Sunday, April 11, 2010

Tips for Busting Through Writer’s Block from Dallas Woodburn

Today I've featuring a special guest. Dallas Woodburn and I have the same alma mater but maybe a dozen or so generations apart. (-: I first met her online and then later she attended some of my presentations. I was immediately impressed at the head start she had on her writing career. I know you'll agree she is wise beyond her years.

Guest blogged by Dallas Woodburn

Is your story in a rut? Are you feeling stuck? Writer’s block is a problem that most every writer has to deal with. It can be so frustrating! Here are some ideas that might help you get through it:

* Set your story aside for a couple of weeks and work on something else. Sometimes, like a watched pot that never boils, a story idea never comes when we are fretting over it. In my experience, the best ideas for my stories often arrive when I am thinking about something else -- walking my dog, cooking dinner, browsing a farmer’s market.

* Is there a later part of the story you want to write or know what’s going to happen, but the middle is tripping you up? Sometimes writers know the beginning and the end, but not the middle. If this is the case for your story, my advice would be to skip forward and write the ending. Then, you can go back and write the middle – ideas might come to you once the ending is in place.

* Sometimes I get blocked when I am at a “fork in the road” in my story: there are multiple routes my story could take, and I'm not sure which one is the “right” one. If you suspect this is the case for your subconscious, I would try just picking one route – one way the story could go, one thing that could happen next – and write that. Just see what happens! If it doesn’t feel right, you can always go back and change it. But maybe it will be the thing to get you through the block.

* Try putting yourself in your character’s head. Let her or him take the reins of the story. Close your eyes and really get inside that character. What are they thinking, feeling, worrying, wondering, fearing? What would they do next in this situation they are in? Try to “freewrite” without thinking too much or editing yourself. Write for eight or ten minutes without stopping. Then, see what you have. Maybe it will be enough to re-start the story again.

* Try something new. Nothing fills my “idea well” more quickly than traveling – experiencing new things, embarking on new adventures, meeting new people. But even if you don’t have a vacation or trip planned for the near future, you can still rejuvenate your creative life by trying new things. Learn a recipe for a different type of food than you usually eat. Dabble in a different art form, such as painting or music.

* Change up your routine. Walk or bicycle rather than drive to work or school. When you slow down your daily trip a bit, little things like hummingbirds, squirrels, and the unique hue of the sky on a particular day seem to stand out. Take a notebook with you to jot down notes when you feel inspired.

Hope these ideas help you bust through the dam of writer's block so your river of words can run freely!

Dallas Woodburn is the author of two collections of short stories and a forthcoming novel. Her short fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in Monkeybicycle, Arcadia Journal, flashquake, and The Newport Review, among others. She has also written more than 80 articles for national publications including Family Circle, Writer’s Digest, CO-ED, Justine, and The Los Angeles Times, and she writes a regular column for Listen magazine. Dallas is the founder of the nonprofit organization “Write On! For Literacy” that has donated more than 11,000 new books to disadvantaged children. Her latest endeavor is starting a publishing company, Write On! Books, that publishes the work of young writers. In addition, she hosts frequent writing contests, teaches writing camps for kids, and is Youth Director of the Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network (SPAWN). Dallas studied creative writing at the University of Southern California and at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England. Contact her at her website or blog
Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and two how to books for writers, The Frugal Book Promoter: How To Do What Your Publisher Won't and The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success. Her FRUGAL book for retailers is A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques. She is also the author of the Amazon Short, "The Great First Impression Book Proposal". Some of her other blogs are, a blog where authors can recycle their favorite reviews. She also blogs at all things editing, grammar, formatting and more at The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor .

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