|The Great Getting UnStuck Tutorial
Author: CalliScribbles PM
Kill writer's block dead with your plus 6 spear of initiative! Or sneak quietly around it and work on something else. Follow these steps to dramatically reduce the amount of time you spend staring at a blank word document and wondering what ate your life. *I am not responsible for loss of time, health, sanity or souls with this product, and not party to your contract with your musRated: Fiction K - English - Humor - Words: 2,060 - Reviews: 1 - Favs: 2 - Follows: 1 - Published: 08-08-12 - id: 3048893
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I'd like to present something that I call the syllogism of originality:
1) Everyone has individual style and ideas, as well as opinions on what makes a good story.
2) Not everyone can write certain ideas, genres, or styles.
3) If you rely on somebody else to tell you how to get started or how to create a story, you will end up with unoriginal crap.
That's not to say that you can't look and see if other people's ways of getting started or un-stuck don't help, it's just that you can't ever expect good results if the writing is occurring in a process that doesn't work well for you. Now I wish I had a panel of creative writing teachers here to lecture, because the idea shouldn't be to impress your own opinions onto your students' work by constraining their topics or genres, but to improve the grammar and consistency quality overall.
When you're in a rut, find advice, and if it isn't working for you, find other advice. People have slightly differently wired brains, so even if you love Stephen King and want to write just like him, following all his writing advice will not make you the next Stephen King.
As for the warning, this chapter contains some common sense (may cause side effects if taken with anything containing stupidity) an admonition to do your homework,
I don't expect you to match me for sheer volume of stuff read (probably the highest volume of books I've read in one year was just under 1,000: granted, some were shorter than others,) but think of it as basic research. Don't try to write a genera you've never read.
Reading not just in your genera, but anything else that catches your eye, exposes you to new ideas. Let them percolate in your skull until you have something that you don't immediately recognize as a "spinoff of X" or "Y book I read meets Z movie," and then write it down. Write as much as you've got, however much you've thought about it. And if you jump straight in, that's fine. If you write it down and realize you have no idea what to do next, shelve it in a safe place for a while.
Read books that you like. Figure out what you like about them. But also read books that you pick at random or don't know that you'll like, and if you like them, good, you've expanded your horizons, and if you hate and can't finish them, you don't have to. Figure out why you hated them. Decide what made you pick them in the first place and why you're disappointed that the book didn't turn out to be any good.
You can also cheer yourself up with the thought "If this crap can get published, then my story has a pretty fair chance."
Another thing that you should read is any research relevant to your story. If you have a character who is an expert in radiation and atom bombs, brush up on your own knowledge of the subject. This not only can help you generate tidbits of knowledge that can drive some of the fine gears of the plot (especially good if you're writing a mystery or thriller or anything with a puzzle: knowing that a certain plant is poisonous but looks like another, or that ankle and foot fractures are common in high intensity runners, can be that touch of knowledge that makes people root for your protagonist when they manage to get it right,) but it keeps the reader interested. If you know you're writing a story supposedly set in the present day, real world, you don't want to have minor facts taught to high school students ruining your readers' suspension of disbelief.
Keep notes. No one is checking your notebook, so write down or favorite or do whatever to what you think will be useful.
Also, the reading is not an assignment. The evaluation part is just something that goes on in your head when you've put the book down. If you can't put it down, you can go back when you've finished and marvel over how everything connects up.
Participating in fandoms can be great too. They're full of people who constantly ask the "what if?" questions about some of your favorite works, no matter how ridiculous the thing that they wish to happen is. Maybe it's ludicrous in cannon, but if the characters or the world were different, it could work. And if getting inspiration this way feels like cheating, either write the fanfiction and get it settled in a nice, quiet corner somewhere, or let it stir in your brain for a bit until it reads less like a fanfiction. Oh, yeah, and if you have an original world, you need original characters to fill it with. And when you have an original character that just couldn't exist in your fandom's canon, then it's time to create an original world. See how easy that is? Remember that great writers (such as Mark Twain) have said that there's nothing new under the sun, so if you really want to write about a magic school, but are afraid of being labeled a Harry Potter ripoff, just concentrate on what makes your idea unique. There's plenty of other magic schools in literature: maybe yours is a college, a private day school, situated in the middle of a city? Maybe magic isn't about waving wands or manipulating the elements, maybe it's about summoning demons and creating Alchemical formulae? Maybe magic is so common in your world that it's just one of dozens of majors in your college, and one that gets lumped in with "soft options" like Philosophy and ethnic studies at that?
See what I did? Just thinking about reading and things I've read, I've managed to get some decent questions started.
The element of inspiration can come from movies and videogames and the internet as well, but real published books have the advantage of having been professionally edited, at least for grammar, as well. If you don't know grammar rules for stories, you clearly haven't read enough. And printed words also have the advantage that you can pay more attention to the phrasing when there's nothing else to distract you.
2: Walk the Dog
Or you could take a shower, fold the laundry, wash the dishes… the point is to find an activity that enforces some sort of repetitive movement away from the TV and internet, takes 5-20 minutes, and will allow your mind to wander. But you still have to be able to come back and write things down before you lose the thought.
When your mind wanders, it will find interesting new places to explore.
Sometimes you can overload your brain. It breaks down almost like a car radiator when you have too much music, games, homework, plots, stories, TV and news rattling around in it. The idea is to break boredom when your writing time has slowly become obsessively stalk people on Tumblr and surf Youtube time, and do something that isn't providing you with new information so you can process what you've got. It also helps you keep from developing the common writer ailment known as stuck to the chair disorder, and gives your fingers a rest.
Just give yourself time to daydream. Write the daydreams down if that works for you, or store them in some special place in your brain. Don't call up your stuck story or all your potential stories on purpose: your brain will find the one that it's currently ready to work on by itself. It's not the one you think it is, either.
Additionally, keep a dream or daydream journal. Having some sort of record of the random ideas that cross your mind, even if it's just a word document where you dump random crap (mine is labeled the Random Crap Dump, not something I recommend if a parental unit has access to your computer,) is good for storing thoughts so you can think them again later.
Also, a story idea that you thought was cliché and undeveloped last year can suddenly become something you develop to the fullest and can find new directions on today. Every story that I have ever completed (and many that I haven't,) has some sort of link to one or more concepts that I put in the RCD in high school, even though I haven't picked through the RCD in nearly a year now.
3: Do organizational stuff
If you're stuck on a story, try writing out the timeline, writing up brief summaries of the characters and their importance, figuring out minor constructional things like what year it is and when people were born, clearly defining the house rules for your universe. For Harry Potter, for example, house rules would be that there is more than one intelligent species, muggles must not find out about magic (except for the muggle parents/guardians and family members of wizards,) and that you need a wand to do magic on purpose, though some people can get away with not actually vocalizing their spells. In another magical universe, magic might be common knowledge, or there might be no intelligent magical creatures, or the route to accessing magic might be different. In a Sci-Fi universe, how do they travel between stars? (If they can?) How long does it take?
Other things that you can do when you want to work but feel writing-stuck are drawing maps and characters (they don't have to be any good, they're for your own reference,) finding pictures online of objects and locations that are like ones in your story – say, perhaps, you need an enormous organ, a specific castle, or an old-fashioned nautical instrument – and saving them so that you have reference for descriptions.
This is also a good time to look at your story, and ask "what have I not explained that I probably should?" or "Do I really know what's been going on in this world in the past ten years?"
Make family trees, diagrams of that love triangle you've been struggling with, summaries of the world's history, notes about the technology, really bad sketches, and stupid playlists about a character's relationship or a scene. These make your brain work on the story and make it more coherent, even if you don't get a single letter typed. Just take some time to develop and play with the world you've made.
4: Work on something else:
Write a tutorial – wait, I'm guilty.
Work on another story for a while, this is great when you don't have any deadlines to deal with. Don't shelve the story completely, but feel free to do things like write bad poetry, polish up another story, blog about the news, finish your homework essays, obsessively analyze the hanging plot threads of the latest season of your favorite fandom, knit a scarf, kill an evening reading a book that you know isn't exactly great literature but you can't help loving anyway, and scrub the lime scale from your shower tiles with someone else's toothbrush.
You don't have to write all the time, or even be productive during the entire time you've set aside for it. There's going to be days where you're on fire and days where you can't seem to string a sentence together.
And feel free to let the other story you're working on be complete and utter crap. If you want to write something and it's not what you're supposed to be working on, do it. Even if you think the idea was stupid, it might morph into something you like better. And if not, you'll get it out of your system and keep your typing muscles in training.
AN: This tutorial requested by…erm… (flips frantically through cue cards)… Well, if you're here, give me a shout and I'll edit it, because my snark ate the note I made for myself. If not, well, people should know that this tutorial is by request and that I'm still doing requests if I feel qualified to fill them. So, feel free to request tutorials! Especially character ones, as my stats page tells me that you seem to enjoy them.
I'll be updating this soonish with a sheet of exercises for writing yourself out of a block.