Three Ways How I Deal with Writer's Block

For the record, I am not suffering from writer’s block right now. I have made a decision not to write for a little while. My brain will know when I am ready to write again. I suspect it won’t be long.

In the meantime, I thought I’d share three of my sure-fire cures for writer’s block.

1 – Always have something else in the hopper.

When I’m working on a major WIP, I always have a couple of shorter works in progress at the same time. Right now, I’m working on a time travel historical and a prehistoric fantasy romance. I also have another Petroleum Sunset story that is almost finished. If I am stuck on one, I can always pick up another and keep moving forward.

If you aren’t the type to write short works, then go ahead and use another novel for your writer’s block project. It should be a novel unrelated to the one you are working on. You don’t want to have to revise your first work because of changes to the second. It should also be one that is behind your current work in your publishing priorities. You don’t want to forever be trying to devote equal time to both books. That’s a good way to never finish either.

2 – Go on a date with your character.

Sometimes, you just need to take your character out of the plot and have them take a thoughtful walk around town. Or send them on a side quest. Or have a premature romantic interlude. All of these have worked for me. Of the three, the side quest was the only thing that ended up in my discards files, so it wasn’t wasted time writing. But when I write such scenes — longterm readers know I call these pilot scenes — I am prepared to discard them. It really helps.

The point is, sometimes you just don’t know your character well enough for the story to really flow. And that’s when a date with your character can really help.

3 – May as well tackle that synopsis.

Sometimes, your story is just too much of a mess to go on. If you are feeling muddled with your plot, unsure of where to take it, it’s an excellent time to take a step back and write a synopsis. Use my six paragraph method if synopses scare you.

Or, you can work on your story bible, (I call it my gazetteer). Sometimes you just need to organize the danged story before you can tell it. Some people use index cards. (I don’t–I label my scenes using Microsoft Word styles and arrange them with the  Navigation pane.)

Any of these methods can help you take that important step back–which in turn will (somewhat ironically) allow you to take a closer look at the story and fix that troublesome spot that is impeding your progress.

Recent Research: Early Stoves, Floorplans, plus research tips

I read thru my time travel story while I was sick, performing research and finishing up scenes that depended on the outcome of the research. One such scene involved the type of stove in the house where Mike and Adele live. This is very much a fish-out-of-water story, and my first impulse was to make it a coal stove. However, I knew gas was available at the turn of the century so I wondered if coal was still reasonable.

Part of this research involved an interview with my husband. As late as the 70s, his grandparents lived in a farmhouse with no appliances. The only electric thing they had was lights. If it required heat, it went on the wood-burning stove. Irons, toasters, kettles to warm up water–you name it.

But she lived in a farm in Kentucky. St. Augustine was electrified after the fire in 1914. Mike and Adele live in a rental near the center of town.The rental is an older house. It has electricity, but it also still has a gas supply for the lights installed in the walls, which are still operative.The rental is not a thoroughly modern house.

So I started researching early gas stoves. I found this adorable stove, but it would have been way too modern. So I dug around for stoves from the previous decade, and I found this awesome one on eBay. I almost wrote it into the story. The pilot light had to be lit each time–maybe they can have a close call with burning the house down!

But then, I kept encountering places where I already wove the coal stove into the story, so I ultimately decided to keep it. I also asked my husband if he thought they should have a gas or coal stove, and he said “coal” without hesitation. Since it went along with my instincts, I kept it. Some articles I found about rural electrification convinced me that the occasional house with an outdated stove is certainly plausible. So sometimes, you need to research to confirm you are right, rather than to look things up.

I did decide to be merciful and give them a hot water heater. You had to light it before you wanted hot water, and you’d better turn it off when you are finished. Because the tank could explode, yanno. So the opportunity for a mishap is still there.

Later in the week, I realized I was not being consistent with the placement of my bathroom (upstairs, or down?) and other details in the house so I decided to create a floorplan using Visio. I spent entirely too much time on it:

Downstairs
Upstairs

But hey! I was sick and it kept my mind occupied, and I have actually referred to it. Plus, I didn’t know Mike had a study until I sketched this out (I didn’t think there would be room for one). So I recommend floorplans of all your major settings.

One final bit of advice–keep links to or a log of all your research! While editing THE MAGIC MIRROR AND THE SEVENTH DWARF, I had to re-research a lot of my German language research in order to justify certain antiquated words (Spielmann, among others) to the copyeditor. If I had kept links, it would have saved a lot of time.

Got any experience with antiquated kitchen technology that you could share?

Six Sentence Sunday

I thought I’d get in on Six Sentence Sunday this week, to start getting you guys ready for THE MAGIC MIRROR AND THE SEVENTH DWARF.

This is a conversation between Ange, the princess and Richard, the prince. Richard is trying to convince her to flee from her jealous stepmother because he has just pronounced Ange fairest of all.

“But I’m not! Her beauty is legend, and while I—”

“The mirror has pronounced you the fairest of all, therefore you are. How do you think her beauty became legend in the first place?”

She stared at him for a moment.

“Now, let’s go,” he said.

This beauty-in-the-eye-of-the-beholder theme is one I keep up throughout the book.

Review – Secrets of a Wedding Night by Valerie Bowman

Secrets of a Wedding Night
by Valerie Bowman

St Martin’s Press
MM Paperback or ebook

My IRL friend/RWA chaptermate  has a her debut novel out through St. Martin’s Press! It’s called Secrets of a Wedding Night. Here’s the cover. It’s about a young widow who publishes a scandalous pamphlet of the same name as the title of this novel. The pamphlet attempts to educate young maidens on just what happens on a wedding night–because they are almost always completely ignorant.

Well, the widow had an ulterior motive. A certain engagement is broken, and the jilted groom-to-be comes to the author of the pamphlet for revenge … and for a seduction. For the author of the book has it all wrong about wedding nights, and he has anointed himself as her educator.

It’s really not as spicy as it sounds, with only 3 sex scenes. If the sex scenes went on longer than I liked, well no one here will be surprised. I like sex scenes to be about as long as I write them–maybe half a page, which I think is fairly typical in the sort of fantasy romances I write. For a Regency, the long sex scenes should also not be a surprise.

It is also as fun as you might suspect, with saucy conversation and eyebrow-raising oneupmanship. It also introduces two other intriguing men who appear in future installments of the Secret Bride Trilogy. And if there are a few anachronisms–mostly in the form of modernisms in the dialog–they were counterbalanced by the great atmosphere and the grim historical settings.

The hero and the heroine both are a mix of virtue and vice, which adds interesting shades of gray to their character. Lili is ruthless and likes to have her way, but she also keeps her disabled servants employed despite the personal cost, and wants most of all to see her younger sister happy. Devon is ruthless and likes to have his way, but he is a devoted father and a secret philanthropist.

I finished Secrets of a Wedding Night in just two days. It’s fun with a dash of grit, very sensual, and fast-paced. If you like Regency, there is much to enjoy here.