March 24, 2015

Our Characters: No Deeper Than We Are

The warning is plastered all over the internet – write multi-dimensional characters, or risk losing your readers’ interest before the story’s even begun! Yet time and again as I attempt to bury myself in one of Amazon’s bestsellers or the NYT’s top ten, I find myself disappointed by their repetitive MCs and cardboard casts. This is especially the case in the YA genre. It’s not as if the creators of these characters are without talent. Their story plots are often ingenious and their flavorful writing styles have more than once sparked my admiration. But the characters, oh, the characters! Flat, uninteresting individuals who never rise above mediocrity except to thrash about in some kind of melodramatic confrontation! Their love is cliché, their suffering is artificial, and their ambitions are weak and unsophisticated. They lack the spark of life which infuses our own daily lives with significance, which causes us to consider the people around us as…
As what?
That, my friends, is the real question.
You see, I have come to the conclusion that the root problem many modern writers face with characterization does not lie in their approach to writing. It lies in their approach to life itself. And it is not solely a problem with writers. Literature merely reflects the spirit of the age, holding up a mirror to reality which, if examined carefully, forces us to confront our own weaknesses. Looking into the mirror of modern literature would seem to suggest that our characters reflect the people we have become: a people obsessed with ourselves, and therefore utterly boring.
 Pick up any YA novel off the front page of Amazon’s catalog and examine its young protagonist. Note how she views the people she comes in contact with. I guarantee you that her observations about people will be limited to their relation to herself. Do they threaten her or do they make her feel good about herself? Are they useful or are they obstructing her goals? Almost universally, the only individual who will be considered for his own sake will be the character who becomes her love interest. And even then, most of her concerns about him will be how he makes her feel and whether he returns her affection. If someone suffers, it is presented as efficiently as possible, because the suffering is only a plot device that moves the story forward.
Compare this to a novel such as Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. Consider how even a minor character such as Katerina Ivanovna, the step-mother of Sonya, is portrayed. We see only what the main character sees of her, but his observations of her sufferings preserve their full intensity. Through Raskolnikov, we hear her rants and see her tears, we experience her nobility and her agony and her wretchedness. The author doesn’t need to spend much time describing Raskolnikov’s emotional reaction to Katerina because the reader is reacting for him. We are the ones moved by her sufferings, so honestly portrayed, and Raskolnikov’s behavioral changes are enough to show that he feels exactly as we do.
Just now, a fellow student reading over my shoulder rolled his eyes at me and informed me that, “You can’t compare a modern writer to someone like Dostoevsky. That guy is top notch. You have to use someone, I dunno, who still writes good but is less [insert flapping gesture].”
I disagree. What makes Dostoevsky such an incredible novelist is not necessarily his writing ability, but his ability to understand people. Dostoevsky experienced incredible suffering in his life, and he allowed this suffering to deepen his connections with the rest of humanity. When he looked around him, he saw beauty and significance in each person that he met. When he looked in someone’s eyes, he saw hope and potential for greatness, no matter their background.
When we look in other people’s eyes, what do we see? Is that girl simply a waitress who should be serving your food faster? Is your classmate simply that kid who never shuts up and makes everyone hate him? Is your boyfriend simply a man who exists to make you feel loved?
Because real people mattered to Dostoevsky for their own sakes, regardless of how they impacted him, he was able to write characters who matter to readers regardless of how they impact the other characters of the novel. His relationships with people were deeper than their utility to him, so he knew how to write relationships that have meaning deeper than their usefulness to the story plot.
As Razumikhin and Porfiry (my favorite Dostoevsky characters) are so fond of saying, people are more than the facts that surround them. If we only recognize the facts about them that are useful or pleasant to us, then the characters we create will only be a conglomeration of useful or pleasant facts. Not to mention that’s just a bad way to look at people in general.
            Among all other of our age, writers have a special responsibility to hold up the mirror of truth to ourselves and recognize our weaknesses. How we grapple with these weaknesses will become immortalized in our works, and we become a part of the great historical tradition of literature. It’s fine and good to write for pleasure, to write simply for the sake of writing, but even this can have immense value for ourselves and our readers if we allow our craft to deepen who we are as people.

May 23, 2014

How to Fire Your Novel's Cast

Hey guys! Believe it or not, I’m still alive. It’s been quite the busy couple semesters at college (hence the distinct lack of articles). BUT! Summer is back, and so is my writing frenzy! I’ll be posting a little over the next couple of months, so hopefully you’ll find something here to help you out. :) 

Today’s topic requires us to be a little utilitarian. Ahem-hem, warning. This may sting. 

As a fairly new writer myself, it has taken me a long time to truly accept the fact that sometimes, you really can’t have it all. The problem with mastering (read: occasionally managing) the technique of creating real, lovable characters is that once conceived, they are nearly impossible to abandon. All too often, writers stumble into the trap of trying to write too much about too many characters.

This makes sense. If you love writing, your characters are going to be as real (…more real…) to you than true life. What is more natural than longing to share this with your readers? In fact, even readers sometimes wish they could know everything about every character. Fandoms, anyone?

But the truth is that this simply isn’t feasible, even for those writing series—not every character is going to get forty pages of screen time at some point in your collection. Why? Because we are story tellers, not historians. Our priority is to tell a story—that we love, yes—but that captures a finite picture over a finite period of time.

“Won’t a good writer be able to get away with anything he wants?” Um—no. Even the best authors are human. They, like all of the rest of us, have to remember that like government and elastic waistbands, if stories are stretched too far, they loses all meaning. A little salt seasons a lot of food, and too much ruins it.

Point is, you have to pick and choose which characters deserve a place in your novel. If you’re having a hard time understand what exactly I mean, take a look at the three questions below that you can ask yourself to determine which of your babies gets the chopping block.

1) Do I actually care about this character?

You’d be surprised at how often people write stories with characters they absolutely detest. I was nearly guilty of this myself while writing my second book. I got nearly ten chapters in before I realized why I was having such a hard time motivating myself to write. Quite simply, I had made a side character into a lead one, and I hated him. Once I realized this, the solution was clear. I didn’t eliminate him completely (as in, erase his entire existence), because I did need him and I knew I liked him doing the job I needed him for. But I was able to chop him from my cast of lead characters, which meant I had a lot more room to develop the ones I did care about.

2) Could I use a different character with just a few changes to the story?

I’ve used this question quite a lot. The reason it took me so long to eliminate the character mentioned above was that I needed him to provide a foil for the emotional development of my main character. When I finally asked myself, “Can I use someone else without fundamentally changing my story?” And the answer was yes! I realized I had another very important character who could fulfill this role too, and with my consolidation justified, one character got a raise and the other was fired.

Key point here is that if you realize it’s not necessary for this character to fill a role, see if you can give his job to one you are certain you have to keep.

3) Do this character exist because I like him or because I need him?

Sound similar to the above questions? Yeah, that’s cuz it is. But now I’m making you face the facts head on. No more evading the question. For real, do you really, truly, desperately need this character? If the answer to this question is “no”—however weak, grudging or tearful!—then KILL YOUR BABY! If you like them that much, write them their own book!

If reading all this has you on your knees, clutching one of your brainchildren to your dripping face, afraid to take the final step and fling them out the window, I can do the honors. Remember!


            Some characters are more important to your story than others. If you waste time on extras, you’re stealing word count from the ones that really matter. Give yourself the luxury of being able to give them all the page count they need to grow and change.


            The fewer characters you have, the more efficient you’re forced to be with them. Each one has to do a lot more, but that only makes them so much more fun to read about. Lacking breadth of cast, you are required to aim for depth, and that is always a rewarding experience for readers.

As cool as it would be to have Benedict Cumberbatch appear as Sherlock Holmes in every other movie in existence, it would ruin a lot of films that have a lot to offer on their own. Likewise, your awesome character might be ruining the awesome book you’re working on now. Be brave, be objective, and be creative in reducing your cast so you can do justice to the characters you need.

September 16, 2013

Three Lessons from "Ender's Game"

I think they're making a movie...
It's been a while since I found a new fiction book I really like, and last month I finished one that literally blew me away. Ask my sister, who was in the hotel room with me as I was reading the climax--I was gasping and exclaiming aloud, which I almost NEVER do.

The book? Well sheesh, it's in the title... Ender's Game. Yeah, I know, I'm behind. Anyway, written in 1985 by Orson Scott Card, the book is a military science fiction novel that touches on some interesting themes. I enjoyed every second of it, not just because it was a great read, but because I learned some powerful lessons from it.

Lesson #1. Surprise the Reader

Three-fourths of the way through the book, I thought it was good. Then in the last quarter, I realized it wasn't good at all. It was stunning, flabbergasting, shocking, glorious, and brilliant.

Why? Because it surprised me.

If you haven't read the book, I won't give the plot twist away. But go read it. Seriously. Now. And once you pick it up, forget I told you there was a surprise coming, because I want you to relish it. (Though in all honestly, I realized what was happening before I technically was supposed to. But it was still awesome.)

Have you finished it now? Good. Wasn't that cool? When I finished reading that, I automatically loved the book, not necessarily because I liked the twist, but because the author managed to surprise me. To do something I didn't expect.

Now, I'm not recommending you go out and like add some insane twist at the end of your book that will shock your readers and make them go "wait, what"? Because that's not what Ender did. The moment I got the twist, it changed the meaning of what happened in the rest of the book. I realized he had, in fact, been leading up to this, dropping hints here and there that suddenly all made sense. He gave some explanation after the first shock of the twist, but what made it work was that it didn't need the explanation to make sense. It was nice, but it wasn't necessary, because it made sense.

I know I'll enjoy reading Ender a second time through, even though the surprise won't be there anymore, because I will read everything in the first 3/4 with new eyes. I'll be looking for the signs that anticipate the climax.

 So surprise your reader. Find the balance between a pleasant surprise and unbelieving shock by leading up to it-- without giving too much away. Hard? Yeah. Hint: The key to the riddle should not be backstory.

Tips for Implementing Lesson #1:

--Study the art of successful plot twists. Take a book with a powerful plot twist that shocked you (in a good way) and study how they anticipated the great event. Did they write scenes with double meanings- that meant one thing before, and another after? Was there an object, phrase, person, or type of event that kept popping consistently, but had no real explanation until after the revelation? Did the author disguise character motivations?

--Brainstorm ways you can surprise your reader, even if it's not in the climax or a part of the central story line. Can you reveal an astonishing trait or motive in a character? What about an unknown relationship? Can you throw in some kind of Chekhov's gun?

Lesson #2. Be Aware of Your Message

It wasn't until after my initial impression of the book faded away that I really began to register what I had just read. I really, truly enjoyed the book-- but there were moral arguments being made in it that I just don't agree with. But at the same time, they were ingeniously engineered. The guy almost literally had a formula that he used to impress his argument in the reader's mind.

The first thing I did when I began comparing Ender to my own novel was to consider the message *I* would be sending. What actions were my characters condoning? What kind of behavior was I rewarding in my novel-- was it violence that lead to success, or was it nobility? I realized that some my characters were engaging in pretty awful behavior, and unwittingly I was allowing them to get away with it as if it were nothing unusual.

While moral ambiguity is "in" right now, I believe in something a little more defined. I want to be a part of the solution to the ills our world is facing, not the problems. Every novel contains a dilemma, and shows how it is solved or not solved by the characters within it. The morality of the solution may not be something you emphasize, but even the subtlest message will leave an imprint on someone. Make sure it's the one you want. Ender's Game showed me very clearly that I need to be aware of what message my novel will be sending people.

Novels can accidentally send the wrong message. So how do you send the one you want? As much as I disagree with Orson Scott Card, I have to say he did his work like a pro. If you read the Dramatica theory that I mentioned in an earlier post, you will have learned that even in books, arguments are based on premises and proof. This link here breaks down the specific method that Card used to convince the readers of Ender's Game of his arguments. The breakdown is about 1/4 of the way through the page. Use the "find" tool and input "These sequences" and it will take you right to it.

So. Know your message and how you're going to persuade your audience of it.

Tips for Implementing Lesson #2:

--Analyze your favorite movies/books and determine the moral message implied within it. What type of actions are shown to lead to success? What mindset is encouraged?

--Decide something you want your readers to come away with when they finish your book. Is it a certain method of solving a problem? Is it a worldview? Is it a stance on an issue? Then find a way to convince your readers of this idea within your novel.

Lesson 3-- Use Foils

I wouldn't say Ender's Game did the best job I've ever seen with using foils, but combined with all the other techniques Card used, this tool was still impactful. Card compared many characters with each other, both directly and indirectly, to set off each other's traits. Towards the beginning, he compared Alai and Bernard, who seemed to be similiar, to show that they were different. Towards the end, he compared Bean and Ender to show that they were similar. And of course, he compared Peter, Valentine, and Ender to each other constantly.

Using characters as foils basically works this way: you place two characters under similar situations and force them to react. In the past, I've used the analogy of chemicals when speaking of characters, and the analogy applies here, too. Many chemicals look very similar. Baking soda and powdered sugar, for instance. Put them in vinegar-- one explodes, one doesn't. Clean your counters with them-- one will make the sink sparkle, the other will attract flies.

Similar characters will show their differences if you put them in hard situations. Dissimilar characters can be shown to be even more disparate, or they can be shown to have unexpected similarities (like applesauce and butter-- they can be interchangeable in baking recipes. ;P)


--What traits do you really want to make the readers notice in your character? Which character is the opposite of them in that trait? Which is similar? How can you put them in situations that will bring out these similarities and differences?

--Do the characters see each other as foils? Make things interesting by having your characters in conflict over these traits. Are they jealous or proud that they are not like their foil? Are they pleased or upset that they are similar to them?

Your Turn!

Have you read Ender's Game? What did you think of it? Was there anything else you learned from this book?

September 9, 2013

Kill Your Blank Pages: Resolve

No quitting. 

The final post in our series.

If you read through all the other series articles and thought, "Yeah, so I know all that. Those aren't my problems!" then this article is definitely for you.

You see, there comes a point when you can't prepare any more. You have your storyline and cast. You have good writing skills, experience, and inspiration. You know exactly how to adapt your trade to the way you think.

So sit down and write!

Really. That's all this post is about. Alan Foster once said that “The thing all writers do best is find ways to avoid writing," and he's completely right. If you feel stuck in your writing and can't write, the reason may very well be that you just WON'T WRITE!

How to Know if You are Your Muse's Worst Enemy

As a former procrastinator myself, I know there are few things harder than to force yourself to write. Strangely enough, we writers seem to fear it more than anything else about our trade and hobby. Whether it's because we doubt our abilities, or because the unknown scares us, or because we're just plain lazy, we often just WON'T. 

This is an especially big problem for writers who have never completed anything before. Last spring I completed my first novel, and it completely changed my perspective on writer's block. I realized that all those times before that I thought I had to do this or that before I was ready to write, I was actually just inventing roadblocks for myself.

It may be to same case for you. In fact, I'm guessing it's pretty likely that it is. Deep in your heart of hearts, ask yourself why you're holding back.

How to Buck Up and Do It

Okay, so you've admitted to the greatest sin that a writer can commit. So how do you move past it?

--Practice! Keep a Journal. In the previous post I described how to keep a writing journal to enhance your understanding of yourself. It's also the best strategy I can think of to discipline yourself to just write, even when you don't want to. I'll post a great article on exactly how to do this best later (it happens to be in a notebook about 1400 miles away from me right now)

--Moodify yourself. Keep track of what puts you in the mood to write-- whether its a certain location (my bed <3), a yummy drink, a time of day, wearing that one t-shirt, a cat, a soundtrack, thinking about your favorite character or scene in your novel, a movie, etc. Then use that to put yourself in the mood!

--Write with a friend. Or not. Back to the idea of self-analysis from last post, figure out whether you write better with a friend to keep you accountable (or not!) Do you like getting together with a group of friends at the local coffee shop to write together, or do you need absolute silence in some holy sanctum? Be there.

--Um. Write. Pen to the paper, nose to the grind. That's all.

Well, that's it! We've made it through KILL YOUR BLANK PAGES: A TEN-PART SERIES ON WRITER'S BLOCK! Here's to hoping you found a tool to help you kill your blank pages-- but if you think I've left out some powerful tool, let me know! Share your wisdom!

In the meantime... That's all for now, folks. :) Good luck on your writing journey, and may the best word always win.

August 29, 2013

I Seeee Youuuu...

I know you exist!
Now for a bit of shameless self-advertising. ;)

Writing is the passion of my life-- from novel writing, to speech writing, to everything in between. I especially love to share what I've learned and the advice I've heard. If you've enjoyed my blog thus far, please share it with your writing friends or your writing group! Also, feel free to comment and/or ask questions by emailing me. The more I hear from you, the more you'll hear from me on this blog!

In short, if you let me know what writing topics you would like to see addressed, it will be much easier for me to provide relevant blog articles. :)

To contact me and my blog, feel free to email me at bloodytypewriter[at]gmail[dot com].

August 28, 2013

Kill Your Blank Pages: Self-Analysis

"Know Thyself"
Hey, sorry I'm a couple days late. College and all that. :) But here's part nine!

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. It's a natural tool that we humans use to improve ourselves-- from the time that we're babies, attempting to echo the words our mothers coo to us, through adolescence as we mold our behavior or style of dress after our idols and role models, to adulthood, where we read books on business or parenting or whatever to try to succeed the same way as others have.

But there comes a point where imitation must end and true living must begin. Though it inevitably requires trial and failure, we'll never truly succeed by copying other people. You are you, not them. 

Throughout this series on writer's block, I have often encouraged you to find a way to write that works for you. Today I'm going to focus on this a bit more. I'll explain why you shouldn't outline exactly as the Snowflake method demands; why you shouldn't mimic Rowling's (or anyone else's!) prose; why you shouldn't limit yourself to recycling overused plot and character tropes.

In short, I'm going to tell you that you are YOU.

How to Know if Imitation is Stifling Your Muse

Stilted. Awkard. Fake. Tiresome. These are some words that you may feel apply to your writing if you don't know your own writing style very well. Whether it's cuz you're trying to copy someone else's techniques, or just plain don't know how to string a sentence together in a comfortable way, your muse will undoubtedly be stifled if you don't know how to capture it on the page.

How to Break Free and Find Your Voice

Here are some methods I've used to find my own writing style. Not all of them will work for you, but hopefully some will.


-Stop reading your favorite author. In fact, stop reading at all for a month or two, or even longer if this is a chronic problem for you! If you can't see something, you can't imitate it. So detox yourself from all that influence and take a break from books. (If you can't manage that, then just read a wide variety of different genres and/or authors with wildly different styles. Get your idol out of your head.)

-Experiment! If you write in the same genre as whatever author/style you tend to imitate, then take a break and try writing in a completely different one. If you write historical romance in omniscient 3rd person, then write a dystopian science fiction in first person. If you write fantasy, write an autobiography! It doesn't have to be long. Just write something that REQUIRES you to take a completely different approach to how you write.

-Go back and read something you wrote a long time ago, maybe before you fell under the influence of whatever you're imitating. What did you do a good job at? A dramatic murder scene that was just totally gripping? A unique turn of phrase when it comes to description? Find a way to take what you did there and apply it to your entire writing style. Maybe that humorous secondary character had awesome, original, charming dialogue, but you've been writing in third person. So try writing in first person or deep third with a similar character that allows you to add that natural voice to everything! Don't be afraid to be different.

-Journal. Yeah, if you're anything like me you wanna stab the screen with a pencil at the very thought. I certainly don't journal right now. But I did. Once. For two weeks, I took 15 minutes a day EVERY DAY to just write whatever came to mind! The events of the day, embarrassing stories from the past (I should probably burn it), weird dreams, why I was bothering to write the dumb thing, etc. It was hard. Sometimes I ran out of things to think about (I'll talk about this more next week). But by the end, I had gained a lot of experience writing in my own natural voice. In fact, those last two and a half minutes where I felt like I had nothing to say brought it out very strongly, since I would not allow myself to put the pen down. Do it. That's all.


-Stop reading. Again, mental detox! You read to gain inspiration. You stop reading to lose it, and in this case, that's what you want.

-Switch genres. Sometimes you don't need to stop reading, but rather need to start thinking outside the box. If your plot lines are stale and cliche, it may be because you're only reading books or watching films that all follow the same basic structure. Broaden your horizons and discover what's possible by exploring a different genre or style! THEN stop reading and stop trying to plot for a long time (say, a few months). That way when you go back to plotting, you'll have plenty of options at your disposal, and yet no fresh impressions to influence you. Hopefully this will help you to adopt a technique or structure that feels most natural to you.

-Broaden your experience. Sometimes just experiencing more of life helps you to understand yourself better. It also exposes you to more of the craziness that life can throw at you. This should not only inspire you, but give you a better feel for the kind of craziness you find most interesting and would like to write about.


-Stop reading. You get the picture.

-Analyze people you've met. So, unless you live in Plato's metaphorical cave, you probably know people. Which of your friends, family and acquaintances just fascinate you? Which frustrate you? Which make you feel bad about yourself, or want to be more heroic? What is it about them that makes you feel this way? The better you understand how human personalities and problems affect you, the easier it will be for you to capture these in your own characters. You can use the traits that impact you most powerfully to have the same impact on your readers!

-Meet new people. Along the same lines as above. Talk to the awkward wonks, the quirky extroverts, the stuffy intellectuals, the passionate activists, the loving parents, the bored teenagers. Better yet, talk to the unusual people. The broader your people experience, the more character traits at your disposal.

-Mix 'n' Match! Take all these traits you've identified and juxtapose them until you find something that really intrigues you. Create a character YOU'D like to read about. Every so often I wish someone else had thought of my characters, because I'd rather read about them than record their adventures. ;p

Motivational writer David Schwartz said it best. "It is well to respect the leader. Learn from him. Observe him. Study him. But don't worship him. Believe you can surpass. Believe you can go beyond. Those who harbor the second-best attitude are invariably second-best doers."

You are you. So write like it.

Join me next week (hopefully) for the final installment of KILL YOUR BLANK PAGES: A TEN-PART SERIES ON WRITER'S BLOCK! In the meantime, tell me about you! Have you tried any of these strategies before? What are some methods that you use to find your inner voice?

August 19, 2013

Kill Your Blank Pages: Fitness

Walking on water is sooo old. Biking on water = IN!
Warning: I was really tired when I wrote this… maybe it will help highlight my point where I talk about the necessity of proper sleep. :)

Hey there, you lazy bum on the computer. Get off. You need to exercise.

There. I said it. Do you hate me?

There's a reason we're writers and not Olympians (or maybe you're both, in which case, pardon me.) Most of us writers don't especially love to spend time bodybuilding. Our trade requires long hours of hammering on keys or dribbling ink over paper, which usually means lots of sitting. Which means if we're not careful, we get kinda squishy. 

But there's a more dangerous result to not keeping fit than simply our appearance. Unhealthy body means unhealthy brain. Unhealthy brain means unhealthy mind means unhealthy writing habits. So it's time we talk about that dreaded yet vital component of life (at least, to most writers I know).


Is Your Body Dragging You Down?

If you’re experiencing severe or persistent writer’s block, I’ll wager you my non-existent beard that it’s because you’re not fit. Unfit doesn’t mean fat, by the way. You can have a model’s body and still be unfit.

If you’re on my blog RIGHT NOW because you’re desperately trying to find a solution to your painful predicament, sit back from the screen for a second. How do you feel? Do you have a slight headache or does your brain feel sluggish? Are you tired, or unable to concentrate? Just generally unwell or not right?

Unless you have some kind of real medical problem that you can attribute these symptoms to, it’s likely the result of being unfit. You may not be getting enough water or sleep. Maybe you’re not eating right, or not exercising enough.

Well, my dear friend, your mind has gotten enough attention for now, don’t you think? Let’s focus on your poor body for a little bit. It seems a little neglected.

How to Physically Find Inspiration

Here are some recommendations on improving your fitness. Obviously, you aren’t going to hear anything really new from me that you haven’t heard before, especially because talking about health and exercise truly bores me to tears. See? Tears. But we gotta talk about this. Understand it, and your writing will never be the same.

--Drinkwater. You didn’t think I meant something else, did you? No, you have to stay hydrated! This link talks discusses the necessity of water to those who need to concentrate. Nowadays, I don’t even start writing unless I have a big glass of cold tea or water (or, y’know, something without sugar) beside my desk so I can stay hydrated without having to get up to go to the kitchen. It pays. My writing isn’t dry anymore! (Hahahah! I’m so funny… I love puns…)

--Eat right. Same article as above. If you’re eating junk all the time, you’ll feel gross. When you feel gross, your writing feels gross. So don’t eat junk. Also, I recommend not eating a really big meal before you sit down to write. Less is more! Your brain directs all your body’s energy towards digestion if you eat a lot, so that’s all energy that’s not going to your writing. You’ll get sleepy. Speaking of which…

--Sleep! Sometimes, all you really need to get your brain back is a little sleep. Or, if you’re truly fatigued from your schedule, take a few days simply to rest! Let your brain relax. Here I will note that there is a difference between resting and “vegging.” If you’re going to rest, I don’t recommend having any kind of technology at your fingertips. Or at least, don’t be on the TV/computer for more than two hours a day. I haven’t really researched it, but I know from personal experience that bright screens + stimulation = stressful to a tired brain.

--Don't sit when you write. Try finding or making a standing desk! Mine is simply a bookshelf in the TV room that has nothing atop it. It looks out on my lovely neighborhood, too, so bonus!

--Ok…You knew it was coming…EXERCISE. I can’t stress how valuable this is! Some reason many writers think that the nature of this profession means we are exempted from the law of nature that says “don’t sit on your butt all day.” I challenge you to spend at least 30 minutes a day in real exercise (not like 10 pushups or walking…). Jog or run! Hike uphill! Bike at a swift pace. Seriously, get your heart pumping. There is so much research out there on why it’s so important for all parts of you to exercise. But I’m sure you’ve heard all that before.

Don’t diss it ‘til you try it. Take a week where you exercise at least once a day for a good period of time. Exercise hard. See the effect it has on your writing. You’ll notice that taking breaks to stay fit will allow your ideas to subconsciously reassemble themselves in delightful ways! You’ll be sharper and feel soooo much better. I hate exercise, but it’s the first thing I turn to when my creativity hits a wall. It’s the only thing that can take my mind off my writing while still letting it mull in the depths of my mind.

If you want, find a physical activity that develops a new skill for you, too! Fencing, or martial arts, or swimming, or discus-throwing… hey, you never know how your sports may inspire your writing. :D

So. Drink water, eat like a human, sleep well, and if your ability to sit down and write doesn’t improve dramatically, post here and I’ll do a chicken dance and put it up on YouTube. Really.

So, take a week to improve your fitness, and when you get back, it’ll be time for the penultimate chapter of KILL YOUR BLANK PAGES: A TEN-PART SERIES ON DEFEATING WRITER’S BLOCK. T-t-t-that’s all for now, fffolks!