I’ve seem to be hitting writer’s block far too often now. My grade in my creative writing class is suffering because i don’t turn in anything because i’m never really satisfied with anything i do. all my good ideas seem to turn into bad ones once i write it down. How do you get pass writers block?
You turn off your inner critic. You do not listen to your inner police force. You ignore the little voices that tell you that it’s all stupid, and you keep going.
Your grade isn’t suffering because your writing is bad, it’s suffering because you aren’t finishing things and handing them in.
So, finish them and hand them in. Even if a story’s lousy, you’ll learn something from it that will be useful as a writer, even if it’s just “don’t do that again”.
You’re always going to be dissatisfied with what you write. That’s part of being human. In our heads, stories are perfect, flawless, glittering, magical. Then we start to put them down on paper, one unsatisfactory word at a time. And each time our inner critics tell us that it’s a rotten idea and we should abandon it.
If you’re going to write, ignore your inner critic, while you’re writing. Do whatever you can to finish. Know that anything can be fixed later.
Remember: you don’t have to brilliant when you start out. You just have to write. Every story you finish puts you closer to being a writer, and makes you a better writer.
Blaming “Writer’s Block” is wonderful. It removes any responsibility from the person with the “block”. It gives you something to blame, and it sounds fancy.
But it’s probably more honest to think of it as a combination of laziness, perfectionism and Getting Stuck. If you’re being lazy, don’t be. If you’re being a perfectionist, don’t be. And if you’re stuck, figure out where the story went off the rails, or what you got wrong, or where you need to go deeper, or what you need to add to make it work, and then start writing again.
Things I need to remember.
I always feel a bit awkward offering tips for writers. I have endless reams of excuses: I'm not famous enough, I'm not good enough, I'm too flawed and I'm still trying to follow some of these tips myself...
But here's the thing: I learn from my faults, and everyone other writer out there has moments of feeling flawed and not good enough.
So I'm going to stop hiding my head and start passing on what I've learned. Without further ado, here are my top 5 writing tips.
- Keep writing. You can't go anywhere until your novel is finished. Then you've got revisions, and your next work to start. Writing is the best way to learn how to write, so keep at it and don't get distracted by your worries over the state of publishing, the querying, the cover art or who'll play who in your amazing movie adaption.
- Learn the craft. The art is writing is in the editing. Read up on editing and structure, then take your book and rip it apart. Shape and rebuild it until it's close to perfect.
- Learn the business. Read industry blogs, research agents, learn about queries and covering letters, learn how to polish your work and display it to agents in the most attractive way possible. You can also keep to grips with social media, but don't get too sucked into it - if you're writing fiction, keep the big social pushes until after your book is signed. (If you're writing non-fiction, on the other hand, develop as big a prescience as possible beforehand).
- Stay humble. Learning the business means putting yourself out there in the best way possible. You have to sell yourself, as cringe-inducing as that may be for if you're a shy, bookish type like me. But whatever you do, don't fall into the trap of developing an ego. There are very few things more disgusting than big-headedness. Stay confident in your work, but seek out criticism - find beta readers and honest friends who'll help you see the flaws in your work. This will help prepare you for the world of editorial letters and reviews that will come once you 'make it'.
- Don't stop reading. Reading is how you develop your writing, and as your develop your writing, craft and business sense books will take on new forms for you. You'll be able to pick apart the structure, adore the voice, love the craft, smile at the savvy use of advertising. You become some crazy, telepathic hyperreader, seeing through the book to all the effort the author has but into it. You're a telepath, seeing the thoughts that put it all together. You're awesome, and best of all, you now enjoy reading even more.
Those are my favourite five writing tips, and they've served me well. I hope you find them useful as well.
Hey, I was wondering if you could give me any tips on getting published? I've done a few searches on the internet but it's hard to know which sites are scams and which ones are actually for real these days. Many thanks :)
- Comment by Gord
Hi Gord! Okay, a quick overview of the publishing process for commercially published fiction. It works like this:
- Finish the manuscript. This is the hardest step. Re-draft it, edit it, polish it up until you're sure it's your best work. Give it to people to read and give some honest critique on. Don't rush anything, just spend all the time you can getting it as perfect as you're capable of.
- Get an agent. This requires sending out a query giving a summary of your work and any writing credentials you've got. There are lots of good sites for advice on writing a query - I recommend looking at all the links down the side of Nathan Bradford's blog, and taking a long browse of Query Shark. Editorial Anonymous is pretty snazzy as well. You can find editors by browsing online, or picking up the latest Writers' & Artists' Yearbook. Expect a huge amount of rejections at this stage - rejections in the hundreds isn't uncommon, even in the thousands sometimes. With a bit of luck, you'll have some agents requesting partials - the first few parts of the novel - and if they like it they'll request the full story. With a lot of luck, they'll then take you on!
- Once you get an agent, they'll set to work on finding you a publisher. Concentrate on whatever you want to work on next when this is going on, don't get too hung up on it. The agent might ask you to tweak certain things in the book.
- The publisher will give you either a single book-deal, or a multi-book deal - these deals are good if you're doing a series of novels, as they mean you'll definitely be able to publish the other books in a series even if the first book doesn't do fantastically. Most sci-fi and fantasy contracts are multi--book deals.
- An editor will work on the book before publication, and the manuscript will go back and forth between you and the editor until everyone's happy. You'll sometimes get sent cover ideas to look at, but authors generally don't have much say in this. About a year to two years after you get your contract, it should be printed and ready to hit the shelves.
- Once it's out, you'll need to spend a lot of time and energy doing interviews with papers, news programs and blogs as well as doing signings, workshops and school/library talks. This is all a key part of publicising the work and it can be costly depending on how much you want to help push the book, and how big the publisher's advertising budget is. A published will usually send out a few copies to reviewers, maybe put a few adverts in magazines and posters up in bookstores, but if you're a new author don't expect too much. You can get paid a decent amount for doing talks and workshops, though
- Once the book has earned back it's advance - a lump sum given to you when you sign the contract which os usually nothing spectacular (working a normal job is far better financially) - you'll start earning royalties depending on how well the book sells. These are a percentage of the book's sales, varying according to your contract. If your book is sold to other countries you can make some decent money on the side as well and the publisher may take you on a promotional tour to do signings in that country.
Wikipedia has this to say on royalities:
Hardback royalties on the published price of trade books usually range from 10% to 12.5%, with 15% for more important authors. On paperback it is usually 7.5% to 10%, going up to 12.5% only in exceptional cases. All the royalties displayed below are on the “cover price.” Paying 15% to the author can mean that the other 85% of the cost pays for editing and proof-reading, printing and binding, overheads, and the profits (if any) to the publisher.
The publishing company pays no royalty on bulk purchases of books since the buying price may be a third of the cover price sold on an singles basis.
All you really need to know is that per book, it's not much. If your profits don't make up for the advance, you won't get any royalties at all and the publisher will be a bit unhappy. I really can't stress enough that for new authors, it's not a high-paying job and you quite often need to keep at least a part-time job even after publication.
Very importantly, a publisher will never ask you for money up-front. Neither will an agent or editor. If they do, they're not legit so get out of there quickly - legit publishing people make their wages through taking percentages of what you earn, you don't have to pay them for anything. That's the quickest way to tell if a publisher is a scam, and the Writer's Beware! blog is excellent for catching out dodgy businesses as well.
For further reading, check out the latest "Writers' & Artists' Yearbook", Stephen King's "On Writing", or reader recommendation Carol Blake's "From Pitch to Publication".
Update: I've put up a brand new FAQ page to keep track of good questions like this.
Hello Emma! I am in the middle of yor first book, and I have to say it is very interesting. I'm in the middle of writing my own novel, Im 14 and I've been writing mini stories also since I was around 10 also. I would like to have some tips from you on how to keep moving foward and what happens if you get writers block? Big Fan!
Experiencing a 'block' - when you can't think of what to do next or when everything you try to doesn't feel right - is part and parcel of any creative career, from writing to music and art. Sometimes it lasts a day, sometimes it can last months. Sometimes you'll get it once or twice, sometimes every other day.
It sucks, but there are a few ways to get through it. Here are my Golden Rules for Avoiding Writer's Block.
Keep At It - There's this little thing called the 'inner critic' that most authors have. It's good in small amounts - being overly egotistical can ruin your work - but it usually comes in large amounts, which is when we need to switch it off.
When you're writing a novel the first step is getting it done. It's a big project, and if you're stopping to change things around, to edit and re-edit your opening and ideas, to fix up continuity and perfect that one troublesome paragraph, you're going to get bogged down and you will grind to a halt. If you find yourself getting stuck perfecting it all, just stop and keep on going.
If you're not happy with a scene, mark it and leave it. Get the first draft done, and then you can go back and start working on making it perfect. If you don't finish the first draft that perfect opening chapter won't be much use.
Mix It Up - If your chapter just isn't working out, skip to a scene that does work. When I'm working on a novel, I try to keep it linear, but if I get stuck I'll start fleshing out that future moment that I know is going to be awesome. In the process, sometimes I'll figure out something about the characters that'll make that section easier to complete - either way, I'll be one step closer to the finish line.
In a more extreme example, I used to have a habit of switching projects entirely - so I'd be working on entirely different stories at the same time. If this works for you, go for it. I do it sparsely now because it slows down my progress and can get confusing, but it was fun for a while. One thing to watch out for is that, if you're enjoying a side project a lot more than your main work, sometimes it can be better just to put your current piece inside and write what you'll properly enjoy.
There's also switching mediums - I like to sketch out character designs and key scenes to break up the writing, but the more musically inclined might like to create their own soundtrack for their works.
Be Inspired - Take some time off and read some books, watch TV and movies, play video games and listen to music. Getting a good experience of what's out there, what works and what your enjoy is essential to understanding how creativity works, and will help shape you into a good writer (as long as you don't let it drain away all your time, I had to cut down on TV and gaming to have more productive hours). Not to mention going out there and being social - things like having a good ear for dialogue and writing convincing characters mean going out there and understanding how people work, and how they interact.
If you get ideas for your story from all of this, all the better. Plagiarism (lifting stories and ideas straight from other sources) is a no-go if you want any kind of success as a writer, but giving your own spin on concepts is what this career is all about. Writer's don't just pluck ideas out of the air - it's a bit more like cataloging everything you see, hear or experience and using it to understand how to make characters and stories, before shaping it into your own ones.
Personally, I like to listen to songs with a relation to my work and play through scenes in my head that match the music - I get a lot of very visual ideas doing that. I'll also watch some TV shows with similar themes, or read books related to the idea. Right now I've got I've got a big reference book on religious mythology to leaf through, and I've been reading some Stephen King for some help with writing clean, believable first-person narrative.
Last but not least, relax. There's no such thing as permanent writer's block, or 'losing' your talent. Maybe you're just pushing yourself too hard, or there are some other factors in your life that are getting in your way - stress and illness can wreck your creativity, as odd as that may seem. Spend some time with friends and family and take some time off, it'll all come back to you soon enough.
Hello. I've an update to one of our most popular posts, an explanation of why Aultbea Publishing (also known as Script Publishing) are an untrustworthy business.
I've recently been directed to the Nutraceuticals Now website, for a medical magazine produced by 'Jonson-Jonsen Publishing', a company name that brings up nothing other than the magazine on Google and is very unlikely to be a registered business.
It turns out this new Inverness-based publisher is an alias of Aultbea. Under contact info, the address for the company is not the address to the Church Street Script/Aultbea Publishing offices, whose lease has now lapsed, but the home address of these company's owner, Charles Faulkner - real name Sultan Zuberri.
Faulkner/Zuberri, who has previously always had the position of 'owner' and has never mentioned literary qualifications in any press release or media interview, is down on this site under the position of Editor.
The magazine itself has a decent publishing history, though I can't vouch for the quality of content.
Thanks to the Invernessians who brought this to my attention. This guy is persistent.
I was sorting out the images on my Macbook and I came across this...
This is the original cover design I was sent for the slipcover of the Greek "Dragon Tamers" hardcover. Looks good, right?
If you're not a gamer, reader or designer then yes - it's shiny. Attention grabbing. Looks good.
...But there's something not quite right. Apart from the strange character in the bottom who might be the publisher's mascot, the book's protagonist is a black-haired girl. So immediately, some mental alarm bells are ringing about this cover designer's attention to detail.
Wait, haven't I seen that guy before...?
That's the cover art for Final Fantasy X, voted by Japanese gaming magazine Famitsu to be the greatest video game of all time and fifth in IGN's "Top 25 PS2 Games of All Time". Selling 6.6 million units worldwide, it's a pretty big deal - the Final Fantasy series is one of the best selling video game franchises.
I pointed out the mistake to the publishers and it was redone, though I never did get an explanation as to how that happened.
This amusing event shows that book cover designers are far too often really bad. There are plenty of great ones who can sum up a book in a simple image, and there are a lot of famous, stunning covers - but there are also thousands of 'designers' who think it's acceptable to Google Image Search the keywords that are vaguely related to the work and badly edit it all together with a Photoshopped font on top.
It isn't okay. Google Image Search images are almost all still under copyright, and sticking them all together and selling it is just profiting easily of other people's work. There are people who work hard to create these works - and it's not usually well-known video games that get ripped off, it's independent artists who don't have a chance at taking legal action when their work is stolen for commercial use.
Because of how difficult it is to be sure photo-based covers, especially foreign ones, come from open sources the illustrated covers for my work tend to be my favorites. The amount of work that goes into the airbrush-painted cover for UK Dragon Tamers 2, digitally painted Dutch DT1 and traditionally painted somewhere-Nordic-maybe-Swedish DT1 all stand above the rest for the sheer effort taken. Done well they can create a unique impression of a story's cast.
That's not to say there aren't plenty of great covers made using photographs - most good covers are these days. Two of my recent favourite designs "Fallen" and "Hush, Hush" both use photographs to stunning effects.
In the end, though, there's always people trying to take shortcuts and making things unfair for everything.