Wednesday, December 5, 2012

How to Break Out of a Writing Slump

Since this is the end of the year, I want to tie my year-in-review to some actual writing advice. I titled this blog "How to break out of a writing slump" and I have a clear answer. Before you get too excited, I will warn you that it is the same advice you've heard again and again from other authors in the past and it is hard work, but I think it needs repeated. I'll get to that advice in a moment, but first you have to read through the rest of my drivel. (Or skip to the end, I suppose.)

This year has been a great year for me in my writing career while a tough year for my actual writing production. I saw 2012 bring me not one but two book releases from my publisher, Rhemalda Publishing.

In January, Rhemalda released my werewolf tale with a twist, Tamed. I celebrated the release of Tamed with a television interview on NBC4 in Columbus, Ohio. You can watch the interview on the left side of this blog. That was by far my most visual exposure yet.
Next, I had a successful book launch at Barnes and Noble in Pickerington, Ohio, with Tamed. Its release also led to a request from a California production company to shop Tamed around for movie rights interest, and I granted that request, of course. That process is still active, though I am not sure how it will pan out.

In May, Rhemalda and I decided to offer Tamed as a free giveaway as part of Amazon's KDP program and proceeded to give away 22,000 copies of the eBook in only five days. Coming off that giveaway, Tamed continued to sell fairly well for the next couple of months. My biggest surprise with Tamed was that I initially thought the book was a good fit for young adults and older, but I have been pleased to learn that Tamed has gained a pretty steady following from the youngest teens who are looking for something a little different from the Twilight saga.

In August, Rhemalda released the second installment of my Epertase trilogy, which I feel is my best writing yet.

With three published books under my wing, I attended the Mid Ohio Comic Con. The president and vice president of Rhemalda traveled to Ohio to support me at the show. With their help and the help of the fantastic artist of my Epertase covers, Steve Murphy, we sold and signed over 100 books. Unfortunately, I sold out of Tamed at the show and had to turn potential readers away. Here's my booth.

Despite all of my successes this year, I have struggled with the actual art of writing. I don't know if you could call it writer's block, but it definitely resulted in a lack of production. I've heard of writer's block before and have even experienced it briefly on occasion, but usually I have been able to push through it without too much pain.

However, this year has been a different story.

My first major slump came during my initial draft of Epertase 3; I struck a wall at the halfway point. I spent several months (yes, I said months) struggling with how to make a crucial transition that was imperative to the story. Every idea I came up with didn't seem to work. If this wasn't the last book in my trilogy, with everything in the first two stories tied to this finale, I could have scratched the idea altogether and changed how the story went, but I was in a bit of a box. It was killing me and putting me way behind schedule. I have deadlines, after all.

BTW, I am in love with how Epertase 3 finally turns out and I think fans of the series will be as well, but I think the fight with Epertase 3 took something out of me.

My second slump is in full gear now. Over the last two years I have been working sporadically on a new dystopian fantasy that I am really excited about finishing. But even with my breakthrough and subsequent finishing of Epertase 3, I realized I still wasn't writing with as much inspiration as usual. Heck, just look at the number of blogs I've churned out lately (none)-- my lack of production should be evident.

Here's the problem: I know what I need to do in order to break this slump, just like I had to do to break the Epertase 3 slump, but I'm having trouble doing it with any consistency.
How do you break your writing slump? It sounds easy. You have to write.

You have to write today. You have to write tomorrow. Don't feel like writing on Friday? Too bad, you have to write on Friday, too. It's just like going to the gym. If you miss a few days, it becomes easier to simply miss a few more. But, when writing becomes habit, it's harder not to do. Just like working out. I am by far not the first author to say this. In fact, I have read this very advice several times by major authors. It's easier said than done.

"Wait a minute," you might say. "That doesn't help me through my block." Well, yeah, it actually does. By making yourself sit down and write, you will write through that block. It might not turn out just how you want that section to be, but that's what revisions are for. After you plow through that part of the story, you will fall into the flow again.

When you force yourself to write every day, even if it is only for a couple hours, you are lifting the weights . . . I mean, you are writing . . . and that's the important part. Does that make sense? Every slump I have ever gotten into (big or small) has been broken by simply sitting down and writing. And as I look back, I see that the slumps that lasted the longest were because they frustrated me to the point of not writing at all.

Now, I know sometimes it seems impossible to push through that block (like it was for me in Epertase 3), so here's another way to get through it. My initial advice still stands that you have to write, but you can cheat a little. Skip that part and work on another section of your story. It will trigger your creativity again and get you moving. You will be surprised at how well this will help you to actually fix the section you were stuck on without even working on it. Yeah, it's like magic.

These two suggestions are my best advice on breaking your slump. Sure, many other more famous authors than me have recommended the same actions, but I believe the advice is worth repeating. Now, why are you sitting here reading my blog? Go write!

Happy Holidays, everyone.