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Category Archives: Writer’s Block

Finding gold in partly written short stories

Cover of Sharon A. Crawford's mystery short story collection. Click on it for publisher's website

Cover of Sharon A. Crawford’s mystery short story collection.

One of my 2017 writing goals is to write more mystery short stories and submit them to contests and magazines for possible publication. As I’m registered to attend Bouchercon 2017 (in Toronto, Canada in October), I decided to enter their short story contest for possible publication in their short story book for the event.

I checked my files of unfinished short stories. The one I was thinking of needs too much work to make the January 31, 2017 deadline. Not a problem, I thought. A check through my other short-stories-in-the-works unearthed one that has been written and rewritten many times and shows a lot of promise. Of course it needs more rewriting, but there is time for that. Only one problem – the theme for the Bouchercon 2017 short story contest is travel and my story doesn’t even cover travel, unless you count travelling across a parking lot and inside a commercial building.

However, I am not one to give up – just change course if necessary. I decided to scrap the Bouchercon contest –  after all, I should be able to arrange to have my two published (so far) Beyond books there to be sold and I will be doing a lot of learning and networking there. So, I decided to focus on this one story and also did a big Internet search of possible markets. I have had short stories published in anthologies and also my first Beyond book – Beyond the Tripping Point – is a collection of 13 of my mystery short stories, five of them published first elsewhere and eight new. And who knoews? If I get going on writing and rewriting short stories, there may be another collection down the road. I already have on story published before that is not in Beyond the Tripping Point.

My point here is if you are stymied about what to write for a short story, don’t go crazy trying to think of  new plot with new characters. Check out stories you have already started. You might just find a gold mine there.

And as usual, if you click on the book cover at the top it connects you to more information about my books.

Cheers.

Sharon

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Preparing for author reading amidst aftermath of severe storm etc.

Sharon A. Crawford's latest in the Beyond series

Sharon A. Crawford’s latest in the Beyond series

You would think as an author I could focus on just the preparation for my reading this evening as part of the Urban Folk Art Salon at the Mount Pleasant Library. But I’m dealing with too many snafus and bad happenings – yesterday’s, ongoing ones, and possibly a somewhat repeat this evening of the one last evening.

Last evening my East End Writers’ Group had its usual almost monthly writing critique at the S. Walter Stewart Library. But we had a severe thunderstorm – actually the heavy rain was the severe part with flash flooding including in the library basement where we meet – we had to go to higher ground and I let everyone out early because I was worried about some water getting in my basement. Yes, some did although with all the towels etc. I had down it was more damp in places in the laundry room. I’ll be going into all this flooding business in my post on my other more personal blog Only Child Writes next Tuesday. For now suffice to say, I got soaked going to the library (despite wearing rain gear) and my running shoes got soaked inside despite spraying them earlier in the day with water repellant.The shoes are outside in the sun now in the hopes that they dry in a few hours. Because…

We may get another round of these thunderstorms with heavy rainfall later this afternoon going into the evening. The Weather Network calls it a risk of a thunderstorm. Just what I need when I have to head out to yet another library for this Urban Folk Art Salon. This time I gave house keys to a neighbour who also has had (now fixed in his case) basement flooding so he should know what to do. Now I just have to get out and there staying dry and get back home again. And enjoy myself the whole evening.

There is more to this why my basement still floods story, but that will also be in the Only Child Writes post next Tuesday.

The other situation I’m still dealing with is trying to get the rest of the payment for a writing course I taught last month. The cheque for two sessions arrived on Tuesday – late. It seems to be too many layers of departments involved and it doesn’t help that my signed contract got lost by the middle-department – that’s the cheque I’m still waiting for.

Such are the woes of the writer. Now I better do one more round of practicing for tonight.

Meantime you can check out the details of this evening’s Urban Folk Art Salon on my author blog post last Thursday or for a shorter version on my Gigs and Blog Tours page here.

And as usual if you click on the Beyond Book cover at the top, it will take you to my Amazon author page.

Wish me luck later today and this evening. And if you are in the area in Toronto this evening, drop in. At least the program room is upstairs on the second floor, so hopefully all will go well.

Cheers.

Sharon

 

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Writers’ group looks at Writer’s Block

Sharon A. Crawford's latest in the Beyond series

Sharon A. Crawford’s latest in the Beyond series

Who is more to be pitied, a writer bound and gagged by policemen or one living in perfect freedom who has nothing more to say?

– Kurt Vonnegut

You might not want to be arrested and charged by police but there are many options if you have a dose of writer’s block. Last evening, in a round circle discussion, members of my East End Writers’ Group came up with some novel ideas for well writer’s block when writing a novel – or writing anything.

Here are our words of wisdom, in no particular order:

Take a writing course, especially one taught by Brian Henry – you will get inspired and Brian gets you to actually write in his workshops, even during lunch.

Put the blocked novel, short story aside and write something different. Maybe your brain is bored with the same old story and needs something new, at least temporarily. But do come back to the original.

Have a roster of several writing projects on the go – to some extent; don’t over tax yourself – so you can move from one to the other when stuck.

Start reading. You would be surprised how reading another novel, short story, newspaper article written by someone else can inspire you to write. Don’t analyze the story’s style, just go with the flow of writing and let your subconscious absorb the writer’s style. You don’t want to copy it, but it will jar your inner creativity.

Freefall write – write anything that comes to mind and keep writing for at least 20 minutes. You can also use a word, a sentence from a book, a sound, something visual to get you going. Or if you are angry, worried, or fearful about something, write about that. Go where the fear takes you.

Do something completely different – preferably something physical – walk the dog or just go for a walk on your own, do some gardening (season permitting). Getting your body moving can help wake up your brain – often with a possible solution to your block.

One group member writes in different languages, so when blocked he switched languages. He also juggles several writing projects at a time.

And don’t forget to join a writing critique group. Even if you don’t always bring something to read for feedback, just listening to someone read their writing excerpt and listening to and taking part in the discussion, can be inspiring.

Let’s banish writer’s block where it belongs – buried in the snow.

Here are a couple of books to help you do just that with writer’s block.

The Artist’s Way – Julia Cameron

Unlock Writer’s Block – Paul Lima

Cheers.

Sharon

If you click on the book at the top, it will take you to my books,bio, etc on my publisher’s page. To check out the East End Writers’ Group go here.

 

 

 

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Recharging your novel in progress

Sharon A. Crawford's latest in the Beyond series

Sharon A. Crawford’s latest in the Beyond series

My editor did it. He gave me the boost to get my third Beyond book out of stall mode.

A few weeks ago I blogged about a lot of problems (house, health, utility, income taxes) stealing from my writing time including coming up with plot development. See https://sharonacrawfordauthor.com/2015/03/05/kick-start-writing-your-novel-when-it-hits-stall-mode

This big surge happened a couple of weeks ago when Shane, my editor at Blue Denim Press, and I did a joint marketing presentation (author and publisher) at the Beaches Library Branch in Toronto, Canada. Two things Shane said did it. On the panel, he was answering a question related to submissions and editing. He pointed to Beyond Blood and said my book went through several edits and at first it needed a lot of changes. He said I needed one murder within the first 50 pages. So he said that I wrote in two murders. After the presentation he was saying that today’s mysteries that sell aren’t so much cozies – but edgy like my Beyond the Tripping Point short story collection. I reminded him that my prequel novel Beyond Blood is also edgy.

However, it got me thinking. The Beyond novel I’m currently writing tended to meander too much in the beginning. It needed to be made sharper with more twists and turns. As for the murders, there is one within the first 50 pages and another incident in the beginning that is left hanging whether it will turn into a murder or be an attempted murder.

Letting all this percolate in my brain, as well as being open to whatever ideas materialized, finally worked. So I’ve been writing and writing – well, not all the time. There are still house and property problems and potential problems thanks to weather. And I am suddenly getting more editing clients – which I wanted and needed to help pay the bills.

I also like helping other writers – but more on that in another post.

For now, if your novel or short story has hit stall mode, don’t give up. Get another perspective from another author and/or editor. Join a writing critique group and listen – maybe even read that stalled chapter for feedback.

Do something besides moan and groan. You never know what might percolate in your mind.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford.

Reminder: Next Thursday, April 16, I join Crime Writers of Canada writers Nate Hendley and Rosemary McCracken for a writing presentation to the Storytellers writing group at Angus Glen library in Unionville, Ontario, Canada. Check my Facebook page for more info https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sharon-A-Crawford/412730865439394. Scroll down beyond the bad customer service post to the Meet-up post.

 

Sharon A. Crawford is the author of the Beyond book series. More info at www.samcraw.com and www.bluedenimpress.com including a link to a radio interview at http://bluedenimpress.com/authors/sharon-a-crawford/ Online TV interview from Liquid Lunch is at http://youtu.be/i2bBaePIWgY

Beyond Blood Book cover at the top of this post links to my Amazon author profile. If you buy a copy, please write a review on amazon. Thanks.

 

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Writing fiction as a diversion from problems

Amazon.com link to Sharon A.'s short story collection

Amazon.com link to Sharon A.’s short story collection

Writing is a struggle against silence.

– Carlos Fuentes
Many writers freeze up when overloaded with problems or buried in deep depression. You don’t have to and I’m living proof.

When I was depressed for a number of years, writing was my main hold on life. The depression started as post-partum blues in the late 1970s and escalated to full-blown depression.

Disclaimer here: the psychiatrist diagnosed it as reactionary depression and some high anxiety. In other words outside events caused me to feel depressed. So, perhaps the type of depression had something to do with my ability to keep on writing. I also had a regular freelance writing gig, doing a weekly column and feature articles for one of the local newspapers. And I had a son to raise. Those were the two responsibilities that I focused on.

Not to say I didn’t fall off the wagon. But that’s another story.

I haven’t been depressed for years but I still have the high anxiety – a regular fallout from outside events. Instead of depression, I get angry. But anger makes me get going and accomplishing things. Including writing, particularly fiction.

So, how can you use your fiction writing as at least a distraction from your problems and/or your depression? Let me illustrate the ways.

1. Instead of writer’s block when you turn on your computer, write. Start by writing where the fear, where the anger is and where it leads you. This is called freefall writing. That will open up your creative juices to get to No. 2. Or you may be able to skip No. 1.

2. Start a new short story or novel chapter – or work on one already started. Force yourself to start writing. It may take a few go’s, but once you get into it, you become absorbed in what you are writing. Your characters and their concerns will fill your mind and you will connect to them so much that your problems will go behind the back burner of your mind.
3. If you want to do something about the problem, for example if someone is causing you grief and you are stymied about a solution, then write a short story loosely based on the problem. Or do as I did in one of my stories in Beyond the Tripping Point – put the infuriating person in your life into your story. And don’t make them a nice person. This particular relative had been giving me grief about something I had put in the original version of my memoir. I was so upset I wasn’t going to let her off the hook. So I used her essence, i.e., her age and appearance for one of the characters in that short story (“Gone Missing,” if you really want to know). I even had the character working in the same type of “industry” but in another capacity. And here is the crème de la crème – that character was one of the suspects who turned out to be very bad. I often mention this in my talks and readings from Beyond the Tripping Point, with the added comment, “You don’t want to tick me off.”

4. Keep a journal. Yes, I know journaling about your problems on a daily basis is nothing new. But how about doing a twist on that. Use the fiction writing angle. One way is to write the daily postings from the point of view of one of the characters in your short stories or novel. Get inside your character’s head. How would this character see and handle the problem and/or problem person? Or better still, skip your goody-two-shoes character and use a nasty one. How would your nasty character see the problem and handle it?
Using the above, you might find a possible solution to your problem. Or you might get more insight into your characters and write more fiction. At the very least, you have found a creative way, an all encompassing way, to distract you for some time from the misery in your life.
And that’s not just good for your writing; it is also good for your health.
You can read about my characters and their stories in my short story collection Beyond the Tripping Point (Blue Denim Press, 2012). Click on the book at the top and it takes you to Sharon A. Crawford’s profile – including book reviews – at http://www.amazon.com.

More info on Sharon A.’s upcoming gigs, workshops, guest blog posts, etc. at http://www.samcraw.com/Articles/BeyondtheTrippingPoint.html And keep checking http://samcraw.com/Articles/BeyondBlood.html for the latest news on the release of my first mystery novel Beyond Blood, also published by Blue Denim Press http://www.bluedenimpress.com More info on the Beyond Blood page as we get closer to the date.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

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Book Review of Unblock Writer’s Block by Paul Lima

Cover of Paul Lima's Unblock Writer's Block

Click on Cover of Paul Lima’s Unblock Writer’s Block for Paul’s blog and sale places

The desire to write grows with writing.

–          Desiderius Erasmus

In Unblock Writer’s Block: How to face it, deal with it and overcome it, Paul Lima not only debunks some writer’s block myths, but provides some creative exercises to get writers writing. He compares his former writer’s block to “walker’s block,” i.e., not exercising, his situation until his wife got a dog. He started walking daily and the story ideas began arriving – a good thing for a freelancer with 35 plus years of experience writing newspaper articles, corporate, and fiction, who  is the author of 12 books, including the best selling How to Write a Non-fiction book in 60 Days. Lima also writes prolifically and quickly to deadline.

If you are doing other things to avoid writing, Lima says you are procrastinating, not suffering from writer’s block and you need the equivalent of a dog – writing exercises – to get you going on the write track. Lima emphasizes when you write the draft, ditch the editor in your head and just write. He also gives the option of “cherry-picking” exercises to get the most die-hard blocked writer going – a good idea because of the large and varied selection. When reading Unblock Writer’s Block, I kept flipping files to create story ideas. Lima recommends starting with  how you are feeling because you have to have emotion in your writing to connect to your reader. He has exercises for unlocking emotions focusing on the individual and his past, followed by three chapters with activities on freefall writing, directed free-fall writing and clustering – the three parts Lima advises readers do.

Ensuing exercises deal with the actual craft of writing such as plot, characters and point of view in fiction. My favourite exercise is one that could help POV problems. Lima suggests readers write a letter of apology to someone wronged and then switch POV to the other person and have him or her write back and perhaps letters back and forth will follow.

Although Lima uses examples from other authors such as novelists Margaret Atwood and Alistair McLeod (the latter’s cheese story is funny), I would have liked to have seen more Paul Lima stories, although the one where Paul apologized to a telephone pole when he bumped into it (Note: apologizing for everything is a Canadian trait) is priceless. The other bits of humour interspersed add spark to the writing wisdom presented.

Unblock Writer’s Block fulfills Paul Lima’s intentions, i.e.

“Our goal throughout this book is simply to do some writing—to see that we have the ability to write over, around and through whatever may be blocking us. You may not have produced anything you want to continue writing about. You may not have written how you want to write. But that’s not the point. The point is to write no matter what, and to be open to where your work may (or may not) lead you.”

Unblock Writer’s Block is available in paperback and e-copy. To find out where and more about Paul Lima and his books, go to  http://www.paullima.com/books/wb.html.

For Sharon A. Crawford’s upcoming events with Beyond the Tripping Point, go to her Beyond the Tripping Point page– http://www.samcraw.com/Articles/BeyondtheTrippingPoint.html I continually update it.

Today (Thursday, March 28), from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. I talk about where my characters come from and read from Beyond the Tripping Point at the Leaside Branch of the Toronto Public Library. (See the above BTTP link for more details.)

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

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Staring at the blank page

Writing is easy; all you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead.”

– Gene Fowler

Suppose for a minute you are sitting at your computer or with a piece of paper in front of you. You want to write something but all that stares back at you is the blank screen or page. You haven’t a clue what to write and that blankety-blank glaring into your eyes isn’t any help.

What do you do? Don’t give up. There are a number of ways to get over the hump of writer’s block.

  1. This is one of my favourites and one I use when writing nonfiction articles.  My late journalism instructor, Paul Nowak used to drum it into us about starting our stories with a good lead – one that will hook the reader. That got me into the habit of not going beyond writing the article’s beginning until I got the lead right – at least the gist of it – the wording might be changed slightly in the rewrite. Fiction – short story and novel – needs a good beginning to lure in the reader. Try focusing on writing a good lead.
  2. What if you are swimming around among several leads? This happened to me once with a story I was writing. I can’t remember the story itself but I do remember I had four leads written to express two ideas. Do you think I could decide which one was best? No. I phoned a writing friend and read all four out to her. She chose the best one to her ears. That’s the one I went with.
  3. If sticking with the lead isn’t your forte for the first draft and/or you can’t even get going at a first draft, try freefall writing. I mentioned this in a previous post with Brian Henry’s workshops. So, in a variation of that exercise, pick a word or phrase that has been lurking in your head (come on; you really don’t have a blank mind; only the screen or page is blank). Put the phrase on your paper or computer screen and keep on writing. Write whatever comes into your mind and go with whatever feeling is there – anger, sadness, joy. Don’t be afraid to go with the deep dark feelings. Unleash them and you will unleash your writer’s block.
  4. If none of the above seems to work, then try temporary avoidance but make sure you do something that relaxes your mind. Go into your garden and pull weeds or deadhead the dead flowers; sit out in your garden; do some Yoga; meditate, or go for a walk. Guaranteed, something will pop into your head, something you can write about. And you may be scurrying to get back to your pen and paper or your computer. This latter also works when you are mid-story or rewriting a story and for the life of you can’t figure out where it is going. I’ve done that many times with some of the situations my female private eye, Dana, gets into. In “Saving Grace,” I knew the beginning and knew the end but got into several tizzies in between, especially sorting the whys and wherefores of all the cars showing up in the story (You’ll have to read the story in the book to find out. I’m not telling).

Dana also has to deal with eccentric Great Aunt Doris in two of the linked stories in Beyond the Tripping Point. But that’s something for next week’s post – creating eccentric characters and making them work in your story without coming across as  too eccentric.

Meantime check out my publisher’s page http://www.bluedenimpress.com.The cover of my book and some more info is now posted there. Or click under My Publisher – Blue Denim Press from the links to the right. When I figure out how to get the book cover icon on this blog, I’ll do so.Hey, I’m a writer, not a designer.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

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