Tag Archives: writing tips

A New Writing Method I’m Trying (And Not Sure About)

I know it’s been a while since I’ve talked about my various writing projects. There is a reason for that. I won’t say it’s a good reason, but there is a reason. I still have a number of manuscripts that I hope to get published one day. I also keep reaching out to agents and publishers in hopes of publishing another novel.

To date, I’ve only gotten responses from scammers and grifters. Seriously, if anyone claims they can make your book a best seller for the low price of $1,200, delete that email or hang up on them. They’re lying.

While I am discouraged and have since stopped making sexy short stories, I’m still writing every day. I still have ideas I want to flesh out. I’m still trying to refine my craft. I treat every project as an opportunity to improve and I try to take it.

However, lately I’ve been finding it difficult to write at the same rate and efficiency as I did years ago. It used to be I could write a good 5,000 words with ease and still have time for class in college. Now, I’m lucky if I can get 2,000 words out. Again, there’s a reason for that.

Looking back on it, those 5,000 words I mentioned weren’t exactly quality work. In fact, it would take me almost as much time to edit or revise those words as it would to write them out. Quality beats quantity in writing 99 times out of 100. That’s a lesson I’ve learned the hard way and come to appreciate.

These days, the slow pace of my writing has less to do with how fast I can type and more to do with me wanting it to sound just right. The narration has to be good. The dialog has to be solid. It has to work on multiple levels and that’s really slowing me down. I’m doing less editing and revising on the back end, but it’s still frustrating at times.

As a result, I decided to take a step back recently and adjust my approach. In doing so, I realized something critical in my writing. The part that slows me down the most, to the point of stalling, is writing dialog. For most writers, that’s not surprising. Writing dialog is one of the hardest things to do in any novel, script, or play. Whenever I seek out writing tips, I tend to gravitate most towards those focusing on dialog.

Again, some of that has to do with quality over quantity. I try to give each character a voice. I try to make the conversation feel realistic, but memorable and witty. That is not easy to do and, if I’m being honest, I neglected that in the past. When I read over my old work, I see how little thought I put into the dialog. At times, most of the characters just sounded the same. They were just there to play a role.

I’m trying to avoid that. I’m trying to improve, as well. I also want to be efficient. I know that’s asking for a lot, but I think there’s a balance to be struck. Right now, I do not have that balance. So, after assessing what I’ve done and how to move forward, I’ve decided to try this new approach.

In the past, I simply went from start to finish with each chapter, going word for word between narration and dialog. It was simple and probably the way most people approach writing. Now, here’s what I want to do.

For each chapter of each story, I start with a script. I focus entirely on the dialog between the characters. There’s no prose or narration in between. I write out the conversations first. I add the details and structure later. In essence, this is what it looks like.

NARRATION

Character 1: Dialog

Character 2: Dialog

Character 1: Dialog

Character 3: Dialog

Character 1: Dialog

NARRATION

Character 1: Dialog

I’m going to try and use this on my next project. I don’t know how well it will work, but it’s something I’d like to try. I feel like the way I’m doing things now is just too inefficient. There’s always a better way to do something and I’m going to try this and see where it leads me.

In the meantime, has anyone else ever attempted something like this? Has anyone ever written out a chapter or book in a non-linear fashion? If so, what has been your experience? Did you find it helpful? Did it make your writing better and more efficient?

I’d love to know. Please share your experience in the comments. If you have other tips or approaches you’d like to share, please do so. I’d be happy to listen.

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How To Combat Writer’s Block: A Few Simple Tips

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Writing is challenging. Anyone who has written a grade school essay can attest to that. It’s even challenging for those who do it every day. I’ve been writing constantly almost every day since I was 15 years old. I’ve more than met the 10,000-hour rule when it comes to mastering a skill, but I still find it challenging.

A big part of that challenge is dealing with writer’s block. I don’t care if you’re Stephen King, William Shakespeare, or Kurt Cobain. You’re going to hit a dead end at some point. You’re going to get to a point in your writing where you feel stuck. I can’t count how many times I’ve been in that position. I’ve thrown chunks of entire stories away, along with entire stories, because of it.

At the same time, overcoming writer’s block is probably the best way to progress as a writer. Overcoming a challenge forces you to refine your skill in unexpected ways. I’ve probably learned more by dealing with setbacks than I ever have navigating a successful idea.

I know there are tons of tips out there for beating writer’s block. Most are just glorified placebos, but some do offer meaningful advice. I know because I’ve tried most of these tips in some form or another over the years. Talk to any writer and they’ll probably tell you they have some special trick to getting around it.

I can say with relative certainty that there’s no one special trick that works for every writer. If there were, then someone would’ve patented it and overcharged for it by now. At best, there are strategies you can utilize. They don’t work the same way for everyone, but they do work in most situations. What follows are some of the most effective tips I’ve used over the years. I just thought I’d share them in hopes they work for others.


Tip #1: Create A Routine For Writing

This works well for me because I like working within a routine. I’m very regimented when it comes to work. I like having set times that I can plan around. Doing that with writing has always helped. I designated a certain chunk of time of day, usually an hour, specifically for writing. Doing so helps with more than just saying productive.

Even when I’m not feeling particularly inspired, I often find my brain starts working better when those times arises. Essentially, I’ve trained my brain to activate its writing function at set times. On some days, it works better than others. It still works and if you’re the kind of person who likes sticking to a schedule, this is a good way to essentially plan around writer’s block.


Tip #2: Exercise (To Get Your Brain Active)

This may not appeal to those who aren’t inclined to exercise. Even if you hate it, I still suggest doing some level of rigorous activity, be it a trip to the gym or a few walks around the block. Anything that gets your blood flowing helps you feel more alert and less lethargic.

For beating writer’s block, that’s important. It’s tempting to just stop writing and lounge about, eventually falling asleep in a stupor. In my experience, that makes writer’s block even worse. I can be stuck on an idea for hours. Then, I’ll just go jogging for a bit and something will come to me. Again, it doesn’t always work, but it works often enough to be a vital part of my approach.


Tip #3: Work On Something Else (That’s Smaller)

No matter how determined you are to finish something, a nasty bout of writer’s block just keeps you stuck in place. You can punish your brain all you want. Nothing will come out. In this case, it’s important to keep your brain working. That’s when having something else to work on can help.

I rarely have just one project to work on. I always have a few little stories here and there on the side. Some never pan out, but they help when I’m stuck on other stories. As long as I’m producing something, it keeps the creative juices flowing. Eventually, they’ll flow well enough to get me back on track with other projects. It can get chaotic, but the key is to just keep your brain chugging along.


Tip #4: Read Over Older Works

It may sound vain, but I’ve found that taking a step back and appreciating what you’ve finished in the past helps maintain a healthy perspective. Even if you haven’t written much and you think your previous works were awful, going back to read them shows that you can do this. You can finish a story.

That reassurance, on its own, helps give you the confidence you need to keep at it. One of the worst effects of writer’s block is how much it hits your confidence. The more you lose, the easier it is to get stuck. Reading over old works doesn’t just show you how you’ve succeeded in the past. It shows you how far you’ve come. It can inspire you in many ways, but you only need one to crack writer’s block.


Tip #5: Write Bits And Pieces (And Combine Them Later)

I find myself doing this often with stories I’ve yet to refine. Most of my work starts off with a focused idea. The challenge is building structure around that idea. While I usually try to go from start to finish in one fluid process, it doesn’t always work that smoothly. Sometimes, I start with the parts I’ve already fleshed out in my head and then just work around them.

It can be messy. Sometimes, the story you craft feels disjointed when it’s written in pieces. You can even tell at times when something was cut and pasted into a scene. Ideally, you fix that sort of thing when you revise it. It’s still a challenge, but it’s much easier to revise something that you’ve already written, as opposed to forcing something out for the sake of breaking writer’s block.


These are all just simple tips that have worked for me in the past. If you have others you’d like to share, please do so in the comments.

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Sounds Of Relaxation (And Productivity)

Let’s face it. There are a lot of distractions and I’m not just talking about cat videos, Baby Yoda memes, or FaceBook feeds. The world is a noisy, chaotic place. That’s just life in general. Finding peace and quiet can be difficult, especially if you want to work on something.

In college, I lived in an all-male dorm for a few years. It didn’t just get noisy. I heard sounds in those dorms that I can never unhear. I also smelled things I can never unsmell, but that’s beside the point.

Despite these distractions, I did manage to stay productive. I wrote many short stories, novels, and essays for my own enjoyment. It wasn’t easy with so many distractions. Thankfully, I discovered a useful tool that I’d like to share. It’s called brown noise.

It’s kind of what it sounds like. It’s just a steady flow of noise that you can play on your computer or phone that helps block out any external noise. In college, I had it as a two-hour MP3. Today, there are 10-hour YouTube videos that do the same and I can consider them a godsend. They help create this private domain in which I can focus, work, and conjure all sorts of ideas for novels and short stories.

If you’ve ever found yourself in a similar situation, I encourage you to give it a try. If you have an internet connection and a good pair of headphones, it’s completely free. Here’s a video of the noise I often use when I write.

If you want something that sounds a bit more natural, then try rain. It’s also great if you’re trying to nap in the middle of the day.

A few variations even incorporate thunder, which some find relaxing. One of my old roommates used to use that while studying.

If you need something with a bit of a rhythm, try a little light jazz music. While this has never worked well for me, I know some people who just need music to stay focused.

These aren’t the only sounds that can help with relaxation or productivity. I encourage everyone to experiment a little. Go on YouTube and find different videos. Eventually, you’ll find something that gets your mind in the right place and your world will be richer because of it.

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