Thursday, 27 June 2013

When the words won't come...

A writer is most happy writing. Yet sometimes our jobs, family life or even writing schedules become so humdrum that words are difficult to put down. Even more likely, the words are there but the will to capture and put them down in proper order just isn't. This last happens to me more often than not. I can happily daydream perfect sentences and even scenes in my head but when it comes to putting them on paper or the keyboard, it seems too much like work! There is no FUN that writing is supposed to be. So what do we do when we need to get the words from our head to our fingers? Or even get them forming in our head, when creativity just seems as elusive as rain in an Indian summer.

First is it a block? Or just a pebble you are looking at from very close up?
Are you making too much of a minor problem? Are you just tired ? That's the first thing which dries up the drive to write. A good night's rest or playing hookie from writing if you don't have a deadline looming can do the trick. It's very well to tell ourselves we must be regular but Sunday was made for a reason, you know. New experiences, meeting friends, even cooking a new recipe, trying out a new eating place, can all get you away from dwelling too much on your frustrations. Distract yourself from the problem. It has the scientific basis of freeing our synapses from impulse overload so that transmission can resume without the offending psychological fatigue. The reference of psychological fatigue brings us to the next question,

Are you sick of your work in progress?

This doesn't imply that your work isn't right or not proceeding the right way. It can just mean that the routine  has got overwhelming. You've been 'living' inside the heads of the 'same' characters day in and out. Thinking in their skin. This can get tiring. It does for me because I write emotional stuff and and to write with feeling can be exhausting. You need to replenish the store. Or sometimes the characters can for whatever reason not just talk to you. (you'll either get this or think I'm a lost cause.) Staring at the blank page is just not helping. You can do any of these in such a situation :

i) Take a walk. I read somewhere it was someone's top Writer's Block Curing Tip and it is mine as well. A walk, preferably somewhere you can admire the serenity of nature, will do wonders. Must be why Keats wrote 'Ode to Autumn.' 'Ode to a Nightangle' (cool recital), Robert Frost wrote 'Birches', Wordsworth wrote 'Daffodils'. Nature has the magic spray a whiff of which can cure writer's block and a daily dose serves as a tonic which builds your resistance like Vitamin C building resistance against colds :)

ii) Mull in isolation. This isn't always possible. But even if you're shut up in a room or just not talking to anyone else, it can serve. At a crutch, you can pretend to be reading. If you have music blaring in your ears, it can serve. For me, waiting for something to cook, when family thinks I'm busy in kitchen does the trick ;) Activities which keep your hands busy while not requiring active mental engagement can serve. Washing dishes, cooking, maybe driving for can devise your own. You can feel and think your characters through in those minutes and sometimes get startling ideas. Of course keep your device or pen handy for these times as memory can be very short term. A blink and it is gone!

iii) Read over what you have written. This can provide insights you have missed. But you must read the right way. The 'right' way for me means taking apart every dialogue and thought of the character or characters and see if it really fits them. Have I missed some hidden motivation because I was in too much hurry to pour my thoughts on the keyboard? Or too taken up by the 'beautiful' metaphors my brain had come up with? Language and expression has a way of cloaking your character's real thoughts and motivational twists, I'm still learning this, though it's happening less frequently than when I started. A chance phrase would crop up and I would ignore what my character really would say in a scene just so I could use that phrase which at that time sounded witty. Writing is trickier than driving an obstacle course, I tell you.

Face it, you could just be acting lazy

Yes. Writers are also human beings so why can't we have our weak moments? But too few of these and you get into the habit of shelving your work. It just wouldn't call out to you that alluringly if you start to feel it's a drag. So you have to dredge up enthusiasm when it isn't there and suddenly after you type half a page, you are IN the story and it's there. It's happening. I read in a Reader's Digest article that the motor system of the brain can influence our emotional state. For instance, smile, even when it's a plastic smile and sometime later it can become a real one. Start writing, move those muscles, act like you love it and viola! a minute later, you are! Okay, okay sometimes it takes half an hour. BUT YOU GET SOMETHING DONE. Yes, writing is supposed to be something we love to do, but mothers will remember how sometimes kids can make you feel so unloving, yet you mother them. Same is the way with writing. You have to DO it even when you don't love it. Kick that writer's block by banging your head against it.

Slack off but only in very small doses. Make up in a big way. Write with love or by gritting your teeth but just write.
Which reminds me, I still have to type the scene that came to me yesterday when I was staring out of the bus window :p

So did you get anything out of this post? What are your secret tips on beating writer's block. Do share!


Sunday, 16 June 2013

First Chapter Writing Tips

Mills and Boon is hosting medical fast track in which you get rapid feedback in just two weeks! All you have to do is submit the first chapter of your medical romance story. It ends 30th June '13. Here's the link for details :

For those who are thinking of submitting, I'm sharing some writing advice here.
They say, well begun is half done. Or in other words, well prepared is target secured.
Any contest is both difficult and rewarding. Difficult as it takes nerves to enter and rewarding because one always learns from experience. Writing contests are no different except that an aspiring writer contestant is especially sensitive to rejection. It's important when you enter a contest to first keep in mind that ANY outcome is possible. Second, to repeat to yourself, 'I'll give it my best shot.' Over and over. If you do, you'll have no reproach for yourself at least, however it ends...and who knows you may be next one shortlisted!
From my experience of entering writing contests, and winning two of them, I've compiled some tips. Also I've included the input from all I learnt during the writing of the first chapter of my first book, Bollywood FiancĂ© fora Day.
I've listed them in order of what seems important to me:

Opening scene: The opening scene should draw the reader in. Right into the world you have created. What is your character doing as the story opens? What is she/he feeling? Is your character worried while driving? Does she accidentally miss the turn signal of car in front? What happened then? Create a situation where the readers (or your judges) can't help but read on to find out what happens next. 

Build a problem: Is your heroine (or hero) in trouble? Why? Who could help her? Why wouldn't she take help from him? Always go deep into a character's reasons. Why. That simple word leads to so many possibilities. The late Penny Jordan, romance author extraordinaire once said, the most important of the tips her editor gave her was: always ask why.

Interaction of characters: In romance you have two main characters. Have them in the scene together as soon as possible. That sounds like a tall order for a first chapter. You would say, what about explaining the setting, the situation, the background? But just think, if you don't show them together here, you may not get another chance! First chapter is all you have for putting up in this contest. So have them interacting. Show what the heroine feels for the hero and he for her. How do they happen to be there? Is it planned? Or coincidence? Does she want to avoid him? Will she succeed? Build up the curiosity factor.

Tension: Show the tension between the characters. Awareness. Attraction. Conflict. Does she drop something in her confusion when near him? Most heroes aren't bumbling but a little tug at his necktie would be endearing, don't you think? Tension between Hero/heroine is a must in a Mills and Boon! :)

Sympathy for characters: Have the reader sympathize with your character. If the hero turns heroine's troubled aunt out of her house, it's a very strong conflict between the characters but would the reader sympathize with someone like that? Would you? You'd most likely kick such an insensitive brute. Always keep your character lovable.
For more on characters, go here.

Make it read-worthy: Last but not least the grammar. Spell check. Read. Revise. Watch your tenses. Double check your verbs. Make your presentation the best it can be.
Also always follow the specifications given under the contest rules. For genre submission, it's important to follow the guidelines. For more guidelines to know how much 'medical' your story needs to be, click here.  

So do remember, begin with a strong opening scene, build a problem, have your characters interact and show tension between them. Make your characters lovable, always spell check and make your work presentable.
Hope I have been able to help. :)
Sharing your work can be scary. If you've submitted or made a decision to submit your entry, you're already to be congratulated.
If you're reading this to improve it, double congratulations, because you have decided to go after this writing thing and you're already interested in making it better. 

So are you trying your luck? 
Good luck to all the entrants and remember, if you're pursuing your dream, you're a winner!

Write with love,