Combatting Writer’s Block With Revision

I’ve never been a fan of rewriting in the middle of writing, because the process starts to take over my life, I stop writing writing, and I start obsessing over little nitpicky details and mistakes that I made early on.  That being said, one of the things I’ve been using to combat writer’s block and get myself excited about telling the story again (even though that part I’m on right now is really hard for me to write) is going back and reading some of the earlier chapters.  So I’ve been doing a little bit of revising lately while I’ve been struggling with Chapter 21.

Which is good, because some things that I thought were in the story, I had told instead of shown.  There were some little scenes where I knew what happened, but instead of showing the scene, I said ‘this happened’ and left it for the re-write.  Mostly this happened in parts where I didn’t have a handle on a character that was in the scene, or hadn’t quite researched how X or Y should look and I didn’t want to write an inaccurate description.  Having characters inaccurately interpret things is different than having them inaccurately describe them, but that is a topic for another day.

Anyway, my point is this: I think that reading and adding some of those fun little scenes I sort of glossed over has really helped me combat writer’s block.  And maybe most of these scenes are unnecessary fluff and they’re going to go into a deleted scenes file on the re-write, I don’t know.  It doesn’t matter.  The point is, I’m excited about writing again, and that’s really what my hangup was.

Writer’s Block

I’m experiencing some “writer’s block” lately, and it’s pretty hard.  The problem isn’t that I don’t know what I’m going to write.  The problem is that I don’t really have the drive to just write it.  The only solution is that I need to just sit down at the keyboard.

A lot of stuff is going on in my life that is distracting me.  My dad is having a scary medical issue, we’re re-framing our windows because the sills were rotted out, my boss is retiring so work is a mess, I’m getting a new job, we’re getting a dog.  When I’m stressed out, I never necessarily feel stressed out.  It manifests itself in different ways.  I’m not really sleeping, I’m definitely not eating properly, and I’ve been spending most of my nights on the couch watching Food Network shows on Netflix.  I haven’t even been writing on my lunch breaks because I simply don’t have lunch breaks.  I’ve been going in early, working through lunch, and just happy if I can get home on time.  Because my writing group changed to a time that I have a scheduling conflict, I haven’t even had a writing group to prompt me along for the last two weeks.

I’ve decided that, today, I’m going to write during my lunch break.  I’m going to remove myself from my office so that I can’t answer the phones, emails, or get sucked into a case.  I’m going to take myself to a break room with my tablet and my lunch box and just write.  I don’t need to write well; I do need to start writing again.

Brainstorming Endings

I’m writing this ahead of time in preparation for being on vacation next week.  And while I’m sitting here, I’m trying to decide how I intend to spend my extra writing time that week.  I can only write as fast as the story unfolds in my head, which means I can typically put out about a chapter a week without starting to hate what I’m writing.

If you’ve read my previous posts, you might be asking yourself what I’m going on about.  Because I’ve said elsewhere that I’m writing to an outline.  And I am!  But the thing about the outline is that it’s very general, and my chapters are very specific.  I can’t write a very good chapter if I’m not seeing it unfold in my head the way I see professional authors’ stories unfold when I’m reading them.

I’ve decided that while I’m out of town I’m going to spend some time trying to brainstorm some other endings.  I’ve talked about this with my husband, and he thinks I’m insane.  He’s definitely more of an outline writer than I am, and the thought that I was tooling along without having a specific ending in mind made him do a double-take.

I do have a specific ending in mind.  It’s right there in my outline.  I’m hopefully foreshadowing away.  The ending I initially thought up three months ago when I started writing this novel is a solid ending.  It makes sense given the characters.  It certainly fits in with the themes that are developing in the book.  And the plot is driving itself in that direction quite nicely without a lot of course-correction from me.

But here’s the thing: there’s maybe a better ending out there.  And don’t I owe it to myself, my characters, and my (fingers crossed) future readers to try to find it?  I think I do.  So I intend to go looking for it on my vacation, and I’ll let you know how it goes.  Even if I don’t find a better ending, maybe I’ll come up with some fun ideas to throw in my Folder of Random Ideas Waiting For Stories file.  Any which way I don’t think the time will be wasted.

Writing Groups

I’ve seen a lot of benefit from doing a workshopping-style writing group once weekly.  It forces me to actually think about how to improve my writing, and also forces me to produce over the week so that I have something to bring.

But the internet-based writing group that I do over TeamSpeak seems to be dying.  We started with four writers, which was a good amount for workshopping everyone’s things and getting varied feedback without running for 8 hours, but the group has dropped off to where it’s just me and another guy.  I’ve tried to find something local, but the downside of not living in or near a city is that I don’t have a lot of selection in terms of in-person groups.  There is a group at the local university that looks more like a writers’ support group, when what I’m actually looking for is a workshopping group.  The nearest workshopping group is about 1 hour 20 minutes away, which translates to 3 hours of driving on my writing day.  I just can’t justify that.

I’m thinking about attending the support group once to see what sort of writers are there, and if anyone would be interested in forming a workshopping group at a different time and day.  And by ‘thinking about’ I mean that I’m trying to work myself up to it.  One of the downsides of being an introvert is that going new places gives me a mild form of social anxiety.

Slogging Through Chapter 21

I’d like to say that Chapter 21 is complete, but it isn’t.  It’s only about half way done.  I just haven’t had a lot of time to write this week, even on lunch, because of computer problems at work and the resulting stress that falling behind at work generates at home.  I really should just sit down and finish Chapter 21 this afternoon.  But I’m feeling so mentally exhausted, I don’t know if it will actually happen.

Wish me luck.


Dropbox has been great tool for me.  It’s a very simple, intuitive program that allows you to save your stories into an online server and pull them up from anywhere.  It allows me to share my stories between my writing tablet and my home computer.  My writing tablet is a great tool for reasons I won’t go into again, but my home computer is superior in some ways.

For instance, the word processor on my tablet doesn’t have a spell check, and my home computer runs Microsoft Office Word, which does have a spell check.  When I’m writing on my writing tablet, I’m usually doing first drafts.  But the tablet has a very small screen, a small keyboard, and a built-in mouse on the keyboard pad that I sometimes accidentally touch and end up writing sentences where I don’t necessarily want to write them.  In comparison, it’s easier for me to revise and edit on my home computer, because the main monitor is about three times as large and having a second monitor means that I can do research without having to tab away from the page I’m currently on.

Dropbox has allowed me to change the same version of my document between my writing tablet and my home PC.  One of the reasons I was hesitant about writing on a tablet is because they’re very portable, which means easily stolen, and the thought of losing all of my writing was just terrifying to me.  I’m also really bad when it comes to taking manual backups.  But it’s very easy to just upload a copy of something into Dropbox, and then download the copy onto my home PC and save over whatever version I have.  This means that the same version of my story is in at least three locations, two physical and one server, which is comforting to me.

I also discovered another nice feature of Dropbox the other day.  When I was writing a chapter on my tablet, I had accidentally opened up the Dropbox version rather than the version saved to my tablet’s SD card.  I’m a compulsive saver, so I had been hitting “save” every few minutes.  But when I uploaded the version of the story from my tablet’s SD card into Dropbox, I accidentally replaced the new version that I had been working with the old version that I had been working on yesterday.

Panic.  I had written an entire chapter and then saved over it with an older version of my story that didn’t have that chapter.

As I was sitting in my PC on despair, I discovered that Dropbox has a nifty feature where.  When I open my Dropbox folder on my home PC, I can right-click a file and then click “view previous versions.”  It then pulls up a folder called “revisions” on the internet, which has all of the previous versions of my story that I’ve saved to Dropbox.  In this case, it allowed me to load up the version of my story with the new chapter that I had actually been saving into Dropbox all along and had accidentally overwritten.  You can only imagine my relief.

So now I’m even more happy with Dropbox than I was in the first place.  It’s an amazing tool and I wouldn’t be nearly as productive without it.

Chapter 20 Complete

I missed a couple of updates on my chapter progressions while my power and internet were out.  I’ve been trucking right along because writing has been the most interesting thing in my life lately, especially with my internet crapping out and removing all of my other relaxing hobbies.  I love being able to check books out of the library on my tablet, but… yeah.  Need to have internet for that.

I finished chapter 19 yesterday but I didn’t really feel like posting about it.  I wasn’t sure whether I was going to keep the new version, or try to fix the old version.  I ultimately decided to keep the new version.

I was supposed to meet with my small writing group this morning, but it didn’t work out.  So I ended up having a couple of extra hours today in which to write, and I’m very excited to say that I finished chapter 20!  I’m just amazed at how much progress I’m making.  Here I was thinking that a chapter a week was ambitious, but now that I’m sitting down and writing regularly, it seems like I’m actually averaging about two chapters a week.  Admittedly, my chapters are pretty short.  But I still think it’s awesome.

When I was reviewing my outline after wrapping up chapter 20, I realized that I had skipped a couple of things that I had intended to put before this point.  The writing just moved me along to where it is now because the story arc was interesting.  But I do want to put those plot points in.  When I was thinking about whether they will fit in later, I realized that they will actually fit better later.  And this is why I’m not a strict outliner.  Sometimes the story takes me and runs with me, and if it’s better than what I planned, I’m happy to let it do so.