intrusive writer.

Sometimes people whisper or shout or mumble, but let their choice of words indicate they’re grumbling, etc.

If it’s important that they sigh or laugh, separate that action from the dialogue.

Jim sighed. “I can’t take this anymore.”

Not: Jim sighed, “I can’t take this anymore.”

Though you read them in school readers and classic fiction, attribution tags such as use of reply, retort, exclaim, and declare have become clichéd and archaic.

You’ll still see them occasionally, but I suggest not using them.

Often no attribution is needed.

Use dialogue tags only when the reader wouldn’t otherwise know who’s speaking.

I once wrote an entire novel, The Last Operative, without attributing a single line of dialogue. Not a said, an asked, anything.

I made clear through action who was speaking, and not one reader, even my editor, noticed.

A common error is characters addressing each other by name too often.

Real people rarely do this, and it often seems planted only to avoid a dialogue tag. Fictional dialogue should sound real.

Don’t start your dialogue attribution tag with said. Rather, end with said.

…said Joe or …said Mary, reads like a children’s book. Substitute he and she for the names and that will make it obvious.

…said he or said she just doesn’t sound right.

Use said after the name for the best sound. …Joe said or …Mary said.

Resist the urge to explain, and give the reader credit.

The amateur writer often writes something like this:

“I’m beat,” exclaimed John tiredly.

Besides telling and not showing — violating a cardinal rule of writing — it uses the archaic exclaimed for said, misplaces that before the name rather than after, and adds the redundant tiredly.

The pro would write:

John dropped onto the couch. “I’m beat.”

That shows rather than tells, and because John’s action has been described, we don’t need an attribution tag to know he’s speaking.

How to Punctuate Dialogue

Few things expose a beginner like incorrect punctuation, especially in dialogue.

Agents and editors justifiably wonder if you read dialogue, let alone whether you can write it, if you write something like: “I don’t know.” she said. Or, “What do you think?” He said.

To avoid common mistakes:

  • Start a new paragraph for each speaker
  • When one character’s dialogue extends to more than one paragraph, start each subsequent paragraph with a double quotation mark, and place your closing double quotation mark only at the end of the final paragraph.
  • Place punctuation inside the quotation marks, the dialogue tag outside: “John was just here asking about you,” Jim said.
  • The attribution tag goes after the first clause of a compound sentence: “Not tonight,” he said, “not in this weather.”
  • When dialogue ends with a question or exclamation mark, the dialogue tag following the quotation marks should be lowercase: “I’m glad you’re here!” she said.
  • Action before dialogue takes a separate sentence: Anna shook her head. “I can’t believe she’s gone!”
  • Quoting within a quote requires single quotation marks: “Lucy, Mom specifically said, ‘Do not cut your bangs,’ and you did it anyway!”
  • When action or attribution interrupts dialogue, use lowercase as dialogue resumes: “That,” she said, “hurt bad.”

Dialogue Examples

If you’re old enough to remember the original Twilight Zone (hosted by Rod Serling) or Dragnet (starring and narrated by Jack Webb), you know how dialogue set the tone for their shows.

Serling was sometimes whimsical, sometimes mysterious, but always provocative. “Consider one middle-aged adult, lost in space and time…”

Jack Webb, as L.A. police detective Sergeant Joe Friday, was always deadly serious and monotone. “Just the facts, ma’am.”

Contrast those with the dialogue between Tom and his Aunt Polly in Tom Sawyer.

If you’re anything like me, you were laughing from page 1.

“There! I mighta thought of that closet. What you been doing in there?”

“Nothing.”

“Nothing! Look at your hands. And look at your mouth. What IS that truck?”

“I don’t know, aunt.”

“Well, I know. It’s jam—that’s what it is. Forty times I’ve said if you didn’t let that jam alone I’d skin you. Hand me that switch.”

The switch hovered in the air—the peril was desperate—

“My! Look behind you, aunt!”

The old lady whirled round and snatched her skirts out of danger. The lad fled on the instant, scrambled up the highboard fence, and disappeared over it.

Great dialogue can set the tone for your entire story and also differentiate characters, as we discussed earlier.

Doc Hensley likes to cite how in Huckleberry Finn Mark Twain delineates between Huck the Southern white boy and Jim the runaway slave by just hinting at their respective accents.

Twain doesn’t use tags to tell who’s speaking, yet the reader never confuses the two.

Huck says, “Jim, did y’all ever see a king?”

Y’all is the only word in that sentence that implies a Southern accent, but it’s enough.

Jim says, “I sho enough did.”

Huck says, “You liar, Jim. You never seen no king.”

Jim says, “I seen foh kings in a deck of cards.”

Huck’s bad grammar and Jim’s sho and foh are the only hints of their dialects.

Contrived phonetic spelling would slow the reading, but look what Twain accomplished with simple choices.

The Cardinal Sin of Dialogue

The last thing you want is to produce on-the-nose dialogue.

Apply to your own work those principles and the tools I’ve outlined here, and I believe you’ll immediately see a huge difference. So will your reader.

In the Comments, ask me any questions regarding how to write dialogue.

Related Posts:

How to Write a Book: Everything You Need to Know in 20 Steps

How to Write a Short Story That Captivates Your Reader

How to Write a Memoir: A 3-Step Guide

The post How to Write Dialogue That Captivates Your Reader appeared first on Jerry Jenkins | Proven Writing Tips.

Via:: Jerry Jenkins

      

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How to Overcome Writer’s Block Once and for All: My Surprising Solution

By jbj_admin

Eliminating writer's block

You well know the frustration.

It comes time to write, and you can’t produce a single word.

Maybe you’ve tried for weeks, months, or even years. But still nothing comes.

You’re suffering the dreaded Writer’s Block while your writing dream, your story, and the message you long to share with the world all collect dust in the attic of your mind.

If you don’t find a cure soon, you’re going to give up—and your story will never reach the masses like you hoped.

Good news! I’ve discovered how to crush Writer’s Block once and for all, and my more than 190 books, 21 of which have been New York Times bestsellers, prove it.

You don’t have to quit, and if you already have, you can change your mind and get back to writing.

So what’s my secret?

I treat Writer’s Block as the myth it is.

“Wait!” you’re saying. “Foul! If it’s a myth why am I suffering from it right now?”

Believe me, I know what you’re going through. I’m not saying I don’t have those days when I roll out of bed feeling I’d rather do anything but put words on the page.

But I know how to get unstuck.

During my career I’ve learned to turn on a faucet of creativity—even when, in fact especially when, I find myself staring at a blank page.

My approach stops Writer’s Block in its tracks, and it can do the same for you.

How can I call Writer’s Block a myth when you and countless others seem plagued by it?

Let’s think this through.

If Writer’s Block were real, why would it affect only writers? Imagine calling your boss and saying, “I can’t come in today. I have worker’s block.”

You’d be laughed off the phone! And you’d likely be told never to come in again.

No other profession accommodates block as an excuse to quit working, so we writers shouldn’t either.

If writing is just a hobby to you, a diversion, something you can take or leave, it shouldn’t surprise you that you find ways to avoid it when it’s hard.

What Is Writer’s Block? Something All Writers Need to Know…

What we call Writer’s Block is really a cover for something much deeper.

Identify that deeper issue and you can overcome Writer’s Block and finally start writing.

Overcoming Writer’s Block: Confronting the 4 Real Causes

Cause #1: Fear

Do you fear you’re not good enough?

That you don’t know enough?

Do you fear the competition? Editors? Writing itself?

You have big dreams and good intentions, but you can’t get past your fear?

Would you believe all of the above describes me too? Yes, even now, every time I begin a new book.

Let’s be honest: Writing a book is hard. The competition is vast and the odds are long.

That kind of fear can paralyze. Maybe it’s what has you stuck.

Solution

So how can I suffer from that same fear and yet publish all those titles?

Because I discovered something revolutionary: After failing so many times to overcome fear, it finally dawned on me—my fear is legitimate.

It’s justified. I ought to be afraid.

So now I embrace that fear! Rather than let it overwhelm and keep me from writing, I acknowledge the truth of what I’m afraid of and let that humble me.

Legitimate fear humbles me. That humility motivates me to work hard. And hard work leads to success.

That’s why fear doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

Better to fear you’re not good enough than to believe you’re great.

Dean Koontz, who has sold more than 450 million books, says:

The best writing is borne of humility. The great stuff comes to life in those agonizing and exhilarating moments when writers become acutely aware of the limitations of their skills, for it is then that they strain the hardest to make use of the imperfect tools with which they must work.

I’ve never been motivated by great amounts of money (not that I have anything against it!), but that quote comes from a man worth $145 million, earned solely from his writing.

How humble would you be if writing had netted you $145 million? Yet, humility is the attitude Dean Koontz takes to the keyboard every day.

If you’re afraid, fear the “limitations of your skills.” Then, “strain the hardest to make use of those imperfect tools with which you must work.”

That’s how to turn fear into humility, humility into motivation, motivation into hard work, and hard work into success.

Fear can be a great motivator.

Cause #2: Procrastination

Everywhere I teach, budding writers admit Procrastination is killing their dream.

When I tell them they’re talking to the king of procrastinators, their looks alone call me a liar.

But it’s true.

Most writers are masters at finding ways to put off writing. I could regale you for half a day with the ridiculous rituals I perform before I can start writing.

But my track record says I must have overcome Procrastination the way I have overcome Writer’s Block, right?

In a way, yes. But I haven’t defeated Procrastination by eliminating it. Rather, I have embraced it, accommodated it.

After years of stressing over Procrastination and even losing sleep over it, I finally concluded it was inevitable.

Regardless my resolve and constant turning over new leaves, it plagued me.

Solution

I came to see Procrastination as an asset.

I find that when I do get back to keyboard after procrastinating, my subconscious has been working on my project. I’m often surprised at what I’m then able to produce.

So if Procrastination is both inevitable and an asset, I must accept it and even schedule it.

That’s right. When I’m scoping out my writing calendar for a new book, I decide on the number of pages I must finish each writing day to make my deadline. Then I actually schedule Procrastination days.

By accommodating Procrastination, I can both indulge in it and make my deadlines.

How?

By managing the number of pages I must finish per day .

If Procrastination steals one of my writing days, I have to adjust the number of pages for each day remaining.

So here’s the key: I never let my pages-per-day figure get out of hand.

It’s one thing to go from 5 or 6 pages a day to 7 or 8. But if I procrastinate to where now I have to finish 20 pages per day to make my deadline, that’s beyond my capacity.

Keep your deadline sacred and your number of pages per day workable, and you can manage Procrastination.

Cause #3: Perfectionism

Many writers struggle with Perfectionism, and while it can be a crippling time thief, it’s also a good trait during certain stages of the writing process.

Not wrestled into its proper place, however, Perfectionism can prove frustrating enough to make us want to quit altogether.

Yes, I’m a perfectionist too. I’m constantly tempted to revise my work until I’m happy with every word.

Solution

Separate your writing from your editing.

Perfectionism leads to writer's block

As I said, Perfectionism can be a good thing—at the right time.

While writing your first draft, take off your Perfectionist cap and turn off your internal editor.

Tell yourself you can return that mode to your heart’s content while revising, but for now, just get your story or your thoughts down.

I know this is counterintuitive. When you spot an error, you want to fix it. Most of us do.

But start revising while writing and your production slows to a crawl.

You’ll find yourself retooling, editing, and rearranging the same phrases and passages until you’ve lost the momentum you need to get your ideas down.

Force yourself to keep these tasks separate and watch your daily production soar.

Cause #4: Distractions

It’s like clockwork.

Every time you sit down to write, something intrudes on your concentration.

Whether it’s a person, social media, or even a game on your phone, distractions lure you from writing.

Solution

How serious is your writing dream? If it remains your priority, It’s time to take a stand.

Establish these two ground rules to safeguard your work time:

  1. Set a strict writing schedule.

Tell anyone who needs to know that aside from an emergency, you’re not available. That should eliminate friends and loved ones assuming “you’re not doing anything right now, so…”

It’s crucial you learn to say No. During your writing hours, you’re working.

  1. Turn off all other media.

That means radio, TV, email, or social media.

When we feel stuck, our inclination is to break from the work and find something fun to occupy our minds.

That’s why Facebook, online shopping, and clickbait stories and pictures can keep us from writing.

When we should be bearing down and concentrating on solutions, we’re following links from the “10 Ugliest Actors of All Time” to “15 Sea Creatures So Ugly You Won’t Believe They Exist.”

Before you know it, your time has evaporated and you’ve accomplished nothing.

A Writer’s Block App I Recommend

To stay focused on writing, use a distraction-blocking app called Freedom. (This is an affiliate link, so I earn a small commission at no cost to you.)

Freedom allows you to schedule your writing time and blocks social media, browsing, and notifications on your devices till you’re done.

You set the parameters and can override it for emergencies, but it’s a powerful tool.

Writer’s Block Quotes from Bestselling Authors

“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration; the rest of us get up and go to work.” — Stephen King

“My cure for writer’s block? The necessity of earning a living.” — James Ellroy

“Writer’s block is just another name for fear.” — Jacob Nordby

“I don’t believe in writer’s block. Just pick up a pen and physically write.” — Natalie Goldberg

“If I waited till I felt like writing, I’d never write at all.” — Anne Tyler

“If you tell yourself you are going to be at your desk tomorrow, you are by that declaration asking your unconscious to prepare the material. ‘Count on me,’ you are saying: ‘I will be there to write.’” — Norman Mailer in The Spooky Art: Some Thoughts on Writing

“The secret to getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.” — Mark Twain

You Can Defeat Writer’s Block

  • Stand up to it the way you would a bully
  • See it for the myth it is
  • Turn your fear into humility and humility into hard work

That’s how to defeat Writer’s Block once and for all.

Have other questions about Writer’s Block? Ask me in the Comments.

Related Posts:

How to Write a Book: Everything You Need to Know in 20 Steps

How to Write a Short Story That Captivates Your Reader

The Ultimate Guide to Character Development: 10 Steps to Creating Memorable Heroes

The post How to Overcome Writer’s Block Once and for All: My Surprising Solution appeared first on Jerry Jenkins | Proven Writing Tips.

Via:: Jerry Jenkins